If you cherish the NFL Draft process like we do here at the GBN Report then you never tire of hearing more about the January College All-Star venues. Now that I have wrapped up all 32 team Draft Reviews, and prior to the bulk of the League teams opening their Training Camps around the 25th of July, I would like to backtrack and talk about how the Big 3 Star Games fared back in the April Draft.
The Big 3, are of course the Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate game. The Shrine is the longest running game as it comes down the home stretch on it’s 100th Game in a few years. The relative newbie in these proceedings is the NFLPA effort. But the King of the Star Games is the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile. The event in Mobile has secured and held its position as featuring the most future pro talent each year, due in great part to its tight affiliation with the NFL itself. The league provides the game with actual NFL coaching staffs and thus provides a larger scouting presence at the venue, which draws exposure interest from most player agents. The Shrine Game has recently developed a working agreement to have NFL teams offer up some of their assistant coaches to expand their coaching skills into the this development and showcase event. The NFLPA, being a union organization, has the least ties with the League in running their game, given that they are a labor union. A bit of clout is developing with this new venue given the propensity of California based Agent groups to favor the “home field” advantage of a game played close to home in Southern California.
One major League stipulation for support by the NFL is that the games confine their rosters to players who are college seniors, or who have been 4 years out of high school and/or completed their college degree. Thus the Senior Bowl has had a handful of Juniors, with degrees, who have been deemed eligible to participate in recent All-Star games. The biggest example this year was QB JOSH ALLEN/Wyoming. It should be noted that early in the NFLPA game’s existence they attempted to bring in “declared underclassmen”. The League immediately notified all NFL teams that if they even sent scouts to watch NFLPA practices they would be fined, and otherwise punished. The NFLPA backed down and now abides by the same rules as the other two games regarding player eligibility.
With the Draft process now having reached the stage where upwards of 100 underclassmen each year declare for inclusion in the Draft, this restriction means a large number of underclassmen are not allowed to play in any of these games.
Which brings us to our first 2018 Star game stat of this column. Of the 32 first round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft 19 draftees were not eligible for a Star game roster spot. Then of course you add in some seniors whose agents advise them not to play in any all-star format, often for fear of injury. Not many players have been seriously injured over the years in these Star games, and trainers assigned to the teams are ever watchful for even minor hurts that will rule a player out of action. But it only takes one, like the blown-out knee of CB/AARON COLVIN, to remind us all of the ever present injury danger in a contact sport like football. Another factor causing participation to drop is the number of players who are busy rehabbing injuries from their final college seasons. At the opening of the 2018 player Weigh-In in Mobile, PHIL SAVAGE, Executive Director of the game gave us a list of 21 players who declined game invites because of injury rehab. Only 11 eligible players flat out declined invites to attend the game. Unfortunately, 6 of those 11 ended up being first rounders in the Draft.
So let’s get down to the overall numbers crunching before we get into some hopefully interesting details of the Games. Of the 256 total players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, 123 participated in at least one these 3 games. The Senior Bowl was by far the top producer with 83 players being selected overall, including 6 in Round One. Lest that number 6 sound puny, no player from the other two games was selected in Round 1. The Shrine venue featured 26 draftees, the NFLPA had 19. Lest some of you math majors start to put pencil to paper and start to notice some math incongruities, there were 5 players who were at the Shrine (4) and NFLPA (1), who also ended up at the Senior Bowl as replacement add-ins for players injured during practice week, or who failed physicals before practices even started. I would also note that I am including as participants some players who were at venues but were injured by game days.
I consider the Top 100 Draftees to be players who should become NFL starters within 2-3 years, if not immediately. The Senior Bowl had 36 players taken with the top 100 picks this year with 6 going in the opening round, 13 in the second and 17 in the third. Meanwhile, the Shrine had 3 top 100 picks, while the NFLPA had only two. At the same time, the Senior Bowl had 15 draftees taken in the 4th round, while the Shrine had 6 and the NFLPA 2.
You get the picture as long as you don’t use some kind of “new math”. The winner and still champion in the prospect talent recruiting race is Reese’s Senior Bowl by a wide margin. The Senior Bowl is moving into new, uncharted waters for 2019, with a new Executive Director of the game in JIM NAGY, who takes over for departing Mobile native and former NFL GM PHIL SAVAGE. NAGY has been an NFL scout with multiple teams, so he should know his way around the NFL as well as college campuses. He also has lived in Mobile with his family in recent years. Mr. Savage has moved on to a position with the new American Alliance of Football.
Here is a breakdown by game for all 7 Rounds of the 2018 Draft.
SENIOR BOWL 6/1st, 13/2nd, 17/3rd, 15/4th, 21/5th, 9/6th, 2/7th
SHRINE GAME 3/3rd, 6/4th, 7/5th, 3/6th, 7/7th
NFLPA Game 1/2nd, 1/3rd, 2/4th, 2/5th, 8/6th, 5/7th
I will update these numbers when we get NFL rosters announced in September, just to see how many Star game participants actually made teams, including Practice Squads. I also want to mention that an additional number of the 300-plus Star Game participants at the above 3 venues also are currently listed on NFL 90-man rosters as Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (URFA), as we head for Training Camps.