Why Bears valued Senior Bowl in 2022 NFL Draft evaluations

·3 min read

Why Senior Bowl was so important to Ryan Poles, scouts originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears did something new this year by making their scouts available after nearly every pick to give instant information on each new player. It was a nice touch that gave added insight as to why the team ultimately decided to select each specific player. From talking to all the different scouts, a pattern began to emerge, too. Over and over, we heard how a player’s strong impression at the Senior Bowl made a big impact in the team’s final evaluation.

Here’s Brendan Rehor on how important the Senior Bowl performance was for Dominique Robinson in the Bears’ eyes:

“That was really where he made, I thought, his biggest step where he belonged… He held his own. He didn't look out of place.”

Here’s David Williams on the first offensive lineman the Bears selected, Braxton Jones:

“Seeing him in Mobile, interviewing him in Mobile was one test where it’s like, ‘OK, he’s used to playing FCS competition and now he gets to play against the big boys. So, just that one last confirmation was helpful for us.”

But the arguably the best bite about the importance of the Senior Bowl came from Breck Ackley on seventh-round pick Ja’Tyre Carter:

“I was actually on the field right off the bat, and they go right to one-on-ones. That’s kinda the highlight for O and D line. You wanna see ‘em and right off the bat, I believe it was Oklahoma guy he lined up against, so I’m kinda back there standing by the goalpost going, ‘Here we go. Baptism by fire.’ And he gave a little ground, kinda sat on it, then when he came out of the rep he almost bought back a little bit. It was almost like he, himself, realized, ‘I can hang.’ After that, every other rep, he battled and held his own. There’s gonna be some losses, right. I mean everybody there goes up and down, but he just kept showing up and held his own. That’s probably what stood out, I was excited to see him battle and kind of realize he could play at that level.”

It’s no mistake the Bears placed so much value in the performances at the Senior Bowl, either.

“When you do school visits, you usually will align it where it’s one or two or maybe three scouts going to a school,” Ryan Poles said. “Now you have the whole staff. You see them compete. For some smaller school guys they get to go against the guys from Power 5 schools, so that exposure is important. It’s a big part of the evaluation process.”

The Bears ended up drafting four players from non-Power 5 conferences: offensive linemen Jones, Robinson, Carter and Zachary Thomas. One of the knocks against players from smaller schools is that they play against lesser competition. But at the Senior Bowl, the entire scouting staff gets to see up close and personal how those guys stack up against the competition from the big name schools.

Over that important weekend, it’s clear those four guys impressed the Bears. Now they’ll get another chance to impress the Bears again at rookie minicamp, then again over the summer program, and so on and so forth.

If things work out and those players make an impact on the roster, expect the Bears to roll out a similar strategy moving forward. Why should they change things up if it worked well the first time? But if the prospects who climbed the Bears’ board at the Senior Bowl don’t pan out, then the front office may want to resasses how much weight they put in that one weekend.

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