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The Detroit Lions are a little ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for April's NFL Draft, thanks to a week-long coaching stint for the South squad at the Senior Bowl last month.
That kind of inside access afforded to Lions coaches and front office personnel (Oakland Raiders coached the North) is invaluable in the evaluation process. Being around some of the top college seniors for a week gave them more insight on those players than 30 other teams.
It allowed them a little acumen into some of the little things.
• How does a player prepare in the meeting room?
• Can he pick up the playbook, or do coaches have to constantly go over the same things?
• What is a player's practice habits? Do they translate to the game?
Coaching in the Senior Bowl means the Lions can spend less time on those players at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week. They can have a narrower focus than other teams, instead, spending their time on some of the prospects they're not as familiar with.
Look at the Senior Bowl as a way of streamlining the process for the Lions this week.
"The combine will be for interviews and getting to know some of these guys," Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.
"It was great to coach the Senior Bowl. We got a whole bunch of guys that we have a lot of information on and we feel very comfortable with. A large part of that group that was on our team, so we'll be able to interview some other guys we haven't met. It really lets us have more exposure to the college class this year."
Mayhew said all the reports from their college scouts are written and in. The coaches are into the evaluation process now and the combine is an opportunity to learn more about the guys.
The combine will feature 333 of the best college talent entering the draft.
Getting the proper measurables, along with the interview process, are the two most valuable aspects of the combine. The on-field workouts - while important - are secondary to the interviews, physical data collected and the time spent with the athletes from a front office and coaching perspective.
That's not to say a player can't help or hurt his cause at the combine. We've seen plenty of those "workout warriors" improve their stock, but the game film is still the most important part of the evaluation process.
"Sometimes it's confirmation of what you already know," Mayhew said. "Sometimes a guy can benefit himself. Sometimes a guy can hurt himself during that process. It varies from player to player but it's an important part of the process for us."
NFL Combine schedule
Wednesday, Feb. 20
• PK/ST/OL/TE medical pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, interviews
Thursday, Feb. 21
• PK/ST/OL/TE measurements, medical exams, media, interviews
• QB/WR/RB medical pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, interviews
Friday, Feb. 22
• PK/ST workout; PK/ST/OL/TE bench press, psychological testing, interviews
• QB/WR/RB measurements, medical exams, media, interviews
• DL/LB medical pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, interviews
Saturday, Feb. 23
• OL/TE on-field workout (timing, stations, skill drills)
• QB/WR/RB psychological testing, bench press, interviews
• DL/LB measurements, medical exams, media, interviews
• DB medical pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, interviews
Sunday, Feb. 24
• QB/WR/RB on-field workout
• DL/LB psychological testing, bench press, interviews
• DB measurements, medical exams, media, interviews
Monday, Feb. 25
• DL/LB on-field workout
• DB psychological testing, bench press, interviews
Tuesday, Feb. 26
• DB on-field workout