By Juan Lozano | April 20, 2020
This week, the football world’s attention turns to the NFL Draft. It won’t be the glam exercise it generally is, and while we’ll get 3 days of television, rather than conducting the draft in front of tens of thousands of fans, picks will be announced by the Commissioner from his home.
All of us have been cooped up for weeks, so it’s time to have some fun and watch teams replenish their rosters with some new talent.
It’ll be the most unpredictable draft in years. Teams will be making decisions with far less information than usual with the cancellation of most Pro Days and all Top 30 visits.
Once those picks are made and undrafted free agents are signed, however, what are teams going to tell their new players about a report date? As of now, there is no date certain for the return of the NFL. However, going forward with the draft is some indication that the Commissioner and owners anticipate a 2020 season.
In college football, coaches and players know little about the expectations for a 2020 season. The uncertainty of the college season might force talented players, three years removed from their high school graduation and already eligible for the NFL, to consider seeking league approval to enter the 2020 supplemental draft.
The 2020 NFL Supplement Draft is not currently on the league calendar. However, there is no reason to believe that it won’t take place as it normally does in the early to middle part of July as it does every year.
Since 1977, NFL teams have used the supplemental draft to acquire talent that for various reasons. Perhaps the supplemental draft player did not declare as an early entrant for the NFL draft or perhaps the player could not go back to their college teams for one reason or another. There has been one Hall of Famer (Cris Carter) to emerge from the supplemental draft. Other talented players selected in the supplemental draft include Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Josh Gordon and Terrelle Pryor.
Every now and then, good players can be had.
When a team selects a player in the supplemental draft, the price is the equivalent round selection in the following year’s standard draft.
In this COVID environment, however, talented college players who already are eligible for the NFL might want to consider the supplemental draft this year. Here’s why:
1. TOP PROSPECTS THAT DID NOT DECLARE in 2020: Example: Travis Etienne (Clemson RB)
Etienne’s return to Clemson was a surprise to those outside the program. Etienne, a productive running back didn’t need a senior season to demonstrate pro ability to NFL teams. He’s a talented back that would have been one of the top running backs selected in the 2020 NFL draft. Etienne will be 22 at the time of the 2021 NFL Draft. His youth is an asset.
Etienne will also be more likely to earn a second NFL contract if he is able to begin his NFL career in 2020 rather than in 2021. Plus, he’d avoid additional injury risk by leaving Clemson.
Yes, Etienne could purchase a loss of value insurance policy if he stays at Clemson. But buying a policy is fairly easy; collecting on one is another issue, especially in our current economic climate. Consider the lawsuits filed by Jake Ryan and Marquise Lee as examples of the difficulty of collecting on those loss of value policies.
2. PLAYERS ‘BETWEEN PROGRAMS’: Jabril Cox (LSU LB) and KJ Costello (Mississippi State QB)
Standout linebacker Jabril Cox heads from one national champion, North Dakota State to LSU. He’s well-thought of by NFL scouts and will certainly be one of the most gifted players in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a fantastic player.
LSU football needs Cox more than Cox needs LSU football as three members of the Tigers linebackers corps (K’Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips) declared early for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Cox has nothing to prove. He’s been playing at a high level for three seasons. Cox committed to LSU sight unseen and has not visited the campus due to restrictions related to COVID-19. He has not practiced and will have to learn a new defensive scheme and be game ready for whenever practices and games start. He will also have to get incorporated into life in Baton Rouge for what will be only one semester. This is a lot of effort for an uncertain 2020 season. He could be compensated for all his efforts starting in July.
Another SEC transfer, Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello should consider entering the supplemental draft.
In addition to being one year older, Costello, a Stanford graduate, will be playing in an entirely new offensive scheme, the Air Raid, for new Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach.
Gardner Minshew was successful in going from East Carolina and earning the starting quarterback spot at Washington State, Leach’s previous stop. However, in 2019, Leach did not have similar success with a quarterback transfer to the program.
Gage Guburd, one of the most successful passers in the FCS and a Walter Payton Award finalist transferred from neighboring Big Sky power Eastern Washington to Washington State for his senior season. Guburd threw only thirteen passes and appeared in mop up duty against New Mexico State, an FBS independent and Northern Colorado, an FCS opponent.
While the same may not occur to Costello, it’d be easy for a southern program to play a younger player from the region over the older Costello, a Southern California resident. There is little to no reputational damage done to Mississippi State football if they were to sit Costello in favor of a younger QB, especially if a season turns south for the Bulldogs.
Players such as Etienne, Cox and Costello will suffer from likely not having participated in many football activities. They will be evaluated by scouts coming through a campus during a fall camp (presuming there is one, again, we don’t know) when the player is in suboptimal football condition. A shortened or delayed season makes it also more likely that a player won’t have the requisite time to rest his body prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Another issue to consider is what will the evaluation process consist of? Will college campuses or football offices be open to visitors? Will football teams be quarantined and thus college campuses may not be open for scout visits?
The uncertainty of the coming season should be factored into the analysis of a prospect’s football future. While the supplemental draft may not be an option that these talented players choose to pursue, it may be one that other unnamed but similarly situated players may consider.
Opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of Headcoachranking.com.