NFL scouts have resumed traveling to college football games, although their access to Southeastern Conference games has been limited and assigned through a lottery system, according to an NFL spokesperson. As such, the COVID-19 pandemic and varying school health and safety policies will still make for a very different season for the league's talent hunters.
This week, some scouts received a grid from the SEC detailing where each club can go, and when, to scout in college football's most talent-rich conference, which will begin its season on Sept. 26. No NFL club will deploy more than two scouts to SEC games per week, and each will be permitted to scout a total of 14 SEC games.
As well, no more than seven NFL clubs will be at any single game. Marquee SEC games often draw 20-plus scouts in a normal year. Permitted to attend this season's Alabama-LSU game on Nov. 14, which is often the league's most prospect-rich matchup, will be the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. The seven clubs lottery-assigned for Georgia-Alabama on Oct. 17 -- another top matchup for scouts -- were the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
Teams will not be permitted to trade games with one another.
While there are scouting limitations for games in the SEC, which has produced the most draft choices of any league for the past 14 years, scouts remain subject to individual school policies on scouting access that vary widely from school to school. According to an AFC area scout, schools within one particular conference are offering varying levels of game-day access ranging from limited seating to lottery-style assignments similar to what the NFL did for all SEC games, while some schools are taking a no-scouts-at-all stance. Still others haven't finalized a policy. At some schools, scouts will be given press-box access. At others, they could be in bleacher seating.
The green light is for games only -- scouts still are not permitted to visit campuses during the week.
Those visits typically include practice observation, tape study and discussions with people both in and out of the athletic department about a given draft prospect. Many of those discussions have been happening through Zoom calls since last month, when colleges normally open fall camp.