The NFL's Player Association raised some eyebrows back in November with the announcement that it would sponsor a post-season all-star game and invite underclassmen as well as top-ranked senior prospects to participate.
In the past, the NFL had generally been unwilling to recognize all-star games that catered to underclassmen for fear that it would be perceived that the game or the league was attempting to push amateur athletes into the professioanl ranks too soon. The changing NFL landscape in which many of the top prospects are underclassmen, however, has led all-star games to consider other alternatives to boost interest.
All-star games have toyed with this notion in the past. I attended the East-West Shrine Game practices back in 2004 when that prestigious all-star game allowed Stanford defensive tackle Amon Gordon to participate despite the fact that he was only a junior.
While allowing underclassmen to participate may drive better attendance during the game, itself, it also guarantees that no NFL scouts will be attending the practices. NFL personnel are prohibited in attending all-star practices or games in which underclassmen are participating.
The fact that scouts won't be on hand to evaluate prospects, however, won't keep the players from participating. Scouts, after all, will get their hands on the practice and game tape, regardless.
The NFLPA game, to be held in the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on January 21, is apparently carrying through with their promise to invite underclassmen. On Monday, Miami junior offensive lineman Brandon Washington was among the nine players the NFLPA Game announced on their Facebook page as having accepted an invitations.
Not surprisingly, Washington is the most highly regarded of the 39 prospects the NFLPA has thus far confirmed as playing in the game. Washington is currently graded by NFLDraftScout.com as a solid second round value and is currently our No. 3 rated offensive guard, overall.