Portal to Pros: NFL teams eyeing rising number of transfers

Portal to Pros: NFL teams eyeing rising number of transfers

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The prolific pace of school switching among college players has helped some NFL prospects have breakout seasons and show they can adapt to a new system.

They hope it will pay off in the draft.

Offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence followed his coach, Billy Napier, from Louisiana-Lafayette to Florida and proved he could thrive against competition from the Southeastern Conference. He could be rewarded with being a first-round pick in April — and doesn’t have to answer questions about the level of competition he’s faced.

“I feel like it shows that I’m more versatile than it originally appeared and could hold my own against bigger, faster players,” said Torrence, an All-time selection. DRY. “And just different looks and different things that I faced in the SEC. It just shows that I’m ready to go with any team that drafts me.

The transfer floodgates opened wide after the NCAA rule change in April 2021 meant they wouldn’t have to take a year off at another FBS school. This has created more opportunities for players and a chance for more homework from NFL teams, which can assess how players have transitioned from one system to another and get feedback from multiple teams. university coaches.

“We’re trying to keep pace as best we can,” said Matt Groh, director of player personnel for the New England Patriots. “But you can look over there and there are countless players from that school, he was at that school.

“We follow all of this, and really it’s just another group of coaches, support staff from different schools (and us) getting their opinions and feedback on a prospect. You can be in a school and have four different offensive coordinators, so that’s how it is here these days. These children must learn to adapt.

Some do it better than others. The Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game rosters are filled with players who have played for multiple college teams in pursuit of more playing time, better personal situations, or chances to improve their draft stock of the NFL. It’s probably too early to tell how increased movement is affecting players’ transition to the NFL.

Several top players from last year’s draft have been traded, including former Alabama and Ohio State wide receiver Jameson Williams, Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson Jr. ( via Georgia) and Boston College guard Zion Johnson, who began his college career at Davidson.

Zion Johnson became an immediate starter for the Los Angeles Chargers, Williams missed most of the season for the Detroit Lions while recovering from a knee injury, and Jermaine Johnson played 14 games with the Detroit Jets. New York.

The outlook for this season includes some who have clearly taken advantage of their new circumstances.

Linebacker Daiyan Henley went from second-team All-Midwest Conference as a junior in Nevada to first-team All-Pac-12 and Butkus Award finalist in Washington State.

Ivan Pace Jr. became Cincinnati’s first unanimous All-American after driving 40 miles on Highway 27 from Miami, Ohio. Both are projected as likely mid-term picks.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker became a Heisman Trophy contender in his second season after transferring from Virginia Tech. Hooker’s season ended with a torn ACL, leaving him a spectator at Senior Bowl practices between meetings with NFL teams.

He’s not sure he would have reached this point without the move.

“It’s a long shot,” Hooker said. Also a long shot, but not out of the question: him being a first-rounder, although most projections put him closer to third.

How transfers handle change is more information for NFL teams to sort through. Senior Bowl executive director and former scout Jim Nagy said evaluating how players handled the transition from high school to college was part of the process. Now, that’s often how they’ve adapted to changing college teams.

Also, he said, sometimes staff from different schools have very different opinions of a player.

“I think sometimes there’s more upside from an NFL perspective, having guys who traded and gone through that, more positives than negatives,” Nagy said.

Like Groh, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams pointed out that sometimes players can hold their own in one school while going through several different positional coaches.

“The more things you are exposed to, the more you are able to grow,” Williams said. “And that’s if that person is ready to get out of those situations.”

Cornerback Keidron Smith moved from Mississippi to Kentucky for his fifth year after recording 29 career starts in 47 games with the Rebels.

“Just talking to the scouts, they really said I made a great decision,” Smith said. “Even my coaches at Kentucky said the transfer decision was a change of momentum for me in this process.”

Kansas defensive end Lonnie Phelps was traded from Miami, Ohio for his final season. He had a ready-made answer for NFL teams who wanted to know more about the move.

“Everyone asks me why I was traded and I tell them the exact same thing: Kansas was just the icing on the cake and I’m an undersized defensive end and obviously they want to see me up against bigger competition. and better,” Phelps told me.

Now, Phelps & Co. are hoping those moves will prove beneficial in the draft.


AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this report.


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