There is a tendency to live in the moment, and be reactionary in the evaluation process of a prospect. If someone blows up the combine, suddenly they are flying up into the Top 10 if they were thought of as nothing more than a late first rounder. Check out John Ross, for example. Most of the amateur scouts, like us on sites like these, were not all that high on Ross before he ran his combine record 40-yard dash.
There are countless examples of Senior Bowl standouts who fly up boards and turn into nothing more than mediocre NFL players. For example, Obi Melifonwu was a monster at the 2017 Senior Bowl and has turned into nothing thus far in his NFL career. The same can be said about 2015 standout Phillip Dorsett.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are losers from events like the Senior Bowl that become very good players. Patriots LT Trenton Brown was as rough as they come at the 2015 Senior Bowl, but he has turned into one of the better OTs in the NFL. Or how about Pittsburgh’s own Ryan Switzer? He looked less than quick and outmatched, but he has proven to have a clear role as a slot receiver, and a very good one at that, in the NFL.
Thus, the Senior Bowl has a discrepancy of creating recency bias that could cloud the mind. How much does it really matter? Well, it does, but for differing reasons.
I want to talk about Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye. I was a huge fan of him pre-Senior Bowl, and honestly, has it changed that much? Not really. Oruwariye is still more than worth an early 2nd round pick, and projects as a more than favorable zone CB with fantastic ball skills and the length and physicality to still be able to press. During his reps, that scheme versatile nature was on display. The length, awareness, and instincts were all on display too. And yet, he somehow overall ended up on the losers list for the Senior Bowl.
At the Senior Bowl, Oruwariye’s negatives were more on display than ever. His rawness and nuances were not there, and they were never there on film. He had always had a trouble of biting on double moves, tackling troubles, and he always played the ball oddly at times. He gave receivers just a bit too much room of a chance to make a play on the ball.
So, what does that all reflect on Oruwariye and the Senior Bowl as a whole?
As for the Senior Bowl, the limitations are simple. This is an immense stage where young men are fighting for their ultimate dream. It is not always indicative of how a guy will actually perform, obviously. And while one-on-ones is great and all, how you play off your teammates is huge. Oruwariye was an all star in the team drills because of how he works and communicates with his teammates. The isolated environment is not always as accurate as one would think, but it does either confirm or show us things we knew on film.
With Oruwariye, the negatives are simply more glaring than I had thought. He is a draft crush, but going back and seeing his negatives and comparing them to the now from his tape are valuable. Oruwariye is rawer than I thought, and that will bump him down a bit for sure. He is not a round one guy, but an early-to-mid round 2 guy who I still believe has a fantastic NFL future ahead of himself. His potential is immense and the Senior Bowl proved that as well with him using some length to really dominate physically.
Thus, this process is all about reevaluating and going back to make sure you are getting the full scope on a prospect. In Oruwariye’s case, his Senior Bowl confirmed our suspicions of his pros and cons, but showed that his cons were far more prevalent that had once been thought.
The type of regrading of a prospect is key to truly nailing down the day one impact of a prospect and their future potential to grow into something. With Oruwariye, the tape never lied, and instead, his stints of positive, while there, are not as central to the story as his rawness is currently.
Thus, the process is something that is ever evolving, and if you are never open-minded to changing your thoughts on a prospect, you are doing this wrong. Going back, looking at the film, and seeing if things line up or if you missed something is critical to this process as an amateur scout.
Oruwariye is only one example. There are countless others. Is Juan Thornhill really as slow as he looked in Mobile? The film never showed that, so is it an injury or is Thornhill just a better player in pads? It is stuff like that that must be evaluated consistently to paint the picture of a prospect.
After all, it is only doing these young men justice.