The list of underclassmen who were granted special eligibility for the 2023 NFL Draft was released last week and the number was the lowest in eight years. The 69 collegians who were granted special eligibility all met the league’s three-year eligibility rule.

In addition, 13 underclassmen who have fulfilled their college degree requirements but still had remaining eligibility have been cleared to be drafted.

The 2023 Draft is scheduled to be held in Kansas City, MO on April 27-29.

The reasons for the reduced numbers vary but new college and state rules regarding the ability of college athletes to earn income and be compensated for their name, image and likeness (NIL) is considered a major factor.

The new NIL programs were not designed to keep players from applying early for the Draft. However, college coaches are pleased at the unintended consequences and the positive by-product of the changes. Many collegians now do not face the same financial pressure to try to make it early in the NFL.

The number of players who have been granted special eligibility during the last five years follows:

  1. 82 Players
  2. 100 Players
    2021. 128 Players
    2020. 115 Players
    2019. 135 Players

Another development occurred last week regarding the ability of college athletes to be compensated while playing for their schools. A California Assemblyman introduced a bill in the Legislature on January 19 that would require schools that play major college sports to pay some players as much as $25,000 annually along with covering the cost of a six-year guaranteed athletic scholarship and post-college medical benefits.

Those of us who have been involved with state or federal legislative proposals of any type know that one bill introduced by a single member rarely translates into new law. However, an idea such as this would have been unheard of when we played.

We at NFL Alumni will continue to monitor developments on these NIL and legislative fronts for those of us who have children—or grandchildren—who could be impacted by such proposals.