According to an Associated Press report, the NFL has issued a memo this week indicating that teams potentially can be docked draft picks and face major fines if it's determined that their representatives act unprofessionally in interviews with draft prospects.
The league's memo indicated that teams could be forced to forfeit a draft pick — between the first and fourth rounds — if it's determined that any member club's representatives are deemed to be “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional” while interviewing prospects.
Fines of $150,000 or more also can be levied against teams, and team employees also can be fined or suspended in such cases, per the report.
“We aim for dignity, respect and professionalism,” league executive Troy Vincent told the AP. “It’s that simple.”
The most famous case of this previously involved then Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who now is the New Orleans Saints' director of personnel.
In 2010, Ireland was interviewing Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant prior to the draft, and Bryant told Yahoo Sports that Ireland asked Bryant about whether his mother was a prostitute and whether she was using drugs.
Ireland later was forced to apologize, but neither he nor the team was fined or punished further.
More recent incidents, in 2016 and 2018, respectively, involved prospects Eli Apple and Derrius Guice reportedly being asked about their sexual preference.
The league's memo indicates that any actions along these lines will be subject to punishment, starting with the 2022 NFL draft process.
Part of the memo reads:
“All clubs should ensure that prospective draft picks are afforded a respectful and professional NFL environment — one that is consistent with state and federal law and our shared commitment to respect, diversity and inclusion. The same is true of free agents whom your club may consider signing. It is also important for your club to reinforce to prospective players the value your club places on character and the standards of conduct expected of everyone associated with the NFL.”
No more Wonderlic test for prospects, other NFL combine changes coming
Another big change coming to the pre-draft process: no more Wonderlic tests. In the past, prospects had been given a standard aptitude test written by Wonderlic, with a possible score up to 50. The test traditionally had been administered at the NFL scouting combine annually since its creation.
In the early days, it was a way for some teams to determine players' intelligence and aptitude. But in more recent years, the value of the the test has diminished in scouting circles.
We wrote in April, during a 2021 NFL draft cycle in which the scouting combine was canceled, that it was easy to foresee a day when the test no longer would be issued to prospects.
That day apparently has come.
Other changes coming to the combine include variations to the on-field drills. Wide receivers and tight ends now will run crossing routes instead of wheel routes during their positional workouts, and running backs will be asked too run option routes as opposed to corner routes and post-corners.
Offensive linemen drills and defensive position drills also reportedly will undergo some adjustments.
Indianapolis is again set to host the NFL scouting combine, which is scheduled to begin March 1, this year But it could be the final year the event is held in its longtime home. The league's agreement with Indianapolis only runs through 2022 after the 2021 combine was canceled amid the COVID pandemic.
There has been talk that Los Angeles or another NFL city could host the event, with an eye on making it more of a big-scale production than it already is.
NFL executive vice president of club business and events Peter O’Reilly told the AP that a decision on the combine's next host city is expected this May.
“Our fan base is so amazing and interest in the combine gets greater and greater every year,” O’Reilly said. “That ties to interest in the draft so the opportunity to find ways to elevate this whole post-Super Bowl window and lead into the next year is high in our mind.”