The Kansas City Chiefs are finally bad enough to have the first overall pick. The Chiefs have a glaring need - quarterback. It so happens that the best player in college football is a quarterback - Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. And he's not just any quarterback, but one of the best young talents in some time, a mobile passer who an accurate arm who is already a media sensation. Adding "Johnny Football" would instantly make the Kansas City Chiefs relevant again.
If NFL teams could draft anyone in the world, Johnny Manziel would certainly be one of the first few players selected, and quite possibly he would be the first overall selection, particularly if the Chiefs have that pick. Ah, but there's just one little problem - NFL rules do not allow players to be selected until they are three years removed from high school. Manziel, who is just a redshirt freshman, would not be eligible to be drafted until 2014.
In the meantime, Manziel will be paid no salary, while Texas A&M and the NCAA make millions off of him. He will risk injury playing in the toughest, most physical conference in college football, and delay his development as an NFL quarterback, the vocation he is working towards. If you knew nothing about college football, the entire scenario would seem rather ridiculous.
Eight players - most notably troubled Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett - recently challenged the NFL's rule prohibiting certain underclassmen from entering the NFL Draft, but lost in Appellate Court. In that case, the Appeals Court reversed a lower court's decision that the players be allowed in the draft, citing the prohibition had been collectively bargained by the NFLPA, and since the players were prospective members of that union, they could have their rights bargained away. They argued this collective bargaining superseded any violation of Sherman Act anti-trust laws that prevent companies from getting together to restrict the labor pool by prohibiting certain people from getting hired.
Without getting too into the legalese, this article gets into why the appellate court decided wrongly - basically the NFLPA has a vested interest in keeping underclassmen out since restricting the labor pool drives up prices for the rest of them, therefore the collective bargaining should not supersede the Sherman Act. The case has only been decided by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, not by the Supreme Court (although interestingly one of the judges that decided for the NFL was Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who now sits on the Supreme Court). The Chiefs would likely not have the standing to sue the NFL itself, but Manziel would.
Is this a pretty far-fetched scenario? Sure. The Chiefs would likely not want to risk using the first overall draft pick on a player it wasn't sure was eligible. Manziel would likely not want to jeopardize his NFL career or even his college eligibility on the long-shot that he could be rule eligible, especially when the rookie contract is not nearly as lucrative as it used to be. Is the Supreme Court even likely to take this case? Probably not considering the underlying facts with the NFL have not changed since the 2004 Clarett case.
Nonetheless, it seems ridiculous that the Chiefs cannot choose the best amateur player, and that Manziel cannot begin his career as an NFL players should he so choose.