There are a few perks that go along with being a basement dweller.
In addition to getting a higher draft pick, teams get a chance to be involved with big scouting opportunities like the Senior Bowl.
For those that may be unfamiliar, the Senior Bowl is one of many college all-star type games for players on their way to the NFL. Other games are the East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Bowl. Draft-eligible players from many levels and corners of college football go to these bowl games and get a chance to meet with teams and scouts and play in NFL-type schemes and show what they can do and how they handle NFL coaching.
As far as the Senior Bowl goes, typically these players aren’t the top-5 blue chip prospects, who typically end up being juniors, but are fourth- and fifth-year seniors and most are usually projected to be middle and late round picks.
Teams in the top five with holdover coaching staffs are offered the opportunity to coach in the Senior Bowl.
The Senior Bowl is often viewed, along with the NFL Combine, as being one of the most important scouting stops on the calendar. Teams can get up close and personal with prospects, meet with them and get a better feel for who these players are past the game tape.
By having the chance to actually coach in the game, the Bears should get even more of an advantage. The coaches can implement elements of their schemes and coach them using their methods and techniques and see how players react and take to them.
During Wednesday’s press conference, it was evident that Ryan Pace seemed much more excited about the opportunity for the staff to be involved in the Senior Bowl than Fox was.
But it’s easy to understand why as well. Pace has selected six Senior Bowl participants since he became the Bears GM two years ago. In 2015 it was Adrian Amos and Jeremy Langford. Last season he took Deiondre Hall, Cody Whitehair, DeAndre Houston-Carson, and Nick Kwiatkoski.
A few of those players have appear to be misses but most have been at least productive at times and a couple appear to have very solid futures.
So can the Bears transfer a January college all-star game into draft success? To find out I looked over the last several years of Senior Bowls to see if teams that coached the game drafted successful players who participated in the game.
Since it typically takes at least three years to get an idea of how a draft class worked out, I decided to go all the way back to 2010 to get five drafts with at least three full seasons to evaluate them.
Here are the players drafted by the teams whose coaches coached the Senior Bowl with the round in parentheses.
The Lions didn’t draft any participants
The Dolphins took DL Jared Odrick (1), LB Koa Misi (2) and LB A.J. Edds (4)
Odrick played five seasons in Miami and is still in the league. As far as first round picks go, he wasn’t a bust, but he wasn’t a home run either (no Pro-Bowls or All-Pros) but has 23 career sacks in 87 career games and is now on Jacksonville. Misi has played his entire career in Miami (84 games) and has been a starter most years at LB. Edds spent four years in the league but bounced around to four different teams and never had a start.
The Bengals drafted QB Andy Dalton (2) and OG Clint Boling (4)
The Bills drafted LB Kelvin Sheppard (3), DB Da’Norris Searcy (4) and LB Chris White (6)
The Bengals found two of the best players of their ‘11 draft class not named A.J. Green at the Senior Bowl. Dalton has played in 93 games for the Bengals while Boling has started 77 of 79 games for them. Sheppard and Searcy have both played over 90 games; Sheppard has 93 games and 57 starts under his belt for Buffalo, Miami, Indianapolis and the Giants. Searcy has 50 starts and has appeared in 91 games for Buffalo and Tennessee. White appeared in 51 games but is now out of the league.
2012 coached by the staffs of the Minnesota Vikings and Washington
Washington drafted QB Kirk Cousins (4), LB Keenan Robinson (4) RB Alfred Morris (6)
Vikings took S Harrison Smith (1) and Audie Cole (7)
Cousins is obviously set to hit pay dirt this offseason but there are still questions about his “big game” ability considering the way Washington’s season ended. He’s started 41 of his 46 career games. Robinson has appeared in 52 games, mostly as a back up or rotation player. Morris had three 1,000 yard seasons for Washington and two Pro-Bowl appearances in 2013 and ‘14 but was allowed to hit free agency last offseason and latched on with Dallas as a back up to Ezekiel Elliott.
Smith is a two-time Pro-Bowler and one of the better safeties in the league. With 12 career interceptions and four TDs, he’s been worth what the Vikings gave up to move back into the first round and select him. Cole has been a solid reserve/special teamer for the Vikings, appearing in 57 games.
2013 coached by the staffs of the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders
Oakland drafted QB Tyler Wilson (4), TE Nick Kasa (6) and TE Mychal Rivera (6)
Detroit drafted DE Ezekiel Ansah (1), OL Larry Warford (3) and TE Michael Williams (7)
Wilson was a quick bust: he had the distinction of being the highest drafted player to not make his team’s roster. Kasa has just one career reception (a touchdown) but that’s his only contribution. Rivera was the best pick for the Raiders of their Senior Bowl bunch, fitting in as a solid No. 2 TE. He has played in 61 games with 15 starts and caught 146 passes and 10 TDs.
Ansah is coming off a career worst season but has been a terror of a pass-rusher for the Lions and worth the fifth overall selection they spent on him. Warford is a four-year starter at right guard for Detroit. Williams has bounced around and only appeared in 15 games, all with the Patriots in 2015.
Atlanta drafted DT Ra’Shede Hageman (2) and S Dezmen Southward (3)
Jacksonville drafted OG Brandon Linder (3), DB Aaron Colvin (4), LB Telvin Smith (5), DE Chris Smith (5)
Hageman has been a bust to this point of his three-year career, notching just three career sacks and 15 starts. Southward has been a reserve for the Falcons and was most recently with the Colts.
Linder has been a starter at RG for the Jaguars while Colvin has made 20 starts in 32 career games. Telvin Smith has started 39 of 46 games and registered over 95 tackles the past two seasons. Chris Smith has been a reserve player.
Of the 25 players listed here that were drafted by participating coaching staffs, 17 of them have made regular contributions as either good depth, rotation or contributing starters. 13 of them have been regular starters. That’s 68 percent of them have had at least the minimum amount of success, which is very good considering the majority of them have been selected in the third round or later.
A full 52 percent of them been regular starters, which is a hit rate the talent-depleted Bears would welcome.
While it seems like every year all the draftniks are waiting for the hotshot juniors and redshirt sophomores to declare early for the draft and the senior classes don’t always have those top flight prospects but there is talent there.
This study should perhaps also give the Bears a little hope while looking for their next signal caller. While this draft class lacks an Andrew Luck or Tom Brady type, Cincinnati and Washington found their signal callers at the Senior Bowl.
Although I left it out, the Cowboys coaching staff spent last year’s Senior Bowl coaching against Dak Prescott, the experience proved to show enough that they were comfortable taking him in the fourth round.
It’s no slam dunk, but it certainly appears that coaching the Senior Bowl allows coaching staffs to identify and interview players and truly understand if that player has the make up and skill set they are looking for.
Do you think that being involved in the Senior Bowl will help the Bears this spring?