The 2020 college football season is in jeopardy, with Covid-19 sweeping the nation. The health and safety of the student-athletes are at risk if there is a season. I hope that something happens, that changes the outlook for college football this Fall. The impact reaches further than just the players, coaches, and fans. The loss of one college football season can significantly impact what the NFL looks like and where it’s future stars end up playing, if at all.
It’s hard to forecast which players will break out and which players may see their draft stock fall. So instead of trying to predict what the 2021 NFL Draft could look like, let’s use this year’s draft as an example and how the loss of the 2019 season would have changed the NFL.
The most critical position in football is the quarterback, so let’s start there. Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t get hurt if there’s no season, so most would assume that the Bengals would have taken him number-one overall. Joe Burrow doesn’t have arguably the greatest collegiate season ever by a quarterback and doesn’t get a chance to improve his day-three draft stock. So he slides to the fifth or sixth round. Can you imagine Bill Belichick selecting Burrow with the 195th pick, just four spots earlier than where he grabbed Tom Brady two decades ago?
So who are the quarterbacks off the board after Tua? Coming into the 2019 season, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm were all widely considered potential first-round picks. Eason and Fromm ended up being drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds. If Jalen Hurts is unable to showcase his talent under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, is he just the guy that freshman Tua took over for in the championship game? Does Hurts even get drafted without his lone season with the Sooners?
Big Seasons Lift Draft Stock
Well, what about the other athletes that broke out? Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a phenomenal year that helped him hear his name called at the end of the first round by Kansas City. If there is no 2019 season, does he even get drafted? The offensive tackle class would undoubtedly look different. Mekhi Becton probably doesn’t declare, and Trey Adams, a preseason favorite amongst many draft analysts, is possibly a first-round pick? That would be a significant plus for Adams, considering he went undrafted.
Justin Jefferson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Patrick Queen weren’t even considered as first-round prospects last summer. Their teammate, Grant Delpit, was a top-ten player on the majority of boards. The entire LSU football program would have lost out. No national championship and their players would have collectively lost millions.
If these athletes didn’t take the field last fall, do Kyle Dugger, Jeremy Chinn, and Robert Hunt even make it to the NFL? Those three were all second-round picks — soon-to-be millionaires. If they don’t get to play in 2019, they may have never fulfilled their dreams of playing professional football. Small school players face the toughest road to being drafted. College football today has more talent at the top, and the FCS, Division 2, and Division 3 schools rarely see their players make it to the NFL.
Last Chance Gone
Fortunately, these athletes don’t have to worry about it. What about the next batch of prospects? If there is no 2020 season, we may not see the next Joe Burrow, who takes a meteoric jump and goes from capable starter to Heisman winner. With that being said, at least he was more likely to get drafted than not. What about the small-school kids who need one last chance to prove themselves. Those that have worked their whole life to become a professional athlete, only to have that taken away.
I can’t imagine a season without college football, for I am just a fan. I do know that many dreams will be over. There will not be a final chance for these players. The entire NFL Draft would be entirely different if there is no season.
Hopefully, we will live in a world where there is college football in the Fall, and it will be safe for the players. If there is no season, there could be an enormous impact that can change the NFL for years to come.
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