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.

NFL Draft: Mid-Season Scouting

By Justin VanFulpen

In the College Football season and the NFL Draft process we are coming up on the midway point.  NFL Scouts have been to training camp to look at the prospects that had spring grades from National or BLETSO and they have watched film on prospects from the first couple of weeks, seen players live both in practice and games and will keep doing that as we get to the end of the season.  If you are a college football player what is going on now is the following:

If you were not graded in the spring as a draftable or free-agent prospect by the two scouting services (BLETSO & National) you need to dominate or keep dominating so you can get on the scouts radar because scouts aren’t looking to add guys they are looking to eliminate them as a prospect for their team.

All-Star Games (Senior Bowl, East West Shrine, NFLPA) – Their first round of invites have all gone out by now. Some coaches keep them and don’t give them to their players until later in the season but if you didn’t get an invite yet you still can but that tells you what they NFL thinks of you right now. Meaning they don’t see you as a draftable prospect at this time.

Scouting – Right now the area scout from all 32 teams has been to your school or seen you on film. They aren’t the decision maker for their team if they are going to draft you or sign you their job in the gather information and have an opinion for their boss the General Manager or Director of College Scouting.  But if they don’t think you can play at the next level less likely that any of the higher up will do any work on your film.

Scheme Fit – Teams are looking for players that fit the scheme that they are running on offense and defense so you could be a good player but if you don’t fit the scheme or have the size that they are looking for in that scheme you most likely will be eliminated for their draft board.

Background Checks – Scouts are looking to find out all the information they can for anyone that knows you from the strength coaches to people on campus to see if there is any trouble in your pass or if you are a good person.

Coaches – If the NFL thinks there is an NFL prospect at the school it has talked to at least one of the coaches on the staff and most likely the head coach to see if the coach or coaches would recommend their player or just their overall thoughts on the player.

The season is not over the process is still going but it is closer to the end then the beginning.

Why College Football All-Star Games Matter

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.

At the NFL Combine in 2016, former NFL GM Ray Farmer said about All-Star Games.

“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.

An NFL Agent alone can’t get a player drafted or signed

By Justin VanFulpen

Many players were not drafted as high as they thought they would or were promise and some didn’t get drafted at all in this year’s NFL Draft. First off if any agent promise that you will get drafted, or he or she promises you what round you will get drafted …Run!

No one knows for sure were a player will get drafted not even the teams –  see Mitchell Trubisky for an example just this year some people had him going in the second round and he went second overall.

Players might be on NFL team’s draft boards and call players multiple times but never draft them because teams for the most part have to or are willing to react to what happens in the draft as a whole.

An agent is a facilitator of your talents as a player and what you have put on film. 

An agent can help get you into an All-Star game (Senior Bowl, E-W Shrine, etc.), promote your film to NFL scouts, promote you to the media, give you an overview of the NFL landscape in terms of your position with the 32 NFL teams, but if the NFL teams don’t think you can play in the NFL he or she is not going to get you drafted or signed.  NFL teams for the most part don’t care who your agent is.  Also NFL teams are going to do what they feel is best for their teams not doing a favor for an agent that they know or like.

An agent has a valuable role to play in the process and they can help move guys up with their guidance as skills but an NFL agent alone can’t get a player drafted or signed.  It comes down to does the NFL teams think the player has the skills to play in the NFL.