The trend is toward underclassmen

Posted by Vic Ketchman, editor on February 26, 2012 – 9:32 am

INDIANAPOLIS–The scout looked over his coffee through red eyes at six in the morning, and saw a scouting combine that has become the Super Bowl of personnel, and he saw change.

He saw a rookie-pool idea that was intended to encourage players to stay in college. He said it’s not working.

“It’s the opposite. Get started a year earlier to get to your second contract. It’s financially attractive to come out faster. The trend for the future is more underclassmen are going to declare,” the scout predicted.

This year’s draft class has 65 underclassmen in it, he pointed out; 55 underclassmen were invited to this combine. Those are significant numbers he expects to steadily increase.

The big loser is going to be college football. Its better players are less likely to stay and play. The senior class might become the exclusive domain of the lower ranks of each recruiting class.

“It’s going to be three and out,” the scout said.

Get ready for it, the scout said. Get ready for a lot of things associated with the draft and its scouting process. He predicted that within two years the Pro Bowl will be gone, replaced figuratively, if not literally, by the Senior Bowl, which will be renamed the “Draft Eligible Bowl,” because underclassmen will play in it. The scout offered as evidence the NFLPA’s appeal to the NFL to endorse an NFLPA-created all-star game in which underclassmen may play. The NFLPA is clearly rolling out the welcome mat for underclassmen.

If all of this is true, as the scout says it is, then it’s clear to see that the tentacles of the NFL are reaching deeper and deeper into the nation’s, and likely soon to be the world’s, pool of football talent.

“This is the necessary evil in scouting,” he said of the combine, which has become a real-life symbol of the game, the kinder, gentler game the NFL wants played on Sundays in the fall.

“Tackling was worse and there’s no intimidation factor in the middle of the field,” the scout said of the 2011 season. “Everybody is catching the ball right now. Everybody will catch the ball in the middle of the field. It used to be just a few would do it. The days of stop and drop have been replaced by run and catch.”

Where do you find the run-and-catch players, came the baiting question?

“At the combine,” he said with a smile.

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