The NFL draft recently took place and one of the most surprising plummets of the occasion was that of highly-touted quarterback, Matt Leinart. If you don?t know his story, here?s a synopsis?
In 2004, Leinart was the Heisman Trophy winner and a sure-fire lock to be the No.1 pick in the draft. Awaiting him was a phat contract (worth $50+ million dollars) and the chance to be the face of an NFL franchise. Surprisingly, Leinart turned all that down to return for his senior year at USC. Apparently, the attraction of keggers, scantily dressed college girls, and celeb status in L.A. was just too difficult to leave behind.
Leinart was widely praised for his decision. Finally, a kid who doesn?t jump to the pros but actually wants to stay and enjoy the ?college experience.?
Fast forward to the ?05 draft; it?s a foregone conclusion that Leinart won?t be the No.1 pick. That selection was reserved?supposedly?for his teammate Reggie Bush (we won?t get into the Texans passing on Bush; that?s worth an entire article on its own). Even then, it was believed Leinart was definitely a top-5 selection, maybe top-7 at worst. The first 7 picks are called and Leinart is still waiting. The 8th pick goes by?nothing. The 9th pick goes by?still warming a seat. Finally, with the 10th selection, the Arizona Cardinals take Matt Leinart.
The same people who hailed Leinart as doing the ?right thing? are now calling him foolish for passing up the opportunity to be No.1 and missing the chance to get some serious guaranteed cash (probably half of that $50 mill contract would be guaranteed money).
If you look at it from a purely financial and marketing standpoint, Leinart did make a huge mistake by staying in college. And there?s no guarantee Leinart will be able to recoup that money in future contracts due to the extremely high injury risk of playing in the NFL.
Now if you take a look at Joakim Noah?s current situation, it?s surprisingly similar to that of Matt Leinart. Noah put up monster numbers during the NCAA tournament and catapulted up the draft charts. His performance was so great that many teams would consider taking him No.1 overall. Compound that with the fact that the ?06 draft class is one of the weakest in recent memory, it seems even more likely he would have been the top selection.
But alas, Noah is ?pulling a Matt Leinart? (I?m in the process of copyrighting this catchphrase, so don?t steal it). He?s professed his love for the college life and will remain a Florida Gator. Though, if you look at what happened to Leinart, it has to make you wonder if Noah is making the best decision for his future both financially and developmentally in terms of playing time and role on a respective NBA team. Here?s what I mean?
The five teams with best chance to land the top selection?Portland, Charlotte, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago(via NY)?are in need of a talented big (Toronto could be debatable with Bosh, but I don?t think they want Rafael Araujo to be the best center on their roster). This means Noah would have a good chance at getting plenty of playing time right out the gate. The Bulls have even gone on record as saying that they would have seriously considered Noah as the No.1 pick if they were to win the lottery.
Now that Joakim has decided to stay in college next season he?s taking many risks. First of all, he (and basically all athletes) is one knee injury away from becoming undesirable for professional sports. One injury could send his stock plummeting to NBDL status. Secondly, he is going to be under a microscope all through next season and the tournament. He?s now a star in the NCAA and every so-called ?expert? will be critiquing his game. If doesn?t improve upon this past season or doesn?t put on some additional weight, it could wind up decreasing his draft standing substantially. Finally, the 2007 draft class is much deeper than ?06. It will feature the Second Coming (a.k.a. Greg Oden) and many other uber-talents like Yi Jianlian, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright, etc. At best, Noah is the 2nd or 3rd pick; but even that would be debatable.
The college life is great. Hey, I?m in college right now and the experience has been fantastic so far. But if I had the chance to go No.1 in the NBA draft (or any draft for that matter), I wouldn?t hesitate. Let?s remember, college is supposed to prepare you for your professional career. If you have the opportunity to enter your profession early and get a head start while at the same time making bundles of cash, why not go?
Obviously, Joakim feels he made the best decision for himself and you have to respect that. But it could be a decision that haunts him down the road. His stock probably won?t ever be as high as it is right now. He is missing the opportunity to land a big-time, multi-million dollar contract and the chance to be a featured player on a professional sports franchise (sound familiar). Joakim, you?ve certainly pulled a Matt Leinart.
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Written by Shams Charania on Nov 24, 2014
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