Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach had his annual pre-draft media session on Friday, spending almost half an hour with local reporters on a Zoom call. Veach said that he and his staff and just completed their preparations for the NFL Draft, which will begin this Thursday night.
“It’s unique because of the volume of prospects,” explained Veach. “I think with the college season being shortened — or some schools not having a college season at all — and with some of these fifth-year seniors or small-school prospects having the ability to go back to school, we’re finding that a lot of these players are opting to go back to school and finish their degree and potentially elevate their draft stock.”
Last week on Defector.com, Kalyn Kahler presented some numbers that reflected Veach’s point.
There are a few different ways to measure the number of NFL prospects in a year, but perhaps the most telling is to look at the number of players who have signed a standard representation agreement with an NFL agent. Signing an SRA doesn’t guarantee the player is going to be drafted or even signed as an undrafted free agent, but it is proof that someone thinks they have a shot.
By mid-April of 2019, 1,972 players had signed an SRA. By mid-April of 2020, 1,839 players had signed.
This year, as of April 7, that number was only 657.
Right now — per the NFLPA — 2,278 players are signed to team rosters. That’s about 71 players per team. This means that depending on how many veteran free agents are signed after the draft, somewhere between 500 and 600 rookies will be signed to NFL rosters during the next few months. We know that 259 of them will come from the draft; the rest will be signed as undrafted free agents.
This means that at least 75% of the prospects who have signed with agents will end up being signed to NFL rosters — when in normal years, the figure is likely to be closer to around 30%.
Veach said that he and his staff are seeing a drop-off in talent in later rounds of the draft.
“So now, where you had some kind of deep pockets in five and six, they’re really thin now — just because a lot of players decided to go back to school and not come out.”
Still, Veach said he believes there are talented players available. When he spoke to the press before free agency began, he believed the draft was deep in the offensive line and secondary. That has changed a little as the process has continued.
“You get some of the numbers and then you get some of the medicals,” said Veach. “Some are really good, [but] some players you have to eliminate because the medicals aren’t as good. Some of the interviews kind of work that way, too, where guys maybe get pushed up because of how they interact with our coaches and how we feel they’ll be able come in here and get up to speed quickly enough. Some guys that struggle, you have to kind of dock them for that.
“I would say that much like before the free agency process, I think there will be some depth in the offensive line throughout the first three or four rounds — and the same thing with the secondary. It is a little thinner in the defensive line — in particular, defensive tackle; I feel like we’re pretty good there, so that’s good for us — [and] linebacker isn’t extremely deep. So we’ll just have to be patient and disciplined and just look for value. I think that we just stick to our board — that’s why teams continually update and revise and tweak that board, knowing where they can kind of attack it.”
After trading the 31st overall pick to acquire tackle Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs’ first selection will happen Friday — they have the 58th overall pick in the second round — unless they trade back into the first round. The Chiefs also hold the 63rd overall pick in the second round and have no third-round picks after the trade.