Declaring Early for the NFL Draft – What to Know

By Justin VanFulpen

This time of the year in college football, the mock drafts start coming out and people start talking about what players will declare early. But just because some on the internet is saying that this player should declare early or someone close to the player telling him that he should leave school early might not know all the facts.  Remember 80% of an NFL grade is made up on film.

1. In the past NFL Scouts weren’t allowed to scout underclassmen, but the rule has changed allowing the school to give scouts a list of 5 possible players that could declare that they were allowed to get info on. Scouts do look at the guys that they know for sure will be coming out early, but their main focus is the senior prospects. The underclassmen that aren’t general accepted as a 1st round pick there is rarely any work done on them during the season.

2. Underclassmen aren’t allowed at post season all-star games. 7 years ago with the NFLPA started the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl they were going to challenge the NFL rule and did allow one underclassmen in the game. That caused the NFL teams not to send a single scout to that all-star game. Because of that the NFLPA has only allowed seniors in their all-star game for then on. As we saw in the 2013 NFL Draft All-Star games are a big part of the process where OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan went from a late first rounder all the way up to the number one overall pick because of his play at the Senior Bowl.

3. NFL Combine – First official time NFL scouts can talk to underclassmen. Just because a prospect has declared early doesn’t automatically get him an invite to the NFL combine. So if a prospect is not invited then really the first time a scout get to talk with a prospect is at his school Pro Day.

4. NFL Draft Advisory Board – The board is composed of general managers and personnel directors from a number of NFL teams, along with the directors of the NFL’s two scouting combines, BLESTO and National. A prospect can ask for their assessment on where he is projected to get drafted. The board will return their assessment of the prospect with three possible grades – first round, second round, or neither, which means that the board advises the player to stay in school. The school can get a hold of the NFL Draft Advisory Board or the prospect can contact the NFL Player Personnel Department directly.

5. The 2018 NFL Draft included 106 underclassmen who entered the draft early, 69 players were drafted, leaving 37 who went undrafted (35% not drafted) The 2017 NFL Draft included 95 underclassmen who entered the draft early, 67 underclassmen were drafted, leaving 28 (30%) not drafted. The 2016 NFL Draft 30 of 96 underclassmen were not chosen (31%).

Every prospects situation is different when thinking about declaring early for the NFL Draft but each prospect should get as much information as possible in regards to leaving school early for the NFL Draft.  Just because someone (agent, family member, teammate, etc.) is telling you that you as a prospect should declare early make sure you get all the facts.

How College Football All-Star Game Invites work?

By Justin VanFulpen

The question always comes up from coaches, players, parents, agents, etc. – How does a player get invited to play in a game?   I had an opportunity to be in charge of the personnel for all-star games and like all the other people in the all-star game business we are looking for the best player that will have an opportunity to get drafted.  All-Star Games are talking to NFL scouts to see who they want to see in an all-star game, also they are hearing from agents, coaches who are recommending players both early and late in the invite process.

All-Star games are also looking at the spring grades from BLETSO and National to give them an idea of who as a whole the NFL likes as seniors when they speak with scouts.  One of the big reasons that spring grades as so important when it comes to all-star games and the NFL combine.

Since the life blood of an all-star game is sponsorship and most sponsors are looking to get close to NFL players or be able to say that they are involved with NFL prospects without having to spend the top dollars to be an official NFL sponsor.

But what I always tell people asking that question that communication is key with the personnel directors of the game or their staff.  Sometimes players will miss out on an opportunity to play in an all-star game because they don’t get back with an all-star game to let them know they are interested in playing in the game because they are waiting to get an invite to a “bigger” game.

Communicate with all the all-star games (Senior Bowl, East West Shrine, NFLPA, etc) and it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them via social media, email, phone, etc to get in front of them if you are not on their radar or even if you are it will strength your chance for an invite.

Since the Senior Bowl is by the far the number one all-star game they have the lead when it comes to what prospects go where.  If a player gets invited to the Senior Bowl most of the time they are pulling out of whatever all-star game they are in and going to that game.  Since that is the case and invites are kept close to the vest it causes all the other all-star games to continuously change their roster.

All-Star games start sending out invites in mid to late October and each game does it different as far as inviting players.  Some email the player directly other will send the invite to the school and have the coaches give it to the players.

My advice to players is accept the invite when you get it and get it back to the game if then you get invited to a “bigger” game,  just communicate with the game you had already accepted and just let them know in a timely manner so they can invite someone else.

 

2017 NFL Draft: NFL Scouting Combine Results

By Justin VanFulpen

In the football business one of the closely guarded secrets before the official list is released is who is getting invited to the NFL Combine.  The NFL Combine is run by National Scouting and has become a televised event by the NFL Network.  For more information about how the NFL Combine invites work you can check out my article from a year ago: NFL Draft: NFL Combine just part of the process.

