Support for NFL D-league picking up steam

Support for NFL D-league picking up steam
June 11, 2014, 4:00 pm
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What's happened to all the others?

Think about all the undrafted players the Patriots have used in significant roles over the years: Adam Vinatieri, Wes Welker, Stephen Neal, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Dan Connolly, Kyle Arrington, Ryan Wendell . . . The list goes on and on.

Of course there have been plenty of undrafted players who found homes with other teams around the league. One recent report done by the Associated Press said that NFL rosters were comprised of 31 percent undrafted guys.

But what about the rest of them? There have to be others out there who slipped through the cracks. Maybe they didn't perform well in their short stay with an NFL team. Maybe they never got a shot at all. 

In the last few months, support has grown for a developmental football league that would give those borderline guys -- whether drafted or not -- a chance to develop and perhaps improve the overall NFL product.

After the NFL's head of football operations Troy Vincent mentioned the possibility of kick starting a developmental league back in April, he said he got over 100 proposals for what that potential league should look like.

"I think that shows it is worth a look," he told AP. 

Consider the possibilities: It could be a player pool; it could be a means for training coaches and officials; it could provide a testing grounds for new rules. 

For quarterbacks especially, who enter into the pro game with usually only college football experience under their belts, a developmental league could give them the time to learn professional schemes and reads without burning out. Too often desperate coaches throws these all-important players into the fire too soon or give up on them too early because jobs depend on the immediacy of results.

"Quarterbacks often don't come to you ready-made," Tomlin told the AP, "particularly with the way college football is played now with so many spread offenses and half-field reads and so forth."

A developmental league would buy everyone a little time. 

NFL Europe closed its doors for good in 2007 and there hasn't been anything resembling a true developmental league since. Something that begins in the spring and runs through the summer would not only have players to pull from, it would potentially garner some TV interest during a traditionally slow time on the sports calendar.

More importantly its drawing interest from those in the game as a tool to improve the level of play in the NFL.

"There's been discussions over the last couple years," Rams coach and co-chairman of the league's influential competition committee Jeff Fisher told AP. "I don't know what direction it's going, but I think we have a need for it. I think it would be beneficial from a young players' standpoint. ... if you have to make an outside roster move to get somebody that's in shape that you can evaluate on film."

There's no timetable right now for when a developmental league would be born, but the interest is there.