A year ago the NFL Players Association made a surprising venture into the senior all-star game arena by introducing the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. In September, it announced that the game would be returning to Carson, California in 2013. Today, the NFLPA released a "Prospects Board" of 102 players that are apparently considering participating in the January 19 all-star game.
Like long-time senior all-star games such as the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl was designed to give talented college football players one more opportunity to show their abilities to scouts. The two teams -- named American and National -- were led by coaching greats Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil, each of whom directed NFL teams to Super Bowl championships. The practices are typically the more useful times for scouts than the game, itself, as players are observed taking coaching and in a variety of drills that demonstrate their athleticism, strength and technique. The game, itself, like virtually every other all-star game you may have watched, is more for entertainment purposes. Of the hundreds of scouts who may attend a week's worth of practice prepping for an all-star game, often there are only a handful or so who stay in town to take in the game, itself.
While most of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is similar to the other all-star games around the country, one rather unique element about last year's contest was that it allowed underclassmen to participate. Former University of Miami offensive lineman Brandon Washington was the first junior to agree to play. He later was joined by two other underclassmen. Washington was the earliest of five players from last year's NFLPA roster that was drafted. Dozens of other participants either signed free agent deals with NFL teams shortly after the draft or signed with other professional football leagues.
While the decision to allow underclassmen to participate in the game did create some buzz, it also eliminated any chance of NFL scouts being able to attend. NFL personnel are not allowed to watch underclassmen play in a game, practice or even work out in any arena other than the Scouting Combine, the player's university Pro Day or, in unique circumstances, at the Pro Day of another university in the home state of the player.
This year the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl has taken a more traditional approach. In a press release to the media today, it was announced that the game is "open to draft-eligible seniors." There was no mention of underclassmen in the release, which can be read in its entirety here.
While the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl appears to be moving past underclassmen, they certainly are attempting to spark interest in the contest by dropping some big names on their prospect list, which leads off with Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Texas defensive end Alex Okafor, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer, among others. Each of these prospects are viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as potential top 64 picks in the 2013 NFL draft.
Of course, just listing player names on a "Prospects Board" does not mean that these prospects will actually be participating in this game. An unfortunate reality of the senior all-star game circuit is that some players (and their agents) will agree to participate in a contest to hold a spot in the hopes of making the cut in a bigger, more prominent game. The oldest-running senior all-star game in the country -- the East-West Shrine Game -- is also scheduled to be played on January 19. The Senior Bowl, the most prestigious of the all-star games and the one most heavily attended by NFL personnel, is scheduled to be played one week later on January 26.
For the entire 102 player "Prospects Board" released today from the NFLPA, click here.