By Ken Reed

The trend in the NFL and NBA is to draft college athletes well before they have had a chance to graduate. In basketball, more and more college players are turning pro after their first or second season. In the NFL, there’s been a big jump of players turning pro after their junior seasons of eligibility (the earliest players can turn pro based on NFL rules). This season, 98 college football players turned pro after their junior season, an 85% increase from 2010.

However, the Philadelphia Eagles are bucking the trend. They want players with college degrees, not just because they believe graduates are smarter but also because they believe they are more committed to achieving goals.

“When you look at people who are successful in any profession, it always goes back to college graduates,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “We found NFL players are no different.”

Roseman and Eagles coach Chip Kelly did some research and found that teams with the most college graduates are also the teams that tend to be the most successful. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy conducted similar research and shared those findings with Kelly, which helped mold Kelly’s thinking.

Last year, of the three teams with the most fifth-year seniors drafted, two of them played in the Super Bowl: Seattle and Denver.

Kelly stresses that he values a degree as more than proof of a player’s intelligence.

“It’s also, what is their commitment?” said Kelly. “They set goals out for themselves and can they follow through for it? A lot of people can tell you they want to do this, this and this. But look at their accomplishments.”

Maybe if the Eagles approach becomes a trend throughout the NFL and NBA, more college athletes will actually take the term “student-athlete” more seriously.

It would definitely be a welcomed trend.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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