One of the major components of the pre-Draft off season events each year is the parade of All-Star games that dot the calendar, primarily in January. There primary value is to provide a look at prospects in pads and competing against players who will be fellow Rookies in the NFL the following season. There has been a lot of fluidity in the game schedule and participants in the past decade. The oldest continuous game of all The Shrine Classic has moved from California to Texas to Orlando, FL and to St. Petersburg, FL for the past 4 years. Despite rumors of a move not too long ago the top event, The Senior Bowl, it is comfortably settled in Mobile, AL and is the crown jewel of the games primarily because of strong local leadership under long time NFL exec PHIL SAVAGE. Most significantly the Senior Bowl has a working arrangement with the NFL itself and has actual NFL coaching staffs assigned to the two rosters of NFL hopefuls. In recent years games have come and gone, but there now appears to be two fairly new & serious participants in the STAR Game field. The NFLPA threw it’s hat into the ring 4 years ago and holds a high visibility event in Southern California. The newest participant, the Medal of Honor Bowl, in Charleston, SC also looks to be a serious contender with improved rosters each year.
Now that the NFL Draft has concluded for 2015 I want to take a quick look at how well these games performed in supplying players for the Draft. My draftee counts are based on rosters as provided by the games mentioned. It should be noted that none of the games invites true underclassmen to their games, even those declared and cleared by the NFL to be Draft eligible. Sometime soon I expect a resolution of this “silly” circumstance to be ironed out between the NFL, NFLPA and NCAA.
So in countdown tradition let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
#4 NFLPA Game: They still feature a lot of URFA types and smaller school guys, get big name coaches and ex-players as assistants but come up short in appeal in that category. There were 100 players listed on the weigh-in rosters that I had t work with from the NFLPA website, so it did not include all the guys who were actually in the game. But based on that list I counted 9 drafted players overall. Georgia WR Chris Conley, selected 76th overall in the 3rd round by Kansas City was the highest player selected.
#3 Medal of Honor Bowl: The newest entry into the all-star game arena has progressed nicely and was able to squeeze past the NFLPA. Once again I had roster from early in the week, but the Charleston Post & Courier saved the day with an article about the topic. They listed 10 players who were drafted. The highest of this group was ANGELO BLACKSON/DT/AUBURN, who went to start Round 4 at Pick 100 to the TITANS.
#2 East-West Shrine Game: The Shrine game seems to have found a home playing in Tropicana Field, as it has shown attendance increases every year since moving to the Tampa Bay area where there happens to be a Shriners’ Hospital. Again working from weigh-in rosters at the start of the week that included several players who left the Shrine game and went to fill a roster spot at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, as well as a few players that ended up playing in both games, of the 104 total Shrine game participants our unofficial shows that 39 were drafted last week by the NFL. The highest selection from this game was JAMON BROWN/T/G/LOUISVILLE in Round 3, Pick 72 by the RAMS. Some in the Draftnik community have predicted other games, some of them now defunct, would pass the SHRINE, but I would not be holding my breath that it actually happens any time soon.
#1 Senior Bowl: The Senior Bowl remains the king of the star games and why would we expect anything else from this venue. Smart stewardship led by former NFL personnel exec Phil Savage, as well as tremendous local community support and their NFL coaching connection make it the place to be for prospects who aren’t hurt or being held back by their agents for fear of injury. Indeed, of the 109 players in Mobile this past January, 76 were drafted included 5 taken in the first round. The latter group was led by Washington NT Danny Shelton, the 12th player selected last Thursday by Cleveland, and also included Duke OG Laken Tomlinson (by Detroit), Miami WR Phillip Dorsett (by Imdianapolis), Arizona State FS Damarious Randall (by Green Bay) and Clemson LB Stephone Anthony (by New Orleans) who were selecetd with the 28th through 31st picks respectively.. The number of first rounders coming out of the Senior Bowl, though, has dwindled in recent years, in good measure because of the impact of underclassmen on the opening round. Indeed, this year, 16 players, or half of Round 1, were underclassmen and by rule ineligible to participate in this game.