TAMPA -- Two college coaches whose programs generate as many draftable underclassmen as any in the nation, Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Alabama's Nick Saban, have seen their share of juniors leave for the NFL a bit too green for the challenge.
As such, they're supportive of a new initiative that will allow select underclassmen to be subject to additional scouting.
"There were some issues and some problems. It was frustrating when you had a young man who gets a second-round grade, and he doesn't get drafted. Or it's frustrating when you have a guy that gets a seventh-round grade and he comes out and goes in the second round," Swinney said Sunday at a news conference in advance of the College Football Playoff title game against Alabama. "The consistency in the evaluations was an area of concern for us as coaches. Then on the NFL side, they didn't always have enough time to get the right information. ... I think it's a good change."
The American Football Coaches Association and the NFL agreed in September to allow underclassmen who are returning to school the following season to participate in pro day workouts during the spring. Previously, the on-campus workouts were limited to prospects available in the coming draft. NFL coaches and scouts gather at pro day workouts to interview prospects, take physical measurements, and put them through physical testing, such as the 40-yard dash, and positional drills.
Under the new agreement, up to five underclassmen at each school, and more with formal approval, can also participate on pro day. That will provide the NFL College Advisory Committee with more information with which to determine draft grades for those underclassmen who file for draft feedback the following winter. The agreement also allows for some other new opportunities to scout underclassmen. With a more accurate draft grade, the goal is to provide underclassmen with a better foundation of information with which to decide whether to forgo NCAA eligibility and enter the draft early.
Swinney credited Saban for the idea, noting that the Crimson Tide coach organized a conference call last spring to discuss the possibility.
"The philosophy here is, the more information the NFL can get on players, the more accurate they can be in evaluations. Some players are trying to make a business decision after three years in school," Saban said. "... When you get misinformation, which there's probably been too much of, it makes it difficult for us to give the players the right information, and it makes it difficult for the player to trust that he's being given the right information, wherever it may come from. Not that he doesn't trust his coach, but the information he's getting may not be accurate."
This year, the deadline for underclassmen to apply for 2017 draft eligibility is Jan. 16, and dozens have already announced they will do so.