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The Supplemental Draft: What Are We Missing?

As we head into the 2021, season the NFL has decided for the second straight year to cancel the supplemental draft during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For years, this alternative draft path has been a way for prospects that missed the draft in April for various reasons to enter the NFL.

These players could be choosing to join this alternate draft for several reasons, but one reason is common: a player's eligibility for the upcoming collegiate season was impacted in the time between April and July. Perhaps the player was kicked off his college team, did not want to redshirt a season after transferring, or lost eligibility to play collegiately--these events might occur after the deadline to declare for April’s draft following the college season.

The supplemental draft is a bidding process. Teams bid their picks for next season's NFL draft to select players. For example, let's say the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to use a third-round selection in the 2021 supplemental draft on a player--their 2022 third-round draft pick would be forfeited. The most recent supplemental draft pick was made in 2019, when the Arizona Cardinals used a fifth-round pick in the supplemental draft to select safety Jalen Thompson. The Cardinals then forfeited their fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

By cancelling the supplemental draft, the NFL is electing to not give players who, for whichever circumstance won’t be returning to college or weren’t allowed to participate in April’s draft, a chance to play in the NFL in 2021. Instead, it’s likely the NFL follows the same system it enacted last offseason, when they cancelled the 2020 edition: Players that were hoping to join the 2020 supplemental draft were forced to wait until the regular draft in 2021. Assuming the NFL follows that procedure, those players hoping to join the 2021 edition will have to wait until next spring to get their chance.

While this alternative draft hasn’t produced many players in recent years, but below are four of the most notable players to have been selected using this process.

Player/position/supplemental draft round

Bernie Kosar/Quarterback/first-rounder

  • Kosar did not file his paperwork for April’s draft to the NFL on time in 1985 and was given the choice to declare for the draft in April in 1985 or for the supplemental draft, choosing the supplemental draft.
  • Kosar played 12 seasons in the NFL and was a 1x Pro Bowler for the Cleveland Browns in 1987.

Josh Gordon/Wide receiver/second-rounder

  • Entered the supplemental draft after being suspended indefinitely by Baylor in 2010 and following his transfer to Utah in 2011, when had to redshirt the season. He declared for the supplemental draft following the 2011 season after failing to declare for the NFL draft earlier that year.
  • Gordon is currently still playing in the NFL and is a 1x Pro Bowler and All-Pro player (2013). He averaged 117.6 yards per game in 2013 and is entering his seventh NFL season.

Mike Wahle/Offensive Lineman (G/T)/second-rounder

  • Wahle was dismissed from Navy as his senior season approached in 1998 due to a positive steroid result. After resigning from the Navy later that year and being denied his reinstatement by the NCAA despite a negative steroid test, he entered the 1998 supplemental draft. He was 1 of 13 players drafted within the first two rounds of the supplemental draft.
  • Wahle played 11 seasons in the NFL. He started 138 games with the Packers, Seahawks, and Panthers. He was a 1x Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2005 with the Panthers.

Terrelle Pryor/Wide receiver & quarterback/third-rounder

  • After taking improper benefits during his time at Ohio State, Pryor was suspended five games for his upcoming senior season in 2011 by Ohio State and the NCAA. Instead of serving his suspension he elected to declare for the supplemental draft since the 2011 NFL draft had already come and gone.
  • Pryor played seven seasons in the NFL at both quarterback and wide receiver. He’s had both a 1,000 yard passing season (2013) and 1,000 yard receiving season (2016) in his career

Cris Carter/Wide receiver/fourth-rounder

  • Signed with his pro agent prior to his senior college football season and hadn’t graduated yet, so he was ineligible for April’s draft of that year and instead elected to join the supplemental draft.
  • Carter is a Hall of Famer, 8x Pro Bowler, and a 2x All-Pro player. He played 16 seasons in the NFL. He had eight straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons from 1993-2000 and five straight 10+ touchdown seasons 1995-1999.