Sure, I’m here for the prospects, but it’s far from the only reason.
There are several dozen sites providing a strength/weakness introduction to this week’s Senior Bowl rosters. If you’re reading me then you’re probably reading many of them. Tonight, I’ll layout what I’m seeking this week from the pregame events. I’m not listing these things in any order of importance.
Evaluating prospects is a mostly a solitary experience for people like me. My neighbors know my wife, Alicia. She’s the PR director for our household. If it weren’t for her, most of my neighbors would probably have stories about me that would contain large doses of urban legend often reserved for quiet people you rarely see around the block. They’re not really sure what I do.
Writing of some kind . . .
Something to do with football (but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be into football) . . .
I thought he wrote for a university (yeah, I think he does that, too) . . .
Seems nice enough, but not really sure about him (his wife is great though) . . .
It’s the inner monologue I often see playing out on their faces based on the snippets of conversations that Alicia shares with me or rare occasions when they catch me coming or going. I get it, there aren’t a lot of folks like me out there, so it’s confusing.
The Senior Bowl is a chance for guys like me to compare notes after months of solitary study. Most of the time, the conversation isn’t about players as much as what we’ve learned about our processes, what it has revealed to us about the NFL, what we’re not sure about, and who among us has insights that the rest of us haven’t considered.
Many of these points are told through stories we’ve experienced, learned from others, or conclusions we’ve pieced together through our experiences, studies, and observations of the game. It’s part football philosophy discussion, part player evaluation debate, part storytelling circle, and part networking session. Every year, these conversations help me evaluate what the official (and unofficial) Senior Bowl events offer me as a talent analyst.
Conditioning is important, but perfect, muscle-bound bodies are far from necessary. There’s a reason these players are called prospects and not finished products. The medical information from the Combine and team visits will be more important to teams later in this pre-draft process. However, every piece of information can help tell that player’s story, but it’s a lot like detective work at this stage: you may not know how important each detail is until the end.
Learning a small amount about a player’s personality is fun, but in most cases, no one in the media will gain vital or reliable insights into a player’s character. It can make for compelling stories, but sometimes the best tales center on the members of the media who sometimes ask questions that make you wonder if they just got transferred from the Home & Garden section of their papers.
I’m more interested in asking questions based on the game that involve technique, concepts, philosophy, and overall approach and preparation. If you ask me, fame is an unclassified psychological disorder that, for at least a short period of time, disrupts every individual who attains it.
It’s fun shop talk, but to paraphrase Sigmund Bloom, we’re all in a dark room peeking through a keyhole with a tiny flashlight when it comes to this area. The NFL misjudges personality and behavior despite its massive intelligence on prospects.
Why? Think about your company, university, or agency where you or a colleague has been assigned a task with months of research time and upon presentation, an executive already had a predetermined course of action that would never consider the research. It was just work done to show future clients that, on the surface, the organization subscribes to a process or appeared smart about it’s work.
Johnny Manziel, Vince Young, Lance Kendricks, and hundreds of other picks throughout the history of the NFL draft are reflections of the desire of one or two men overriding the work they assigned numerous men to do.
Quarterbacks:I’ll share what I see, but with each passing year my interest wanes with quarterback performance at these events. More than any position, quarterbacking is a performance art. A few days a practice only shows so much. I heard a lot more conversation about Kurt Cousins than Russell Wilson when both passers were here in 2012.
Running Backs: We’ll see quickness, agility, intensity, a sample of vision and ball security, and what they are capable (in theory) as pass protectors at this stage of their careers. LeGarrette Blount displayed the quickness, agility, and intensity of a much smaller back during practices. Joique Bell and Alfred Morris had intensity and vision. Demarco Murray excited running back coaches like Ernest Byner and Sam Gash during the week.
Wide Receivers: I’m gauging the consistency and development of their route running and pass catching. There will be receivers who look great in practice, but disappear from games. Some of this has to do with quarterback-receiver rapport, but there are also receivers who have learned to perform techniques and concepts in practice, yet haven’t figured how to fully transition these skills to game conditions.
Just because you read that a player displayed a great rip move off the line in practice doesn’t mean has to show it on film or he’ll put it to use in a future game right away (or ever). Many of these talents will be learning as they go this week. Terrance Williams was a player who improved consistently each day of his Senior Bowl experience. I watch this position more in Mobile than any.
Tight End: See the wide receiver paragraphs and include blocking technique.
New business contacts and partnerships often happen in Mobile behind the scenes–whether it’s with players, agents, NFL employees, or football media. If I never began attending the Senior Bowl, I’d never have the contacts to develop the RSP Film Room. And the show has brought me more contacts and opportunities to explore that will help me and my audience learn about player evaluation.
Of course I’m here to see the players, but you get the point now that there are many reasons that we attend the Senior Bowl in addition to learning about specific prospects. Here is what I’m seeking from just some of the specific skill players in this week’s events:
WR Jamison Crowder: Can he play bigger than his size against top competition?
WR Ty Montgomery: A fine athlete, but a raw technician. He’s built more like a running back. Can he transition from Stanford’s offense to a professional scheme? Demonstrating improvement with fundamentals as a route runner will be a promising first step.
WR Devin Smith: I suspect Smith has a lot more for us to see from his game than what Ohio State’s offense asks of him. Will this week’s practices show enough to see glimpses beyond that of a deep threat?
RB Ameer Abdullah: Can he show improvement as a pass protector? Will there be evidence that the coaching staff here will teach him something he can implement immediately?
RB Jeremy Langford: My initial impression hasn’t been as strong as my colleagues. The conversations I’ve had on Monday about Langford are enough for me to look forward to my next scheduled sessions to see if I still have the same conclusion with subsequent viewings.
RB David Johnston: I want to see if he can do a better job with his footwork, which will in turn, refine his power, agility, and decision-making.
WR Antwan Goodley: What kind of athlete is he? Will it limit his potential?
QB Nick Marshall: Remember when the league hadn’t fully figured out Michael Vick yet? Marshall would have had a shot to become a starter during that era. He makes poor mistakes, but also reveals an elite arm and mobility. Will Marshall remain a quarterback all week?
WR Devante Davis: Will the echoes of Terrell Owens show up this week? Can
WR Dezmin Lewis: Can he flash similar work that he did against Texas A&M? Good moments as a down-field receiver.
Senior Bowl Schedule at the RSP
Tomorrow: The Weigh-in and Day 1 Practice, including defensive notes from Jene Bramel throughout the week.
Wednesday: Futures (think something from Media Night) and Day 2 Practice,
Thursday: Day 3 Practice/Practice Week conclusions