Now that the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books we can look at the results.  This year there were 329 players invited to the NFL Combine and their where 28 players that were drafted that did NOT go to the NFL Combine.  Break down as far as rounds go:

2nd round – 1 player
3rd round – 1 player
4th round – 2 players
5th round – 3 players
6th round – 6 players
7th round – 15 players

So 104 players that were invited to this year’s NFL Combine were not drafted.  So the percentage of players that were drafted that were invited to the NFL Combine was 68%, so it is far from a guarantee if you are invited that you will get selected in the NFL Draft.  Last year it was 65% of the players that were at the NFL Combine where drafted.

2018 NFL Draft process starts with “Junior Days” and Spring Grades

By Justin VanFulpen

Right now we are getting close to the 2017 NFL Draft but NFL scouts around the country are getting ready to start their work on the 2018 NFL Draft on college campus in what is called “Junior Days”.

What are “Junior Days”? Well there are two scouting organizations that NFL teams subscribe to called BLESTO and National (National Football Scouting) each of these organizations is made up of scouts from different teams, and all except the New England Patriots “subscribe” to one of these services.

Normally the college coach who is the pro liaison sets up the junior day in which the draft-eligible players for the next year take part in a workout much like a Pro Day just for these scouts. These junior days are normally scheduled during spring practice.

Scouts do measurable, the player’s height, weight, hand size and reach, some school will allow their players to run the 40 but others won’t. The scouts will also have the players take the Wonderlic test which is a standardized test which is used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving.

The scouts also view film for the player’s junior year as well as background information and injury history. From there, only a single report is filed and shared with the other teams as part of the group, and then there is a meeting where the reports are shared with the member clubs sometime in late May.

Once those reports are filled that is when people in the football business try to get their hands on those reports or just the grades. Even though all information from National Football Scouting and BLESTO are proprietary, agents, financial advisors, trainers, all-star game organizers, media members, and NFL draft gurus all try to get their hands on what is referred to as the “spring grades.”

Once anyone gets their hands on these grades they will start contacting the players letting them know what their “spring grade” is.

These grades are not set in stone and they sure change thru out the season but they are for sure a great starting point. The grade that either of these services gives a player the May before he plays senior season doesn’t have a huge effect on where the player is drafted a full year later but does have a good bearing if the player will get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine which is run by National and has input by BLESTO on who gets invited.

Springs grades are important starting point for people in football business and the prospects.

Undrafted: Doesn’t mean a player won’t make it in the NFL

When the NFL Draft comes around every April every college football player that is eligible is hoping that they will get drafted somewhere in the 7 round draft.  With over 1,500 eligible players and only 256 draft slots that can’t happen.  After the NFL Draft teams will sign undrafted rookie free-agents and it gives them an opportunity to make the teams 53 man roster, some other teams 53 man roster or a practice squad. With the NFL season about to kickoff let look at the impact that undrafted rookie free-agents have on NFL rosters.

As of September 7, 2016 there is 478 players on a 53 man roster that where not drafted.  So 28% of the 32 NFL teams 53 man rosters are made of undrafted free-agents.  61 of these players are rookies.

There are 240 undrafted players that are on practice squads. Teams are allowed a max of 10 players on a practice squad, so 75% of the NFL’s practice squads are made up of undrafted players.

NFL teams spend millions of dollars on scouting players for the draft but they are unable to be prefect in their selection of players. When the draft comes everyone has an opinion on what players will get drafted and who will make the 53 man roster but the NFL business is unpredictable and that is one reason why people love it.

A full breakdown of all 32 NFL teams and undrafted players:

UndraftedPlayers9-7-16

NFL Draft: “Junior Days & Spring grades”

Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams has his height measured before a work out for NFL scouts during a pro-day workout at Baylor University Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Waco. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
By Justin VanFulpen

Right now we are getting close to the 2016 NFL draft but NFL scouts around the country are already hard at work on the 2017 NFL draft on college campus in what is called “Junior Days”. What are “Junior Days”? Well there are two scouting organizations that NFL teams subscribe to called BLESTO and National (National Football Scouting) each of these organizations is made up of scouts from different teams, and all except the New England Patriots “subscribe” to one of these services.

Normally the college coach who is the pro liaison sets up the junior day in which the draft-eligible players for the next year take part in a workout much like a Pro Day just for these scouts. These junior days are normally scheduled during spring practice.

Scouts do measurable, the player’s height, weight, hand size and reach, some school will allow their players to run the 40 but others won’t. The scouts will also have the players take the Wonderlic test which is a standardized test which is used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving. The scouts also view film for the player’s junior year as well as background information and injury history. From there, only a single report is filed and shared with the other teams as part of the group, and then there is a meeting where the reports are shared with the member clubs sometime in late May.

Once those reports are filled that is when people in the football business try to get their hands on those reports or just the grades. Even though all information from National Football Scouting and BLESTO are proprietary, agents, financial advisors, trainers, all-star game organizers, media members, and NFL draft gurus all try to get their hands on what is referred to as the “spring grades.” Once anyone gets their hands on these grades they will start contacting the players letting them know what their “spring grade” is.

