How Senior Bowl led to Eagles’ drafting Tyler Steen, Sydney Brown

How the Senior Bowl led to Eagles’ drafting both Day 2 picks originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Tyler Steen was a little frustrated.

After starting as an offensive tackle at both Vanderbilt and powerhouse Alabama during his college career, Steen arrived in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl this winter and was playing a lot more guard than he anticipated.

“I don’t think he was entirely pleased with some of the guard stuff,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said on a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He made that known and someone came to me. I could just see him the first day and he’s kind of wearing it on his face.”

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Nagy just asked Steen to trust him. Steen did.

And the next day, after going through a bunch of interviews with teams the previous night, Steen found Nagy to tell him he was right. Every team he spoke with told him how good it was to see him at guard. Steen realized how much the added versatility boosted his draft status.

The Eagles were one of those teams that wanted to see him at guard.

“Yeah, really valuable,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. “You get to see him in the SEC playing tackle, and him going from (Vanderbilt) to Alabama I think was a huge growth, and playing left tackle for the University of Alabama, obviously that's a high-profile position. There have been a lot of NFL players play that position, and you watch him play tackle and he's had success there.


“Then he moved at the Senior Bowl, he played guard. You could see him moving people off the ball, you could see his athleticism in space.”

In fact, this year’s Senior Bowl helped solidify the Eagles’ evaluations of both third-round picks: Steen and safety Sydney Brown, who were taken back-to-back at 65 and 66.

The Senior Bowl is an important part of the NFL’s pre-draft process and it’s an event the Eagles really care about. As Nagy put it, “It’s real football.”

There are a few benefits to scouting the Senior Bowl and one of the major ones is the opportunity to see players in different situations, schemes or positions than they played in college. That was especially true for both Steen and Brown.


This year’s Senior Bowl had blended coaching staffs made up of the non-playoff NFL teams so it was a slightly more involved process to relay information. Nagy hopped on four different Zoom calls with the teams to give his staff’s evaluations of players and where they saw some position versatility.

For the most part, players are open to showing off their versatility. Occasionally, an agent will reach out to Nagy to make sure their client plays just one position but that didn’t happen with Steen or Brown and it helped their respective draft stocks.

Brown (5-10, 211) was a five-year starter at Illinois but played a ton near the line of scrimmage. The Senior Bowl was a chance to show he could do more than that.

“When you look at Sydney, the way they used him at Illinois, they used him a lot around the box. He would blitz, he'd cover a tight end, he'd play in the run game, so you kind of had an incomplete evaluation,” Roseman said.


“Then the Senior Bowl, which Jim Nagy’s staff did a tremendous job with there, they gave us the opportunity to see him being a post player, playing in the deep path, playing one-on-ones, and you saw the athleticism, and I think that really helped complete our process.”

The Eagles called Brown a “red star” player, meaning he embodies what it means, in their minds, to be a Philadelphia Eagle. The Eagles were passionate about Brown and so was Nagy. The Senior Bowl executive director called Brown one of his favorite guys in the draft and mentioned that to the Eagles when they asked.

That opinion clearly goes beyond the playing field. Nagy loves Brown’s personality, his story and what he’ll bring to the locker room. But he also loves the player. Brown had 10 interceptions, 26 pass breakups and 319 total tackles in his college career.

Nagy said that Brown actually had some experience in man coverage before going to Mobile, which is a good start. Some safeties, he explained, don’t really get to play in man coverage until the Senior Bowl. Where Brown really helped himself that week was proving that he could play with more depth, showing off his range and anticipation.


“I definitely went in with the mindset at the Senior Bowl to say, ‘Hey if I’m better at the end of Day 3 than I was Day 1, then I’m going to be in a good spot by the end of it.’ I was just trying to be the best version of myself each and every day,” Brown said. “I just manifested that mentality throughout the entire week and it kind of came in my favor. I know my ability, I’m confident in what I do. I know what I do well and I know what I need to work on.

“It was definitely a week that propelled my draft stock and, again, it was just a unique opportunity when you have all the NFL scouts in front of you. I’m glad that the Eagles got their eye on me.”

Steen began his college career at Vanderbilt as a defensive lineman but flipped to offense and was a starter at right tackle before moving to the left side. He finished up his college career at Alabama as the starting left tackle for the Crimson Tide. It’s worth noting that Eagles OL coach Jeff Stoutland has ties to Alabama, so he undoubtedly had a lot of intel on Steen.

Nagy said he thought Steen looked pretty natural on both sides of the offensive line, which isn’t always a given. Sometimes players look out of place on one side or the other. One of the main reasons many projected Steen as a guard was his short arms, which measured at 32 3/4 inches at the combine.


What stood out to Nagy on his first live evaluation of Steen was his body type. Nagy said Steen’s lower body had the size and thickness to move inside. “He’s got a guard body,” Nagy said.

And after a little coaxing, Steen was eager to show off that versatility in Mobile.

“I feel like I could play across the offensive line, so getting the opportunity to play guard at the Senior Bowl was pretty good,” Steen said. “I felt pretty comfortable over there. I took the same approach as playing tackle, and it felt pretty comfortable there.”

The Eagles eventually felt comfortable taking Steen early in the third round and following it up with the next pick by taking Brown. They can thank the Senior Bowl for helping them get there.

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