First of all let me say that it is a very brave decision for a player on well over $1 million a year to walk away from all that money to chase any dream. Jarryd Hayne obviously has a real drive to try his hand at becoming an NFL player and if he feels that strongly about it that he is willing to leave behind so much money, good luck to him.
I’ve been a Rugby League supporter all by life but I have also been an NFL fan for most of it as well. You are going to read a lot of opinions about Hayne’s move to the NFL by people that have never watched a game of NFL in their lives! This time around you’ll be reading the opinion of someone that knows a bit about the sport.
The first problem I see for Jarryd Hayne is the timing of his decision.
The NFL season is well under way. The NFL Draft is less than a year away. If Hayne walks away from Rugby League today he only has a few months to work out what position he is best suited to in the NFL, change his body to be prepared to play that position, get the attention of NFL teams without playing a single game, and hope that someone drafts him.
At 27 years of age he actually won’t be all that much older than a lot of players who come out of the U.S. college system. You don’t see 18 years old enter the NFL draft. Hayne’s age doesn’t give him half a dozen years to pick up the sport through. He either has to make it immediately, stun all the talent scouts, and then hope he gets picked up late in the draft or he is back playing Rugby League as early as next season.
Its is a huge ask. In fact, I would say its an almost impossible one.
In the same way that Rugby League clubs don’t like taking too many chances to recruit from outside of the sport these days, NFL clubs are the exact same. They don’t like taking chances with their draft picks. When you look at the fact that the NFL has a multi billion dollars feeder system in the College Football at their disposal to draft players from, the NFL simply doesn’t need to take chances on athletes that have never played the sport in their lives.
Kickers are a little different, and if Hayne wants to become a kicker he will have a much better chance. I don’t think Hayne is leaving Rugby League to become an NFL kicker though. He wants to be a positional player. That leads me to my next concern…
I don’t look at Jarryd Hayne and see a ready made position for him in the NFL. For his size and ability, maybe a linebacker, maybe a tight end, maybe a safety? The problem with all of those positions is that they take many years to be able to read the game. Hayne simply doesn’t have that time.
If he tried to make it as a wide receiver he may be better off simply because the plays (Of which there will literally be a thousand he may have to learn and be able to memorize) will all be set out for him and he just needs to run the right route. I just don’t know that any team would take a chance on Hayne at the wide receiver position however as he would be too much of a risk of turning possession over as he is still learning the play book and the sport in general.
Some suggest Rugby League players would make good running backs…I’m not sure about that. Some would. I guess Hayne, with his size and footwork, would be good as a battering ram and out in the flat he would be a very handy option to pass the ball to and just let him do his thing, but that turns him into a very specialized player. The type of players in the NFL that become a specialists at doing one thing in particular in a certain position can be run out of the NFL very quickly as teams change their tactics when ever they see them walk onto the field.
Something else that I think people need to be prepared for is that Hayne will need to change his body pretty dramatically to play in the NFL. Once he decides on a position we could see Hayne bulk up very quickly.
The NFL’s rules on supplementation are extremely different to those in place within the NRL and any other sport that is signed up to the WADA code. If Hayne wants to become an NFL player he will need to become an NFL player! I would be very concerned that Hayne commits fully to making it in the NFL, and if he doesn’t make it, he finds that he is now unable to return to play Rugby League, or any other sport for that matter, because of what he put himself through to make the NFL.
I hope he has good people around him that advise him well and that have an eye on his entire sporting career, not just this opportunity he is taking up right now.
Because of his position in Rugby League and the oddity of his decision to try and make it in the NFL, Hayne will get some attention. We will see him featured on different sports shows and he will find the spot light is on him in some capacity. It will actually get the NRL a lot of attention in the process. Brand recognition at the very least.
When it gets down to it though, Hayne is going to be no one. A player with no American Football experience. A 27 year old that has never played the game. A great athlete who at the very best is a long term project.
Most NFL teams are just not even going to consider Hayne at all.
Hayne is far more likely to end up in the Canadian Football League which is a little different from the NFL. The fields are much wider (Go and have a look, they really do play on a different sized field!)and it would be a good place to show NFL teams what he can do. The CFL isn’t the NFL though, and even if Hayne plays one magnificent season in the CFL where he blows everyone away, he is then looking at playing his first NFL game with an eye on turning 29 years old….an age where most NFL players that aren’t big stars are done.
Nothing that I have written is meant to be a knock on Jarryd Hayne. This season has been his best season in the NRL. I think Hayne has the ability to become a true great of Rugby League if he can lead the Eels to a premiership. I think his loyalty to the Eels has been amazing and I wish him nothing but the best.
I hope he goes over there and kills it! I hope to see Hayne showing the Americans that their game isn’t even close to Rugby League. I hope he embarrasses them with his athletic ability and skills the likes of which they have never seen from a player of his size.
The cold hard facts however are that right now Jarryd Hayne has as much of a chance of ever playing in the NFL as a 27 year old NFL player has of playing for an NRL club next season.
Someone might be willing to take a chance on him, but its unlikely they will see the risk as being worth it.