Now that we’ve reached the start of November, college players are starting to think post-college playing days. So are all-star game organizers, and slowly but surely, news is starting to trickle out about all-star game invites. One such invite caught my attention last week.
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, currently the No. 3 game in the all-star cycle, invited Syracuse FS Durell Eskridge to play in its game slated for Jan. 17 in Los Angeles. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. What makes it a little unusual, however, is that Eskridge will not (technically) be done with his playing career in January, as he’s a redshirt junior.
As the college game moves inch by inch into an official minor league for the NFL, I guess this isn’t particularly surprising. However, it is disappointing. When the Senior Bowl began inviting redshirt seniors to its game in 2013, it was billed as a special circumstance, and one only arrived at after receiving permission from the school’s head coach. What’s more, the player invited only received his invite after the season and after he’d already declared his intention to enter the draft a year early. To my knowledge, Eskridge has made no such declaration, though given that the NFLPA has deemed him to be a legitimate NFL prospect, I’d be surprised if such an announcement isn’t forthcoming.
Look, I know these players aren’t competing in major college football for the fun of hanging out with their friends, but it’s still a major leap to start inviting players who could conceivably improve their lots in life by spending another season on the college level. Of course, in its zeal to show that it hosts the biggest and best all-star game, the NFLPA has already shown an inclination to invite juniors in its own, ham-handed way several years ago.
This resulted in embarrassment and a scarcity of NFL scouts at the game in 2012, but the PA appears to be headed to no such change of direction this year. It seems to be juniors invited, full speed ahead.
In the grand scheme of things, I guess this matters little. However, as this policy is expanded and the other games fall in line, inviting their own juniors and eventually even encouraging underclassmen to leave early, it’s going to be a net negative for the game, in my opinion. But time will tell. Hopefully, there will remain at least a few collegiate players who take the long view on an NFL career. We’ll see.