The pool of players eligible for the NFL Draft has skewed younger the past few years. A record 135 players gave up their college eligibility this year in hopes of making it to the league.
A lot has changed since Matt Bowen was at the University of Iowa in the late 1990s.
“When I played, you redshirted as a freshman, right? That’s what you did, you weren’t developed,” said ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. “Guys are training earlier, they’re more prepared earlier, so they’re coming into the college level more ready to play from a physical, developmental standpoint. And then you get three years in and you’re ready to jump to the pro game.”
That doesn’t mean everyone gets selected. More than 20 percent of players with college eligibility have gone undrafted the past five years. CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso said to expect more of the same in 2019.
“There are a lot of guys that probably should stay, refine their technique or get a little bit stronger, that might not even get drafted or go late,” Trapasso said. “But the money is just so big in the NFL and the risk of getting injured at the college level is just too much for so many of these players.”
A record number of Iowa players declared this draft cycle. Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Amani Hooker and Anthony Nelson all left early. Fant said he couldn’t justify putting his body at risk for another collegiate season.
“The chances of getting hurt. The chances of getting an injury. Also with the way we handle bowl games, it’s like another spring ball…for bowl prep,” Fant said.
For Hockenson, the decision came after a stamp of approval from Kirk Ferentz.
“To get his blessing, and for him to tell me that I’m ready for the next level as a person and a player, was really meaningful and it was special,” Hockenson said.
The total early entrants to the 2020 NFL Draft could be record-setting again, but Bowen said he’d be surprised to see an increase in Iowa prospects.
“Might not have any coming out,” Bowen said. “It just depends on the talent you have on your roster and their NFL projections.”