Why “Spring Grades” are Important to NFL Prospects

With the Super Bowl just ending, and with the 2022 NFL Combine coming up, the 2023 draft process is actually starting soon as well.  Starting in late February, NFL scouts from the two scouting services BLETSO and National will 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 “not an NFL prospect” grades so scout in the fall don’t have to spend time on players who are deemed not a 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 “not an NFL prospect” 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 several 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.

2021 NFL Draft: Looking back at where the 1st round was projected in the spring of 2020

1 Jacksonville Jaguars:  QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson – Everyone had him as a # 1 pick in the spring of 2020 and even before that. Most people thought he was going to be the #1 pick when they saw him as a true freshman at Clemson spring game before his freshman year even started.

2 New York Jets:  QB Zach Wilson, BYU – No one had Wilson as a 1st round pick in the spring of 2020 and even BYU did not know if he was even going to start.

3 San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State – Lance was a hot QB coming off his 2019 season, and many thought he was a 1st round QB but not a Top 5 player.

4 Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida – In the spring of 2020 many had Pitts as a 1st round pick, just not a top 5 player.

5 Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU – Because of Chase great 2019 season many had him as a Top 5 player in the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020 and end up going there.

6 Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama – Waddle was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

7 Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon – Sewell was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

8 Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina – In the spring of 2020 no one was talking about Horn as a 1st round pick, he was coming off a decent season in 2019, but no one thought he was a 1st rounder, let alone a top 10 pick.

9 Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama – Surtain was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

10 Philadelphia Eagles:  WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama – Smith was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

11 Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State – Fields was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and some even had him as high as projected as the #2 overall player and 2nd QB drafted. 

12 Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State – Parson was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

13 Los Angeles Chargers:  OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern – Slater had one of the higher grades in the spring by the NFL scouting services and was projected as a 1st round grade and end up opting out of the 2020 season.

14 New York Jets: OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC – In the spring of 2020 Vera-Tucker was coming off a particularly good sophomore season in 2019 playing at left guard, but was not projected as a 1st round pick, but showed versatility playing left tackle in 2020 and that help him move up team boards.

15 New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama – Jones started at the end the 2019 season but there was no guarantee he would be the starter in 2020 and no one had him as a 1st round graded player.  His outstanding 2020 season but him in places to be in the 1st round.  

16 Arizona Cardinals: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa – In the spring of 2020 no one had Collins as 1st round grade, he was coming off a nice 2019 season but blew up in 2020 winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik award, and was the Lombardi Award winner.  

17 Las Vegas Raiders:  OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama – No one projected Leatherwood to be a 1st round pick in the spring of 2020 or even in the spring of 2020, in fact many teams had him as a 3rd round prospect in the spring of 2020.

18 Miami Dolphins: DE Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL) – In the spring of 2020 many people did not think Phillips would be even playing college football, yet alone be a 1st round draft pick.

19 Washington Football Team: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky – In the spring of 2020 no one thought Davis would be a 1st round, even after declaring after the 2020 season many people had him projected as a 3rd round pick.

20 New York Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida – Many scouts in the spring of 2020 had Toney with a 5th round grade but had an outstanding 2020 season pushing him up teams’ boards. 

21 Indianapolis Colts: DE Kwity Paye, Michigan – Paye in the spring of 2020 was thought of as a high 2nd round prospect.

22 Tennessee Titans:  CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech – Farley was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

23 Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech – In the spring of 2020 Darrisaw was not projected as a 1st round pick but was coming off an exceptionally good sophomore season and many had him projected as most likely a top 100 prospect. 

24 Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama – Harris in the the spring of 2020 was thought of as a high 2nd round prospect.

25 Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson – Etienne was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020. 

26 Cleveland Browns: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern – In the spring of 2020 Newsome was not projected as a 1st round pick.  His sophomore season was good where he ranked 2nd in the Big 10 in pass break-ups but had an outstanding 2020 season to help make him a 1st round pick.

27 Baltimore Ravens:  WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota – Bateman was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and some had him as high as a top 10 pick. 

28 New Orleans Saints: DE Payton Turner, Houston – Turner in the spring of 2020 was graded by many scouts as an undrafted free-agent. His outstanding 2020 season along with him play at the Senior Bowl helped him be a 1st round pick.

29 Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia – In the spring of 2020 was not projected as a 1st round pick and even many mock drafts right before the 2021 NFL Draft no one had him projected to get drafted in the 1st round.  He did a have an exceptionally good 2020 season and during the pre-draft process tested very well.

30 Buffalo Bills: DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL) – Rousseau was projected as a 1st round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in the spring of 2020, and many had him as a top 10 pick. 

31 Baltimore Ravens: DE Odafe Oweh, Penn State – In the spring of 2020 Oweh was not projected as a 1st round pick, and even had more production on the field in 2019 vs 2020 but him Pro Day he tested very well and showed he had elite traits and that help make him a 1st round pick.

32Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Joe Tryon, Washington – In the spring of 2020 Tryon was not projected a 1st round pick. He showed enough in 2019 season that was on the radar and many people had him projected as being a Top 100 prospect and was able to move in the first round as scouts went and review the 2019 season and his pre-draft process. 

2021 NFL Draft: Non-Power 5 Conference Report

A lot of people believe that the NFL Draft is made up of the Power 5 college football conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC & Pac-12) in college football but that is not totally the case.  If we take a look at the past 5 NFL Draft we see that there are a good amount of draft picks that come from other levels of college football.

