The 2018 NFL draft has come and gone, and while some have come out with numbers on the draft, few have come to realize what a Problem it is.
There were 123 underclassmen who entered the draft. That number included players who graduated early with remaining eligibility, but it was still a record high. In fact, over the last four years, an average of more than 100 underclassmen entered the draft.
This year, 39 players, or roughly 31.7 percent of the underage players who entered the draft weren't selected. From a percentage viewpoint, the number of underclassmen who went undrafted is actually lower than it has been in some years, when it was as high as 40 percent.
While we see the number that don’t get drafted, what we don’t see is how many of the players who were drafted were selected much lower than they anticipated. We may never know the real answer to that question.
The NFL Underclassmen Advisory Committee has for years given grades to underclassmen who are thinking of entering the draft. The committee basically gives each player one of three grades. The prospects are told they could be drafted as high as the first round, the second round or “stay in school”. There are no promises that the player will be drafted as high as the committee said, because the grades the committee gives out are very preliminary. Their grades are based on film study, but the committee has no verified measurables with which to work, nor does it have medical information. That information is very pertinent when putting a final grade on a player, as is both football and personal character information.
Underclassman grades are given out in December and early January, and much of the information I just mentioned isn’t obtained by clubs until much later in the pre-draft process. Young players with college football eligibility left are making an important life decision without having all the information they need to make the most well-informed decision.
Too often, these players are listening to the wrong people who really don’t know how talented the player is or isn’t. Prospects listen to family members, agents or perhaps draft analysts who really don’t know. We often hear game color analysts say that a certain player is a “sure first-round pick” when they have no idea if that is really the case. The problem with that is tat players and/or family members listen to that nonsense and feel that is a true statement.
Regardless of the grade a player gets from the advisory committee, he often leaves school early thinking that he is a first- or second-round draft choice, when there is no way that player is ever getting drafted the high.
There is a solution to the problem, and while it wouldn't correct it completely, it would help. The solution is education! The NFL needs to educate the players who are thinking of leaving school on the entire evaluation process. Why educate them? Because these kids really have no idea what goes into giving a player a final grade. They also don’t know that each team will evaluate them differently, as no two teams' draft board are alike.
It might be impossible for the league to go out to every school and put on a seminar about the scouting process. It is possible, however, for the league to go to each Power-5 school and the few major independents and let these kids know exactly what happens when they are evaluated.
Not only does a prospect have to be physically ready to compete against men, he has to be mentally and emotionally ready. There are several players who are physically ready to leave college, but they just aren’t mature enough to handle the situation — NFL football isn’t a game, it’s a job. Properly educating these players would, in my opinion, drastically lower the number of underclassmen who enter a draft.
Having 100-plus players enter a draft is way too many — and perhaps half of them are making the wrong decision for whatever reason, be it physical, mental or emotional. If even half of those players who shouldn’t enter the draft stayed in school, they would be doing a service to themselves and their school by staying in school until they are completely ready to play in the NFL.
The onus is on the NFL, not the colleges to make this happen, as the colleges know as little about the process as the players do. The NFL should do the right thing and make this happen; the question is, will they?