For months, the NCAAF and NFL have grappled with how to structure their upcoming year. While the NFL enjoyed one of the US’s only complete major league seasons after the Super Bowl was played in Miami in January, it’s been a long journey to the September 11 season start.
Between January and September, officials from both leagues have had to weigh ample feedback from players, agents, league officials, and the general public. While the NFL is busy juggling multi-million dollar contracts and empty stadiums, the NCAAF has a more pressing matter.
Those who play college football aren’t just looking for a sports scholarship to help them earn their degree. Top talents from the NCAAF’s 10 conferences across 130 colleges often view and treat their undergraduate life as a training camp to prepare them for the big leagues.
The best players spend their junior and senior years attempting to break records and earn accolades that will make them attractive in the following NFL Draft. Missing even a single season is to an athlete what failing the bar exam is to a law graduate.
Considerations regarding Draft eligibility have made the recent news about college football a crushing blow to many. For the NFL, on the other hand, there are positives and negatives.
On a more positive note, they’ll take on more fans who have nothing to do on Saturdays. On a more negative note, a missed final season will complicate the next Draft in 2021. Sure, the NFL will likely host the combine to take a closer look at top talents, but the high-octane summer camp is usually a walk-through for those who have already bagged big deals.
Rehashing the 2020 Draft
At the moment, most NFL teams are still integrating their recent recruits from the 2020 Draft. The Cincinnati Bengals, who picked up star quarterback Joe Burrow, will be looking to develop their star quarterback for a Super Bowl win someday. At the moment, the Bengals are preparing for their season-opener against the Cleveland Browns on September 18.
However, most NFL picks for the season start focus on the Kansas City Chiefs or Tampa Bay Buccaneers to predict how Mahomes and Brady will start their seasons. If Burrow wants that level of attention, he’ll need to make a winning franchise out of the Bengals first.
Another quarterback that’s got many excited for the upcoming season is Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama, who was picked up by the Miami Dolphins. Despite his raw talent, Tagovailoa has raised brows given his history with injuries.
However, Tagovailoa, much like Burrow, will be much-needed for the Dolphins franchise. While a lackluster history may make Tagovailoa shine on the team, he’ll need to be able to pick up the pace for the entire offensive roster.
Alterations to the 2021 Draft
Burrow and Tagovailoa escaped the myriad of questions and recommendations being put forth for the 2021 NFL Draft. So far, the NCAAF has released a list of suggested alterations for the NFL to consider.
The NCAAF has already committed to allowing fall sports athletes to return for another year (even if they’re seniors this year) in order to have another shot at impressing NFL teams. However, this creates another series of problems.
If seniors re-enter for another year, it will muddy the pool of juniors-turned-seniors. In short, the talent will be doubled and it will create an unfair scarcity for underclassmen who now need to fight for a place among two years worth of talented senior players.
Another option is leaving college altogether. Though most NFL players are plucked from the country’s top NCAA schools, some never went to college at all. However, not all players are the caliber of Lawrence Okoye, which means the NCAAF and NFL need to start making some concrete decisions.
At the moment, the NFL still requires that student-athletes be at least three years removed from high school in order to be eligible for recruitment. Either the NCAAF is going to get creative to solve its problems, or the athletes themselves will.