The 2021 college football campaign and following draft cycle presented an extreme outlier to the prior years of normalcy. While each individual you’d come across remained satisfied the gridiron stayed occupied, it was in fact an odd year with limitations aplenty amid the coronavirus pandemic. It led us to a unique offseason cycle. No official combine, limited draft meetings, and in turn, a shallow pool of talent for NFL organizations to evaluate.
Taking a look back to April’s eligible class, the overall scope of the draft surely had its headliners at the top of the board in the slew of gun-slingers taken within the first 15 selections, but beyond that, the positional groups of talent were a barren wasteland of top-end talent. In what was labeled the “weakest” defensive line class since he began scouting by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, the overall talent at safety, tight end, guard/center, and EDGE lacked elite pop from top to bottom. In fact, by mid-April of 2019, 1,972 players had signed with an NFL agent. By mid-April of 2020, 1,839 players had signed. This year, as of April 7, the number stood at just 657.
The lack of talent, however, has presented a situation where the upcoming 2022 class looks to be one of, if not the deepest prospect pool in recent memory. With player opt-outs and an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, “super seniors” will arrive in waves on the college football landscape, as teams will trot out players in some cases in their fifth and sixth years on campus.
Rest assured, you are not alone in asking the question “who are super seniors?” Coaches and general managers around football are still trying to figure it out themselves.
The term “super senior” has been around for several years and was referred to anyone who has been attending an institution for more than four years, or has earned more than the usual number of credits required to graduate without yet achieving a bachelor’s degree. In football, super seniors are defined as players who would have exhausted their eligibility after the 2020 season but are taking advantage of the extra year provided to all fall athletes because of what they assumed would be a cancelled season last year.
While super seniors won’t count against a team’s 85-scholarship limit this coming season unless they transferred in from another program, the ruling might make one idealize “why not bring back everyone?” And some schools like Illinois in the Big Ten seemingly are (17 returning). According to the Associated Press, more than 1,000 scholarship players in the FBS are expected to take advantage of the bonus season.
Below are a few notables around college football who are expected to exercise their extra year of eligibility before becoming eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft in April.
Notable “Super Seniors”
- San Jose State: QB Nick Starkel
- LSU: DL Andre Anthony, DL Glen Logan, DL Neil Farrell
- Ole Miss: WR Dontario Drummond
- ULL: QB Levi Lewis
- Texas A&M: DL Jayden Peavy, DL Micheal Clemons
- Miami: QB D’Eriq King
- Clemson: LB James Skalski, S Nolan Turner
- Indiana: WR Ty Fryfogle
- Ohio State: DT Haskell Garrett, OT Thayer Munford (No. 48 on TDN Top 100)
Joining the super seniors as eligible prospects will be the normal list of fourth-year talents and declaring juniors who opt to forego their final year of collegiate eligibility, inviting an exciting dynamic into next year’s draft and the ensuing months of NFL team activities.
According to many scouts within the NFL circle, many of the players taken in 2021 on the third day of the draft would have gone undrafted if they indeed stayed an extra year. A harsh reality, sure, but it’s a notion toward just how drastically different the next 12 months will be in both college football and the NFL.
With cut day come and gone, we saw a slew of first-year talents released from rosters on Tuesday. Was it the first time a notable selection failed to make the final 53? No. But rarely have we seen a fourth-rounder released prior to Week 1 like we saw in Tennessee’s release of former Louisville standout Dez Fitzpatrick, or sixth-rounder Thomas Graham Jr. in Chicago; both talents who had exciting skill sets that looked to serve a role in their first campaigns in the NFL.
The scouting trail and inherent build of a roster set to compete have and always will remain in the forefront of team executives around the league. With the 2022 college football season set to kick-off, the upcoming cycle of eligible players soon to enter the professional ranks will storm into the bigs unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, offering a breath of fresh air into the NFL scouting circuit and roster construction process that we’ve oh so missed.
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