By HCR Staff | April 24, 2020
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc around the world. The NFL hasn’t been shielded from the effects of this virus, and there’s been some chaos surrounding the league’s premier off-season event, the NFL Draft. It certainly is not “business as usual”.
NFL teams have been forced to scramble and implement Plans B, C & D as their traditional protocols have been completely disrupted. Pro Days were cut short, Top 30 visits were eliminated, and private workouts didn’t happen.
As a result, NFL teams are going into the Draft blinder than ever. They have some information, but certainly not as much as they would like.
Every NFL team now has to consider variables they normally wouldn’t. Will there be a Supplemental Draft, and if so, will more talented players apply for it? How many undrafted free agents should a team sign, especially if there isn’t a traditional learning period such as OTA’s and minicamp?
Teams will adapt, however, and in our view, one major way will be the projections they make on players who don’t play all or most of their final college season.
In the past, there was the belief that the more college games a player participated in, the better.
That’s no longer the case. Why? Decision makers don’t want talented players risking injury and even, learning “bad” football.
NFL teams no longer want the next generation of talent wrecking their bodies playing college ball. They know that at a certain point, it’s of no further value for the player or for an NFL team.
NFL teams also know that the difference between college football and NFL football could not be starker. They’re completely different games and the instruction reflects that. At many college programs, players are getting coached up on things that don’t matter at the NFL level.
Plus, there’s data to indicate that many successful NFL players miss all or large parts of their final college season. If that’s the data, why ignore it?
Here’s a brief list of players to illustrate this point.
Tyrann Mathieu. 0 starts in his junior year; he was suspended.
Leonard Fournette. Played ‘only’ 7 games his junior year.
Nick Bosa. Played 2.5 games his junior year.
Carson Wentz. 6 starts in his final college year, plus the FCS championship. Missed 8 games due to injury.
Todd Gurley. 6 starts in his final college season due to injury and suspension.
Marcus Peters. 8 starts his final college season; was thrown off team for the remainder.
Josh Gordon. 0 starts in his final college season; entered the NFL’s Supplemental Draft after transferring from Baylor to Utah.
Richie Incognito. Left the Nebraska team in September, transfers to Oregon, thrown off the team there the same month, and never plays there. Missed his entire final college season.
Antonio Cromartie. Missed his entire final college season due to injury.
Rob Gronkowski. Like Cromartie, missed his entire final college season due to injury.
Myles Jack. Left UCLA 3 games into his junior season.
Every player listed here has enjoyed success in the NFL, some of it at the Hall of Fame level, and while many questions arose during their draft process, every NFL team adapted to the circumstance presented. Greater adaptation will be the norm. Teams will be far less reluctant to draft players who didn’t play their final year in college – teams will just dig deeper and be more willing to take risks. Players will skip most, if not their entire final college season, especially when more and more players get drafted anyway. Players know they will continue to be evaluated, whether they’re in school or not.