The supplemental draft is just over four weeks away – I know it has been highlighted in your calendar. But whilst this is traditionally a non-event where fans are lucky if one player is selected, this season it could be a major event. The supplemental draft could be one of the few benefactors of coronavirus.
Why? A disrupted college season.
When players had to declare for the NFL draft, one week after the National Championship Game, it was another world. How many college players would have declared if they were declaring in mid-April, during lockdown, rather than late-January?
It’s one thing having a disrupted pro football season with games postponed or cancelled and potential breaks in action. However, will there be the same appetite for players who were draft eligible to play an extra year in college? There’s also the worst case scenario: if there’s no college football season at all and players are unable to improve their draft stock and could instead have been earning an NFL pay cheque, whether they were playing or not.
Is this the calm before the storm?
So far, there have been very few rumblings about players declaring for the supplemental draft. Perhaps the ban on agents within the collegiate system is reducing the opportunity. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the league’s secondary draft be as unpopular as ever. However it is hard to ignore the opportunity.
Booger McFarland recently said that it is one thing for NFL stars to risk getting the virus while they are earning at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for the season. For college players to face the same risk for no compensation is another matter.
And then there is the possibility of a disrupted season. Even if the season gets underway, a second peak could end the season early or extend it right up to the draft. That would very much reduce player preparation for the draft and impact draft value.
Surely there will be some college football but how much?
Ultimately, it’s an impossibility that the college season won’t be played, there is just too much money associated with college football. As long as players get a chance to play, they can put themselves in the shop window, even if it’s a smaller sample size. Will all players get the same opportunity? Could smaller schools that don’t rely on football revenue decide it isn’t worth the risk? Will teams be able to travel around the country? Will certain regions, such as the southwest be unable to play? These are all major questions that impact college players’ decisions.
There has been a second supplemental draft held in late August or September in the past, such as in 1999. If the college season looks likely to be disrupted or postponed, surely we will see this once again. That being said, will players want to draft a rookie weeks before the season without having a summer to train them up?
Are the available players ready?
There’s also the question of whether each individual player is ‘NFL ready’. Ultimately a team has to decide to take a player. Will it be a team looking for a physical specimen like Hamilcar Rashed Jr that could be a dominant pass rusher and take the team over the top or will it be mature college players that teams crave? It will be a risk. Teams would lose a selection next season so teams are unlikely to take an absolute flyer.
We are in a time of great unknown. With these exceptional circumstances, it could be a chance for teams to steal a march on their rivals. Ultimately, teams will likely be risk averse and avoid the supplemental draft as ever. However, it only takes one superstar, albeit one three years from high school graduation, like Penei Sewell or Rashed Jr, to trigger a mad rush by NFL teams. Time will tell but this could be yet another step in an unprecedented sporting year.