Thursday, January 30, 2014

The College All-Star Games And Why You Should Care About Them

(Senior Bowl MVP Dee Ford manhandles QB Logan Thomas. Photo: GM Andrews/AP)

The Pro Bowl, the NFL's version of an all-star game, finished a few days ago to some slightly improved but still non-important results. However, what the fans at home should have been watching instead was the game being played the day before the Pro Bowl and the two games that played the week prior to the Pro Bowl.

I'm talking about the college football all-star games.

Unlike the Pro Bowl, these games have meaning because the players in these games are hoping to do a few different things.

One, is to solidify their current draft status (if it's good) since it usually during East/West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl week that NFL coaches start to look towards the draft and get their first looks at players that may be of interest to them (granted the team's scouts have been following most of these players for years now).

Second, is to make a name for themselves. Where there will be questions if a player dominates at The Combine, there is little question when a player excels against some of the better college talent on the field. Ziggy Ansah is a perfect example. Many had him pegged as a 2nd-3rd rounder prior to his dominating performance at the Senior Bowl. He was drafted 5th overall by the Lions in lat year's draft.

Third is to network. These all-star games are generally the first times that scouts and coaches are allowed to talk to players. An early impression means everything and while this is a game that these young men are playing, its not much different than a job fair that most people would attend.

So the college all-star games mean something to the coaches, organizations and players but the real question you obviously are asking yourself is why should I care?

Well, this may be your first opportunity to see some of the top seniors play against similar talent. This is the first time you start to see the experts (ESPN/NFL Network) start telling you who the top prospects are (although I don't always agree with their analysis) and this is the time you can determine who really are the standouts of the early phase of the draft experience (plus you can watch these players in game situations and full pad drills).

For the next few weeks on IIWII, I'm going to do some write ups on the players that participated in these games. It's still a little early to really start going gung-ho on free agency and the Redskins seem to have fully solidified their coaching staff so now I have a general idea what the team may be running on offense in 2014 and know what the Redskins may be looking for in drafting talent.

But first here's a brief primer on the all-star games. In previous years, there have been many all-star games with the two most important being the East/West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. Nowadays, there are three main games to keep an eye on for various reasons. Here's a quick breakdown of each game.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl - Sponsored by the player's association, this game gives players from smaller schools or not invited to the bigger all-star games a chance to show their abilities in front of scouts and on national TV. It also gives the players a chance to get to know the players union. This game is generally the hardest of the three to watch because of the limited talent. However, it also tends to highlight a few players who stand out.

Draft Value: They did have a player drafted in the 3rd round last year, however this game is primarily for day three talent or for some UDFA talent that could make a 90 man roster.

The East/West Shrine Game - Sponsored by the Shriners. There tends to be more to this game as players visit the Shriners Children's hospital throughout the week. The Shrine Game also tends to give opportunities to smaller school players and seniors not invited to the Senior Bowl. However, playing in the Shrine Game can give you an opportunity to earn a late invite to the Senior Bowl if a roster spot opens up and if you play well during the Shrine Game. A perfect example of this was with Alfred Morris, who was a late addition to the Senior Bowl after playing well in the Shrine game. The rest is history.

Draft Value: Generally this game tends to field day 2-3 and UDFA prospects. However, players promoted from EWSG to the Senior Bowl may go higher and could possibly land in the first round.

Senior Bowl - This is THE college all-star game. Designed for just Seniors (or red-shirt juniors in some cases), this is the game for players hoping to wind up in the first round or possibly even battle for the #1 overall spot in the draft.

Draft Value: This is where you'd see 1st round players getting drafted. However, many players that play in the Senior Bowl get drafted in later rounds (ex. Russell Wilson who was drafted in round 3). You tend to see many future stars play in this game if they don't enter the draft as a junior.

The next few articles will take a look at this year's participants, note some of the players who stood out and determine if any of these players would fit with what the Redskins plan on doing in 2014 and beyond.

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