Some agents said last week that, compared with recent years, more college underclassmen were seeking grades from the NFL College Advisory Committee on whether they would be drafted into the NFL. Agents have been predicting that more underclassmen will declare for the draft because of the altered rookie pay system in the new CBA.
However, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email early last week that the numbers at this time don’t show an increase in underclassman activity.
“There is nothing to support that conclusion to date,” Aiello said. “The number so far is consistent with previous years and below the number of some years.”
The earliest an underclassman can apply for a grade is after his last regular-season game. Friday marks the deadline to be guaranteed of receiving an evaluation. Aiello would not provide the number of players who have applied for an evaluation, but he said it was about the same as it has been for two of the last three years, fewer than it was two years ago.
In the past, many players would opt to stay in school another year instead of coming out because improving their draft status from a projected late-first-rounder to a top-10 pick would mean millions of dollars. While a difference remains, one agent last week said that difference between being a high-first-rounder and a low-first-rounder is now about $7 million to $12 million, compared with $9 million to $21 million under the old CBA.
This agent, and others, said it is more important than ever for players to be able to negotiate a second NFL contract in order to be financially set for life. Getting into the NFL, even as a lower draft pick, would put the player one year closer to that second-contract negotiation than if he stayed in school.
The agent said he had heard from NFL scouts that a lot of underclassmen were seeking grades.
Another agent said that he too had heard more underclassmen were looking for evaluations from the NFL, although it had nothing to do with the CBA. “Why not?” said this agent. “The people who are grading are the decision-makers. This gets you on their radar screen.”
Each NFL team is represented on the committee.
Agents requested anonymity, saying they did not want their interactions with college players made public.
Of course, underclassmen can and do declare for the draft without receiving an evaluation.
In this year’s draft, 56 underclassmen declared, 43 were drafted and eight of those players were drafted in the top 10 slots. In 2010, 53 underclassmen declared, 46 were drafted and five of those players went in the top 10.
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