An interesting change has been made to the pre-draft process for underclassmen interested in leaving school early to pursue an NFL career.
In conjunction with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), the NFL announced Monday that FBS schools, beginning in February 2017, can “designate a maximum of five underclassmen who may apply for special eligibility for the 2018 draft to be permitted additional scouting.”
This means those five players, all of whom will return to school in 2017, can be “timed, tested and interviewed” during a school’s pro day event, which is usually reserved for seniors and other draft-eligible players. The goal here is twofold. Teams will have additional information about prospects and, in turn, can give prospects more accurate feedback about where they may fit in in the draft.
“The more information our College Advisory Committee has, the better evaluations they can make for student-athletes who are at a critical juncture of their lives,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent.
“While there is no question that obtaining a college degree is a transformative experience for so many people in society and a goal to which we encourage everyone to aspire to, for those talented few individuals that have the ability to succeed in the NFL prior to exhausting their college football eligibility, this new agreement will ensure they have better information with which to make their decision. We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the AFCA in making this new agreement a reality.”
This distinction might not be capped off at five players, either. According to the NFL’s release, FBS schools can ask for this designation for additional players, but the request is “subject to the determination of the NFL that the players are legitimate draft prospects.”
The players who are given this designation can be scouted by NFL teams throughout the 2017 “as though they were seniors in their final season of college football eligibility.”
“On behalf of the AFCA, I would like to thank our committee of collegiate coaches and the NFL for working diligently over the last several months to assist our student-athletes,” said AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry. “This opportunity will allow our student-athletes to make better and more informed decisions. This continues to show the commitment and cooperation of both entities to solve issues relating to this major decision.”
Ordinarily, college underclassmen seek feedback from the advisory board in December, before the NFL deadline to apply for eligibility for the upcoming draft. To be eligible for the draft, underclassmen must be three years removed from high school, so players who just completed their redshirt sophomore or true junior seasons are eligible.