With two former Texas Longhorns already officially departed for the 2018 NFL Draft and not playing in the Texas Bowl against the Missouri Tigers, head coach Tom Herman indicated that several underclassmen are still waiting for draft grades from the College Advisory Committee.
Composed of NFL scouts and NFL-sanctioned scouts, the College Advisory Committee now receives more background information for up to five players from each school, with each school able to apply for exceptions, in order to provide more relevant feedback.
Based on the decision timetable of left tackle Connor Williams and safety DeShon Elliott, it’s likely that both of those players declined to accept guidance from the CAC, leaving the five slots open to teammates.
With defensive tackle Chris Nelson, defensive end Charles Omenihu, linebacker Malik Jefferson, and cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd all considering departures, there are plenty of possible applicants for the Longhorns.
However, for each of those players beyond Jefferson, who will likely come off the board in the first or second round once he declares, there is a risk of falling out of the draft.
In fact, even after the new guidance was put into place this year, 28 of the 95 underclassmen who declared for the 2017 NFL Draft went unselected. In 2016, the 30 of 107 underclassmen were forced into the undrafted free agent process. In the last three years, the average number of undrafted underclassmen stands around 30 percent.
Players like Hill and Boyd have probably done enough to ensure selection in the seven-round draft, but Omenihu and Nelson are more fringe candidates.
In basketball, going undrafted doesn’t necessarily stymie a professional career — there are plenty of opportunities overseas, some of them extremely lucrative. Former Texas basketball player Ioannis Papapetrou, for instance, was offered a five-year contract by Olympiakos worth one million Euros, without even having to declare for the draft following his freshman season. J’Covan Brown has enjoyed a long professional career overseas despite missing out on his NBA dreams.
The problem with football is that it’s basically the NFL or bust, as the CFL is the only semi-legitimate professional football league in the world. Making a roster as an undrafted free agent is certainly possible, but the margins are smaller and guaranteed contracts don’t exist for prospects selected in the third round or later.
And despite the improved guidelines for the process of assigning draft grades, those assessments are merely a best guess, not a definitive guarantee.
There are a number of factors, including the financial situations of immediate family members, that go into the decisions of underclassmen to leave for the NFL. Those factors are unique to each player and can supersede pure evaluations of talent.
For all the Longhorns considering leaving early, a mid-level draft level could be enough to justifiably spur a departure, but it would be exceedingly unfortunate for any player to declare early and go undrafted when an extra season in college could make a substantive difference in draft positioning and professional prospects.