My favorite two weeks of the year come in January when I spend time traveling to the Shrine Game practices and game, followed by a jaunt across the Florida Panhandle to Mobile to take part in the Reese’s’ Senior Bowl week of events. The combination of time actually on the field scouting and interacting with a couple hundred players, plus meeting with Draftniks, Personnel people and Media folks that I only see once a year makes for a festive time for yours truly. So it seems only natural that I take a good hard look at how many participants in these two games, plus the relative newcomer to the field, the NFLPA Game in California, actually were drafted last weekend. It is now time to do an accounting of drafted players from these three games and crown an annual champion of All-Star venues. By the way, I am basing my player counts on the weigh-in information from all three games. Players come and go all week, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Also note that if a drafted player appeared at two games he counts for both games in my stats.
NFL COLLEGIATE BOWL There is certainly room for a significant 3rd Star game and this one may indeed be making progress. Even though it’s too far away and too expensive for me to cover in person, all the way on the Left Coast, I continue to see growth strides, though small, in the talent base at this venue. I also find it unfortunate that the NFLPA continues to play their game on the same day as the SHRINE event. Too bad they feel they need to compete with a game whose proceeds go to Children’s Hospitals around North America.
My weigh-in info covers 116 players for this contest. Of this year’s contingent 14 players were actually drafted last weekend. The highest Pick from this group was RICARDO LOUIS/WR/AUBURN, who was Picked at 114, Round 4. Two other players were taken in Round 5. In an interesting aside, at least for me, there were no OL or DL drafted out of this game.
SHRINE CLASSIC GAME This venue is actually the oldest of the All-Star venues, having originated out in the Bay Area, and the STANFORD stadium was it’s home for some time. It moved to Florida back in 2010 with 2 games in Orlando, and the last five in ST. Petersburg. A few years ago the game chairman HAROLD RICHARDSON forged an alliance with Ourlads DAN SHONKA to scout and recommend players for this game. The results have been most positive, with the roster getting better each year.
Of the 108 players on the weigh-in roster, 36 were drafted last weekend by the NFL. And in a first since moving the game to Florida, the game had 4 players taken in Round 3, with 2 of them getting the call-up to the Senior Bowl the following week. The SHRINE GAME owned Round 6 of the Draft this year with 15 of their players taken in that round alone. A game many had on the endangered species list when it left California for a couple of fruitless years in Texas has bounced back in a big way. In the 5 years playing at THE TROP in St. Pete, actual game attendance has grown every year.
REESES SENIOR BOWL The king is alive and well. Long live the king! As MC Hammer used to sing; Can’t touch this! The Mobile game continues to outdistance it’s competitors by leaps and bounds. And that is likely to continue under the leadership of former NFL exec PHIL SAVAGE, who is a native son of the Mobile area. Mobile Bay embraces the game as a treasure and because the NFL provides League team coaching staffs for the event, personnel people flock to the game, even though it’s a pretty tough destination city. I can now drive there (500 miles) but I remember the sold out, cigar tube sized flights in and out of Mobile, almost all of them connecting out of Atlanta. Love my week in Mobile, but don’t miss flying there.
I thought to myself that SAVAGE was being a bit optimistic when he pronounced early in the week that he thought 90 guys would be drafted out of his 112 players at the weigh-in. He was not far off folks. By the time the dust settled in Chicago the Senior Bowl count was at 88. The First Round count was down this year primarily because of player injuries and a huge, talented group of Underclassmen, who cannot attend any of these games. But 4 players were selected in Round One including CARSON WENTZ/QB/2, SHELDON RANKINS/DT/12, JOSHUA GARNETT/OG/28, VERNON BUTLER/DT/30. The game followed up with 13 players in Round 2 and 16 in Round 3. Throw in JOE SCHOBERT at Pick 99, and the game had 34 out of the Top 100 drafted players in Mobile. That number becomes even more impressive when you consider 48 Underclassmen went in that Top 100, and couldn’t be in Mobile.
They do things right in Mobile and SAVAGE responds well to requests from the League and/or team personnel departments to make things better from an NFL standpoint. And the weather isn’t bad when you consider what January is like for northern franchise cities.
SENIOR BOWL 88, SHRINE CLASSIC 36, NFLPA Game 14 = 138 total draftees out of a total Draft of 253 Picks
So more than 1/2 of the total Draft selections were on hand to be watched and talked to at these 3 game combined. And unlike the Combine players at these games put on pads and actually hit each other. Another nice scouting tool for NFL teams. And by the way, our friends from the CFL are well represented at these venues, and don’t they luv the weather compared to the Great White North in January!