Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh believes it is time to change when players can enter the NFL Draft, proposing they should be allowed to turn pro after just one year of high school.
In what he titled “An Open Letter to the Football Community,” Harbaugh suggested eliminating the current system, which prohibits players from being eligible for the NFL Draft until they have been out of high school for at least three years. He also would like to see undrafted players have the opportunity to return to school.
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“The individual could choose to declare for the professional draft after any season he chooses,” Harbaugh wrote Thursday. “If he is drafted within the first 224 picks of the NFL Draft (seven rounds times 32 NFL teams), or chooses to sign a free agent contract, he would [forgo] remaining college eligibility.
“However, if the individual is not drafted within the first 224 picks of the NFL Draft, he would be able to return to college football if he chooses without penalty, provided he remains in academic compliance and does not receive payment from an agent.”
Harbaugh is no stranger to life in the NFL. He had a 14-year pro career as quarterback, followed by a four-year stint as the 49ers’ head coach before returning to his alma mater, Michigan, in 2015.
Harbaugh would also like to see players have the option to receive advice from agents or lawyers about their decision for the draft without losing eligibility.
Another change Harbaugh would like to see implemented is colleges covering the cost of further education for players who leave school early prior to graduation to enter the draft and then stay in the NFL.
In his two-page letter, Harbaugh contends that his proposed changes would provide more opportunities and options for student-athletes.
“The goal would be to create a scenario that makes adjustments for all current and future student‐athletes that puts the timeline for transition to professional football at their discretion and that of their family,” he wrote. “I propose an option that allows them to make the decision that is best for them.”