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.
- 1985: Bernie Kosar, QB (first round, Browns): Prior to the traditional draft in 1985, Kosar did not file his paperwork on time. He was given the choice to wait for the 1986 draft in April or enter the 1985 supplemental draft, and he chose the latter.
- 2012: Josh Gordon, WR (second-round, Browns): Gordon tried to enter the supplemental draft after being suspended indefinitely by Baylor before the 2011 season, but he applied too late. He transferred to Utah in 2011, though he had to redshirt that season, then he applied for the supplemental draft in 2012 after failing to declare for the NFL draft earlier that year.
- 2011: Terrelle Pryor, WR/QB (third-round, Raiders): 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.
- 1987: Cris Carter, WR (fourth-round, Eagles): Carter signed with an agent prior to his senior season at Ohio State and therefore lost his college eligibility. After a stellar pro career, Carter is the only player ever selected in the supplemental draft to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- 1998: Mike Wahle, OG/OT (second-round, Packers): 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 NFL supplementally in 1998. He was 1 of 13 players drafted within the first two rounds of the supplemental draft.