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How do NFL coaches evaluate Senior Bowl prospects

Posted Jan 24, 2018

The Broncos' coachings staff with Vance Joseph and Texans' staff with Bill O'Brien are coaching the Senior Bowl teams:  


Every year the Senior Bowl works with the NFL to select two franchises to coach the two teams at the combine. The process usually starts with the teams that have the worst records in the league, but excludes those that had major changes on their coaching staffs. This season the responsibility fell to Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos to coach the North Team and Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans to coach the South Team.

Practices are designed and run by the teams with the goal of giving themselves and the NFL scouts and executives in attendance the best chance of accurately evaluating the players in attendance.

“For us, it’s an information gathering session,” Bill O’Brien said. “We can gain a lot of information on each guy in a lot of different ways. How they pay attention, how they learn, obviously how they practice and how they compete.”

The coaches design the schedules and practices.

“It’s going to be like a pro training camp practice,” Vance Joseph said. “It’s going to be a lot of individual skills to showcase their skillsets. A lot of one-on-one drills, wide receiver and DB’s, linebackers versus running backs, tight ends and safeties.”

The Senior Bowl also helps the coaches see collegiate players do things they weren’t asked to do in college, but will in the NFL, both on and off the field.

“Our ability to teach them in the meetings, then go to a jog thru, choreograph how we are going to run these plays and drills, and then actually do it at full speed against each other at practice. That’s the way the NFL works,” O’Brien said. “In college it’s hard because they have class, they have study hall, they have tudors, they have training table, they have a lot of other things going on. Here this is all football from 8:30 in the morning until late at night with the interviews so it’s a good orientation into what it means to play in this league.”

The coaches also want to see the players shine in front of their NFL peers.

“It’s our job as a staff this week to help those kids highlight their skillsets, not put them in adverse situation but to help showcase what they do well,” Joseph said. “As an evaluator, in my opinion, I want to watch what they do well, not what they don’t do well. Every player has holes but I want them to put their best forward and that’s our goal.”

To that end, the playbooks are not overly complicated and designed to allow the prospects to absorb them quickly and translate them to the field.

“I told these guys today that I have a 12 year old son Michael at home that can run these plays,” O’Brien said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel. You can only be in certain formations. This isn’t a scheme fest. This is an evaluation fest. This is a chance for these guys to go out and there and compete. You really don’t want them thinking too much and if they are that might tell you something about them.”

Senior Bowl teams are limited in the personnel packages they can use, as well formations and certain schemes on defense to help prevent injuries and maximize the evaluation potential of the NFL teams in attendance. Everyone will see how these teams translate what they do at practice to the field on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM ET.