Over the past two days Gator Country went over the draft eligible players on the Florida Gators roster and examined if they should stay in school for another season or leave early for the NFL.
Jim McElwain met with all of those players individually earlier in the week, helping them file paperwork to the NFL to receive a draft grade, as well as having real discussions with each player about what would be their best option. Every player and situation is different and there are a lot of things to be considered when making this decision on a case-to-case basis, but McElwain has a simple tenet he sticks by.
“If they’re in the first round, that’s something you’ve really got to look at,” McElwain said. “The thing that I think they don’t understand sometimes is the difference between those early rounds and the signing bonuses and the later rounds. It’s all slotted.”
When the NFL and the NFLPA reached a new collective bargaining agreement it gave teams more power in the first round. Slotting contracts gives first year players very little room to negotiate their first contract, making your second contract the real chance to make more money. It’s put a stress on getting to that second contract quickly, but McElwain is correct in telling players to look at how bonuses differ based on draft slot.
Early draft picks (first and second round) are far more likely to have their rookie contracts guaranteed and have more security on the teams they are drafted to.
This year’s crop of players is diverse; someone like Vernon Hargreaves III will be a high first round pick and it would be almost inconceivable for him to return to school for his senior season. McElwain would love to have Hargreaves on his roster next season, but he’s going to advise Hargreaves to leave, because that’s the best decision for him to make.
Other players have a tougher choice. They may not be first or second round picks but still need to decide if their stock is high enough that leaving early would make sense. They do have a great success story on the team this season in Jon Bullard.
Bullard has turned himself from a mid-round pick at the end of last season to arguably a first round choice this year. Players like Marcus Maye, Keanu Neal and Jarrad Davis don’t have to look far to see the benefits of coming back and performing on the field.
“A guy like Jon, him coming back, we did nothing but really strengthen his cause for the next level,” McElwain said. “Some cases I think it’s better for them to try to come back and help their status, and yet it’s an individual choice. We’re here to do nothing but support and help them in whatever direction they want to go.”
The Florida Gators have one more game to play, but a lot of players will have the biggest decision of their life hanging over their heads when Florida takes the field against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. You hope they can put those thoughts and concerns aside on January 1, but the fact that so many players have a decision like this weighing on their minds is probably the reason that Florida is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game again.
“I think it’s exciting when you have players that should be considering that. In other words, you hope you have those kind of players in your program that have that opportunity,” said McElwain. “We will assist in any way we can to help them with their decisions.”