The 2014 offseason will officially begin in March, but plans are being put in place in front offices all around the league right now to improve. One of the first places the offseason improvement begins is in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. This year, Mike Smith and the Falcons coaching staff will be coaching the North team at the annual all-star game featuring the nation’s top senior players.
Smith and his staff will have the opportunity to coach players from the North team during the week of practice and preparation for the game on January 25. The Falcons staff will gain a lot of one-on-one time with the players on the squad, a valuable commodity in determining who the best options are to become new Falcons next season.
The Senior Bowl features prominent players each season and it marks the first real opportunity for teams in the NFL to scout potential draftees up close and personally. While all the NFL teams will be on hand for the practices, the Falcons gain a slight edge due to their on-field coaching time with the players. Many of the league’s top stars gave their first glimpses to the NFL at the Senior Bowl. The 2013 Pro Bowl featured 21 former Senior Bowl players and at least 30 percent of the NFL’s players played in the Senior Bowl.
Smith will be coaching for the first time at the Senior Bowl and if history is any indication, there’s a good chance he’ll meet a player or two he would like to add to the roster. In each of the last six drafts, a team whose staff coached at the Senior Bowl selected a player they worked with. In the case of Minnesota and then-head coach Leslie Frazier in 2012, they selected Harrison Smith in the first round, a safety they coached on the North team. Last year, the Lions selected Ezekial Ansah with fifth overall pick in the first round, the same player they coached on the South squad.
Dating back to 2008, only three teams didn’t select a player from the Senior Bowl their staff worked with, including the Lions (2010), Bengals (2011) and Raiders (2008).
Atlanta’s defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, as head coach of the 49ers in 2008, coached the South squad and then selected one of the centers he worked with, Cody Wallace, in the fourth round.
|Oakland Raiders||Minnesota Vikings||Buffalo Bills|
|Tyler Wilson QB 3rd Round||Harrison Smith S 1st Round||Kelvin Sheppard LB 3rd Round|
|Mychal Rivera TE 6th Round||Audie Cole LB 7th Round||Chris White LB 6th Round|
|Detroit Lions||Washington Redskins|
|Ezekial Ansah DE 1st Round||Kennan Robinson LB 4th Round|
|Alfred Morris RB 6th Round|
|Miami Dolphins||Cincinnati Bengals||San Francisco 49ers|
|John Jerry G 3rd Round||Kevin Huber P 5th Round||Cody Wallace C 4th Round|
|Morgan Trent CB 6th Round|
|Mike Thomas WR 4th Round|
|Rashad Jennings RB 7th Round|