Kevin Colbert
Kevin Colbert made it clear that players who play will be given priority on draft night. (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Several college football players and programs have opted out of the fall football season. It led many to wonder how NFL teams would react in terms of the draft. With some elite players not playing and solid up-and-comers suiting up, the evaluation process has changed. Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert gave an honest and transparent answer to reporters last week.

Colbert told the press that he would prioritize players who played in 2020 over players who did not. Although he said he respects players’ decisions to opt-out for their health and safety, he would favor those who played more recently.

“The one thing, the conferences that chose not to play, and the players that opted out, we understand all that. Obviously, they are doing it for safety and health, first and foremost, and we respect that. However, the players that get the opportunity to play and choose to play, we feel more comfortable in their evaluations. Because I just don’t know, sitting out a year, what those players are going to look like having missed the season. There’s just not a real natural source of information saying, ‘Well, when this player sits out, he’ll be this’ because we just don’t know. We respect the fact that they aren’t playing, but we also have to make the best decisions and I think the best decisions we’ll be able to make are the ones where we can see them play in 2020.

If there are two players that are close or equal, we’ll take the one that has played most recently. We’re hopeful that the other conferences get up and running. If they do, we’ll add that to the evaluations. If they don’t—again, all we have is 2019 and we’ll make the best decisions we can.”

Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert

Although Colbert’s words and attitude may seem harsh, from the point of an NFL GM, it makes sense. Kevin Colbert has a job to suit up the best players that he can. If that means some players get priority due to playing time, then that is just business. Colbert is most likely not an outlier, either. As the season continues, other teams will probably follow suit and prioritize known commodities on draft night.