Denard, the draft, and disability insurance

Submitted by NoVaWolverine on January 13th, 2012 at 5:18 PM

We can now all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Denard's coming back for his senior season. My guess is that in Denard's case, asking the league for a draft evaluation was not so much about deciding whether to leave school early, as it was about two other things:

  • Hearing what league scouts think about his chances to play QB in the NFL, and how much his openness to a position change would affect which round he's selected in; and
  • Whether he and his family should get a disability insurance policy before his senior year, and how much they should spend on it.

I was curious to learn more about how disability insurance works for pro-caliber athletes who opt to stay in college rather than enter the draft early. I found this good NY Times piece from 2007, which focused on Louisville QB Brian Brohm. Some highlights:


The policies cover the athletes if an injury, sustained on the field or off, prevents them from playing professionally....

Typically, college athletes and their families will secure loans to cover the premiums. In football, the cost is roughly 1 percent of the policy’s value, or about $10,000 for $1 million worth of insurance. The amount of coverage available for the best players — those expected to be chosen in the first few picks of the draft — has nudged to about $10 million, double what it was at the start of the decade....

Insurance companies have offered disability policies to elite college athletes for decades. But many policies are bought through the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which entered the field in 1990 largely to combat agents who were secretly and illegally building relationships with athletes by offering to secure disability insurance while the athletes were in college.

The N.C.A.A. now offers up to $3 million of coverage for football players and varying amounts to top baseball, hockey and men’s and women’s basketball players....

Policies for elite college athletes are similar to those available to others with big earning potential, like professional athletes, entertainers and executives. A major difference is that a college player has no income history on which to base a policy.

Instead, insurance companies rely on the analysis of draft experts and scouting services. They decipher, a year or two in advance, where a player may be drafted, then calculate the sort of contract such a draft selection would be offered by using information from previous years....

To be eligible for the N.C.A.A. program, a football player must be projected to be drafted in the first three rounds — a guideline that most private insurers use, too, to protect their companies and to prevent players who miss the pros from being saddled with a loan for the premium that they cannot repay.

Denard's case has to be a bit tricky for an insurance company, and for NFL scouts, for that matter. I'd be shocked if Denard wasn't selected within the first three rounds. (Two points of comparison: Antwaan Randle El was taken in the 2nd round (pick #62) by the Steelers in 2002. However, Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal, who ran a 4.4 at the Combine but also whined about not wanting to play WR, wasn't taken until the 6th round by the Bengals in 2006.) But how high does he go? Denard's just as electric with the ball as Reggie Bush ever was -- is there a chance some team takes him in the early first round, and if so, should he get the insurance that reflects that higher contract?

Denard and his family have a big decision coming up. I'm curious what feedback he got from the league on this point.



January 13th, 2012 at 9:14 PM ^

How is he that? Unless he plays like he did against Ohio State and Nebraska every game next season, he won't get drafted before the third round even if it is just for his athelticism.   


January 13th, 2012 at 5:36 PM ^

I would have thought that the evaluation was more about where he is at right now and what he would have to do to play QB in the NFL and that is more or less it. It was a progress check more than anything, I believe.

That being said, I actually WOULD be a little surprised if Denard went in the first three rounds   if he is drafted as a QB, at least if he were to go this year (which, of  course, he isn't). Now, just for the sheer athleticism of the man (because I imagine there are teams that would love to talk him into being a WR or KR specialist), 3rd round sounds about right. We'll see after next year, of course. 


January 13th, 2012 at 5:42 PM ^

Darren Rovel had a piece on this recently. I think the insurance now goes up to $5 million, but hardly any of them take it because of the cost upfront.


January 13th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

I would like to sell the OP a piece of gum Denard had in his pocket for 1 million dollars.(pinky to my lip of course) He is 190 soaking wet and is an incredibly fast but he will be broken into pieces even as a kick returner which is becoming less of a factor since the NFL kicks off from the 50.  I do agree he would be tough to peg for an insurance company as I think you could hear anything from the 2nd round on up to the 6th. 


January 13th, 2012 at 6:20 PM ^

the op did a comparison with randel el, which is a pretty close comparison.  but denard is better in all phases of the college game they played.  randel el has lasted over 10 yrs in the nfl and was a 2nd round pick.

if a talent like denard dropped past the 3rd round, i would take him.  he could project at a number of positions, including a situational wildcat QB.


January 14th, 2012 at 3:10 PM ^

Slightly different era and probably a slightly better passer, but Denard's size is about the same as a very athletic, very successful college quarterback who was considered far too small to play that position - Doug Flutie. Though I think the latter was a more accurate passer. And Denard's probably not a selfish jerk like Flutie.


January 13th, 2012 at 6:52 PM ^

DeSean Jackson is listed at 5-10 and a generous 175. Randle El (who is the perfect comp for Denard re: draft potential) is 5-10 and 185-190. Darren Sproles is all of 5-6 and 190. If those guys can survive in the NFl, so can Denard.
As for those who doubt he'll be picked in the first 3 rounds, again, just look at Randle El, who was almost the exact same player coming out of college -- too small and too limited as apasser to be a QB in the NFL, but an electric athlete w/4.4 speed. He went in the 2nd round. An unlike Reggie McNeal, Denard is a high-character, team first guy. No way he slips past round 3 next year as long as he stays healthy.

