Declaring early for NFL Draft – Is it worth the risk?

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.

  1. NFL Scouts aren’t allowed to scout underclassmen. True this rule will change next year with the new agreement with the AFCA and NFL takes effect.  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.
  1. Underclassmen aren’t allowed at post season all-star games. 5 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Last year there was a record of 107 underclassmen declaring early for the NFL Draft of that 30 players didn’t get drafted. Which was a little over 28% of the players that declared didn’t get drafted that was the same percentage in 2015 and in 2014 it was all the way up to 39.2% of the players that declared didn’t get drafted.

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.

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.