Prospect Of Developmental League Offers Intrigue

What will become of the Fall Experimental Football League in a few years’ time? That is the question most intriguing to the National Football League.

The FXFL, a new upstart professional league hoping to kick off this October, paints itself as a developmental league that, in time, could help funnel talent to the NFL.

The league’s commissioner, Brian Woods, believes that “there is more than ever a need for another platform out there” for what would be the equivalent of minor league football athletes, drawing comparisons to the minor leagues of baseball and the developmental league that exists for basketball.

The only difference, as it currently stands, is that there is no affiliation with specific NFL teams. In fact, the league is expected to begin with just six franchises and 40-man rosters.

According to Woods, the league’s long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL.

With the existence of the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League—not to mention the eight-man practice squad—however, it’s not entirely clear just how many players with pro potential are really ‘falling through the cracks’ as it is.

There is no question that there is a need, from the athletes’ perspective, for such an option, however. NFL teams carry 90-man offseason rosters. In the regular season, they carry 61 between the active roster and the practice squad.

That’s 29 players across 32 teams that lose their jobs every summer. A quick bit of math informs me that that is a pool of 928 players. The FXFL projects to have a total league pool of 240 players.

Not to mention the increasing number of underclassmen who declare for the draft in college, only to go not only undrafted, but unsigned. It stands to reason that they would appreciate another alternative than either working in Canada or playing a slightly different brand of football that is the Arena League.

The long-term potential for a developmental league is intriguing, but whether or not the FXFL is that developmental league is very much in dispute.

As Woods notes, such a league could serve as an experimental laboratory for testing out proposed rules changes, technological advances, or other issues pertaining to the means through which the game is played.

Additionally, it could serve as a proving ground for prospective coaches and officials, as the minor or developmental leagues serve in other major professional sports in the United States.

The truth of the matter, though, is that such a league, as currently constructed, or as potentially constructed in the near future, is not capable of addressing the main concerns—or perhaps more accurately, objectives—of NFL teams. But that is a subject for another day.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Geoff Cordner

    I think they should present it as an alternative to college for players coming out of highschool. A talented player who is only interested in a career in football can go directly to this developmental league. And, possibly this league could offer these players continuing education night coures so they can learn a trade while playing.

    I think it would be a good thing to get rid of the facade of these college football players who never graduate and declare for the draft as underclassman. Plus, give young men who are not good students another path.

  • LucasY59

    If the “fall league” is playing their games the same time as the NFL and College it will be the “fail league” the only way any one will pay attention is if it is during the spring when there isn’t anything to compete for their attention

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I have to think there are 100’s of players that could be viable NFL players if they had some consistent development tailored to their skills for an extended period of time.

    Fewer and fewer players get this in college or the NFL and NFL teams don’t have roster space or the interest in developing a bubble player when they can address an urgent need or pick up someone with more upside.

    I think the key for a developmental league is to have long term, consistent philosophies and to figure out a system that allows them to make money for graduating players to the NFL. It could be like an employment agency or like a college where you have big student loans that are forgiven if you don’t get work in the field.

    Geoff’s idea of a college alternative is also important. The idea that you need to be smart to even get a shot at an NFL job is sick. An alternative system might be the best way to address the NCAA slavery issue.

  • Matt Manzo

    They’re not affiliated with any teams but is there any connection to the NFL?
    I don’t think a private party can last, especially if they’re playing in the fall.
    I’d rather see the AFL and CFL cancelled and a more minor league set up.

  • Matthew Marczi

    There is no connection now, but they say that’s their long-term ambition. The league has said in the past that they would be interested in exploring some type of developmental league, but there’s never been any movement on it.

  • Matthew Marczi

    They intend to play their games on Wednesdays.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The article does mention that the league would have a wider reach, including potentially athletes coming right out of high school.

  • Matt Manzo

    I would love to be able to watch football during the off season, that had something to do with the NFL. If it was televised. The only way I see it being televised at all is if the NFL is involved.
    I guess what im thinking of is a way to make us feel like real scouts! Televised games if developmental prospects. Just like the minors.

  • Axe Skot

    Particularly if they run pro style offenses and defenses.

  • Richard Edlin

    I doubt they could use Saturday and conflict with college as it’d be hard on competition grounds. Head-to-head vs the NFL counts out Thurs, Sun, Mon … so I guess Tuesday and Wednesday are the only nights available?

    If I was them, I’d consider one game in the 3 hours prior to MNF.

  • Richard Edlin

    I don’t think the CFL necessarily sees itself as just a feeder to the NFL … AFL maybe.