NFL coaches and officials had been brainstorming a developmental league (D-league) for a long time. Don Yee, Tom Brady’s agent, announced that he intends to introduce a new professional National Football League (NFL) styled D-league for football, which will have the chance to begin play in 2018.
The D-league, officially to be called the Pacific Pro League (PPL) is a way for college players who lack the skills to play professionally to make a living in football after their NCAA careers are over. The salary for Yee’s D-league players will range from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on their performances.
“Yee’s league seems like a promising concept,” said a high-ranking executive in an NFL front office. “It addresses a few areas of concern we’ve been regarding the gap between college and our game.”
Palo Alto High School football coach and former Division I football player Daniel Sullivan thinks that the NFL D-league is a necessity.
“[The league] will help with the transition of knowledge faster for guys who get brought up to play because of changes that occur on the NFL squad,” Sullivan said.
According to Sullivan, he is unsure about whether the NFL D-league will be as much of a boon as the NBA D-league.
The NBA D-league is the official NBA minor league which consists of teams directly affiliated with professional NBA teams, and the professional teams call up players to play on their actual team, although the chances of making the team is small. Over the past three seasons, an average of 39 players have received a call-up.
“I know that it has taken some time for the NBA D-League to even gain some sort of relevance within the sporting world,” Sullivan said. “The NBA D-League is interesting because there are so few spots to be had on an actual NBA roster.”
Because of the similarity in roster size between football and baseball, Sullivan believes that the NFL D-league should mimic the MLB minor system, with the minor league teams feeding into partner major league clubs. Players develop through minor league baseball before being put into bigger leagues.
However, Yee’s league is not affiliated with NFL teams, which brings a problem about selecting players, because the NFL’s position on the league is stlll unclear.
“NFL top picks will be put into key roles right away,” Sullivan said. “But late round or even Free Agent pick-ups from the Draft can use the D-League to learn the system that the NFL team is going to run and will help with the development in that regard.”
Although the league provides opportunity for student-athletes to transition, the PPL may not get the best players, because most elite players go straight to the NFL.
Some NFL executives have said that they would support with drafting players from this league if they are talented, but with this unlikely to happen, the PPL would just be a waste of money, according to MMQB, a football analysis website.
However, the PPL’s aim is to train college players without the greatest skills to be good enough to play in the NFL, so benefits to the public will not be visible until a couple of years after the league starts.
“Elite recruits are always, in my opinion, going to want to go to the elite programs and compete against the best competition, and for championships,” A NFL scout said in an interview. “This league will not pit the best against the best; this will be middle-of-the-road recruits or student-athletes that got buried on the depth chart [and] bail on college early and seek the money of that league.”
Another reason is that students might treat this league as another option if they cannot make it onto their college team because of academics.
College athletics requires some amount of academic achievements and borderlines, ultimately leading to kids dropping out of school, without the consideration of a second career if they are unable to play football.
Although Yee’s league has enough money to initialize the league, whether it is able to feed lots of players into NFL is unknown, because Yee has not disclosed much information.
The main issue for profit and stainability is how the D-league will gain popularity among Americans like the NBA D-league. However, if the PPL can feed super stars into the NFL, it will gain popularity, so carefully training players should be the PPL’s main task when it starts.