College football's major conferences are gearing up to play this fall, albeit with reduced schedules and fans, if any fans are able to attend at all. Of course, we don't know what the world will look like in six to eight weeks, leading some to float the idea of a spring season if things can't go forward. That isn't without consequences though, especially if star players elect to sit out and jump right to the NFL Draft, something former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer admits would be wise.
Meyer coached plenty of top NFL Draftees during his career, which included stops at Utah, Florida, and through the 2018 season, Ohio State. He won three national titles between those last two schools, and helped develop Ohio State into one of the most talent-rich programs in the country. If there is a spring season, Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields is the type of player who might opt to sit out instead of risking a poor year or injury.
“It'd be hard for me not to advise them and tell them to play,” Meyer, now an analyst for FOX Sports, told Yahoo Sports. “To play in spring and then go play in OTAs in the National Football League, that’s not fair.”
The NFL has signaled that it does not intend to move the NFL Draft, which traditionally takes place at the end of April. In that event, the college football season would likely run right up to the Draft, not allowing draft-eligible players much time to prepare for that ever-important event. For guys like Fields and Trevor Lawrence, as competitive as they are, playing the 2020-21 college football season would not be a particularly great business decision in that situation.
“If you have a chance after you fulfilled your commitment to a university to go and earn a living playing football, I don’t know if I’d advise a guy to play a spring season before going to the NFL draft,” Urban Meyer added. He's not alone either, per the Yahoo piece.
“There’ll be a significant amount of guys,” said a coach at a perennial top-20 program. “I think for a lot of those guys, they’re going to go into it and see the mock drafts already. If they are in the top 3-4 rounds, they’re probably just going to say, ‘I don’t want to get hurt.’”
People Yahoo Sports spoke to say the number of players could be in the triple digits, well north of 100 who come out early.
Given all of the uncertainty out there this year, it would be close to impossible to blame any draft-eligible player for making that decision. As of now, it doesn't appear that it will be an issue, but if 2020 has taught us anything, these things can change very quickly.