Before I start I just want to say, it’s about damn time these young athletes are able to make some money off of themselves. Everyone has a personal opinion on this matter, which is why I am sticking to the impact on the football field and in fantasy lineups. If you want to discuss beyond that feel free to send me a direct message on twitter @TheFFSandman.
As many have heard, college athletes are now allowed to capitalize on something referred to as the ‘NIL’. Which stands for Name, Image and Likeness, essentially meaning that the days of college football players not being able to benefit financially are over. I am set out to discuss how this new deal is going to be impacting fantasy rosters and college football as a whole.
The Players Impact
With money opportunities being opened up among the country, incoming freshmen have another wrinkle added into their assessments of scholarships and school programs. Players are now going to factor in which program is going to allow them the most exposure the quickest to take advantage of the NIL. Even incoming freshmen are going to begin to declare early to take advantage of the NIL deals as early as possible. Quinn Ewers made tidal waves earlieropting to redeclare into the 2021 class to begin making money from the NIL. What spurred his decision was that Texas’s NIL law prevents high school athletes from making money off of their likeness. The reason it sent tidal waves was his motivation that directly correlates to the NIL and Texas restricting him to make any earnings. Movements like this, where one of the most highly rated quarterback recruits ever decides to come to school a year earlier is where you see an impact on fantasy rosters. For Ewers in particular, the expectation is that he won’t start this year and potentially won’t start in 2022 if C.J. Stroud grasps a hold of the job. However, his presence not only applies pressure to Stroud but also makes it more likely players like Jack Miller transfers to find an opportunity to see the field. Which is the crux of the situation, while you don’t have players with the allure of Ewers in each recruiting cycle. The presence of players committing early to college in order to qualify to take advantage of the NIL will lead to more transfers in college. Transfers which will shake up more depth charts creating more volatility within the tiers of players yet to break out or retain the role of the top player at their position.
The other impact is players currently on teams that are now able to take advantage of the NIL. For instance, Bryce Young, the new sophomore starter of the Alabama Crimson Tide, has signed up to 800-thousand dollars in NIL deals. Archie Manning Jr. is rumored to earn up to 10 million when he enters college. Which given the fact they have yet to perform on the collegiate field is stunning. Players with deals as such in theory could be making more in college than in the NFL if they were to be drafted after the fourth round. Players in that bubble will be unlikely to declare early for the NFL and continue gathering their NIL earnings.
The Schools Impact
The NIL goes beyond just individual players’ impact, it is also going to disrupt the recruiting tactics of smaller schools. Small schools have a variety of meanings, usually implying schools outside of the Power-5 conferences. There are also the smaller schools within the P-5 conferences, schools that don’t hold a match to the premier programs but still get the benefit of playing in a competitive conference. Those are the schools that are going to see a unique pathway to recruiting players they previously were unable to.
Prior to diving into the lower tiered P-5 schools, I wanted to just bring to light the potential shift that would happen with G-5 schools and their prospects. It is entirely likely that players are going to begin choosing schools to play for that are not the most opportune for NFL success but are able to deliver them big NIL earnings. Which, in turn, will begin to skew some data regarding the hit rates you see with players from G-5 schools being fantasy successful in the NFL. I am going to handle this situation carefully, but in the upcoming devy drafts I am going to be more aggressive taking players from these schools that had offers and profiles worthy of attending a P-5 school. Taking advantage of the misconception that those players are not worth the investment in a devy league.
Schools that have a massive fan base but have struggled with college football success are going to see an improved recruiting class. Schools like Auburn, Texas A&M, Texas, Florida State and Miami where they boast hundreds of thousands supporters are going to uniquely benefit these college players. As mentioned above, schools that are still considered a Power-5 school but lack the notoriety of the top tier programs have been at a recruiting disadvantage. Now the NIL helps level that playing field by offering those top graded incoming freshmen with a quicker path to playing time. Which would result in making an impact on the football field which will help that player accumulate more NIL deals and more money throughout his time at college. A player like Devonta Smith could have gone to a different school and performed at the level in which he did and would have made a lot more money than he would have if he chose his path through Alabama. Which means for players similar to the skill level of Treylon Burks are going to be playing at similar schools as his but for the opportunity to begin earning millions off of the NIL deal. While this happens already I predict this happening at a much more frequent rate, in hopes of those players cashing in.
While fantasy football is not going to be interrupted by the NIL requiring everyone’s entire process to be revamped. It will create changes that I am going to address here. Metric won’t change overall, but inflated Dominator Ratings are going to become increasingly more common, since talented players are going to be playing at schools with minimal competition. This is nothing new, but what I am going to be making sure is that my process with those players stays consistent with how it is now. An influx of players with heightened dominators is going to make the community want to adjust, but the end results won’t change. What is going to change, is that players are going to be discounted based on the school they played for. Which for me, requires me to take the extra step to ensure that people don’t make that mistake.
Transfers are going to create chaos as outlined above. Luckily, looking no further than Trey Sermon’s journey through college will assist in laying down a road map navigating players’ fantasy value. Players transferring later in their collegiate careers and performing vastly differently than their prior years will be the next hurdle for metrics to attempt to crack. Next year Keaontay Ingram and Zach Charbonnet project to be excellent case studies for this very issue.
The threshold for fourth year players becoming fantasy darlings is low, with the NIL this projects to change though I am unsure in which direction. With players incentivized to stay in school longer to help maximize their NIL deal, the amount of players maximizing their time in college should increase. If anything this may help with finding fantasy relevant players, as those players would need to receive a poor draft grade from the NFL to choose to continue making money from their NIL’s. Making those players that previously would have entered the draft early but not have been as fantasy relevant stay another year and hoisting up a red flag on their fantasy prospect profile.
Another unspoken and unintended consequence from the NIL deal. Is it with more players projected to return for the fourth season. This is going to create a bigger divide at the running back position. With the upper tier running bass coming in at young ages around 21 and 22. Older running back coming in closer to age 23 and 24 due to return an additional year to benefit from their NIL deal. Meaning that running backs are going to have an even higher premium on their importance in the coming years from a longevity perspective. Which creates a crossroad for fantasy football having fewer running backs at younger ages is going to squeeze the small supply even more.
As we all know, money has the tendency to change everyone, especially when people are coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds. According to Sports Illustrated 78-percent of NFL players file for bankruptcy two years after leaving the league. There have been many people that have inserted that this much money unsupervised with young men will have them spiral. While this is true I contend that those players were unlikely to be fantasy relevant from the beginning. What I do hope this does is offer the young men an opportunity to learn how to budget and manage their money on a far smaller scale when compared to their NFL pay. Hopefully translating to a far reduced number of bankrupt players upon exiting the league.
Ultimately this is my best theory of how the NIL is going to impact college football and your fantasy team. I don’t want anyone to take these to the bank but I am hoping this inspires people to critically think about the impact and draw their own conclusions.