These grades are not set in stone and they sure change thru out the season but they are for sure a great starting point. The grade that either of these services gives a player the May before he plays senior season doesn’t have a huge effect on where the player is drafted a full year later but does have a good bearing if the player will get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine which is run by National and has input by BLESTO on who gets invited.

Springs grades are important starting point for people in football business and the prospects. But there is always prospects who come off the radar like DE Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions (Drafted 5th overall in 2013, no spring grade) and this year CB Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH) should be a middle round draft pick who also didn’t have a spring grade going into this season.

NFL Draft: NFL Combine just part of the process

By Justin VanFulpen

The NFL Combine has become a made for TV event for the NFL and it sponsors like Under Armor and the rest. Everyone loves to watch the 40 yard dash to see how fast all the players but the biggest reason all 32 NFL teams come to Indianapolis for the NFL combine is the medical test as well as the interviews that they can get done with over 300 players all at one location.

Former Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, proposed to the NFL competition committee a centralization of the evaluation process for NFL teams. Prior to 1982, teams had to schedule individual visits with players to run them through drills and tests.

How do players get invited to the NFL Combine? Well for years the rumor was a player needed 6 votes to get invited but that is not the case. Here is what is directly from the NFL Combine website www.nflcombine.net about that subject.

“How are players selected for the NFL Combine?
Participants are determined annually by a Selection Committee. The Directors of both National and BLESTO scouting services, which combined represent twenty-five NFL teams, are joined by members of various NFL player personnel departments to form the committee. The participating NFL executives can rotate on a yearly basis, and remain anonymous. ALL eligible players are reviewed and voted on by the committee members. Each athlete receiving the necessary number of votes, by position, is then extended an invitation. While it is not a perfect science, the goal of the committee is to invite every player that will be drafted in the ensuing NFL Draft.”

There is no set number of invites but usually it is around 330 players, this year there were 322 players invited to the NFL Combine. Just because a player is invited to the NFL Combine does not guarantee that he will get drafted since there are only 256 players drafted each year in the NFL Draft. Now if a player goes to the NFL Combine there is a better chance that he will get drafted then players that doesn’t. But there are always players who didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine that get drafted, and this past year it was a very high number of players who didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine that got drafted, a total of 41.

Below is the breakdown by rounds of players who didn’t get invited to the combine but where drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft.

4th round – 3 players
5th round – 7 players
6th round – 16 players
7th round – 15 players

So just doing the math 107 players that went to the NFL Combine didn’t get drafted. So only 66.7% of the players that went to the NFL Combine got drafted this year.

Remember the NFL Combine is just part of the elevation process, with centralizing it and having all 32 teams involved it has cut down on part of the expense and one of the biggest part of the combine that isn’t shown on NFL Network is the medical aspect of it.

NFL Draft: “Spring grades”

Scout HeightBy Justin VanFulpen

Right now we are getting close to the 2015 NFL draft but NFL scouts around the country are already hard at work on the 2016 NFL draft on college campus in what is called “Junior Days”. What are “Junior Days”? Well there are two scouting organizations that NFL teams subscribe to called BLESTO and National (National Football Scouting) each of these organizations is made up of scouts from different teams, and all except the New England Patriots “subscribe” to one of these services.

Normally the college coach who is the pro liaison sets up the junior day in which the draft-eligible players for the next year take part in a workout much like a Pro Day just for these scouts. These junior days are normally scheduled during spring practice.

Scouts do measurable, the player’s height, weight, hand size and reach, some school will allow their players to run the 40 but others won’t. The scouts will also have the players take the Wonderlic test which is a standardized test which is used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving. The scouts also view film for the player’s junior year as well as background information and injury history. From there, only a single report is filed and shared with the other teams as part of the group, and then there is a meeting where the reports are shared with the member clubs sometime in May.

Once those reports are filled that is when people in the football business try to get their hands on those reports or just the grades. Even though all information from National Football Scouting and BLESTO are proprietary, agents, financial advisors, trainers, all-star game organizers, media members, and NFL draft gurus all try to get their hands on what is referred to as the “spring grades.” Once anyone gets their hands on these grades they will start contacting the players letting them know what their “spring grade” is.

These grades are not set in stone and they sure change thru out the season but they are for sure a great starting point. The grade that either of these services gives a player the May before he plays senior season doesn’t have a huge effect on where the player is drafted a full year later but does have a good bearing if the player will get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine which is run by National and has input by BLESTO on who gets invited.

Springs grades are important starting point for people in football business and the prospects. But there is always prospects who come off the radar like DE Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions (Drafted 5th overall in 2013, no spring grade) and this year CB Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH) should be a middle round draft pick who also didn’t have a spring grade going into this season.