With Fall Football Canceled many 2021 NFL Draft Prospect – Should Look to the 2022 NFL Draft

With the majority of college football being canceled for the 2020 fall season due to COVID-19 concerns many players with the hope to play in the NFL should be looking to the 2022 NFL Draft not the 2021 NFL Draft, here is why.

  1. NCAA Council recommends eligibility relief for athletes who opt out and that would allow football players to retain their eligibility.  So a prospect could opt out of the spring football schedule if school goes ahead with it and then have their eligibility for fall of 2021.
  2. With the SEC, Big 12, ACC, AAC, C-USA & Sun Belt all moving forward with a fall season the NFL will not move the NFL Draft and keep it in April 2021. Also with that being said if the NFL Draft keeps it schedule then most likely the NFL Combine keeps it schedule in late February.
  3. 80% of NFL Grade is based on film and if a prospect 2019 film had him a high draftable prospect the player most likely would have declared if he could have.  Now the top graded players who where sophomore last year and not eligible will declare for the 2020 NFL Draft and should. The two scouting services the NFL uses (BLETSO & National) still did give out spring grades this spring.
  4.  No benefit of playing in the Spring if prospect would burn eligible and the NFL keeps it draft in April of 2021. Also prospects shouldn’t want to play in the spring risk injury or just beating up body and then turn around and play in the fall of 2021.
  5. Prospect can use this full year to get bigger, stronger, faster and better at his skill set.  Prospect can also lock in on school finish up and then have nothing to worry about but football in fall of 2021. 

Yes each prospects situation is different but the prospect should want to do whatever gives him the best chance to be successful and get the best opportunity for the NFL Draft.  

Things NFL Draft Prospects can do to improve draft odds due to COVID-19

I have received questions from players on what they can do since the 2021 NFL Draft process was interrupted due to COVID-19.  Many senior prospects didn’t have a “Junior Day” because campus where shut down before BLETSO or National Football scouts, the two scouting services the NFL uses, could get on campus. 

1.       Get your own measurements – As we saw before the 2020 NFL Draft, guys did their own Pro Day testing, so that scouts could get the information.  If you are able to do your own height/weight/40, etc, you should do it, and be honest about everything.  Even if one scouts get that information, see it on Twitter, You Tube, etc there are advantages.  One they might do more research on you as a player and make sure they keep an eye on you.  Two they will see you are serious about football and the next level process. Three you will know where you are at and how you can improve before the NFL combine, or your Pro Day in 2021.  If you are not on the mock draft projected as a 1st round pick, you can use all the help you can get, especially if you are not from a Power 5 conference school.    

2.       Check Your Eligibility – With COVID-19 and schools going to online classes, some school grading has been changed from normal grade scales.  But if a prospect is not going to be eligible in the fall, he would want to look into the NFL Supplemental Draft process.  The NFL has said it will not change the requirements for the Supplemental Draft due to COVID-19, so there isn’t expected to be a higher number of players allowed in it, but something to check out to make sure you know where you are.

3.       Thinking about Transferring –  There is a possibility that some school will remain online in the fall and because of that the prospect of playing football in the fall would remain unlikely.  The California State University system plans to move forward with virtual classes through the fall semester, and we could see other follow the same thought process. Since transferring down a level (FCS, D2, D3) doesn’t require you to sit out even if you haven’t graduated, for your NFL dreams it will be better to play this season and get film that not getting any film at all and hoping for the best.

4.       Make Sure To Stay in Shape – When/If you get back to being able to go to the school facility you want to make sure you are ready to go.  

NFL “Spring Grades” and the Impact on them due to COVID-19

S Kyle Dugger, Lenoir- Rhyne at the Senior Bowl

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off of summer, people normally will get together to BBQ and spend time with family and friends.  It is also normally the official kick-off to the next years NFL Draft scouting process where the two scouting services BLETSO and National Football Scouting (NFS) have their annual meetings in Florida to read their spring grades on the upcoming senior prospects and go over the information that was gathered in the late winter/early spring at “Junior Days” on college campuses.  Which this year due to COVID-19 those “Junior Days” did not happen.  You might ask why does this even matter – I give you S Kyle Dugger.  This time last year most of the football world did not even know who Kyle Dugger from Lenoir-Rhyne was.  In the 2020 NFL Draft he was the 37th player drafted, the second safety drafted, and the New England Patriots first pick in the draft. 

The last player drafted out of Lenoir-Rhyne was DL John Milem in the 5th round in 2000 by the San Fransico 49ers who played 20 games in the NFL in his career, and before Dugger was Lenoir-Rhyne highest player drafted ever.   So not a hot bed of NFL talent when it comes to Lenoir-Rhyne history, which if you are wondering the school is in Hickory, North Carolina. 

