Urban Meyer: Top NFL prospects should skip season if its moved to spring

Jan 1, 2019; Pasadena, CA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Washington Huskies in the 2019 Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Rang

If the Covid-19 pandemic forces college football to push its season to the spring, two-time national champion head coach Urban Meyer feels that the top prospects should instead sit out to best prepare for their futures in the NFL. 

“It'd be hard for me not to advise them and tell them to play,” Meyer was quoted by Eric Edholm in an article for Yahoo Sports. “To play in spring and then go play in OTAs in the National Football League, that’s not fair.”

“If you have a chance after you fulfilled your commitment to a university to go and earn a living playing football,” Meyer said, “I don’t know if I’d advise a guy to play a spring season before going to the NFL draft.”

Meyer's comments - while logical and with the player's health, thankfully, as its focus - are nevertheless a jarring admission, especially given that his former team, the Ohio State Buckeyes are absolutely loaded with talent, led by quarterback Justin Fields, a Heisman Trophy favorite and first round lock. 

Fields, in fact, is one of four Buckeyes with current first round grades from NFLDraftScout.com, along with cornerback Shaun Wade, left tackle Taylor Munford and right guard Wyatt Davis. 

As NFLDraftScout.com reported earlier two weeks ago, the NFL has no current plans to delay the 2021 NFL draft, which is scheduled for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland. 

That is because the NFL's rule on underclassmen is only that players be three years removed from their high school graduating class, rather than qualify for professional football based on accrued seasons playing at the college level. 

Meyer's comments come as college football conferences around the country are grappling with how to safely play this fall. 

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced that they will be playing conference-only schedules this fall with the Ivy League already pushing its games to the spring. 

The remaining Power Five conferences - the ACC, Big XII and SEC - currently have their full schedules in place but could find it impossible to play should the communities around them not get a better grip on the pandemic. 

That scenario could push out dozens of players into the draft - and we aren't just talking about projected first round picks. 

Just as in a "normal" year - when a large percentage of the underclassmen who give up their college eligibility to enter the NFL draft wind up not being selected - some are anticipating a mass influx of middle and lower round prospects hoping to earn whatever they can, when they can. 

That is a dangerous gamble. 

According to the NFL, 30-35% of the underclassmen who declared early for the draft the past two years went undrafted. 

To mitigate this risk, some are hoping that the NCAA will create a waiver that allows players the option of simply sitting out the season entirely while maintaining their eligibility. 

Providing prospects the option to choose was a scenario proposed to NFLDraftScout.com by a longtime NFL scout. 

Whether they are preparing for the upcoming college season or next spring's NFL draft, breakdowns of the top players is the focus of our summer-long series, Countdown to College Football's Kickoff.