Evaluating prospects for the NFL draft is a several step process which includes reviewing game tape, participation in All-Star games (Senior Bowl), the combine and individual workouts. Scouts use each of these events to gather information and develop an opinion on each prospect.
Obviously, a player's production during his career is the most important factor when attempting to evaluate. The games they play during their college career is the only part of the process that shows how a player truly performs on the football field.
The next biggest factors are the combine numbers and performance in games such as the Senior Bowl. Many place a lot of value on 40 times and shuttle runs, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Speed and athleticism are important in the NFL, but but a prospect can't survive on quickness alone.
A prospect's performance at the combine should only be used to confirm what is seen on the field of play. Possessing elite speed means nothing for a wide receiver who can't catch the football. This is why games like the Senior Bowl carry more weight than workout numbers.
The Senior Bowl offers the opportunity for each prospect to show their football ability to a mass amount of Scouts and NFL coaches. Most coaches want to see a player who works hard and has a feel for the game. The fact that this game happens before the combine, helps evaluation process not become clouded by gaudy workout numbers.
This past week, the decision-makers present likely identified a handful prospects who fit the mold of their team. These opinions are based on play, effort and football ability. However, we all know that it only takes an explosive 40 time for the NFL world to change their opinion.
Often times, this leads to over-drafting and mistakes. One of the better examples is the Oakland Raiders recent selection of Darius Heyward-Bey based on his impressive speed.
The Senior Bowl doesn't cloud a prospect's upside as much as the combine, which is why it's more important.