Section 1

January 13th, 2012 at 6:16 PM ^

Most of the cognoscenti on this Board will remember Tripp Welborne, the All-American safety and punt returner who suffered a serious knee injury in his senior year.  I recall that Tripp was drafted by the Vikings (in a vastly lower round) and played a couple of games, but could never make it in the NFL on 1.5 knees.  Tripp is doing fine as far as I know; he came back and helped with the Vada Murray (Tripp's teammate) memorial.  But what happened to his electrifying skill as a punt returner (one of the best we've ever seen) via a knee reconstruction was tragic.

I was never quite clear on the details, but I think that Tripp did collect on a disability policy; whether it was a Lloyd's-type collegiate policy through the NCAA (I don't seem to think so) or whether it was one he obtained as an NFL draftee, I am not quite sure.

I do have a memory of Brent Musberger almost crying over the injury to Welborne.

This was a really nice job on this post by NoVa Wolverine.  If Denard's draft-rating excursion wasn't related to a Lloyd's (or similar) policy, I'd be amazed.

The great Tripp Welborne:


Section 1

January 13th, 2012 at 6:46 PM ^

...we say stuff like that all the time, and probably some people just say, "Yeah, whatever."  But it is true.  Since I brought up Sullivan (Tripp) Welborne III's name, and Vada Murray's name -- it was true for both of them.  Tripp I know was a good student.  Damn right, it really does mean something.

03 Blue 07

January 13th, 2012 at 7:49 PM ^

Regardless, I do some work in insurance, and made the argument when Darius Morris went pro, about what coverage costs. I can't remember who, but someone said I was way off; it turns out, my numbers were roughly correct, even a little low. a $15m disability policy would cost $150k. That's a lot of cash for a kid's family to have to front. I realize Denard will not be taking out any such $15m policy. But there are those that might. Even $3m...that's $30k. Unless you could finance the $30k through a third party, I feel like a lot of kids/their families can't afford that.


January 13th, 2012 at 8:27 PM ^

You also have to remember that they are buying the policy for one year only and it probably expires immediately after the football season (or at least the day of the draft). I would imagine these policies are fairly reasonably priced for that very reason. It would also seem to me that they are fairly low risk for the insurance company and this would also keep costs down, esp when comparing it to a disability policy a business person might take out to protect his potential earnings for the rest of his career.


January 13th, 2012 at 7:50 PM ^

rounds unless he can show some skill level beyond running fast. I think we all know QB is out of the question. Punt returners don't get drafted that high. Now if he shows the ability to catch the ball and run routes he could turn into a slot guy and then be used as a KO or punt return guy. I hope he gets a shot and I hope he keeps an open mind. I would like to see him in the NFL but if they don't take him could you imagine what he would do in Canada on the bigger field. Just saying.


January 13th, 2012 at 9:26 PM ^

Randall Cobb went in the 2nd round to the Packers basically as a returner (he's their 5th WR). He'd played some WR at kentucky but was mostly a QB in college, until his last year when he played a QB/RB/WR hydrid. The Packers drafted him because their return game was lacking.

Now, the problem, of course, is that Denard's never returned, and won't next year, so anyone drafting him as a returner would be purely speculating about how his skills would translate.

Blue boy johnson

January 13th, 2012 at 8:26 PM ^

I am fairly confident Denard wouldn't get past the 2nd round if he came out this season, basically for 2 reasons.

1. He has already proven to be a long TD waiting to happen. Elite athlete who knows how to play football

2. He will be a combine freak and NFL teams are uncontrollably attracted to combine freaks.


January 13th, 2012 at 8:43 PM ^

I wound up talking with Brandon Graham's mother after the Illinois game in 2008 (nice family).  She said that they got a $2M policy for him, just in case.  We both agreed that the NCAA should foot the bill or allow the schools to foot the bill for the premiums, so that kids can stay in school and not bolt early.  No such luck so far.



January 14th, 2012 at 1:25 AM ^

If Denard switched to a Percy Harvin role slightly. (15-25 carries) (5-10 receptions) give him some short throws and return kicks. He would thrive and be a lock 1st rounder if he put up pretty good stats then rips the combine. If he stays at QB some 1 will still draft him as an athlete 3rd round maybe.


January 14th, 2012 at 10:58 AM ^

I've wondered if Denard does not have good hands for a receiver because whenever Denard and Devin were in the game together, they never threw the ball to him.

Blue boy johnson

January 14th, 2012 at 11:05 AM ^

When we were recruiting Denard, there was  a video showing Denard running routes at a camp. It was only a couple passes but Denard was flying by the poor DB and catching long passes. It was very impressive footage. Denard is fast.  I would be willing to bet Denard has good hands. We do know he has big hands, which should be an asset in catching the ball.