The NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night in Las Vegas with 262 young men having lifelong dreams come true and getting selected by a professional football team.
Though many of these guys were superstars on their college teams for four years, not everybody in the draft is a senior. In fact, several of the best players available in this year’s Draft still have a year or two of college eligibility left that they could have used before declaring for the Draft.
So what are the requirements to be eligible for this year’s NFL Draft?
Basically, the only real requirement for eligibility is that a player has been out of high school for three years. That’s why now with the COVID year, instead of seeing people leave after their junior season, they might opt to leave after their sophomore campaign. The prospect doesn’t even technically need to have played college football. They could’ve just worked at a factory somewhere for three years and found a miraculous sudden talent to play football. While that’s extraordinarily unlikely, it’s still allowed under the Draft’s rules.
Most of the time a player won’t make the leap with eligibility still available unless they’re a pretty surefire bet to hear their name called early on in the Draft process. For instance, Kayvon Thibodeaux, a consensus first-rounder, just wrapped up his junior season. Sauce Gardner was a three-year standout at Cincinnati as well, opting to forgo his senior season to turn pro. Quarterbacks Matt Corral and Malik Willis have both played four years in college, but have a year left of eligibility as well due to the NCAA’s COVID rule giving an extra year to all players, but they’re going into the NFL instead of taking that final season.
Travon Walker, who has recently been viewed as the favorite to go first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, spent just three seasons playing at Georgia before winning a national title and making the jump to the League. So did his teammate LB Nakobe Dean. Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson was just a junior last season, and so was his former teammate, Alabama WR Jameson Williams, who transferred last season to get more playing time and it paid off earning him first-round status in just one year as a starter.