There were 4 players drafted in the top half of the 1st round whose stock was helped immensely by competing at the Senior Bowl. Three of them were in the top 5. Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson absolutely dominated during the week of practice, and Ziggy Ansah looked like the best player on the field during the game itself, while showing flashes of brilliance during the practices. Those three players were drafted 1st, 4th, and 5th, respectively. Would those players have been drafted that highly if they skipped the Senior Bowl. Hell. No. EJ Manuel, meanwhile, was the MVP of the game, although I think he was helped more by his interactions with various teams during his stay in Mobile. Manuel was drafted 16th overall by Buffalo.
There were 7 players who were healthy, but declined invites to the Senior Bowl. An argument could be made that at least 3 of them may have been hurt by that decision:
|Player||Position||School||Drafted||Did it hurt him?|
|Montee Ball||RB||Wisconsin||58th overall||Unlikely. In theory, he could have killed it down in Mobile and helped himself, but ultimately he was the 3rd RB drafted (a good spot for him), even ahead of Eddie Lacy.|
|Jonathan Cooper||OG||North Carolina||7th overall||No.|
|Star Lotulelei||DT||Utah||14th overall||Leaning toward yes. As noted above, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and Ziggy Ansah went to the Senior Bowl and helped their causes immensely. We’ll never know if Lotulelei could have done the same. Lotulelei is extraordinarily quick for his size. The knock on him is that he didn’t always anchor well in the running game against doubles. The week of practices in Mobile would have played to Lotulelei’s strengths.|
|Geno Smith||QB||West Virginia||39th overall||Emphatic yes. Smith wasn’t such a great prospect that he could let his game tape stand on its own. The unwillingness to compete down in Mobile was a red flag, plain and simple. He had the chance to show that he was clearly the best QB among the group who did compete, but he squandered that opportunity. EJ Manuel, however, wisely did not stand on his game tape and was eventually drafted 16th overall.|
|Manti Te’o||LB||Norte Dame||38th overall||No. There was no way Te’o was going to expose himself to a swarm of media in the wake of the whole “catfishing” thing, which was fresh news at the time. NFL teams undoubtedly understood that decision.|
|Kenny Vaccaro||S||Texas||15th overall||No.|
|Chance Warmack||OG||Alabama||10th overall||Maybe. Warmack was the 2nd guard drafted. If he goes down to Mobile to compete, perhaps he puts any doubts about him to bed. Although in fairness, going 10th overall as a guard isn’t too shabby.|
If there are flaws in your game, NFL scouts are probably going to find them on your tape anyway. If you’re invited to the Senior Bowl, you may as well just go and compete unless your game tape is so obviously good that you can afford to stand on it. Otherwise, it’s a red flag. Geno Smith found that out this year. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned for players who are presented with the same decisions next year.