7) With the NFLPA decertified, could college players skip the NFL draft and sign with NFL teams?
No, at least not yet. First off, if the league, as expected, shuts down operations, it could cancel the 2011 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to take place between April 28 and 30. The NFL is unlikely to cancel the draft, however, due to language in Article XVI of the collective bargaining agreement and since teams have prepared for it and doing so would only elevate the chaos of the labor crisis. Therefore, absent a legal challenge, the draft will likely remain the exclusive process by which amateur players join the NFL.
Once the NFLPA decertifies, however, a college player or a group of college players could bring an antitrust challenge against the NFL over the draft. The lawsuit would likely argue that the draft harms them economically, and harms competition in general, since college players could earn more income and play on their preferred teams if they were free agents and not subject to the draft. If a court were sympathetic to the argument, it could issue an injunction postponing the draft until after an evaluation of the antitrust challenge.
Alternatively, star freshman or sophomore players could challenge the NFL's draft eligibility restriction that players be three years removed from high school before they are draft eligible. Without the labor exemption protecting the eligibility restriction, a court may reason that certain players are good enough to attract NFL teams before they are three years removed from high school and thus the restriction against them harms competition for players, since players "good enough" to turn pro are denied the chance.To read the other eight question/answers, click here.