College football players who opt out of the 2020 season — or have no choice but to sit out because their schools canceled their seasons — may suffer in the 2021 NFL draft.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert told Kevin Clark of TheRinger.com that he understands why some players and teams are choosing not to play, but he’s more likely to draft a player who played in 2020 than one who sat out.
“The one thing, the conferences that chose not to play, and the players that opted out, we understand all that. Obviously, they are doing it for safety and health, first and foremost, and we respect that. However, the players that get the opportunity to play and choose to play, we feel more comfortable in their evaluations,” Colbert said. “Because I just don’t know, sitting out a year, what those players are going to look like having missed the season. There’s just not a real natural source of information saying, ‘Well, when this player sits out, he’ll be this’ because we just don’t know. We respect the fact that they aren’t playing, but we also have to make the best decisions and I think the best decisions we’ll be able to make are the ones where we can see them play in 2020.”
Colbert isn’t ruling out the Steelers drafting a player who didn’t play this year, but he said that if an evaluation is close between, say, an SEC player who played in 2020 and a Big Ten player who hasn’t played since 2019, the Steelers would go with the SEC player in the 2021 draft.
“If there are two players that are close or equal, we’ll take the one that has played most recently,” Colbert said. “We’re hopeful that the other conferences get up and running. If they do, we’ll add that to the evaluations. If they don’t—again, all we have is 2019 and we’ll make the best decisions we can.”
Colbert probably isn’t the only GM who feels that way. It’s not those college players’ fault that the pandemic has put them in an unprecedented situation, but players who play are putting a bigger body of work on tape for NFL teams to evaluate, and that’s going to help them relative to the players who won’t play again until they’re in the NFL.