Let me first start this conversation by saying this: I know that there will be multiple athletes who decide not to play spring football in lieu of the NFL draft. How do I know this? I’ve been told explicitly that is the case by multiple players across the Pac-12.
However, none of those players hail from the UCLA Bruins. In fact, while some teams may lose top receiving targets or two, portions of their entire secondaries or highly-skilled playmakers elsewhere, I’m not actually sure any of the Bruins decide to opt out and prepare for the NFL draft rather than play spring ball.
The reasons to do so are simple: stay healthy and don’t risk injury; prepare for the combine; talk to scouts; interview and select agents.
There are a multitude of other reasons not to play, but for those with going to the next level as a primary goal, they do indeed all heavily rely on the fact that a player likely has a high Day 1 or even Day 2 draft grade in their back pocket.
To play spring football for those seniors, juniors and underclassmen eligible for the draft and with that as their end goal, the potential spring season becomes all that much more important. Not only will you have to keep in mind all of those factors listed above, you’d also have to realize that this is the last chance that you can impress NFL scouts, and you’ll have scout’s eyes on you at all times, since the Pac-12 (at this point) is just one of the two major conferences that could have a spring season.
For UCLA, the list of players that could opt out is short. They include players like Jake Burton, Osa Odighizuwa, Stephan Blaylock and Demetric Felton, though not enough tape of him as a potential No. 1 RB is available, he did showcase his incredible versatility and elusiveness with the ball in his hands last season. Felton would absolutely have to worry about injury as the team’s lead back in a shortened, abbreviated spring season, as would the rest of the players.
And of those players listed above, I still don’t see any of them opting out of a potential spring season because the chance to get a few last reps, a few more snaps, some better game film, is too great of an opportunity to pass up.
Who do you think could or would opt out of a potential spring season for NFL draft reasons?