The Senior Bowl is the top All Star game of the college off season. The Senior Bowl has had the distinction of bringing in the top graduating talent for many years.
As Bruce Allen, the 2002 NFL Executive of the Year, said in a recent interview: "If you want to go to the beach and check out women, you go to the Hula Bowl. If you want to go to the NFL, you go to the Senior Bowl."
After the week's worth of evaluation from the practices and the game itself are completed, the quintessential "Biggest Winners & Losers of Senior Bowl Week" arguments and columns begin. I am going to attempt answering this question even before the process begins. Actually, even before the full rosters are officially announced.
Who will be this year's Phillip Rivers?
There are plenty of previous examples of big winners throughout the years, but the most recent example will serve best as a reference point.
Phillip Rivers entered last year as the second leading passer in NCAA history. But because of an awkward release point and lack of mobility Rivers was viewed as a second round prospect at best for the upcoming NFL draft. His performance during Senior Bowl week was outstanding, which in turn vaulted him into elite prospect status.
Rather than describe it myself, let the official Senior Bowl site sum up his performance during the game itself: "North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns to win the game's Most Valuable Player Award and help lead the South to a 28-10 victory in the 55th annual Senior Bowl."
Rivers' throws were crisp, on target, and he showed the elusive arm strength some scouts questioned. Under the watchful eyes of Marty Schottenheimer, his coach in the game, teams took notice. In the end, Rivers went from a second round prospect to the point where the Chargers were comfortable having him taken in the top 5 and then trading the rights to last year's number one overall, Eli Manning, to obtain Rivers and draft picks.
Let us take a peek at those names, revealed as accepting invitations, and try to determine the answer as to who will be the big winner a week in advance. Below are the names I believe have the greatest opportunity to become this years biggest winner:
1. Charlie Frye QB Akron - Frye entered the year as arguably the top
senior quarterback prospect. With that said, most of the season Frye has been
considered a late first round to early second round prospect. Based on
talent alone, Charlie can be talked about in the same breath as former MAC
quarterbacks and current NFL starters; Pennington, Leftwich, and Roethlisberger.
What Frye suffered from more than any of these other MAC greats throughout his
career was a weak supporting cast. However, he still became the MAC's second
all time leading passer, and finished this past season with 2623 yards passing,
18 touchdowns, and completing just over 63 percent of his passes.
While, generally speaking, elite quarterback prospects will have higher statistical seasons, keep in mind that Charlie played under a new staff. A staff who implemented a west coast offense for the first time, as well as having his top six receivers from the previous year graduate. One other factor to be weighed is the decision of top quarterback prospect Matt Leinart to stay in school for one more collegiate season. Many considered Leinart as the likely number one overall pick to be taken by the San Francisco 49ers. Other underclassmen, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, did declare and are now being considered the top quarterback prospects.
The edge Frye has is Senior Bowl week itself, in which underclassmen cannot participate. With a strong showing it is very likely that Mr. Frye could work his way up into being a high first rounder and a possible top ten draft pick.
2. Carnell ‘Cadillac' Williams RB Auburn - The ‘Cadillac' is the top name in this upcoming week's festivities. Many scouts already consider him to be a top ten talent.
Then why is he number two on the list of guys who have the most to gain from Senior Bowl week? Three backs are currently considered top ten backs, Williams being included in this trio. Problem lies in the fact most do not consider Carnell the top back, and arguably not even the second best back. With this week, Carnell can show NFL scouts he is tough enough to carry an NFL load with his 210 pound frame and that he is the most dynamic running back in this upcoming draft.
Most certainly there is a great difference in money from the top back to the third back, and from a possible top five pick to a possible top fifteen pick. Cadillac has the opportunity this week to prove to NFL coaches and scouts that he is the top back in this April's draft.
While Wesley did come back strong this season, he did not retain the draft positioning nor the dominance he once had. At 6 foot 8 inches tall and 310 pounds, Britt certainly has the ideal measurables NFL scouts are looking for as a blindside tackle. If Britt can maintain good leverage, top notch agility in pass protection, and consistent push this week; odds are Britt will fly back up draft boards and become at the very least a second round prospect if not higher.
The Gauntlet has been thrown down. Will these three hold up and excel under the pressure? And if not these three prospects, then who will rise to the occasion? Who will be this year's biggest Senior Bowl winner?
Keep those eyes and ears open for the answer as the week progresses!