The Senior Bowl is one of the best opportunities for aspiring NFL stars to showcase their talents to professional football personnel, and this year is no exception.
As always, the Senior Bowl game (and the days of practice leading up to the game) makes or breaks plenty of players' draft spots. Some of the prominent names this year include Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews and Auburn defensive end Dee Ford.
Yet, despite the big names, the general consensus is that this year's Senior Bowl features possibly the weakest talent ever.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's absence doesn't exactly help the talent pool, either.
AJ McCarron says his doctors told him to skip the Senior Bowl. At least, that's what he's saying now. http://t.co/PvKFEenBeo— SB Nation (@sbnation) January 22, 2014
Worse yet, CBS' Adam Hoge thinks McCarron hurt his stock by missing the game.
Among my top Senior Bowl takeaways? AJ McCarron should have been there. IMO, he got passed up by his replacement: http://t.co/LJMwtWILIh— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 22, 2014
It also didn't help the talent pool that Georgia's Aaron Murray, another premier quarterback talent in college football during the last few seasons, will miss the game due to injury. But Murray isn't lacking for confidence about his NFL chances, according to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples.
"They have four years of film on me." -- Aaron Murray http://t.co/VS6r0IdXRn— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) January 21, 2014
Yes, this year's Senior Bowl might not have talent that stacks up to that of previous years. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of interesting players to watch, as SB Nation's Jon Benne notes. Anyone who complains about the lack of talent this year should remember that the Senior Bowl features players who are fighting for their NFL lives. That means the competition is great, the matchups are interesting and you'll have a chance to witness the defining moments in the lives of many talented young athletes.
This year also features several interesting players who have yet to define themselves as NFL-worthy talent, despite showing otherwise at times throughout their college careers.
Boyd is a prime example of that type of player, and one NFL scout thinks he isn't fit for a high draft pick.
"Tajh Boyd in the early rounds? That would be the shock of the draft” - NFC North scout when I asked him if he thought Boyd could go 2nd day— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2014
But remember, some of the NFL's best quarterbacks were drafted in the later rounds (see: Tom Brady, Roger Staubach). That leads to one of the most interesting aspects of the Senior Bowl, which is the emergence of previous anonymous talent, like Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo.
NFL world abuzz about Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo:... http://t.co/vfSKWhOXRD— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 22, 2014
Also, the supposed lack of talent also didn't stop the Ryan brothers from making an appearance.
Ryan brothers at South practice pic.twitter.com/b2k3D8As4U— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 20, 2014
Indeed, the results of Saturday's game and the days of practices figure to go a long way toward determining the draft stock of a variety of senior prospects. While followers of the this year's game might not see the talent they're used to, that doesn't make this, by any means, a "boring" spectacle.
We'll have to wait until the May draft to see the results of the Senior Bowl take effect, but for now, just be excited to see potential future NFL stars taking the field.