MOBILE, Ala. -- "It's the worst Senior Bowl talent I've seen."
That indictment of the collection of talent at the Reese's Senior Bowl came from an NFL general manager, and he wasn't the only personnel man to lament the scouting opportunity during the practice week, as reported by Bleacher Report. Much the same sentiment was delivered at the MMQB, which pointed to CBA rules limiting rookie contracts as a cause for the trend of rising numbers of early-declaring underclassmen.
A combination of factors contributed to the absence of more potential first-round picks at the Senior Bowl this year. Along with roughly 20 players who declined invitations because of injuries, and another nine healthy scratches who simply didn't believe they had much to gain by participating, the pool of seniors was further diluted by last year's record 73 underclassmen entering the draft early. That record was shattered 12 months later, with 98 underclassmen declaring for 2014.
That, of course, bodes even more poorly for the field of candidates for next year's Senior Bowl. In turn, executive director Phil Savage suggested that the event might be in for some changes that could allow underclassmen to play.
"There's no question, there's got to be a discussion about where it's all going," Savage told NFL Network.
Bleacher Report's informal poll of four personnel men indicated that only two saw as many as two first-round picks in Mobile this week. One called it a "second-round game," suggesting that around half of the second round of the draft is on hand, although that could be a somewhat pessimistic view. While there may be no slam-dunk first-round picks on hand, the upper tier of Senior Bowl talent figures to at least merit first-round consideration. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman and Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald certainly fall into that category.
Hageman, in particular, had a strong week of practice and could be an ideal fit for a club in need of a defensive lineman near the end of the round. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers have three of the last four picks in the first round, and all could use help at the position, according to Jeremiah.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.