Are NIL Deals Going To Cause Underclassmen To Return to School Instead of Entering the NFL Draft?

    With the ever-increasing growth of NIL in college football, will this new money pool stop underclassmen from declaring for the NFL Draft?

    We’ve already seen the impact of NIL in college football, and it will only continue to grow in importance moving forward. It continues to dramatically change the landscape across the country as top playmakers seek out their best options.

    One heavily debated topic regarding NIL is its impact on NFL Draft prospects. Should underclassmen stay another year in college football with NIL opportunities or declare for the draft and play on a rookie contract?

    Will NIL Deals Affect NFL Draft Prospects?

    It’s unlikely that NIL will influence the decisions of many of the top underclassmen. Prospects may threaten to hold out or transfer for a massive NIL deal, but the decision is relatively clear-cut for many of the top prospects. The math simply doesn’t make sense for them to return.

    For example, in the 2024 NFL Draft, top underclassmen prospects include Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt. The two play for two of the largest brands in college football. Yet, the number for any NIL opportunity isn’t remotely close to a professional contract with their projected draft capital.

    A top-five draft pick will earn a minimum signing bonus of $24 million. That number is not feasible for any program to afford for NIL purposes, much less for a single player. The difference in wealth between the two different leagues is several chasms apart.

    What about lower draft prospects? What about the top-100 or Day 3 prospects? That math makes more sense for them, right?

    It could be more feasible. Prospects take advantage of the transfer portal and NIL to potentially increase their draft stock so they can earn more pay in the NFL. More often than not, prospects don’t increase their draft stock enough to make a significant difference regarding their NFL check despite their best efforts.

    The 100th overall pick this year gets a signing bonus of over $1 million and a total value of over $5 million. Chances are that if you are a player who is getting drafted around this mark, you aren’t getting $1 million in NIL deals from any program.

    MORE: Latest College Football NIL News

    The last overall pick in the NFL Draft gets a signing bonus of $93,480. That math could certainly influence a prospect’s decision to stay for another year with similar NIL money. However, players who make that kind of money in college football still represent a minority of players.

    Is it smart for some players to return and increase their stock? Yes, absolutely. NIL serves as an excellent incentive for that idea as well and adds some more insurance in case of an injury.

    Will NIL cause more underclassmen to return to college and stay another year or portal for a better opportunity? For now, it seems 50/50 at best, but as we learn more and more about what the NIL and portal landscape will look like, the math will get clearer.

    NIL money cannot compete with a guaranteed NFL signing bonus and subsequent salary and isn’t in the same stratosphere as a second NFL contract. Expect that to dictate the decisions for the best players in college football.

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