Juniors who declare for the NFL Draft are now eligible to play in three all-star games, the East-West Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl and HBCU Legacy Bowl, a source briefed on the situation said Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:
- The East-West Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl and HBCU Legacy Bowl are all invite-only college football showcases in front of NFL team scouts and representatives. Senior players were previously the only group invited to such events.
- Last year, 69 juniors declared for the draft but could not play in college all-star games.
- Other all-star games — the Hula Bowl, Tropical Bowl and College Gridiron Showcase — are still not allowed to invite juniors.
- The NFL sent the memo to all 32 teams informing them of the rule change Wednesday.
Why change was made
A decade ago, underclassmen who already graduated were declared eligible for NFL Draft all-star games. Now, all draft-eligible underclassmen will be eligible to participate in three all-star games. Talking to teams and all-star game organizers, there are a few timeline concerns with whether or not underclassmen will be able to accept invites before the underclassman deadline in January. But overall, it is a positive step that should help both prospects and teams.
It will be interesting to see the ramifications of a larger pool of players eligible for these all-star games, especially because this will be the first year without the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. It probably shouldn’t, but the opportunity to play in an all-star game might play a factor in an underclassman’s decision on whether or not to go pro.
In the past, the NFL wanted to avoid influencing underclassmen from going pro unless they were early-round picks, which is why all-star games were reserved for seniors. — Dane Brugler, national NFL writer
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