Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is over, it’s time to talk about the 2017 draft. No, it’s not too early. For the underclassmen who are thinking about going, it’s almost too late already.

Their deadline is always too early. Nobody seems to be doing anything about it. A few people are talking about it, but not enough people are listening. They’d better start, because as usua

l, it's the “student-athletes” who are getting a raw deal.

MORE: NFL Draft grades | Way-too-early 2017 NFL Mock Draft 

The window for them to decide is too short. Their chances of getting a legitimate, helpful evaluation of their draft chances are too small. The slog from then until the actual draft is too long. 

And once again, the rules that favor college programs more than either the players or the NFL are too lopsided.

If the colleges were as interested in those players as they are in flexing their power over them, they could have changed the rules already, the way the basketball powers did for their players this year. 

They can’t plead ignorance to the problem, because some prominent names are hollering about it again: Senior Bowl executive director and former Browns general manager Phil Savage, for one. He took to Twitter the day after the draft to plead the same case he’s made for at least three years now.

Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has made the same argument before. Naturally, college football has gone backward instead, adding rules to make it harder for anybody interested to be evaluated by NFL advisers. 

Why anyone should be shocked that the number of early entries has gone up, and thus the number of players going undrafted, is a mystery.

At some point, those in power are going to have to face certain facts:

* Giving players no withdrawal option does nothing but force premature decisions onto them.

* Players are finding more reasons to get out of college as soon as possible, not fewer — ask Cardale Jones. They know the odds and are willing to take the risk anyway.

* The draft itself is a crapshoot, no matter what the NFL drills into them about the process. For example, for all the importance placed on the Combine, 37 players were drafted this year who never attended, as reported by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

* Two players were drafted from outside the U.S., one from Canada (defensive tackle David Onyemata, by the Saints) and one from Germany (Moritz Boehringer, by the Vikings).

* A basketball player, Rico Gathers, who didn't decide to try for the NFL until March, got drafted.

Those variables are always in play. Chances are that nobody’s helping them contemplate that. They’re being rushed to make up their minds so that the lives of others can be more convenient.

MORE: Cowboys made draft mistake | Cardale Jones waited too long

The draft, obviously, needs to be earlier, for everybody’s sake. Tie that to making the declaration deadline later. Mid-January is ridiculous, especially since it’s been a little more than a week after the national title game for the last several years. Mid- or late-February is much better, because it’s after the almighty combine.

Then give them a withdrawal option, as with basketball — which came to its senses this year and pushed the withdrawal deadline back a month, from April to May, after the Night net’s combine and still a month before the draft itself.

Finally, do what every big-revenue sport should do, but doesn’t: let undrafted underclassmen return to school. 

Before you start yelling about recruiting and planning, stop. Just figure it out, to their benefit, not yours. Do you actually care about providing that education you keep touting, or not?

There’s time to prove you do care about them, time to prove that players leaving early are not the enemy. 

So hurry up — the way you’ve made them hurry up about the rest of their lives.