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Just how good are the Pro Bowl receivers? A new drone competition aims to find out

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Sure, the best NFL receivers can snatch a ball out of the air and make it look easy, but can they catch one dropped from 200 feet — by a drone? That’s exactly what the newest event at the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown is aiming to find out.

Airing tonight, January 26, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, and live-streaming to the ESPN website, ten players from the AFC will compete against the best of the NFC in a set of five different challenges, from dodgeball to the new wide receiver drone drop. The Skills Showdown is returning after a ten-year hiatus as a sort of precursor for Saturday’s AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Orlando.

Of course, with the last Showdown held in 2006, there’s bound to be some new additions — so why not throw the popular drone into the mix? The quadcopters will be flying up to about 200 feet in the air and dropping footballs down to the wide receivers playing in the Pro Bowl.

Those wide receivers are set to include the Steelers’ Antonio Brown and the Raiders’ Amari Cooper for the AFC, with AJ Green (Bengals) and TY Hilton (Colts) in the reserves. On the NFC side, the list of receivers includes the Julio Jones of the Falcons, and Odell Beckham of the Giants, with Mike Evans (Buccaneers) and Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) in the reserves.

The NFL shared its test of the Drone Drop competition as a sort of preview — the quadcopters grip a ball at the front, releasing while hovering at a steady altitude. Several sports commentators are suggesting that the Showdown, with the drone drop and dodgeball, could be more entertaining to watch then the actual Pro Bowl.

Brian McCarthy, a public relations representative for the NFL, confirmed that the organization had received FAA approval for the event — since it’s actually now illegal for commercial drone operators to fly over people.

The Skills Showdown kicks off on January 26 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN — and will also be live-streamed on WatchESPN.

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