Senior Bowl: How Much Does It Really Mean?

With the 2009 Senior Bowl now in the books, fans are left to ponder the magnitude of last week's events. After all, how much can a player really help or hurt his draft stock during one week in Mobile, Ala? To find out,'s Michael Lombardo asked coaches Marvin Lewis and Jack Del Rio, who led the North and South teams, respectively.

NFL coaches have long touted the advantages of coaching at the Senior Bowl. The opportunity gives them a first-hand look at 40-plus draft prospects, allowing the coaches to observe the players' every move both on and off the field.

The San Diego Chargers famously reaped the benefits of his setup in 2004, when their coaching staff spent the week leading the South team. That gave the Bolts an up-close look at QB Philip Rivers, who went on to win the game's MVP award with a 213-yard, two-touchdown outing.

Less than three months later, Rivers became the centerpiece of a draft-day deal that sent Eli Manning to New York and reunited Rivers with the Chargers coaching staff.

NC State RB Andre Brown boosted his stock with a strong showing in the Senior Bowl.
Chris Graythen/Getty

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis can certainly relate to that story. Prior to leading this year's North team, Lewis last coached the Senior Bowl in 2004 against Rivers and the Chargers staff. And although Lewis' team lost that game in '04, he still greatly benefited from the experience.

"We actually had two players from the Senior Bowl we drafted [in 2004] -- Madieu Williams and Keiwan Ratliff. And the punter that we had, Kyle Larson, he came through as an undrafted free agent and is now in his second contract," Lewis said.

"We were impressed through the week with Madieu and Keiwan...watching them on the sideline during the game and watching the intensity that those two men played with."

With a strong Senior Bowl showing, players garner attention from teams not coaching the game, as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio recalls a player back in '99 that saw his draft stock skyrocket with a strong week in Mobile. Too bad for Del Rio, this player worked his way into the first round and out of the reach of the Jaguars.

"I can tell you that the most impressive performance for me here at the Senior Bowl was Al Wilson," Del Rio said. "We didn't draft him, I wish we could've, but he was very impressive that day.

"We were almost in the huddle, that's how close we all were, and Al Wilson was just real infectious with his passion. He'd rally the guys and he'd step in the huddle and he took charge in the huddle and had a great deal of energy and had some real jarring hits during the week. I knew he's was going to make it in the NFL."

Which players caught the attention of scouts at this year's Senior Bowl? To find out, check out Draft Analyst Chris Steuber's list of risers, fallers and up-and-comers.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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