I remember glancing at the names tabbed to appear at the Senior Bowl this year and thinking…
Right from the start it looked like an underwhelming group. A lot of the big names were no-shows, citing injuries or a ‘business decision’.
One headline stated: “NFL GM: ‘It’s the worst Senior Bowl talent I’ve seen‘”
Greg Bedard at MMQB wrote: “The prevailing opinion among scouts and executives was that this is the weakest crop of first-round talent at the Senior Bowl ever.”
Yet it shouldn’t be a big surprise that this once excellent event is becoming little more than a combine appetizer.
The sheer number of underclassmen entering the NFL is having a huge impact.
This year it’s 98 turning pro, up from 73 in 2013 and 65 in 2012.
Next years event is already setting up to be a complete stinker. With so few players lasting the distance in college, there just aren’t that many good Seniors that qualify.
Even letting four-year juniors in hasn’t given it that much of a kick-start.
The NFL and the NCAA need to get together and save the Senior Bowl.
Not by allowing juniors in. But instead by addressing the real issue at play here.
Agents and bad advice.
The crux of the problem is the new CBA. The big money isn’t there for rookies any more, not unless you go in the top ten.
Agents are advising prospects to chase the second contract by entering the league as soon as possible.
Unfortunately this is terrible advice.
The average length of a NFL career is three years. A heck of a lot of players don’t see the end of their first contract, let alone get a second.
Rushing into the league is not a good idea.
For some players, they need that time in college. With certain positions — quarterback being a great example — you just can’t beat reps on the field.
For every Richard Sherman out there — set to earn millions after going in round five — there will be countless players who don’t even make the cut in years one or two.
This isn’t a big issue for the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel and Sammy Watkins — all guaranteed to go in the top-ten and be stars at the next level.
It’s the guys who declare knowing they’re likely to be mid-to-late round picks that we should be worried about.
Instead of trying to improve their stock on the field in college, they’re prepared to take their chances in training camp and on the practise field.
Here’s an example of what could go wrong….
You’re a young receiver who gets drafted by a team with a bevvy of veteran starters. You struggle to beat out the experienced incumbents in camp. You’re only a 6th round pick, so you’re on the roster bubble. And hey — we have this UDFA who excelled and plays a position of greater need.
Suddenly the guy who backed himself to make it as a late round pick is on the street looking for a job.
Simply being in the NFL is not a guarantee you will get the best possible opportunity to showcase your talent.
Are young players being told that brutal reality? Or are they being told “the quicker you get in the NFL, the quicker you can earn a second contract”?
Here’s what a player should be told — enter the league when YOU are ready. Because being physically and mentally prepared for the NFL is what will help you succeed. And success will eventually get you a second contract, whether it’s for the big bucks or not.
Every player is different. Some need extra time in college. Others can feel comfortable entering the league after a couple of years of college ball.
But turning pro when you’re not ready can kill your career before it even begins.
It’s concerning that this week the discussion has shifted towards allowing juniors to enter the Senior Bowl rather than addressing the bigger problem.
If you let juniors into the event, it’ll be like throwing petrol on a bonfire. Yet another thing to encourage young players to jump before they’re ready.
It’s all about education and information.
Spell out the facts and have NFL personnel talk to players as they go through college. Make it clear — you are not guaranteed that big second contract. Many of you won’t make the grade.
The fortunate ones who work their asses off will be rewarded.
We’re sending 100 players into the league this year and many have been sold an unrealistic dream.
It’s time to save the Senior Bowl — and in the process save a few careers too.