When I went to the Shrine game last year I noticed Packers GM Ted Thompson as one of only a few GMs at the game practices. In typical TT (Ted Thompson) fashion he kept a low profile but was active interviewing players and comparing notes with his area scouts. I only saw a handful of scouting directors and GMs at this game but the ones I did notice acted more like an area scout than a million dollar a year plus team executive. While many evaluators are focused on every practice drill rep, others are busy telling war stories from the season or gossiping about job movement around the league. But those attending these games with laser focus and a purpose will walk away discovering gems that will help improve their team. Just like the Packers did by drafting my client, DB Micah Hyde who played in the game, with a 5th round pick last year.
The Senior Bowl: The Senior Bowl is usually filled with potential picks encompassing rounds one through four. Players can rise and fall with a good or bad week of practice. Small school players can shoot up the draft board by beating a highly decorated or rated SEC player in one on one drills. QBs can show who has the strongest arm as Colin Kaepernick did in his debut in 2011. Safeties can make their presence known by making consistent plays in practice. On the flip side, more players who come into the game as a highly touted draft pick can fall from grace if their shortcomings consistently show themselves.
I had a D-II client, OL Jermane Mayberry, face off with some projected 1st round DE picks on the first practice of the day. On a pass rush drill, Jermane dropped his anchor (term for holding his ground) and locked down the best of the best. Just after one practice, I had GMs and O-line coaches telling me that my client was definitely going to be a first round pick, which he was. Without that game he may have been a second or third. Jermane went on to be a Pro Bowl player.
Last year, first overall pick OT Eric Fisher, used the Senior Bowl to show he belonged amongst the best of the best.
East West Shrine game: Under the new CBA, draft picks are more valuable then ever before. If teams can hit it big on later round picks, they set themselves up for the next four years and rarely have to rely on free agency to find players. Later round picks are cheap for a team and are usually very hungry players with chips on their shoulders trying to make a name for themselves. The Shrine game also gives evaluators a chance to interview these players without the pressure of time limitations they have at the Combine.
The NFLPA Bowl: A newer game with some clout in drawing players, this game is predominately loaded with mid to late round to free agent types. Some teams make the mistake of only sending one scout. The game is loaded with quality coaches who played the game. Formers players like HOF Darrell Green and former Bills WR Andre Reed are just a few of those tutoring the young draftee hopefuls. Now it may be hard for a player to actually be discovered here, but they can show traits such as speed, agility, and arm strength. In these types of games usually a small group of players stand out dramatically. Scouts have tendencies to come away from a game like this with a list of two to four players. They will describe the players here by writing reports saying things like, “he was the best defensive player here”. Or, “stood out to be the best lineman”, and or “best athlete”. Of the sixty plus players who attend this game only a handful will get a dedicated scouting report.
If you decide to watch these games, keep in mind the majority of the scouting was done during the first three days of practices. Most top team evaluators don’t even watch the game. It’s the practices that matter to them. And those scouting staffs that attend the game with a plan, dig deep in the personal interviews, and pay attention to every rep of every practice, will most likely have a superior draft over those who just going through the motions.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta