There’s no telling whether a spring season for the Big Ten and Pac-12’s fall sports, football included, is possible despite the former conference’s promise to “continue to evaluate” the option. There’s also no telling how many college football teams will see their 2020 seasons suspended if and when other conferences follow suit.
So in the immediate wake of the first two Power 5 conferences at best pushing back and at worst canceling the 2020 football season, there is definitely no telling how the NFL will react to the possibility of a spring college football season colliding with the league’s NFL Draft-focused schedule early in 2021. For now, the NFL has more pressing issues.
As noted by CBS Sports on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell possesses the authority to move the 2021 draft back to as late as June 2. In coordination with the NFL Players Association, the league also has the ability to expand the draft beyond the typical seven rounds under unique circumstances.
But given the fluidity of the situation in the college ranks, and with the NFL’s priorities understandably focused on beginning and finishing a complete 2020 season, any questions about the 2021 NFL Draft will be met with some variation of, don’t know, don’t care.
We do know that the NFL views the timing of its draft as sacred. USA Today’s Dan Wolken suggested as much last month when he reported that the league “isn’t interested” in moving the draft, which currently is scheduled to begin April 29 in Cleveland. Former NFL running back C.J. Anderson expressed a similar sentiment Tuesday regarding the NFL’s refusal to modify its draft process.
Big-time college football is essentially a free minor league system for the NFL, and the league knows the cancellation and/or suspension of the fall college football season will only lead to more players declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft ahead of schedule. Several top-tier prospects made that decision well before the Big Ten and Pac-12 school presidents made theirs. The players will flock to the pros regardless.
So, for now, the NFL has no reason to consider a new date for the draft.
“That would be something (the NFL) would tackle in the spring depending on what happens with college football,” NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo noted Tuesday. “As of now, everything NFL-wise remains on schedule.”
This is why NFL Media draft expert Daniel Jeremiah noted Tuesday that the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine “will be the most important one in league history.” Added Jeremiah: “We always preach ‘it’s all about the tape’ but if you haven’t seen a player on grass in over a year, this event will take on a whole new meaning.”
Which is another way of saying the NFL show will go on. That is, of course, unless a coronavirus-related issue interrupts the league’s plans to both start and finish the 2020 season on time. In theory, any suspension of the regular season and/or playoffs could also lead to new dates for the combine and the draft.
But the actual NFL football schedule (and the COVID-19 protocols helping it play out on time) is all the league needs to worry about in mid-August. For now, the NFL can simply sit back and watch the early draft declarations roll in.
Hope you’re ready for mock draft season about seven months early.
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