A record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft this year. A large number of them were not drafted–38 of 98 according to this site. Mike Florio and Todd McShay have exchanged barbs about the reasoning behind this. Of course, one avenue is open (and free) to any underclassman wanting to test the waters in the NFL, before the deadline to declare. The NFL’s Draft Advisory Committee (or Board) will review and provide a grade to anyone who asks. I detailed the work behind what the Committee does earlier this year. The grades are a starting point, film evaluation, and don’t include things like character evaluations, injury assessments, and Combine workouts.
How did they do this year? The Draft Advisory Committee provided evaluations on almost 200 players this offseason. Not all declared, and in fact, the majority who sought the advice returned to school. More relevant here, not all players who declared sought the input of the Committee. Info on who sought the evaluation, and what they received, is not publicly released by the NFL. It requires a leak to the press and a mention in an article, and then, we are basing it on the word of the source.
In an archive search, I found 22 players who were publicly identified in an article as receiving a draft grade from the Committee between the 1st and 3rd round. Here they are, along with the results.
Of the 22, all were drafted. 12 were drafted in the exact round as the advisory grade, 5 went earlier than the grade, and 5 later. Storm Johnson of Central Florida, who was mentioned in an Orlando Sentinel article (also referencing Blake Bortles) as having a 3rd round grade, fell to the 7th round. Running backs getting drafted lower was a theme throughout the draft. Overall, none of the players who were publicly identified with a 3rd round grade or better were among the underclassmen who were left to sign free agent contracts.
Other grades were identified in papers, but none follow the actual language of the advisory grade, leaving us to wonder whether the player fully understood. The Committee provides five different categories: could be drafted in the 1st, could be drafted in the 2nd, could be drafted in the 3rd, will not be drafted in the first 3 rounds, but could be drafted, and will not be drafted.
Most of the others were probably given that fourth designation, but that doesn’t mean they will be drafted. So when a player or report claims a player was given a 4th round grade, that is false.
For example, Nick Addison claims to have received a grade of “sixth, seventh round to free agent” from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. He went pro anyway, and was undrafted. George Atkinson of Notre Dame was identified as having “a late round grade”, another designation that would not be official from the Committee, and he went undrafted.
While several players not given favorable grades opted to go pro anyway, others simply chose not to check with the Committee at all. Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman was reportedly given a third round grade after the 2012 season, returned to school, and was eligible for another evaluation after an injury-filled and disappointing year. According to the article, “[h]e didn’t request a draft grade because he felt it was unnecessary.” He went undrafted.
Kapri Bibbs of Colorado State also declared for the NFL Draft early without consulting his coaches, and his mother confirmed that “he had not contacted the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which will help underclassmen with their decision by projecting a possible round of selection.” He went undrafted.
The list of underclassmen who were not drafted is a mix of players who had disciplinary problems in college (see Colt Lyerla, Isaiah Crowell, Chris Boyd), players who were aware they had a low grade but wanted to give it a chance, players who were leaving college regardless of whether they got to play in the NFL, and some that chose not to avail themselves of the advisory grade and had too high an opinion of themselves. Don’t expect that to end any time soon.
While there were 38 players with eligibility remaining who went undrafted, there were also 34 underclassmen selected in the first two rounds–so more than half of the possible slots early in the draft were players with eligibility in college remaining. In the future, if more players utilized the advisory grade process, and actually had good advice on what the results meant, we could have fewer players who are done with their careers before they start.