The 2024 NFL draft is fast approaching, and the buzz is all about the potential franchise quarterbacks and top-tier talent. However, as teams look to the later rounds, they may find that their options are slimmer than expected. With a modest 58 underclassmen declaring for the draft, the fewest since 2011, there seems to be a shortage of strong prospects.
Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, noticed this trend when building out the roster for the game. Rounds five through seven on their board were wiped out in December, indicating a lack of depth in the draft. The rise of name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities has allowed players with less lofty draft stock to return for another season and collect a guaranteed paycheck, leading to fewer underclassmen entering the draft.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees the impact of NIL on the depth of prospects as a positive. It gives players a chance to improve their financial standing, develop their skills further, and provide more tape for evaluation. This benefits not only the players and their college teams but also NFL teams who can assess more fully developed prospects in the long term.
While the NIL impact is here to stay, the extra COVID year is phasing out. This shift could be a boon for seniors who might have otherwise gone undrafted. In the past, early entry juniors often pushed senior talent down in the draft. However, with fewer juniors declaring, more senior talent has the opportunity to showcase their skills and potentially get drafted in later rounds.
The Tennessee Titans' general manager, Ran Carthon, believes that the reduced number of juniors in the draft allows for finding value in all rounds. It brings senior talent back into consideration and provides an element of experience to teams. Additionally, Carthon highlights that the NIL gives incoming prospects more exposure to financial literacy, preparing them for the financial aspects of their professional careers.
As the draft approaches, it will be interesting to see how teams navigate the changing landscape of college football and the impact of NIL. While there may be fewer options in the later rounds, there is still a pool of talent to be discovered and valuable picks to be made.
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