MOBILE, AL – First and foremost, the Senior Bowl is about player evaluation. It’s a week where the coaching staff and personnel departments of 30 NFL teams turn the page together toward a new season. For some staffs, it’s the first time everyone has been in one place since the previous season ended.
The Senior Bowl is also a place where half of Kansas City’s draft picks of the previous two seasons worked out and interviewed with Chiefs personnel.
But this year’s Senior Bowl is a bit different for Romeo Crennel, who heads to Mobile as a head coach for the first time since 2008. The scenery surrounding Senior Bowl Week is often times just as much a coaching convention as it is a college football showcase.
For out of work football coaches and new head coaches looking to put together the final pieces of their coaching staff, Mobile offers a great environment for interviews.
The Chiefs are still without an offensive coordinator as Senior Bowl workouts begin and Crennel may choose to use his time in Mobile for something more than player evaluation.
Crennel likely has other staff positions to fill as well, on the offensive side of the football in particular. The new head coach has made no official announcement regarding staff additions and subtractions, but some degree of turnover is expected when a head coaching change pairs with assistants on expiring contracts.
In addition to identifying future draft picks, this may also be a week that the Chiefs identify future assistant coaches.
With Senior Bowl Week officially here, let’s take a look at the Chiefs recent history of drafting
Senior Bowl alums. Kansas City has drafted eight Senior Bowl prospects in Pioli’s three years with the team, with all of the selections occurring in the past two drafts.
Chiefs Senior Bowl Alums Drafted By Scott Pioli
(2nd round, 55th overall pick)
Hudson returned to his hometown as the most decorated offensive lineman in Seminoles history. Word spread quickly in Mobile that scouts were impressed with Hudson, who wasn’t a highly recruited player coming out of high school.
By all accounts, Hudson did nothing but improve his draft standing during the Senior Bowl.
Former Chiefs offensive coordinator and current Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey served as the head coach of Hudson’s South team.
“I don’t know that I can sit there and say, ‘Wow, look at him do this, look at him do that,’” Gailey said following one of the workouts. “But he’s solid in everything that he does.”
(3rd round, 86th overall pick)
When “Billy Bicep” walked into media center at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, those unfamiliar with Hurricane Football quickly pulled together background information on the massive man from the tiny island of Sapelo, Georgia. I was one of the interviewers in attendance who did a crash course on Bailey’s background as well.
Bailey certainly passed the eye exam. He was a freak of nature at the scouting weigh-in, measuring in at 6’3” and 278 pounds and looked the part of a future NFL player.
From an on-field standpoint, Bailey did not have a memorable Senior Bowl by most accounts. However, I do remember Bailey getting the best of future teammate Rodney Hudson during one-on-one drills.
(4th round, 118th overall pick)
Jalil Brown spent most of his time in Colorado as “the other corner” opposite All-American and future first-round pick Jimmy Smith. Teams, like the Chiefs, were intrigued with Brown’s potential for development and knew he could be an impact special teams player immediately.
"I want to show 'This is me' and I'm ready to interview for this job,” Brown said in Mobile. “Let them know I can play with the best, that I can do what a smaller corner can do and I have the size a lot of guys don't.
All accounts were that “the other cornerback” out of Colorado turned some heads during his week in Mobile.
(5th round, 135th overall pick)
With first-round prospects like Florida State’s Christian Ponder, TCU’s Andy Dalton and Washington’s Jake Locker stealing Mobile’s spotlight at the quarterback position, Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi quietly went about his business and turned in a solid week of practices.
In the actual game, Stanzi displayed impressive accuracy and made several difficult throws while leading the North team on a productive offensive drive. Stanzi finished the game completing 7-of-12 passes for 87 yards.
He also overcame an equipment issue on the first day of workouts.
(2nd round, 36th overall pick)
I remember sitting in the West stands among a group of CFL scouts who were beside themselves with Dexter McCluster’s play-making ability. Most personnel men would rather have bamboo splints inserted under their finger nails than give away their true feelings about a prospect three months prior to draft day.
For these CFL scouts, McCluster was the exception.
McCluster was a shining star in Mobile and may have done more to help his draft stock than any other player participating in the 2010 game. Draft guru Tony Pauline of SI.com rated McCluster as the best offensive player in Mobile.
Here’s what Pauline had to say…
McCluster presented himself as the jack-of-all-trades in Mobile and someone who mastered all the applied trades. He was explosive carrying the ball, making defenders miss and creating yardage while also running hard on the inside. He was also a game-breaking pass catcher who sprinted past opponents down the sidelines. All that's left is for McCluster to showoff his return abilities during the game. He's improved his draft stock at least 30 slots and could now hear his named called as soon as the early portion of Round 2.
(2nd round, 50th overall pick)
Javier Arenas knew he’d need to find a way to set himself apart from other defensive backs in Mobile and decided that a display of his toughness and ability to serve as a special teams return man might do the trick. But for coaches watching workouts, it was Arenas’ competitiveness that set him apart.
“He shows a lot of quickness, but I’m most impressed with the way he has competed,” said then-Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano, who coached Arenas’ South team.
One of Arenas’ greatest assets coming out of college was his ability to blitz off the edge, but he was forced to impress without that part of his game in Mobile. The Senior Bowl prohibits blitzing.
(3rd round, 68th overall pick)
Jon Asamoah had a Senior Bowl he’d rather forget.
Arriving in Mobile looking to solidify his status as one of the nation’s top interior offensive line prospects, Asamoah would only end up practicing once. He left the Senior Bowl after just one practice with a shoulder injury and traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to have his shoulder inspected by a specialist.
Asamoah, who was injured in one-on-one drills, was later diagnosed with a hairline fracture on his shoulder blade. The injury forced him to miss NFL Combine workouts as well.
(5th round, 142nd overall pick)
A 4-3 defensive end in college, Cameron Sheffield received the opportunity to work as a 3-4 outside linebacker for scouts in Mobile. In many ways, these are the most intriguing prospects during all-star workouts as evaluators can gauge a player’s initial response to a position change.
Of the 4-3 DEs making the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker, Sheffield was one that impressed Wes Bunting of the National Football Post.
Another guy who flashed at another position Wednesday was Troy defensive end Cameron Sheffield, who got some time at linebacker during one-on-one coverage drills and surprisingly showed well. He was fluid when asked to change directions, maintained his balanced and generated a good closing burst toward the football. Plus, the fact that he possesses the first step needed to rush the passer makes me think Sheffield could end up being a contributing 3-4 OLB.