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What Do NFL Clubs Get Out of All-Star Games?

Ever wonder what an NFL scouting staff gets from their trips to college All-Star games? Our own Greg Gabriel tells us what his experiences has been.

East-West Shrine Game Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

A few College All-Star events have occurred for the last couple of weeks. Those include the NFLPA game tomorrow and the Tropical Bowl last week. Over the next nine days, we will see the two biggest and most important All-Star games being played: the East-West Shrine Game in Las Vegas and the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Every NFL club will have several scouts and coaches at these games.

The NFL has put its backing into the East-West Game beginning this year, and with that, we see full coaching staffs working with each of the two teams. The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will be the team coaching staffs this year. While the Senior Bowl, because of its tradition, still has the better roster, that will change in the next few years due to the strong backing the League has put behind the East-West Game.

So with hundreds of players involved in these games, what do scouts, coaches, and decision-makers get out of these games?

I touched on this topic in another article a few weeks ago when I was writing about the NFL Scouting calendar between January and April, but I wanted to get a bit more in-depth about the subject being the two biggest games are now here.

During the fall, scouts get the majority of their evaluation work done. That fall work is the most important evaluations that each club has on prospects because it's when the player is actually playing important games. In the fall, only the scouts and decision-makers go out on the road. Up until now, the coaches have not been part of the process.

Coaches are usually assigned a group of players from their position group to evaluate. The number of players they watch between now and the Draft won't be many, probably in the range of 25 players per coach. The All-Star games and the Combine are the first opportunities for the coaches to see these players perform, and what they really want to see is how the player moves and what kind of intensity he has when practicing.

During the week of an All-Star game, each team only has three or four practices, and not all of these have full contact. Given that these players come from several different schools, what coaches and scouts want to see is how they adapt to new situations. The tape they have viewed from the regular season is always far more important.

For many Draft Analysts, the All-Star games are very important because this is their first and maybe their only chance to see these players live. Because of that, they usually put too much emphasis on how the player performs during the week. That's not the case with the NFL team's scouts.

In scouting, an old saying is, "An All-Star Game can't hurt a player, but it can help him." Why is this so? Most of these players have not practiced football in at least a month, and for some, it's been as long as two months. Some will be a little "rusty." In fact, most prospects at this time of the year are training for the Combine, not practicing football drills. By that, I mean they are working on their speed and perfecting their form for the different drills they will be doing while at Indy.

If a player had an average week at an All-Star game, it would be ludicrous to downgrade a player compared to what he did during his college season. Yes, a scout notes that the player did not perform as well as he did during the season, but it doesn't really hurt him.

What is very important to scouts at the All-Star games is they have their first opportunity to sit down and interview many of these players, and that is extremely important. Why? No underclassmen are allowed to play in All StAll-Star, so the rosters are all seniors. With so many underclassmen in the draft each year, the majority of interviews a club does at the Combine are with those underclassmen. That means it's imperative to talk to as many senior prospects as possible during an All-Star week. Interviews are important because a scout learns more about a player's personality and background than he previously knew.

The players who benefit the most at an All-Star game are players coming from the smaller level of competition schools. That would be FCS level players as well as Division II and III players who are invited. Scouts watch these players more closely because they want to see how they both compete and play vs much better competition than they did during their regular football seasons. A small school player who has a strong week of practice goes up in value because he has proven that he can play vs better competition. All-Star performances have helped many small school players get drafted as high as Day-2 in the Draft.

What All-Star Games are is a piece of the puzzle. After this coming week, the next phase prospects will go through is the Combine and Pro Days. These are also another piece of the puzzle. In the end, clubs use the grades from all the different aspects that a prospect was part of to come up with a final grade.