College Football Opt-Outs Are Shaping A Unique Draft Season

Wake Forest's Sage Surratt and USC's Jay Tufele declare for 2021 NFL Draft
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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Two more big-ticket names declared for the 2021 Draft on Wednesday.

Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Surratt and USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele both opted out of the 2020 college football season and subsequently announced their intentions to make the leap into the NFL.

Surratt and Tufele aren’t under-the-radar players, by the way.

Surratt, for example, was already highly regarded when it was presumed he’d enter the 2020 Draft.

He, of course, chose to remain at Wake Forest and play in 2020, which removed him from selection earlier this year.

Surratt was ranked and talked about in scouting and analyst circles along with other big-time wider receivers in the 2020 class: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, TCU’s Jalen Reagor, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk.

If you shift into the 2021 light, Surratt is still drawing attention.

Some analysts have had him as high as their top-ranked wide receiver.

For now, Surratt reasonably falls within the 25 to 40 range, a later first-rounder or early second-rounder.

Tufele, on the other hand, is no slouch, either.

He’s 6 foot 3 inches and 315 pounds, according to the USC roster, and he also falls within a similar draft position range as Surratt: around 40 to 50.

But something else that’s noteworthy about Surratt and Tufele’s decisions is the timing and momentum.

They’re hardly the first names to make the draft decision this early.

It’s likely that neither decision will be the last domino to fall in the shambles of a normal football season.

There’s been a cascading effect over the past several weeks as uncertainty looms large for college football.

While the ripples started rolling with Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, the players to follow suit have started to gain steam, as seen with Pitt’s Jaylen Twyman and Penn State’s Micah Parsons.

It’s unclear who else will ultimately follow the lead of the earlier opt-outs.

The impetus for the uncertainty is COVID-19, yes, but the fallout from how numerous conferences and programs have approached and handled the safety and strategy of a football season have varied and changed over the course of the summer.

Smaller Group of 5 conferences, like the Mid-American Conference, have already bit the bullet and canceled college football for the fall.

There’s still hope to bring it back for the spring of 2021, but then that starts to interfere with normal draft season territory.

That’s normally when the NFL hopefuls have their eyes set on draft night.

Spring programs — and their players — will be crunched for time trying to play a jury-rigged season while also leaving enough of the limelight for the NFL to comfortably host its annual draft.

The postponement of some college football into the spring could cause the staying players to step on the toes as they navigate college football and NFL draft prep.

In a perfect world, there’s the Dream Bowl, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, and Senior Bowl all in the month of January.

Half of January is also typically reserved for draft-eligible players to get feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board and make their final decision.

The end of February brings in the Combine, and March usually kicks off Pro Days up through the first half of April.

Everything’s up in the air for college football, especially for the individual player who’s trying to balance it with working toward the NFL.

Those are usually two different steps in the process but not this year. It’s an unprecedented draft season that’s taking place simultaneously with an unprecedented college football season.

And they’re both occurring during a time that’s — you guessed it — unprecedented.

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