In an NFL game earlier this month, the Jacksonville Jaguars faced a fourth-down play on the goal line. Coaches considered several options but eliminated one of them right away. Using rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence on a sneak would be ill-advised, they believed, given the relatively few occasions he had practiced the play following a college career spent almost exclusively in the shotgun formation. The Jaguars instead handed the ball to tailback Carlos Hyde, who was stopped short of the goal line in a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
That sequence was all too familiar for those who follow the infrastructure of player development in football. Lawrence, of course, said he would have been comfortable running a sneak if asked. In the bigger picture, though, he is among thousands of NFL players during the past two decades who have entered the league via a college feeder system that isn't obligated to prepare them for the professional level.
"You have the most popular sports property in the world, but the talent going into it has not been trained for that game," said longtime agent Don Yee, who counts quarterback Tom Brady among his clients. "It really doesn't make sense. Literally every other sport has that. Everybody that I talk to is in agreement that there is really no developmental space around the NFL, and frankly, the quality of the game is affected. We need to fill that hole with something."
Yee, as it turns out, has an idea. Through a company known as HUB Football, based outside of Los Angeles, he is planning an enterprise he hopes will spawn a full developmental league, one that -- yes -- would give top NFL prospects an alternative to college football. HUB's football business has started small, with one-day workouts for street free agents hoping to get noticed by NFL scouts. But Yee has visions of running what would amount to a series of Senior Bowl-like events for college players who aren't yet eligible for the NFL draft, a disruptive model that would ultimately create more options for players with NFL ambitions.