The National Football League and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) announced an agreement to provide NFL scouting personnel with greater access to underclassmen who may elect to apply for special eligibility for the NFL Draft.

The goal of the agreement – which goes into effect in February of 2017 – is to enable NFL scouts to obtain additional background information for a limited number of underclassmen prior to and during their potential final college football season, ultimately helping enable the NFL College Advisory Committee to provide a more informed evaluation of the players’ draft potential.

“The more information our College Advisory Committee has, the better evaluations they can make for student-athletes who are at a critical juncture of their lives,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. “While there is no question that obtaining a college degree is a transformative experience for so many people in society and a goal to which we encourage everyone to aspire to, for those talented few individuals that have the ability to succeed in the NFL prior to exhausting their college football eligibility, this new agreement will ensure they have better information with which to make their decision. We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the AFCA in making this new agreement a reality.”

Beginning in February, each NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school may designate a maximum of five underclassmen who may apply for special eligibility for the 2018 Draft to be permitted additional scouting. Those players may be timed, tested and interviewed prior to their 2017 college seasons at the school’s senior pro day for 2017 draft-eligible players. FBS schools may request the ability to designate more than five players, subject to the determination of the NFL that the players are legitimate draft prospects.

NFL clubs will also be permitted to inquire about and scout these players throughout the 2017 season as though they were seniors in their final season of college football eligibility and there is no limit to the number of underclassmen from an individual school that may petition for special eligibility for the draft.

“On behalf of the AFCA, I would like to thank our committee of collegiate coaches and the NFL for working diligently over the last several months to assist our student-athletes,” AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry told USA Today and the Associated Press. “This opportunity will allow our student-athletes to make better and more informed decisions.  This continues to show the commitment and cooperation of both entities to solve issues relating to this major decision.”

The NFL College Advisory Committee was created in 1994 at the request of the AFCA. The committee serves in a limited advisory capacity for underclassmen who are seriously considering early entry into the NFL Draft.  The committee is comprised of senior personnel evaluators from NFL clubs, along with directors from the league’s two sanctioned scouting organizations – National Football Scouting and BLESTO.

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