Prospect of no college football creates challenges for NFL general managers, scouts


FILE – In this Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. The Packers would love to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers more weapons as they attempt to make at least one more Super Bowl run with the 36-year-old, two-time MVP. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should pencil in a receiver to Green Bay with the 30th overall pick in the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

(WFRV) – The draft process never stops for those in NFL personnel departments. In the fall it means a lot of time scouting games, visiting with prospects and coaches to start preparing for the next year’s draft.

In 2020, things could be a little different. That’s as conferences around the country debate what to do amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Mid-American Conference, or MAC, postponed their football season on Saturday. The Big Ten is seemingly about to move their’s to the spring as well after university Presidents and chancellors voted to postpone fall sports, according to reports.

“You know, really disappointed for those kids. The ability to play the game, that’s a tough thing, because for some of those guys may never ever get a chance to play football again. As far as our scouting staff goes, I think we’re kind of prepared on a number of different fronts to attack this. But I think we have to be very flexible too, because things will change. We’re going to prepare, there’s going to be a draft, we’re going to have to acquire players, so we’re just going to have to do that a few different ways,” said Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst.

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst watches before a preseason NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

For much of the year regional scouts are on the road looking for possible prospects, future members of the green and gold. This year will likely be a little different with less time on the road with fewer or perhaps no games.

“First and foremost with our road scouts, we want to keep them safe. At the same time I know a lot of those guys are itching to get out, and start evaluating these players in college. Obviously, if certain conferences or levels don’t play we’re going to have to do a lot of our evaluations off of tape from 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we get down to that December area, when you might see something like different kind of combines or workouts that we’d be able to attend. The work that those guys are going to have to do in terms of an evaluation aspect, and also all the background information, and all the character information that we rely on these guys for. All that is still going to be required,” said Gutekunst.

Tight time-frame to trim roster

The pandemic will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the college scouts preparing for the next draft, but picking who makes the final 53 man roster won’t be any easier.

There’s typically a lot of evaluation done during the preseason games, which won’t happen this year due to the pandemic. Thus putting more importance on the actual practices themselves.

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (2) kicks a field goal as Green Bay Packers punter J.K. Scott (6) holds and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) closes in an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

“Obviously in a normal year, especially the last few years where we just had the one cut down, it was a little bit easier, but with certain guys coming off certain lists we have to be prepared to make the moves that we need to make and a lot of times it’s not going to be with enough information really that we would like to have on the players we may be releasing,” said Gutekunst.

“It’s just kind of part of the situation we’re in right now, and again, we’ve got a great staff, we feel really good about how we’re going about it, but it doesn’t make it easy.”

One of those lists this year is the COVID-19 reserve. Right now the Packers have players on that list, including two on special teams with kicker Mason Crosby and long snapper Hunter Bradley out for the time being.

“We’re obviously hopeful those guys will be back and ready to go by that time. I think we’ll just kind of see when we get there, where we’re at. To your point, using roster spots right for guys just to get through practice isn’t ideal, but if it’s something we feel is important we’ll do it,” said Gutekunst.

Making moves on Monday

The Packers general manager made a pair of moves on Monday as well. First he added to the team’s depth at wide receiver by claiming Travis Fulgham off waivers from Detroit. In a corresponding move the Packers requested waivers on linebacker Jamal Davis, thus keeping them at 80 players on the roster to avoid split-squad practices.

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