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 weren’t allowed to scout underclassmen, until this season when the rule was changed. But with this rule change this year with the new agreement with the AFCA and NFL that took effect, where school gave the scout 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. 6 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 2017 NFL Draft included 95 underclassmen and another eight who entered the draft having earned a degree but still with NCAA playing eligibility. 67 underclassmen were drafted, leaving 28 (30 percent) not drafted. The 2016 NFL Draft 30 of 96 underclassmen were not chosen (31 percent).
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.
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.
By Justin VanFulpen
One of the biggest things in the pre-draft process is the different all-star games. I have had the opportunity to be involved with 6 College Football all-star games. Five Texas vs. the Nation games and as well as the Player All-Star Classic in 2012, mainly working with the player personnel but also having other duties.
“I put more stock in that then combine stuff, the reason I do that, it’s ball… All-Star Games matter because it is good on good.”
College football all-star games are about giving players an opportunity to show their skills in front of NFL scouts. In this environment where player come from all levels of competition the NFL scouts are evaluating not only the one-on-one and team practices but how fast can a player picks up the offense or defense that is being installed since everything is done within that game week.
Small school prospects that get into one of the major all-star games have a great ability to help themselves in the draft process because it shows scouts that the level of competition is not too high for them since that will be one of the biggest questions mark for that prospect to answer.
We saw this two year at the Senior Bowl QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State who end up as the number two pick overall by the Philadelphia Eagles raise his draft stock from his week of practice at the Senior Bowl. OT Eric Fisher from Central Michigan in 2013 went from a late first round pick to the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft after his week at the Senior Bowl.
Players who are Seniors can get an idea of what the NFL think about them based on what all-star game the get invited to and not getting invited to a game says a lot because the directors of all-star games are talking with scouts to see who they want to see in a game. True going to the Senior Bowl doesn’t mean you are getting drafted in the first round but it can help your draft stock if you have a good week at any of the all-star games.
All-Star games are the second most import thing in the draft evaluation process after the prospects season film evaluation.
By Justin VanFulpen
When NFL scouts from the two scouting services BLETSO and National go into a school to do their junior evaluation 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. 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.
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 Scouting 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.
By Justin VanFulpen
Now that the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, many people are looking forward to the 2018 including the draft prospects for next year draft. But if there is one thing that stood out in the 2017 NFL Draft is film is king and for the most part nothing else really matters. People get excited for the NFL Combine to come and see how fast the NFL prospects run but one of the biggest shocks to many was the WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan went #5 overall to the Tennessee Titans. Davis got hurt training and never did any of the testing, never ran a 40 and still was the #5 overall draft pick and was the first WR selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He sent in a video to all 32 teams of him running routes showing that he was almost back health from his ankle injury before the NFL Draft.
LB Haason Reddick, Temple came into the season with a spring grade from NFL scouts with a grade that he couldn’t play in the NFL (In the past it was called a reject grade), not even a low free-agent grade. Basically saying he isn’t even someone to watch as a draft prospect. But what did Reddick do this season he showed on film that the scout spring grade was wrong, he had a huge season, he was second on the team in tackles, first of the team in tackles for loss and sacks. With that great season got him an invite to the Senior Bowl which he had a great week in front of scouts many who at the being of the process back in the spring said he couldn’t play in the NFL. He was invited the NFL Combine and checked off the box on the numbers that a NFL linebacker should in the time and testing part. Reddick went on to be the #13 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
But as many GMs will tell you their team’s board is set before the even get to the NFL Combine. As Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn said after this year NFL draft after drafting Teez Tabor out of Florida who didn’t run well as the NFL Combine or his Pro Day. (Link here)
Both Corey Davis and Haason Reddick where first round picks who didn’t play in a Power 5 conference and both show that it is about the film, and that it not about your grade going into the season or what you run of even if you run a 40. Film is key and at the end of the day that is your resume to NFL teams.