The Senior Bowl is such a cool event for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s so unique to watch some of the biggest names in the NFL descend upon this little southern town for one week every year. General managers, owners, scouts, coaches, former players, and more; some of the biggest names the sport has to offer are right across the street or right next door to you and you might not even know it.
Another great thing about the Senior Bowl is that this is not just a gathering of some of the top upperclassmen in the country to be split up into teams and do whatever they want. No, these events are coached by NFL coaching staffs. This year we have Jon Gruden and his staff with the Oakland Raiders coaching “against” Kyle Shanahan and his staff with the San Francisco 49ers. Gruden will be taking the North roster and Shanahan will be taking the South roster.
With such a rich history behind it, having a coach of a team begs the question: How often do coaching staffs who coach these players during these events end up actually drafting Senior Bowl players?
Let’s look at the last five years to see how frequent that may be.
2014: Mike Smith & Gus Bradley
Smith: DT Ra’Shede Hageman (second), S Dezmen Southward (third)
In 2014, Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons coached up the North squad. Smith’s team did not end up winning that game, but Smith did have plenty of takeaways from the players, some of which made impressions strong enough to become Falcons. Smith drafted defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman out of Minnesota in the second round and safety Dezmen Southward in the third round. Those were two of the highest selections of Senior Bowl player-coach connections of the last five years.
Bradley: CB Arron Colvin (fifth), LB Telvin Smith (fifth), DE Chris Smith (sixth)
2014 was the first of three straight seasons of Gus Bradley coaching up the South squad — which was probably a bad sign and could tell you why he’s fired now, but anyways.
Bradley ended up taking three players from his crop of guys, all on the defensive side. Aaron Colvin, Telvin Smith and Chris Smith were all Day 3 selections, but I’ll say that it is worth noting that every Senior Bowl-coach selection from that game came from the head coach’s preferred side of the ball.
2015: Ken Whisenhunt & Gus Bradley
Whisenhunt: RB David Cobb (fifth), FB Jalston Fowler (fourth, not his team)
2015 was an odd year for Senior Bowl-coach connections.
Whisenhunt’s Titans coaching staff whipped up on Gus Bradley’s coaching staff 34-13 in this game, but there really weren’t many draft selections to show for it. Whisenhunt only had two players that he drafted, running back David Cobb and fullback Jalston Fowler. Fowler wasn’t even on Whisenhunt’s North team, he was on Bradley’s South team. But that does go to show that these coaching staffs get plenty of exposure to every player in Mobile, not just the ones they’re coaching.
I guess Bradley hated all his guys that year.
(I’m kidding, sometimes that’s just the way the draft falls.)
2016: Jason Garrett & Gus Bradley
Garrett: DT Charles Tapper (fourth, not his team), QB Dak Prescott (fourth, not his team)
When Jason Garrett took over the North squad, who knew that his franchise quarertback would be right under his nose — though not on his particular roster.
Garrett took two players from Mobile in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, Charles Tapper and Dak Prescott. Early Day 3 seems to be the sweet spot for these coaching staffs and selecting players they may have coached in Mobile.
Bradley: DT Sheldon Day (fourth, not his team), QB Brandon Allen (sixth)
Bradley had two more selections in 2016, and they, too, were Day 3 players. He took a chance on Sheldon Day out of Notre Dame, though he didn’t get to coach him hands-on that week, and then took a flyer on a quarterback who he did get to coach in Mobile with Brandon Allen.
2017: John Fox & Hue Jackson
Fox: OG Jordan Morgan (fifth)
There wasn’t much going for Fox and his crew at the Senior Bowl, as they only ended up selecting one player, offensive guard Jordan Morgan in the fifth round. That does still line up with the early Day 3 theory, though. If these coaches are going to take one, it seems to be in that spot.
Jackson: DE Larry Ogunjobi (third, not his team), K Zane Gonzalez (seventh, not his team)
Finally, a non-Gus Bradley coached South team.
Hue Jackson ended up making two Mobile selections in the 2017 NFL Draft. He took defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi in the third round, though Ogunjobi was not on his South squad, and then selected Zane Gonzalez in the seventh, who he did get to see kick as part of his team.
2018: Vance Joseph & Bill O’Brien
Joseph: CB Isaac Yiadom (third), WR DaeSean Hamilton (fourth), TE Troy Fumagali (fifth)
Those middle-of-the-pack draft picks: the Senior Bowl Sweet Spot.
Joseph ended up making three selections in the 2018 NFL Draft, all from his own Senior Bowl roster. Yiadom has been a very solid pick up for them and so has DaeSean Hamilton. It definitely paid off getting a good look at those two while coaching the Senior Bowl.
O’Brien: TE Jordan Akin (third)
O’Brien only took one player from last year’s Senior Bowl team and that was UCF tight end Jordan Akin in the third round.
So, in conclusion, if you’re a fan of the Raiders or the 49ers, keep an eye on some of these guys as potential picks anywhere from rounds 3-5. Gruden even selected running back Cadillac Williams in the first round in 2005 and safety Tanard Jackson in the fourth round in 2007 when he coached this event back in ’05 and ’07, so he has his own history of connection, too. If you hear us at The Draft Network say that one of the guys we’re evaluating is shaping up to be picked in that range, coaches seem to have a soft spot for guys they’ve coached in Mobile that draft season.