TWENTYMAN: A scout's take on the Senior Bowl

Posted Jan 20, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman spent Monday’s first Senior Bowl practice sitting with Lions director of college scouting Scott McEwen and assistant director of scouting Lance Newmark

MOBILE, ALA. -- With large crowds of media, coaches, scouts and general managers lined up four deep along the sideline of Monday’s South Team practice at the Senior Bowl, Lions director of college scouting Scott McEwen and assistant director of scouting Lance Newmark found a better vantage point up in the stands of Fairhope Stadium.

2014 Senior Bowl special teamsSepcial teams players line up at 2014 Senior Bowl (Photo: AP Images)

It was a veteran move for guys like McEwen and Newmark, who’ve made the trek down to Senior Bowl for the 29th and 17th time, respectively.

The two sat at the 30-yard line and chatted about a number of players’ performance in practice -- both good and bad from the two-hour session -- and admitted they’d probably have a difference of opinion on a few things on the ride to their next practice and then back to the hotel afterwards.

"We look for things you don’t see at the school," McEwen said. "Say there’s a rush linebacker. That’s what he does. He rushes all the time. Down here, we want to see how they fit. Watch them drop (in coverage) and those types of things and see them answer those types of questions."

It’s the same thing for receivers who played in a spread system in college. Can they transition to the pro game?

Can cornerbacks who played predominantly zone or man coverage in college step into this kind of setting and excel in either concept?

"We have a lot of looks on these guys," McEwen said. "A lot of them three of us have looked at them.

"We’re going to give our opinion on that stuff. If we think a linebacker looks (bad) when he’s dropping, he’s stiff and can’t do those things we know that’s what he is. He’s a rush linebacker and don’t ask him to drop when that’s not his forte."

McEwen and Newmark are also on the lookout to see if the players from the smaller schools like North Dakota State, Tennessee State and Saginaw Valley State can compete against better competition.


While McEwen and Newmark have seen a lot of this week’s players multiple times now, some of the Lions coaches are being exposed to them for the first time as their preparation for the draft starts to ramp up.

McEwen and his team of national and regional scouts ran a personnel meeting Monday morning with new coach Jim Caldwell and his staff to give them background on the players.

The Lions went through the entire Senior Bowl roster and scouts gave a short evaluation of each player on how he might fit into scheme and things to watch for over the week.

"Each one of these things is a tool," Newmark said. "Each one is a step to creating a value. Each event we go to is all a little piece of the pie in evaluating each guy."

The value of this week is players are practicing and playing in a game down at the Senior Bowl, but the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next month is important, too, because of the medical evaluation, the true measurables of players and their times.

For McEwen and Newmark, the Senior Bowl is more of a setting to answer questions and potentially look harder at a player from a small Division II school they might only have one look on.

"If it’s a free agent (late edition) kid they brought in and he comes down here and does a hell of a job then we’re going to absolutely get another two looks on him plus the coach," McEwen said.

It’s also a much more informal setting at the Senior Bowl than it is at the Combine.

"It’s more personal down here," McEwen said. "In between practices talking to guys and we do interviews in the evening. It’s more hands on. You have access to them."

McEwen and Newmark made the point that as scouts they can’t get too enamored with a single workout or a bowl practice – good or bad.

"You see how guys answer the bell," McEwen said. "That’s the big thing.

"In these games, you don’t kill a guy if he doesn’t play as well as you thought and you don’t run a guy up if he has a good game. If you’re going to do that, then why even scout during the course of the year? You have to keep it all in perspective."


The ultimate goal with this week and the coming months is to get the most talented players at the top of the draft board. When those players also fill a big need, it’s the best-case scenario.

Ziggy AnsahSyracuse QB Ryan Nassib is sacked by DE Ziggy Ansah in last year's Senior Bowl (Photo: AP Images)

That’s what happened last year for the Lions with players like Ziggy Ansah, Larry Warford, Devin Taylor and Sam Martin. They weren’t just talented, but were able to step in and contribute at positions of need and make the Lions a better football team.

"You have to set the board on talent," McEwen said. "If not, that’s where you make mistakes. You can’t do that."

Ideally, the two meet.

"Sometimes they don’t," Newmark said. "And you have to go with talent over need."

It’s a decision that ultimately comes down to Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, but not without the input from people who have followed these players from their fall football season to the Senior Bowl to the Combine and then back to campus workouts in the spring.

"We’re not going to draft anyone in the first three rounds that we didn’t have at least three looks on and have a coach look at him and we’re on the same page," McEwen said. "It’s a collective thing. Everyone is part of this thing and the key is to blend it all together up on that board and then it’s easy."