But that is why Junior Days are so import for small school prospects to be able to get on the radar for NFL teams, as well as the NFL Combine and All-Star games like the Senior Bowl in which Duger went to both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.   Last spring when BLETSO and National scouts came to Lenoir-Rhyne and did what they normal do with all Senior prospects a school has, getting their height/weight/arm length/hand size as well as some schools allow guys to run the 40.  This past spring Duger was 6005/218 and ran a verified 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.  So with his Junior film and his verified measurements both scouting services gave him a high grade but not close to a grade where he got drafted, but it got him on the radar to get invited to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine both hugely important for a small school prospect like him.     At the NFL Combine he was 6007/217 and ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, not too much different from his spring numbers.

Without “Junior Days” this year because of COVID – 19 it will be harder for people to identify this year’s Kyle Duger.       

Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy Tweet trying to identify next Kyle Dugger

This Memorial Day weekend both BLETSO and National will still hold their “Spring Grade” meeting but after talking with scouts it will be over Zoom instead of in person like normal.  But without “Junior Days” small school prospects will have a harder time then in the past to be truly evaluated and get a legitimate opportunity.  

The grades are just a road map for scouts as we have seen in the past 3 seasons all three number one overall picks (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray & Joe Burrow) have come basically out of nowhere since all of them had less then a 4th round grade going into the season when their last season started.   But it is a road map that is need as their are thousands of college football seniors, and the “Spring grades” not only identify who to evaluate but also who the scouts doesn’t need to spend their time evaluating.

2020 NFL Draft: NFL Scouting Combine Results

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 2020 NFL Draft is in the books we can look at the results.  This year there were 337 players invited to the NFL Combine and there were 23 players that were drafted that did NOT go to the NFL Combine.  Break down as far as rounds go:

1st round – 0
2nd round – 0
3rd round – 0
4th round – 1 player
5th round – 3 players
6th round – 6 players
7th round – 13 players

So 105 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 68.8%, so it is far from a guarantee if you are invited that you will get selected in the NFL Draft. 

Why NFL “Spring Grades” are Important to NFL Prospects

When NFL scouts from the two scouting services BLETSO and National Football Scouting (NFS) go into a school to do their junior evaluation in February/March they are looking to grade the NFL draft prospects for the next year’s draft but also to eliminate players as guys who can’t play in the NFL.  Scouts give draftable grades, undrafted free-agent grades and “reject” grades (Not a prospect at this time). The scouts give those players “reject” grades so scout in the fall don’t have to spend time on players who are deemed not NFL players.

The scouting services grade over 13,000 senior college football players each year at all levels of football and normally there are around 600 with draft able or free-agent grades.  True do players with “reject” grades get draft? Yes but it is few and far between.

BLETSO and National have their spring meeting to go over grades around Labor Day time in May to be able to help set the scouts schedule for training camps visits in the summer.  Prospects are not told what their spring grade is by the two scouting services, but normally in the summer the grades get out and agents, financial advisors, media members and all-star games get their hands on them.

What goes into a spring grade:

  1. Junior Film
  2. Height/Weight/Speed – The scouts either get that information when on campus when the measure and weigh the prospect as well as get hand size and arm length. Some school will allow the prospects to run the 40 for the scouts but that is very few and mainly smaller schools. Some schools don’t allow scouts to do height/weight so the scout will just have to estimate the prospect height/weight/40 time.
  3. Background – Scouts will try to get information on prospect past both off the field and medical.

Spring grades are important for a number of reasons:

1. It is a road map for NFL scouts in the fall to where they should spend their most time.

2. National Football Scouting (NFS) runs the NFL Combine so if a player has a good spring grade he is more likely to get invited then if he doesn’t.

3. All-Star games try to get their hands on these grades and use them when they start to invite players to their games.

True as a Senior what you do on the field is most import to your final NFL draft grade, but it doesn’t hurt to start with a good spring grade going into your Senior season.

How do College Football All-Star Game Invites work?

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 Football Scouting (NFS) to give them an idea of who the prospects that the NFL likes. Then they will see what players have played well in there senior year. All-Star games will speak with scouts to get their opinion on who they would like to see or who they think is worthy of being invited to the game.  

One of the big reasons that spring grades are so important is they are the starting point when it comes to all-star games and the NFL combine. National Football Scouting runs the NFL Combine so knowing and inviting who they had graded higher in the spring the more likely the prospect will be invited to 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 BowlEast West ShrineNFLPA, 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 the invite to their game, other games will send the invite to the school and have the coaches give the invite to the player.

