Blog Entry

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:03 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 4:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Thursday Wisconsin running back Montee Ball made the announcement that he would be coming back to Wisconsin for his senior season. A commendable decision by Ball considering the season he just had in Madison, finishing the year with 2,229 yards and 39 touchdowns, and going to New York as a Heisman finalist.

That being said, I don't think this is the right decision for Ball to make.

At the moment Ball is ranked as the sixth best 2012 NFL draft prospect amongst running backs by Rob Rang and 80th overall, and he'd likely be a middle round pick. Yes, it's possible that his draft stock will improve after staying at Wisconsin for another season, but that doesn't mean staying in school will help him have a longer, more successful pro career. In fact, it could seriously hinder his chances.

While there are some positions like quarterback where players are better served to stay in college and get another year of experience under their belts, running back is generally not one of those positions. This is due to the wear and tear that running backs endure during a season of football, on both the college and pro levels, and there aren't many programs that can wear down a back like Wisconsin.

A running back's legs only have so many miles on them. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule as we've seen in the past from guys like Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton, but backs like those two don't come around very often. For a glimpse of what does happen more frequently, Ball need not look past his own program and some of the great rushers in the school's history.

For example, there's Heisman Trophy winner and the NCAA's all-time leading rusher Ron Dayne. In his four seasons at Wisconsin Dayne carried the ball 1,220 times for 7,125 yards. In his seven NFL seasons after being a first round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2000, Dayne carried the ball 983 times for 3,722 yards. Dayne never had the success in the NFL that he had while at Wisconsin, and while that's partially due to his build -- Ron was never the slimmest guy around -- you can easly look at those 1,220 carries in college as a factor as well. There weren't many miles left on those legs by the time he joined the Giants.

More recently there was Ball's former teammate John Clay. Clay only played three seasons with the Badgers and had half as many carries as Dayne in his career with 629 rushes, but his legs began breaking down before he even left for the NFL. Clay went undrafted last April before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent. So far in his rookie season with the Steelers, Clay has carried the ball only 10 times. Yes, the jury is still out on his NFL career, but given that he wasn't even drafted and only saw time in Pittsburgh's backfield due to injuries, it's reasonable to think that Clay won't end up in Canton one day.

The good news for Ball is that while he carried the ball 307 times in 2011 -- more than Clay ever had in any season, and more than Dayne had in two seasons at Wisconsin -- he only had 261 rushes in his first two seasons in Madison. So there's plenty of tread left on the tires, but given that Russell Wilson will not be back in 2012, there's enough reason to believe that Ball's workload will only increase next year. Which would not be good news for his longevity.

The other bonus for Ball is that he's a lot smaller than both Dayne and Clay ever were, slimming down to 210 pounds for his junior season for the sole purpose of saving some wear and tear.

Still, given the history of some of Wisconsin's greatest running backs, it's pretty clear that if Ball is hoping to have a long and successful pro career, he should make the move sooner rather than later. Playing football is not a profession with a long shelf-life, especially for running backs, and if Ball wants to have a long professional career, he'd be better off starting it in 2012 rather than 2013.

Check out where Ball, and all the 2012 draft prospects rank on the draft board, and follow all the news on early entrants here. 

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Since: Dec 28, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:41 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Maybe this is about (and I know this might be shocking to you Tom) something more than money.  

Since: Jan 2, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:58 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Mr. Fornelli, If your son were in the same situation as Montee Ball, I am sure that you would insist, pressure and otherwise advise him to take the money now.  You might be right.  However, perhaps Ball has talked to Badger great Ron Dayne who I am sure is damn glad he returned to Wisconsin, won the Heisman Trophy, set the all time NCAA rushing record and then went on to a less than mediocre NFL career.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Perhaps doing what is best for your son might not be best for Ball.  Kudos to Ball and his family for making a decision which for once was not based on getting as much money as you can now.

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:51 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

I hate when any clown tells a kid or writes a story that staying in school is a bad move. The average lifespan of an NFL RB is something around 2 years, he should be commended for looking ahead and finishing his studies before moving on to the NFL.

Since: Feb 15, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:47 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

If the kid gets hurt this year, he better be getting his degree in a money-making major.

Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:22 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

nice values fornelli.  finishing school and his degree is a "bad move."  everything is bling to you I guess.  Don't get me wrong:  I like money.  I am materialistic.  It's not everything though.  There is an art to life.  Happy people get that.

Since: Sep 28, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:18 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

So Alex Green (RB) from Hawaii was the 96nd pick of the Packers this year (who is injured and out for the year).  A late 3rd round pick so this correlates well to the position Ball most likely would be drafter this upcoming draft. Green signed a 4 year 2.578 million dollar deal.

$515,000 signing bonus. Annual Salaries of 375K, 465K, 555K, and 645K if he makes it all 4 years.

As long as he stays healthy Ball should be no worse than this but I defintiely see the risk is a lot of money.  Even if Green is cut he got almost 1 million.  After taxes and other agent costs maybe he sees $400,000?  So I guess Ball if wagering $400,000 against another year in school and finishing his education.  Only time will tell.

Since: Nov 2, 2008
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:00 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Wilson had one of the best seasons statistically a QB could possibly have! They won the Big Ten due to Wilson and Ball. That Defense cost them everything else and even then Wilson did everything possible in spectacular fashion to save them. No way playing a less talented but younger QB this year would some how provide the season Wilson had next year. If Wisconsin does not address the defense they will continue to come up short no matter the QB.

Since: Dec 22, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:55 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

niklah-education is great and valuable. But he can easily go back and get his degree as a NFL player (many have). He can't, on the other hand, get back a year worth of physical wear and tear and the associated income it would bring having that year in the NFL as opposed to the NCAA.

We would never suggest a computer science major who has a fleeting chance to earn millions in a new startup after his junior year should finish school first and we shouldn't suggest it for athletes (as long as they are properly evaluating their worth in the draft that is).

Since: Apr 26, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:46 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

It continues to amaze me that writers have the audacity to say that a kid made the wrong choice by not "quitting" school early.  Because the kid is athletically gifted doesn't mean he can't make an impact somewhere off the field as well.  I get it, running backs wear out and he may not make the money that he could if he left today.  Maybe he wants to earn a degree and be able to take care of himself if football doesn't pan out at the next level. 

A few points you may want to consider before criticizing the kid's decision...

- Wisconsin is notorious for putting out backs that are extremely overrated.  Lets check how many backs from the cheese state are running around NFL backfields.  One?  Clay has made an appearance only after making a team after not being drafted.  And as far as Clay's leg issues, have you seen him?  If I were that fat, I would have knee problems too.  Now count how many NFL O-linemen are from Wisconsin, what is it, 6 (counting LS Katula) and I think 4 of them start.  So a quality back coming out of Wiscy is always a crapshoot.  (Dayne, Moss, Fletcher, Clay... not impressive in the NFL)

- Running backs in today's NFL are more of an after thought than a necessity.  Of the top 10 rushers this year, 5 didn't make the playoffs (MJD, McCoy, Lynch, St. Jackson, and Mathews), 3 of them don't really have a shot at making the Superbowl (McGahee, Foster and Turner) because their defense and/or passing games are questionable and the last 2 have a shot mostly based on the strength of their defense (Rice and Gore).  So if you're not going to a team like Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans, New England or New York(N) where they can use a back with good hands like Ball out of the backfield or set up the run with the pass, then success will hinge on whether or not Ball brings his whole O-line with him.

- He's, at best a 3rd round pick, more likely a mid to late 4 or even an early 5.  If he isn't hurt coming out of next season, that becomes an easy 3, maybe moving up to 2.  Much better for him monetarily with the new CBA salary for rookies.

- Most importantly, it seems the kid cares about his school and his education.  To criticize a kid for wanting to have a number of options is selfish and moronic.  The NFL (while being great) isn't the only thing in most of our lives (that probably includes Ball).  Kudos for Ball choosing what he wants to do and ignoring the sleazy agents and writers that seem to think that cashing in is the only right choice.

Since: Jan 7, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:38 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Montee Ball is making no MISTAKE . If he has heisman on his mind i dont blame him for returning to college ball next year. These sports writers and there worthless articles crack me up. Im a Michigan fan but Wisconson once again will be a major force to deal with  next season.

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