Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage has the Reese's Senior Bowl adjusting to the times in his role as the game's executive director, but that doesn't mean he believes the record number of underclassmen entering the 2014 NFL Draft is a welcome development.
"When you see almost 100 underclassmen come into the draft, and there are 250-some odd slots, there's going to be a lot of kids that have been sold a bill of goods come the first week of May. Personally I think it's bad for college football and I think it's bad for the NFL, because players are coming into the league after three years of college and they're not ready," Savage told the Baltimore Sun.
Savage has allowed three underclassmen to participate in the Senior Bowl over the last two years, breaking with a 60-year tradition by inviting offensive linemen D.J. Fluker and Justin Pugh last year. Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard will play in the game this Saturday (4 p.m. ET, NFL Network).
But those three met very specific conditions -- they were fourth-year juniors that had graduated by Dec. 31 of the previous year. Only a handful of early entrants, including Hubbard, USC safety Dion Bailey and Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford, meet that criteria.
Savage has gone out of his way to say he would not open the door to players who meet draft eligibility criteria by being only three years removed from high school, dating back to 2012 when he first proposed allowing underclassmen at the Senior Bowl.
As Savage notes, it might be in the interest of all parties involved to tighten the requirements to enter the draft early. College football faces a significant talent drain, as the number of underclassmen declaring has nearly doubled in just four years. The NFL is receiving members of the labor pool that might not be receiving realistic input on their future prospects. The players' association sees more veteran players replaced with cheaper labor. And a good number of the 98 players forgoing their remaining eligibility have no hope of carving out a viable career in professional football.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.