Trevor Lawrence will have options. They just aren’t very enticing.
The Clemson sophomore, who some experts believe is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, won’t be NFL draft eligible until 2021.
The 6-foot-6 signal-caller doesn’t have to play his junior season. He can opt to play professionally elsewhere, he can decide to spend the year training, or he can take the NFL to court. The Post breaks down these three choices:
Starting in 1990, the NFL has mandated all players be three years removed from high school. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement. The rule was challenged in 2004 by Maurice Clarrett, then a star running back for Ohio State who had been dismissed from the team. The suit was based on an argument that the restriction violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlaws monopolistic business practices. Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in Clarett’s favor. However, the decision was overturned by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Clarrett’s appeal was not heard by the Supreme Court. Lawrence could attempt to follow that path, but a different ruling is unlikely, attorney Jason Setchen believes.
“It is iron-clad as far as the courts are concerned,” said Setchen, who specializes in advocating for student athletes. “You can challenge anything at any time. At any moment, you can change the law. … But challenging the NFL CBA would be quite expensive and risky. The CBA is very difficult to set aside. It hasn’t happened for a reason.”
Lawrence could look to begin his professional clock sooner by playing in alternative leagues like the Pacific Pro Football League (PPFL) or rebooted XFL. Obviously, there would be major risk of injury, due to playing with second-rate talent and the violent nature of the sport. But there are no set age requirements in those leagues, and XFL commissioner Oliver Luck has said the league will look at college players who aren’t yet eligible for the NFL. The XFL salaries for its best players are believed to be in the $250,00-$300,000 range, so it would have to ante up for someone of Lawrence’s ilk if he had interest. Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee, the founder of the PPFL, said in February he would like Lawrence to be “our Joe Namath.” That league, open to players not yet eligible for the draft, is targeting July 2020.
Lawrence can also take the path some pro basketball players have chosen, just hire a personal trainer and spend the year training for the draft. Players ruled ineligible have taken this route. The downside is what it could do to his stock.
“I don’t think it would be looked at kindly upon,” said Tony Pauline, draft analyst and publisher of draftanalysis.com. “Scouts and teams want to see players compete.”
Of course, the reality is Lawrence will likely play his junior year for Clemson. He’s never said anything close to wanting to sit out. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who knows Lawrence well, believes there’s “zero chance” he would leave. Clemson players under Dabo Swinney have traditionally stayed in school longer than expected, not shorter. In April, Lawrence made it sound like he’s enjoying his current life anyway.
“It’s gone by so fast,” he told CBS Sports. “I don’t want to speed anything up anymore.”