Cornerback crystal ball for Eagles…and a look at college players dollar value…

Dan Graziano of weighed in here tonight at Eagles Eye… he corrected my erroneous reference to his being employed by in a recent blurgg… and wants to set the record straight.

Graziano in fact blogs for the NFC bEAST… but he writes for ESPN, not CBS as I had stupidly reported…

Anyhoo, Dan Graziano has something to say about the Eagles’ cornerback situation…

Graziano joined in 2011 after two years as a Senior NFL Writer for AOL FanHouse. He covered Major League Baseball, the Olympics and various other sports during his time at the Star-Ledger and the Palm Beach Post. A New Jersey native and author of two published novels, he now lives in Ridgewood, N.J., with his wife and two sons.

Here’s what Dan has to say about the Eagles’ cornerbacks:

“We’re doing cornerbacks today, and this stop takes a look at those of the Philadelphia Eagles. “

Projected starters: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Reserves: Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley, Cliff Harris

Potential strength: Asomugha was signed as a marquee free agent last year, and should be one of the strengths of the entire team. As you know if you watched, he obviously had his moments, but he also had some rough spots. The conventional wisdom is that the Eagles played too much zone coverage last season, and that went away from Asomugha’s strengths in an effort to minimize Asante Samuel‘s weakness. But with Samuel gone, it’s possible the Eagles will play more man coverage, where Asomugha shines. With a full year in his new surroundings behind him, and assuming the coverage schemes are tweaked to make him more comfortable and use him the way he should be used, Asomugha should find himself in position to re-establish himself as one of the league’s elite cornerbacks.

Potential weakness: The departure of Samuel not only eats at the team’s depth at the position, it deprives them of the cornerback who actually played the best for them last season. Samuel’s playmaking was an asset, and it remains to be seen whether Rodgers-Cromartie, whom they got in return for Kevin Kolb last year and is earning rave offseason reviews, can be the same kind of player. But the big question is that the nickel corner spot, where Hanson wasn’t as good last season as he’d been the year before, and now faces a challenge from the rookie Boykin. With Samuel gone and Hanson a question mark, have the Eagles left themselves too thin at a critical position?

Keep an eye on: Harris. He was looked at as a first-round talent during a brilliant 2010 season at Oregon, but his 2011 season disappeared in a haze of suspensions and legal troubles. So he wasn’t drafted, but the Eagles took a shot on him as an undrafted free agent. If he can keep himself out of trouble and focus on football, he could turn out to be a huge steal. He was an elite playmaker at a top college program just two years ago. And if not, no harm done. Lots of upside with this young man, and he’s a guy to watch. (“Guy to Watch!”)

What Graziano doesn’t entirely get— in my opinion, and also in the opinion of our own legendary analyst JB99— is that Nnamdi Asomugha excelled in zone coverage for most of 2011… and in fact took out nearly all of the TE’s he was assigned upon for single coverage… Sometimes we don’t know what we are supposed to be seeing until we see it again on game tape…

The back-up cornerback competition shapes up as a great attraction for Eagles fans in training camp, for sure…

Then this tidbit of background controversy came over the wires…

It was from Tyler Williams, the “Causal Sports Fan” writer… It’s about why college athletes who feed the supply line to the pro’s should be paid while they’re still in school… Here’s Tyler Williams himself to explain:

“A few months ago, my friend Jeff and I worked out how much University of Florida athletes are worth to the school for ESPN the Magazine. The key to our approach — in contrast to other studies – is that we looked at profits generated by each player, rather than revenue. Revenue is not so relevant if it is outrun by costs. What matters is profit (before subtracting player compensation). Profit tells you how much schools could actually pay their players.”

The numbers at Florida

“The short answer: the best college football players at Florida are worth millions per year, the best basketball players are worth a few hundred thousand, and all other athletes cost the school quite a bit of money. If you have ESPN insider, you can view the full article online. How much of this profit do football and basketball players see? Very little. Player compensation in the form of scholarships is between $15,000 and $50,000 per year per player at most schools. By contrast, other athletes are getting a great deal. Not only do they get a free education, but Florida spends tens of thousands more on each player to ensure that they have awesome coaching, facilities, and equipment.”

Football profits across the FBS

“Today, Jeff and I have a related project at ESPN, which will also appear in ESPN the Mag soon. We argue that college football players should be paid. Why? Average profit generated by FBS football players — before scholarships — is about $164,000. The average scholarship payout is just $27,000 by our estimation. So, “non-profit” schools are making an average of $137,000 in profit per player. And if that’s not enough, look at the breakdown by conference (all numbers are from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2010-2011 season):

The SEC and Big Ten are making over $300,000 per player! It’s no wonder we see recruiting scandals every year. They won’t disappear until schools are allowed to pay players closer to what they are worth.

For the curious, here’s the top 10:

Paying players is the right move

“We thought about the arguments against paying college athletes. A common one is that payments would ruin parity because some schools can clearly afford to pay much more than others. A handful of schools lost money on football. However, college football has very little parity already. I’ve been calling for a “College Football Premier League” for awhile now because of the lack of parity in the FBS. We could have salary caps as well, just like in the pros.”

“Another popular argument is that scholarship costs don’t capture all the benefits of a college education. For example, Patrick Rishe for Forbes argues that a college degree is worth $2 million in extra wages. This is probably wrong, since he calculates this number by comparing wages for college grads and non-college grads, who are surely of different ability. Also, $2 million in extra wages over the 45 years after college is not the same as getting $2 million in just four years during college. Rishe is an economist! He should know these things.”

“Even if that number is right, it’s not relevant to the argument at hand. Another economist, Andrew Zimbalist, has a better interpretation. In a similarly wrongheaded USA Today article, he is the dissenting voice; he argues that player compensation should be measured as tuition plus room and board only (or even less, since many players don’t graduate and thus their tuition payments are a waste). However much you think a college education is worth, the athlete could go out and buy that education for precisely the cost of tuition, so tuition is the most accurate measure of the value of a free education. This is the approach we took in measuring player compensation.”

“Another complaint: schools use football profits to fund other important programs. This is partially true. Schools like Texas and Michigan (my team of choice) make so much money on football that some of it kicks back to the universities’ general fund. However, many schools blow their football profits on other sports. These other sports compete in the same division as FCS schools with tiny football profits. Their luxurious treatment at football players’ expense is unnecessary.”

“The only argument we had left was something ephemeral about the purity of amateur sports. Unfortunately, that’s gone. Texas made nearly $800,000 per player in 2010-2011 and recruiting scandals happen all the time. Proponents of amateurism are fighting a losing battle in a sea of money. It’s high time that players received their share.”

Hmmmm. Food for thought. You can check out Tyler Williams’ unique school of thought at …

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.