In this week's edition of Cover 3, the Giants.com crew discusses how the draft process is different in 2021.
John Schmeelk: With the impact of the pandemic, much of the draft process in 2021 will be similar to what teams had to deal with in 2020. Face-to-face contact with players and in-person workouts will be at a minimum. It is going to be much different than what teams experience in a normal year, but teams should better prepared to deal with it now.
The NFL Combine was the last league event unaffected by the pandemic in 2020. Teams were able to see players get measured and work out in a neutral setting – those things will not happen this year, with the Senior Bowl being the only opportunity for teams to meet with a large number of prospects.
Teams will still get testing results, but how much will they be trusted? Exos, one of the largest nationwide athlete training companies, will run several drills/events in close-to-uniform conditions at their facilities around the country in order to provide player comparisons. Many players who do not participate at Exos will partake in pro days, but those testing numbers are notoriously unreliable. Stop watches might be a little quick, or 40-yard dashes may be slightly shorter than advertised. Without trustworthy numbers, analysis will be far more dependent on college tape, which is what the Giants more heavily rely on, anyway.
The second difference occurred during the 2020 NCAA season - scouts, for the most part, were not allowed on college campuses. That's where teams get a lot of background information on players by talking to people around each program. Without the additional intel, teams may be more risk-averse when drafting players with off-the-field issues on their resume.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.
Dan Salomone: Different? Different is normal these days. So, the 2021 NFL Draft process is the most normal thing right now, especially compared to 2020 when the sports world watched Commissioner Roger Goodell announce the draft picks from his basement in Westchester County, N.Y.
Obviously, though, this year has major challenges without the NFL Scouting Combine, which is as much about attaining medical information as anything else. While teams try to figure out other avenues to obtain that information, one thing will not change: the film. The eye in the sky never lies … and it is always socially distanced.
When scouts were taken off the road for pro days last year, Giants director of college scouting Chris Pettit gathered everyone and said, "Watch more film, watch the games you didn't watch, watch them again." They worked the fall process over again without having in-person contact with prospects. This year will be similar in that sense. But, in keeping with the theme of nothing comes easy during a pandemic, film was scarce in 2020 as some of the top prospects either opted out or played shortened schedules.
Lance Medow: The biggest difference in this year's draft process is the absence of the NFL Scouting Combine, which allows all 32 teams to congregate in Indianapolis to evaluate and interact with various prospects. Teams will have to rely on pro days and smaller gatherings, such as the unofficial Exos events being organized to host more than 130 prospects. Last year, teams were limited in their face-to-face interactions because the pandemic hit in mid-March (the center of the draft process), so not much will change because the teams are used to that setup.
In the end, game film is the most important tool teams rely on to study and evaluate players. The other aspects are complementary pieces to watching how a player performs in an actual game setting. Most teams are creative enough and have staffs that have been involved in the sport long enough that they'll be able to use different resources to collect the additional data they need to adjust their rankings based on measurements, athleticism, etc.
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