It's the premier college all-star game of the bunch, and the Bills college scouting department treats it as such. The practices at the Senior Bowl begin today in Mobile, Alabama as the North and South squads prepare for kickoff Saturday afternoon on the NFL Network. Buffalo's scouting department was spread out between three different cities last weekend covering three different college all-star games, but the entire staff has converged on Mobile this week.
"The Senior Bowl has the top prospects from across the country," said Bills Assistant GM Doug Whaley. "They are the cream of the crop so you want everybody there just to get exposure those top players."
Buffalo will have upwards of 15 scouts at the Senior Bowl practices this week. Having those kinds of numbers leads to specific assignments for each and every one of the college talent evaluators.
"Instead of being assigned two or three positions like they are at the other college all-star games, they'll be assigned one single position because we have the numbers there," said Whaley.
Those assigned positions are used as a means to cross check reports on the players by other members of the scouting staff from back in the fall. It puts a second set of eyes on a prospect and perhaps a different perspective.
With the North and South rosters practicing in two different locations scouts have to hustle from Fairhope Stadium to Ladd-Peebles Stadium each day to take in both practice sessions.
Whaley said if scouts have the time they'll additionally take a look at prospects from their assigned geographic region from the fall as a follow up effort to their in season reports.
Members of the scouting staff will also take the time to set up informal one-on-one interviews with players at the team hotel. Often times the hotel lounge area is filled with scouts and players carrying on conversations.
By the middle of the week most of the scouting work is done because the coaches take the pads off the players for the last couple of days of practice prior to Saturday's game.
"A lot of our staff will leave Wednesday or Thursday because late in the week there are walk through practices and you don't get much out of it," said Whaley.
Most of those scouts will watch the Senior Bowl game on tape and make their final notes on the prospects they were assigned for the week. But the Bills will have a couple of talent evaluators stay for the duration.
"As part of our policy we'll have two of our scouts stay for the game just in case something happens in the game that you don't get to see off of tape," said Whaley. "For example, if a guy gets injured, or if a quarterback rallied the troops and brought them all together on the sideline. Something that you might not see on tape, so we have two guys there to keep an eye on things so if something like that happens we're aware of it."
While the week that a player puts together at the Senior Bowl can enhance their draft stock, the Bills much like other NFL scouting staffs just layer it in to the body of information they've already gathered through the course of the past calendar year.
"What we do is it's not just based on one thing," Whaley said. "It's a cumulative picture that you paint of a prospect starting from the fall, to the all-star games, the Combine, individual workouts, to the interviews to right up before the draft. We take pieces of the puzzle and fit it all together and then paint the picture right before draft day, and put them in the spot that we think is worthy of his talents."