It’s that time of the year. NFL Draft season is officially upon us. With the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl taking place this past weekend, and the Senior Bowl this weekend, NFL teams have their eyes wide open as they evaluate players and take in any bit of information that they believe will contribute to the draft process. This includes the Houston Texans, a team that hasn’t been shy of using this time to get a deep look at prospects, especially with their coaching of the South team at last year’s Senior Bowl. There’s no hiding the influence these games and practices have on a draft prospects’ stock.
With that being said, we take a look at each collegiate all-star game and see which current Texans (that have been drafted or signed as rookie free agents) have attended these bowl games.
College Gridiron Showcase
The College Gridiron Showcase is a relatively new event for draft prospects that has taken place in Fort Worth, Texas over the last couple years. It has been described as having OTA-style practices while at the end of the week holding a scrimmage. The event is intended more for lesser known prospects who are looking to get their name on the board with NFL teams. Usually these prospects are undrafted. So far the Texans have found two prospects from this event with one of those prospects being wide receiver Vyncint Smith, who made the active roster this past season after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
The NFLPA Bowl is an event that was founded by the NFL Players Association in order to: a) give prospects the opportunity to showcase their abilities, and b) attend informational sessions that teach players about the NFL Union and the business aspect of the game. It holds the standard format of live practices throughout the week that are run by opposing coaches (usually former NFL Head Coaches) for the opposing National and American teams. These teams then face each other in the bowl game at the end of the week. This event is more established than the College Gridiron Showcase but is still intended for potential later round prospects to undrafted free agents. With that being said, the Texans have found some talent from the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in linebackers Dylan Cole and Peter Kalambayi, Cole being a regular contributor after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and Kalambayi who was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
East-West Shrine Game
Known as the longest running college football all-star game in the nation, the East-West Shrine Game can be described as the second-tier all-star game behind the Senior Bowl. Players who aren’t quite good enough for the Senior Bowl but are still on NFL radars are the ones who usually attend this game. The format is also standard in terms of practices during the week and the game being held over the weekend, but the difference with this game is the coaching selection. For each team, the coaching staff is made up of multiple coaching assistants from various teams that didn’t make the playoffs. While it is an opportunity for players to showcase their abilities, the East-West Shrine Game can also be used as a springboard for players to excel and receive late invitations to the Senior Bowl. Although it doesn’t happen for all players, many players still boost their draft stock by either getting themselves drafted or becoming high priority free agents. Some former East-West alumni includes Andre Hal, Greg Mancz, Jordan Thomas, and Jester Weah, half having been drafted while the other half undrafted. All have been regular contributors other than Jester Weah, who was on the practice squad all season and was recently signed to a reserve/future contract.
The cream of the crop in terms of collegiate all-star games, the Senior Bowl is easily the most popular all-star game for draft prospects. This event is reserved for the best senior players at their respective positions. Taking on the standard format of practices throughout the week and the game during the weekend, each day is highly covered by national media and NFL teams. NFL Network even goes as far as televising an hour of practices each day while providing commentary for each prospect. The coaching staffs are determined by NFL teams’ records and if they choose to accept the invitation. The teams with the worst records are invited to coach the North and South teams. It is seen as a pro and con to have the opportunity to coach the Senior Bowl. For one, no team wants to be there because it means that they didn’t have a successful season. On the other hand, it is advantageous for teams since they have the opportunity to get a first-hand, closer look at prospects. Regardless of whether a team is coaching or not, teams still have the opportunity to watch practices and see which players are able to stand out and boost their draft stock. The Texans have drafted or signed multiple players who have attended the Senior Bowl. Those who are still on the roster are starters and normal contributors such as Jordan Akins, Julién Davenport, Ka’imi Fairbairn, Nick Martin, D.J. Reader, and Carlos Watkins.