Jason Licht will spend New Year's Day in Pasadena, California.
Licht, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' second-year general manager, has a good reason to be on the other side of the country as 2015 dawns: The Granddaddy of Them All, Number 101.
Pasadena, of course, is the site of the 2015 Rose Bowl, which this year is also one of two semifinal games in the new College Football Playoff. The game will pit 13-0 Florida State against 12-1 Oregon, and while the winner will go on to the championship game on January 12, Licht and his NFL peers are more concerned about where some of the game's participants will be playing next fall.
While Licht and the Buccaneers' player personnel staff has been scouting potential 2015 NFL Draft prospects throughout the 2014 college season, a new round of evaluations begins with the new year. First, the big-time bowl games; then all-star games such as the Senior Bowl; then the NFL Scouting Combine; and finally a series of Pro Days on college campuses. The very first day of the year offers a unique opportunity during this process as it will bring together a large group of NFL-caliber players in one place: the Rose Bowl turf.
Licht's Buccaneers hold the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"I'm really excited to be attending the Rose Bowl," said Licht before his departure from Tampa. "There will be tons of future NFL talent on the field at the same time."
At this point on the 2015 calendar, NFL team officials are only allowed to publicly discuss college seniors, and there are plenty of intriguing Oregon and Florida State players in that group. Among the Ducks who are expected to draw a lot of attention on draft weekend are cornerback Ekpre-Olomu, center Hroniss Grasu and tackle Jake Fisher. The Seminoles will have their own talented seniors on display, from wide receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary to the offensive line trio of Cameron Erving, Josue Matias and Tre Jackson.
Of course, there will eventually be dozens of underclassmen officially in the draft pool, as well, and undoubtedly some of those will be involved in this year's Rose Bowl. Once the list of draft-eligible underclassmen is released by the NFL on January 19, those players may be specifically discussed by NFL team officials. In the meantime, there is nothing stopping Licht and his peers from scouting those underclassmen that could soon declare for the draft.
College bowl games and the all-star schedule will keep NFL personnel professionals moving around the country throughout the month of January. For the Buccaneers' Jason Licht, however, there was only one place to be on New Year's Day.