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.

NFL/NFL Draft – Frequently Asked Questions

Is it against NCAA rules for players and parents to talk to agents?

No – It is not a violation of NCAA rules if a student-athlete merely talks to an agent (as long as an agreement for agent representation is not established or nothing of value is giving to an athlete) or socializes with an agent. For example, a student-athlete could go to dinner with an agent and no NCAA violations would result if the student-athlete provided his own transportation and paid for his or her meal.

Will NFL teams or scouts provide their spring grades on the player from the two scouting service (BLETSO & National)?

No – The scouting services (BLETSO & National) keep their information private and do not share it with players, parents, coaches, agents, trainers, etc.  Does the information leak out there from time to time and are people able to get their hands on it, yes but it doesn’t come from the two organizations directly.

How do BLETSO and National come up with the spring grades?

Both scouting service will come in the spring and evaluate the upcoming senior’s by watching film of the prospects junior year, talking to the strength and conditioning staff, the coaching staff, and the academic staff at the school about the prospects.   Some schools allow the scouts to come in and measure the prospects height, weight, hands size, arm length as well as have the prospects take the Wonderlic Test.  Some schools will even allow the scouts to time their players in the 40 yard dash, but very schools will allow this now.

Can players, parents and coaches contact the College Football All-Star games to recommend a player for the All-Star game?

Yes – Anyone can contact the All-Star games (Senior Bowl, East West Shrine Game, NFLPA Bowl, etc.)  to recommend a player and the sooner the better to make sure the player in on the games watch list or at least on the games radar that they would be interested in playing in the game.  The best person to contact is the director of the game.

How does getting invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis work?

National Football Scouting, one of the two scouting service that NFL team use run it, they have a committee of 10 members and they vote on the players that are selected.  Having a good spring grade goes along way to getting selected because spring grades are a road map to where NFL scouts are going to go and watch and evaluate prospects.

When can a player sign with an agent?

When his college eligibility is totally done (after last game, and college team has no more games) as a senior or if a player is going to declare early for the NFL draft he has to be 3 years removed from high school and once he declares for the NFL Draft he forfeits the rest of his college eligibility.

What is the maximum an agent can charge from the player NFL contact?

Per the NFLPA rules the maximum an NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors (agents) can charge is 3% – The agent only get paid after the player get paid off of the players signing bonus or other bonuses in the contract and the base salary.

What is the normal commission fee for marketing and off the field money made for the player?

Agents or marketing firms usually charge between 10% and 15% commission on marketing and off the field money.

Does a player have to hire an agent?

No – But NFL teams are only allowed to talk to NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors that represent the player or the player themselves.  They are not allowed to negotiate with family members or other non-certified people and if they do the team could possible lose future draft choices.

How does a player sign with an agent (NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors)?

They player signs what is called an SRA (Standard Representation Agreement) that is from the NFLPA and is standard for all players.  By sign this is also makes the player part of the NFLPA and Players Inc. (The marketing arm of the NFLPA).  At any time the players can fire the agent and has to wait 5 days to hire another agent to represent him.

What are the steps that go into getting a Senior prospect final grade?

  1. Junior Day
  2. Junior Film Study
  3. Spring Grades
  4. Training Camp Visits (By NFL Scouts)
  5. Regular Season/Post Season
  6. College Football All-Star Games
  7. NFL Combine
  8. Pro Day/Individual Works Outs
  9. Team Grades (From Scouts, Front Office & Coaches)
  10. NFL Draft

What NFL Draft Grades are made up of per NFL Scouts

Film (80%) – Your level of competition and how you played against the best level of competition you faced that year.  Each NFL team will view around 3 full games of your current season normally against who is the best competition. This also includes if a prospect plays in any of the college football all-star games. Scouts are not watching highlight clips to grade they are watching full game and grading every play. They are looking to see if a player plays hard and hustles on every play they are in.

Athletic Numbers (10%) – Height, Weight, Speed.  Teams are looking at the film first and then see if the prospect checks off the box in the athletic numbers per the position.  But still the film comes first. True teams have a range of where they athletic numbers need to be, but if you can’t play that goes out the window.

Injury History/Off Field/Football IQ (10%) –  Any major injuries, anything major off the field, love of the game, film study.  Scouts are check social media, talking to high school coaches, strength coaches, academic advisors, current coaches as they try to find out as much information on the prospect on and off the field. Teams will reject players fully for injury and off the field issues no matter how good a player is on the field.