By Matthew Postins
For the past few weeks I’ve written about each of the different college all-star games as they pertain to the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve highlighted players that may interest the Cowboys down the line, depending upon what type of player they want to draft. It’s an inexact science, to say the least.
These games are important to each NFL team because they give them a chance to interact with potential new players in a more relaxed environment than they’ll experience at the NFL Scouting Combine next month. The Combine is regimented. Teams can only interact with a certain number of players. At the all-star games they have the chance to interact with just about every player, including players who won’t be at the Combine.
For those players, these games are vital. For instance, Missouri Western State running back Michael Hill put himself on the NFL radar by rushing for 148 yards in the Raycom All-Star game last weekend. Hill wasn’t even supposed to be there. He ended up there because one of his teammates was injured and recommended to his coaches that they give Hill his spot. Now Hill has a real chance to be drafted late in April.
There are stories like this every year, especially at the Senior Bowl, which will be played on Saturday. Players at smaller schools – those outside of FBS – are looking for a chance to get seen by scouts and earn a shot at the NFL. That’s why the game is important to them.
The one Senior Bowl I covered was in 2008. Back then I was covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and I had the chance to go to Mobile, Ala., that year to cover the week of the game. There were plenty of big names coming out of college that year. DeSean Jackson was one of the top wide receivers in the draft. He went to Cal. One of the top quarterbacks that year was Chad Henne. He went to Michigan. They both received plenty of attention.
But there was a player at this Senior Bowl that came to the game looking for attention. He played at a FCS school, which is Division I but not at the same level as FBS. He was a productive player at his school. He led his school to playoff appearances and postseason honors. He has the prototypical specs for his position in the NFL. But few outside of scouts knew who he was. I certainly didn’t know him. And the scouts? Well, they weren’t impressed just yet. While they saw a player with the right look for the NFL, they worried about the fact that he played in a lower division, thereby compiling his statistics against lesser talent.
This was the week in which he had a chance to prove himself. By all accounts he had a great week of practice and played well in the game. By the end of the week his stock had gone up. He was no longer considered a maybe late-round pick. He rode that momentum to a scouting combine invitation and a first-round selection that April.
That player? Joe Flacco, who will lead the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl next weekend.
If you don’t think this week is important to the Dallas Cowboys and to the rest of the teams in the NFL, then think about Flacco and think about where he’s taken the Ravens.
Perhaps the Cowboys can find their equivalent this week.