Note to NFL prospects next year: If you’re invited to the Senior Bowl… Go.

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.

14 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    Don’t forget Justin Pugh from Syracuse getting picked up in the first round by the Giants even after showing some flaws in the actual senior bowl game. I bet the Giants had other players rated pretty highly but Pugh was able to show enough to win them over.

    I kind of wonder if Geno Smiths agents had anything to do with him skipping it?

  2. NYG_Slater says:

    and my reply button doesnt work……below was replying to jimmy.

  3. NYG_Slater says:

    I agree, I dont think it was a big deal, Kid wasnt getting drafted, still wanted his “hey, look at me, im an eagle moment, but he spoke to soon.

    But like alot of things, its not the crime, but the cover up that can f@#$ you. Jimmy the eagles arent being accused of “gauging interest”. Teams cannot discuss, offer, extend any type of contract or have an “agreement in principle”,to any draft eligible prospect before the draft concludes.

    So the eagles released a comment stating as much: “we [came] to terms on a contract with [russel] and his agent after the draft was completed.”

    Yet you look on Russel’s twitter page, 3 hours before the draft ended….

    “Happy to say I’m a @Eagles !!!! Everything happens for a reason”

    Shit hits the fan, so today he backtracks……..yet still screws it up.

    “It was just a agreement calm down people didn’t become official till the next day actually .. Lol calm down”

    It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t “official”. A verbal agreement is still against the rules. Somebody tell this kid to get off twitter.

    Will anything happen, probably not. But I could see something happening, if the eagles get caught trying to cover up/lie to the league. That could be a bigger deal than the original rule infraction.

  4. poolboy87 says:

    You know who really hurt himself?

    Russell Shepherd. What do you think the odds are that he makes the team now?

    1. His odds were probably very slim to begin with. It appears the Eagles didn’t do anything wrong there, by the way. He’s not signed. He won’t even be in Philly until May 9th. And teams are allowed to talk to players during the draft to gauge their interest in coming to them as UDFAs. His comments just sound like a kid who was giving reasons why he wasn’t drafted. I’m sure he has no idea about any of these obscure NFL rules, so I don’t really fault him. I think this will be going away.

      1. poolboy87 says:

        Oh, I don’t even care if they didn’t do anything wrong or not. I highly doubt that even if they did, it’s not something that every single other team in the league doesn’t do.

        I just more meant in terms of…how stupid do you have to be to draw that kind of potential heat onto a team that you’re trying to make?

        1. I hear you. I don’t think he meant to do any harm. These kids don’t know the rules. Hell, I didn’t even know how that worked until the issue just came up. Dumb nevertheless. He should have at least had an inkling that he shouldn’t be saying anything like that.

  5. TylerD says:

    I would say with Star it was more of him not being able to show what he could do at the combine that hurt him. He never really recovered after missing the Combine.

    1. steveospeak says:

      True, but a big Senior Bowl week can help negate some of that.

  6. WeGotLinemen says:

    I thought Manuel looked by far the best QB prospect at the Senior Bowl. The Bills made the correct choice.

    Still, Manuel was helped out by how bad all the other QBs looked. It’s arguable that every other QB who attended made things worse for himself.

    Smith didn’t help himself but at least he avoided confirming everyone’s worst fears.

  7. HOPE says:

    Ha.. Geno as LB and Manti as QB.. no wonder their stocks dropped.

  8. Rick says:

    I’ve always felt unless your a lock to be a top ten then its best to show your stuff at every 3 ring circus put on by the NFL. Not to Jimmy you have Geno’s position as a LB.

    1. Ha, and Manti as a QB. Oops.

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