With the NFL Draft approaching in April, this world phenomenon virus will play an affect into NFL Draft prospects and their stock. Here’s how this will play.
Around the world (yes, the world, believe me) there are people like myself who live and breathe the NFL Draft and college football. Now, as the world shuts down due to the COVID-19 epidemic, we are finding ourselves in one of the most remarkable situations in world history.
Yesterday, Thursday, March 12th, the NCAA canceled all men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the college baseball season. The XFL canceled the rest of their football season, while the NBA, MLB, and NHL have suspended their seasons indefinitely.
The NFL has been almost completely spared, the only real restriction so far has teams banning the travel of their scouts as prospects perform at pro days. With a new CBA on the line, and free agency impending, the NFL has not yet released any details on how they plan to go about protecting player safety due to the virus.
There are several ways that this will impact the NFL Draft, and it already is. Let’s get into it.
Pro Day trips being canceled
The Pro Days are a huge part of the NFL’s evaluation process, especially in recent memory. More players have been skipping out on the NFL Combine drills each year with hopes of putting the focus on their pro day.
There are benefits to that. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd of prospects performing at Indianapolis each season. Unless you stand out from the couple hundred guys there, you most likely aren’t going to get any buzz. Why risk getting hurt or messing up a drill and putting a horrible number on paper when you can take more time and focus on getting ready for Pro Day instead? Instead, prospects receive more buzz simply because they aren’t performing and some people come to the Pro BDay to see how they test. Good, the prospect says, come to my Pro Day!
It is a bit of a calculated risk. If you are a great athlete, but not an elite one and there are a bunch of other great athletes performing, it’s wise to perform away from them in a separate venue to showcase your talents. You stand out more by yourself, and you guarantee people will be watching you.
However, if the prospect isn’t a great athlete, it will frustrate scouts who came a long way to see the prospect perform. The dilemma, as you can see, is simply that scouts have to be impressed. If they aren’t, the strategy backfires.
Regardless, a whole lot of pro days are going to end up being canceled by the CoronaVirus. That risk that those players undertook will most likely end up as a loss now, much to their dismay.
Combine risers are the Draft risers this season
Speaking of the combine, certain players rose at the NFL Combine this season, as certain prospects do every season. They separated themselves in the interviews as well as the drills on the field. First impressions go a long way, and with an offseason that will be missing a lot of other opportunities for prospects to meet with other teams, the people who did well in Indianapolis (and Mobile, for that matter) will do very well in this Draft process.
What does that mean? There were a lot of rumors about Washington quarterback Jacob Eason bombing interviews at the combine. What does that mean? It means he didn’t do well to help his stock, and he is now going to miss his pro day and won’t have another opportunity to bounce back from that. He’s probably going a lot later than most people expect.
That’s just one prospect that we heard about. Who knows what we will see? However, my point still stands. Those prospects that put the finishing touches on their pro prospectus at their pro days in previous years wouldn’t pull off their stock rises in this offseason. Who knows what players could have risen over the next month?
Small-School talent will go unnoticed
The small-school talent that misses the cut into the NFL Combine often uses this time to get prepared for the draft by participating at bigger school’s pro days and getting into lower-level and regional combine events. This, obviously, won’t be happening this season. I do believe that outside of the talent that performed at various pre-draft events (The Combine, the Senior Bowl, other types of all-star games, etc), these players won’t get drafted this season. The result? There will be a ton of untapped UDFA talent that will not only perform well in camp, but we could see a season with the most impact UDFA rookies in NFL history.
It’s a pretty easy concept to understand. Small schools do put talent in the professional leagues. That much is certainly correct and factual. Even smaller FBS schools can be included in this group.
NFL teams draft people that they are familiar with. Everyone else gets signed after the draft. It’s very simple.
The NFL draft is all about teams prioritizing prospects and wanting the exclusive rights to a player. They’re going to be much more familiar with people in this class from bigger schools, so I would imagine that more big school prospects will get drafted before they take a chance on some of these other smaller school kids.
The Boards are pretty much set
NFL teams have pretty much set and solidified their draft boards for the upcoming draft at this point. Pro Days will sometimes move people slightly up or down boards, and other times expose teams to the smaller school players. That being said, there is a lot of work still to do normally at this time of the year.
Now, that work has been put off as scouts aren’t traveling due to teams suspending travel. That means that big board movement from this point out will be very minimal.
Potential XFL talent have limited tape
The XFL had provided the country with a live football fix as soon as the NFL season was over, and a few hundred players another opportunity to go to the next level again. Now, with five weeks left to go in the regular season, the XFL has canceled the remaining season due to the CoronaVirus.
All of those rising, up and coming talents in the XFL have done everything that they can do. The XFL had a couple players that the league was definitely looking at it. A certain Battle’Hawks player, safety Kenny Robinson, had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for academic reasons before the start of the 2019 season, so he took the opportunity to enter the XFL. He had been very impressive in the league, and certainly has NFL teams looking at him.
A couple quarterbacks had really stood out, Battle’Hawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and Roughnecks quarterback PJ Walker. Think of how much more the NFL could have learned about these players over the next five weeks?
Overall and in summary
I think it’s very clear how much CoronaVirus has effected the modern world as people are trying to contain it and limit it’s impact and spread. Sports has basically shut down as a result of it.
While it’s going to be a trial for a lot of these young players trying to get into the league, the opportunity is still there. I hope a lesson can be learned from this season: Take advantage of every opportunity you have before NFL teams, because you really don’t know what the future holds.
Young players also need to realize that they need to focus on getting to camp. Don’t worry about the draft position. Don’t worry about any of that right now. Get into camp and show people what you can do there.