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Senior Bowl takes on increased significance for NFL scouts

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler joined Broncos Country Tonight down in Mobile, Alabama, to talk Senior Bowl prospects, importance.

Mississippi State vs LSU Photo by Chris Parent/Collegiate Images/ Getty Images

It’s Senior Bowl Week and Broncos Country Tonight hosts Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright are hanging out in Mobile, Alabama, to help fans get a sense of what college prospects might be a good fit for the Broncos.

Dane Brugler, national NFL writer for The Athletic, joined the crew to talk about how much more important this year’s Senior Bowl will be.

After an unusual college football season in which some players opted out, many teams played shortened schedules with different opponents, and with no NFL Combine next month, Saturday’s bowl game featuring some of the top college talent will be one of the few ways NFL scouts get to see who is out there.

“The scouts usually spend all fall on the road at practices and team facilities and they know all the players already,” Brugler noted. “This past fall that hasn’t been the case.”

Although some scouts have gone to games, they haven’t had access to meet with players as in past years because of Covid-19 protocols, so the Senior Bowl will be one of the first opportunities for players to make an impression with coaches and teams.

“It will be a big deal for a lot of players, and it will be a great opportunity to get the one-on-one time that they just won’t be able to get elsewhere,” Brugler said.

“There’s definitely going to be a higher degree of risk this year because of the lack of information,” Brugler said, noting that the medicals from the Combine as well as the uniformity with metrics are going to be tougher to acquire on each college prospect. “The numbers will be skewed a little bit. It will come down to teams that have the best relationship with college programs to get the most information.”

But more than anything this season, Brugler argues, is that it will come down to the tape.

“It always comes down to the tape,” he said. “That’s the lifeblood of scouting, but more so this year because that’s going to be what we can rely on the most.”

And that’s what makes the Senior Bowl so crucial. Not only will it be the last time - and for those who opted out, perhaps the only time - this season to watch a player in pads and in a game scenario.

“Plenty of stuff we have to figure out here,” he said, adding that beside the guys who opted out and need to prove themselves this weekend such as Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, there are also players like Clemson wide receiver Cornell Powell who got to shine this year and now need to show they are legit. “Plenty for these players to prove this week.”

Brugler also spent some time talking to Edwards and Allbright about Drew Lock, noting that Lock is about where he expected the second-year QB to be - a project with talent who showed some flashes but needs to be more consistent.

“He has the arm, he can move around,” Brugler said. “There are tools there to work with, but the question is can he play within himself, stay under control and not make those fatal flaws, the big mistakes that end up swinging the game?”

Brugler’s question is not whether Lock can always make the right decision but if he can more consistently put the team in the right position to be successful.

“He doesn’t always have to make the big play, but can he put himself and the offense in the position to make those big plays?” Brugler added. “He’s done that from time to time but overall it just hasn’t been the most efficient offense.”

Without tipping his hat on where he leans for the Broncos’ best offseason move regarding the QB, Brugler offered that it will “be an interesting offseason” for Denver. With four good QB prospects in the draft, a lot of NFL teams needing a quarterback and several veteran quarterbacks likely looking for a new home, there will be a lot in play.

“It’s going to be an exercise in musical chairs, and we’ll see how aggressive the Broncos get,” Brugler said.