The Coronavirus pandemic is still impacting life in the NFL, and as a result the 2021 pre-draft process will look a lot different than it has in the past. Arguably the biggest change is the de facto cancellation of the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Instead of the usual week-long event that sees draft prospects, team representatives and agents gather as much information as possible about the offseason, a new format will be introduced.
As the NFL announced last week, instead of the Combine player workouts will take place as part of the individual college Pro Days. The league and the schools organizing the sessions will try to introduce a level of “consistency in testing and drills” and also ensure that video material is accessible for all teams in order to create as level a playing field as is possible under these unique circumstances.
While a full schedule has yet to be released, the first Pro Days have now already been set (via ESPN’s Field Yates):
- Auburn: March 18th
- Florida State: March 22nd
- Boston College: March 26th
- Brigham Young: March 26th
- Michigan: March 26th
- Virginia Tech: March 26th
- Miami: March 29th
- Louisville: March 30th
- Florida: March 31st
While those first few dates have been set, plenty of questions still remain about the logistics and procedures at the events. From the New England Patriots’ perspective, this ranges from who will be allowed to make trips to how the team’s new-look front office — departed director of player personnel Nick Caserio is expected to be replaced by his assistant Dave Ziegler — will be represented.
As for head coach Bill Belichick, he also has been a regular during college Pro Days and in private workouts over the years. The Covid-19 guidelines may limit his opportunities to work out prospects, though.
“If this spring is the same as last spring, then it will be about the same as last spring — virtual interviews with the players and the information as you can get it and so forth,” Belichick said about the pre-draft process earlier this month. “We’ll just have to see how all that goes in terms of the spring scouting and information gathering process. But, the fall scouting has basically been off of film and whatever virtual or phone call communication could be done with a staff member or a pro liaison or however the colleges set it up.”
Before the Pro Day Cycle begins, however, teams will get a first look at players during the Senior Bowl. Some top draft prospects such as quarterback Mac Jones or Heisman Trophy Winner DeVonta Smith — two players from the University of Alabama — are participating in the event this week and will likely get a close look from the Patriots’ representatives who made the trip to Mobile.