Futures: Senior Bowl Preview

Is UNC defensive end Quinton Coples the next Jason Pierre-Paul? Jene Bramel says the potential is there but like everything earned in life, he has to put in the work to hone his gifts.
The Senior Bowl practices begin next week on the Martin Luther King holiday. Photo by Jene Bramel.

Another year, another Senior Bowl. What I am looking for, and what does the format of the Senior Bowl help me see?

Futures: Senior Bowl Preview

by Matt Waldman

There will be hundreds of Senior Bowl Previews available within the next seven days. Most of them will explain why the game is important to the NFL and the participating player. Only a few writers won’t provide 3-4 sentence summaries of the prospects.

I have provided this type of preview in one form or another since I began attending five years ago. I’m doing some of that once again this year, but I’m also sharing a more personal preview of the event. In addition to disclosing what I want to see from dozens of players, this preview will cover what else all-star games offer me as an evaluator of talent with my own publication devoted to offensive skill prospects.

Continual Football Education


At its core, studying tape is a solitary pursuit focused on the end product. Attending all-star game practices provides a glimpse into another dimension of the game, its coaches, and its players behind the scenes.

The opportunity to watch two NFL coaching staffs conduct a practice for a week provides insight into not only what’s important to them, but also what I can reasonably expect a player to reveal about his game during these sessions.

There are prospects that arrive in Mobile with a reputation for a certain skill set based on their junior and senior film, but the practices reveal something important about their game that the past two years of tape doesn’t show. I was fortunate enough to see Bengals receiver Marvin Jones showcase his skills as vertical threat during his sophomore year, but because his role at Cal changed after his sophomore year, many observers had their eyes opened for the first time when they witnessed Jones’ big-play ability at the Senior Bowl.

Practices vary in tone, tempo, and detail and it means the type of information one can gain varies from year to year. While I’ve expressed my utopian ideal for the Senior Bowl in the past, the practical approach is to be prepared to take what you can get.

When Buffalo’s staff ran a week of practice a few years ago, special teams had heightened priority and the teaching moments from individual drills were less frequent. There’s still a lot to see, but practices don’t serve as an informal technique clinic, which Bengals and Lions practices often were.

Former Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s practice sessions for the offense at the Senior Bowl were especially good. He had an up-tempo style and packed the mornings with a variety of drills that tested and taught details that prospects needed to develop into more complete players.

Learning What’s Valuable (And What’s Not) From Practices

Everyone gets something different from watching practice. My book focuses on skill prospects, so I don’t spend much time . . . (read the rest at Football Outsiders)

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