2021 NFL Draft (259 picks):

49 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (18.9%)

4 of those 49 Non-FBS

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson, BYU – 1st round 2nd overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Denver Broncos C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater (D3)- 3rd round 98th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2020 NFL Draft (255 picks):

58 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (22.7%)

9 of those 53 Non-FBS

Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love, Utah State – 1st round 26th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

New England Patriots Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne- 2nd round 37th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2019 NFL Draft (254 picks):

53 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (20.8%)

16 of those 53 Non-FBS

Buffalo Bills DT Ed Oliver, Houston – 1st round 9th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Houston Texans OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State- 1st round 23rd overall was earlies Non-FBS pick.

2018 NFL Draft (256 picks):

63 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (24.6%)

22 of those 63 Non-FBS

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen, Wyoming – 1st round 7th overall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert – 2nd round 49th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2017 NFL Draft (253 picks):

43 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (16.9%)

15 of those 43 Non-FBS

Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan – 1st round 5thoverall was earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Chicago Bears TE Adam Shaheen, Ashland – 2nd round 45th overall was earliest Non-FBS pick.

2016 NFL Draft (253 picks):

57 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (22.5%)

20 of those 57 Non-FBS

Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State -1st round 2nd overall was earliest Non-Power 5 and Non-FBS pick.

So just remember if you are in a Power 5 conference there are other guys looking to get drafted just as high as you are and if you are not in a Power 5 conference it doesn’t matter if you can play football the NFL will find you

NFL Document for Senior’s Using Extra Year of Eligibility

Because of Covid-19 the NCAA gave each college football player an extra year of eligibility if they wanted to use it.  So if they where scheduled to be in their senior year and if they played or didn’t play they still got an extra year of eligibility.  But like NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the NFL wanted the prospects to fill out a document if they where going to use that extra year so they didn’t have them in the 2021 NFL Draft classes. 

Here is his tweet.

Below is the document prospects need to fill out so they can let the NFL know that they will not be in the 2021 NFL Draft but will be in the 2022 NFL Draft. The NFL office said that this was sent out to college’s as well.    

When you are thinking about declaring early – Remember Joe Burrow!

Because of Covid-19 the NCAA is giving all college football players an extra year of eligibility.  All circumstances are different but if you are not a Top 150 graded guy by the NFL you really need to think about going back and taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility.  If you haven’t played this season like D2 and FCS you need to even think extra hard about going back.  We have seen the East-West Shrine Game canceled the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl canceled.  There is no guarantee that the NFL Combine or Pro Day’s will happen this year or if they do take place, how they will be run.   Last year we saw in the middle of the Pro Day schedule all Pro Day’s were canceled.    

Think about Joe Burrow, after the 2018 season he could have declared for the 2019 NFL Draft and came out early.  He was the full-time starter at LSU, played a full season did not have to worry about Covid-19 and any issues dealing with that.     

Joe Burrow had a 6th round grade at that time and let’s say he would have been drafted in the 6th round.  He would have been guaranteed around $130,000, but he went back to school raised his draft stock and was the 1st pick in the drafted and was guaranteed $36,190,136.  So, going back to school he made $36 Million dollars, because of his play on the field. 

If you are a player and not a Top 150 pick you have to think long and hard about going back to school to improve your stock and give you self the best possible chance to make it in the NFL.  The expectation is that next year things should be back to normal, we will for sure have the full schedule of all-star games, as well as going back to the normal pre-draft schedule.   So when you are looking to make a decision look at the long term play not just the short term when it comes to your future as a football player!

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.

NFL Draft: 5 Year Draft Averages by Position (2020-2016)

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books here is the average amount of players drafted at each position over the past 5 years (2016-2020) and the highs and lows.

QB – Average amount drafted – 12.4 – High amount drafted 15 (2016) Low amount drafted 10 (2017)

RB– Average amount drafted – 21.8 – High amount drafted 26 (2017) Low amount drafted 18 (2020)

FB – Average amount drafted – 1.8 – High amount drafted 3 (2016) Low amount drafted 0 (2020)

WR – Average amount drafted – 32.2 – High amount drafted 35 (2020) Low amount drafted 28 (2019)

TE – Average amount drafted – 13.0 – High amount drafted 16 (2019) Low amount drafted 9 (2016)

OT – Average amount drafted – 20.0 – High amount drafted 23 (2019) Low amount drafted 16 (2017)

OG – Average amount drafted – 12.6 – High amount drafted 18 (2020) Low amount drafted 10 (2018)

C – Average amount drafted – 7.2 – High amount drafted 9 (2020) Low amount drafted 5 (2019)

DE – Average amount drafted – 21.6 – High amount drafted 26 (2019) Low amount drafted 17 (2020, 2016)

DT – Average amount drafted – 20.6 – High amount drafted 22 (2016) Low amount drafted 20 (2020, 2018, 2017)

LB – Average amount drafted – 34.8 – High amount drafted 39 (2018, 2020) Low amount drafted 28 (2017)

CB – Average amount drafted – 30.8 – High amount drafted 34 (2017) Low amount drafted 27 (2020)

S – Average amount drafted – 20.2 – High amount drafted 23 (2017) Low amount drafted 19 (2019, 2018)

K – Average amount drafted – 2.2– High amount drafted 3 (2017, 2020) Low amount drafted 1 (2016)

P – Average amount drafted – 2.2 – High amount drafted 4 (2018) Low amount drafted 0 (2017)