Is the Senior Bowl becoming a "must-attend" event?

Posted May 2, 2013

Ten players who participated in this year's Senior Bowl were drafted in the first round -- three in the top five

After the Detroit Lions selected BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the fifth-overall pick, general manager Martin Mayhew fielded questions regarding risk factor.

Was it a "bold selection"?

"I don’t think so," Mayhew responded. "I think if we hadn’t gone through the Senior Bowl -- if we hadn’t worked with the kid -- I might have been a little more concerned about it. But having been there, having worked with him, our coaches felt very comfortable with it and I felt comfortable with it."

Later in the weekend, NFL Network analysts discussed this exact subject: what benefit does participating in the Senior Bowl provide?

Plenty, said Mike Mayock, who acts as the color analyst for the game each year.

"The Detroit Lions were coaching him," said Mayock of Ansah. "He's played a year and a half of football, but it's the Senior Bowl and it's exposure which got this kid drafted."

Ten players who attended this year's Senior Bowl were selected in the first round of the draft, including three of the first five: Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and Ansah.

"It answers the question," said Stanford football coach David Shaw, "Can this kid play against high competition?"

For players from small schools, the evaluation process leading up to the draft can be filled with speculation regarding that exact question, and Senior Bowl practices allow for more of an apples-to-apples comparison.

"The kid that doesn't go (who is) from a small school, I think it's as much as a one- to two-round deduction," he said. "Same player, same tape, but when you don't have the quality of competition, I think the league dings you that hard."

Beyond that exposure, the Senior Bowl allows for even more when it comes to the coaching staffs selected to work with the teams.

"When you draft a guy like Ziggy Ansah, you want to understand where he is and how quickly he can get up to speed," said Mayhew. "We felt very comfortable with that from working with him at the Senior Bowl and talking with his head coach. We know what kind of guy he is.

"So, there are some players out there who were raw that we didn’t feel comfortable with and didn’t take. Ones that we take, we think that those guys are going to be very involved."

Beyond Ansah, the Lions took guard Larry Warford in the third round and tight end Michael Williams in the seventh round.

“I really can’t explain it," said Mayhew. "I can just tell you, the last time that we went down there, we came back and went through this entire process. At the end of it, there just weren’t a whole lot of guys that were on our team that really appealed to us.

"This time, we went through the same exact process, had a different roster of guys and it was littered with guys that really appealed to us. So, I can’t really explain it. But we felt so much better about this class of guys than we did the last class."