N.F.L. Draft Process Adapts With the Pandemic

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This year’s limits on draft evaluations have also meant changes to the more subjective parts of the scouting process. Players recovering from injuries, like Syracuse’s Andre Cisco, whose knee injury early last season prompted him to opt out, got a chance to reassure N.F.L. teams of their health with in-person examinations in Indianapolis conducted by team doctors in April. While the top 100 athletes, plus 44 others who had an eligible medical history, received an additional physical checkup in Indianapolis, all of the draft prospects were given checkups by their local doctors, either virtually or in over-the-phone visits, which were then shared with teams that couldn’t evaluate those players in person.

For players who opted out of playing the 2020 college season, prepping for video interviews with potential employers has been as important as training for drills.

Parsons had 109 tackles and was an all-American as a sophomore in 2019, so he trusted that film of his game performance would show him as an elite competitor. But he said he faced questions about why he opted out last August as well as lingering character concerns stemming from a 2018 hazing accusation against him and other Penn State players made by a former teammate. Parsons’s accuser filed a lawsuit against Coach James Franklin and the university, claiming the coach ignored the claims. The university investigated the claims and took them to the Centre County, Pa., district attorney, who declined to bring charges. Penn State has filed for the suit to be dismissed.

In his video interviews with teams, Parsons sometimes talked with just one person and at other times with a team’s entire defensive unit. He told evaluators that the health of his 2-year-old son, Malcolm, was his biggest concern in opting out, a response he said some teams easily accepted, while others pushed harder.

Parsons said he had been more adamant, though, in addressing concerns over his character, emphasizing that once a team drafts him and interacts with him in person daily those concerns will be resolved.

“It made me want to show how much of a hard worker I am and how good of a father I am,” said Parsons, who will attend the draft in Cleveland on April 29 with Malcolm in tow. “I’m going to make sure I never put myself in a situation that is going to dictate my future or put the team in jeopardy.”

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