NFL draft: Lions, Bengals to coach Senior Bowl, but will their first-rounders be there?

Eric Edholm

The Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions, holders of the Nos. 1 and 3 overall picks in the 2020 NFL draft respectively, will be coaching the Senior Bowl teams later this month in Mobile, Alabama.

The Senior Bowl is the preeminent pre-draft All-Star game, with more than 110 draft-eligible seniors (and in some cases, underclassmen who have received their degrees) going through a week’s worth of practices, followed by the game on Saturday, Jan. 25.

More so than the game itself, those practice sessions — including the one-on-one position drills — are considered a crucial evaluation tool for all 32 NFL teams. And the Bengals and Lions will have an edge on the other 30 teams in that they’ll get to meet with their respective players in practice and game-prep type situations for a week.

The coaching staff assignments are coordinated through the NFL but are offered up first to the teams with the worst records from the season before that retained their head coaches. (That eliminated the Washington Redskins, owners of the No. 2 pick, who just hired new head coach Ron Rivera.) Although the Lions made wholesale changes to their coaching staff, head coach Matt Patricia returns for a third season, making them eligible for the game.

Joe Burrow to the Senior Bowl?

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will coach the other squad, but will the eventual No. 1 pick be in Mobile? The odds-on favorite to be the top pick in 2020, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is eligible for the game, and Senior Bowl officials reportedly have put on the full-court press to get Burrow there for the week.

You can be sure the Senior Bowl will reserve a spot for Burrow. But with the national championship game on Jan. 13, Burrow might opt to bypass the game and work out for the Bengals separately.

The Lions could be in a similar situation of not getting to draft a player with their top pick from the Senior Bowl. One senior-prospect possibility for the third pick, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, reportedly will turn down his invitation and skip the game. Other players they could consider at three, assuming they don’t trade down, largely could be underclassmen.

But take last year’s Oakland Raiders, for example. They ended the season with eight players on their roster whom they coached at the game a year ago. For both the Bengals and Lions, the payoff could come in their draft picks outside Round 1.

In addition to the 10 first-round picks who played in the game in 2019, there also were 93 total draft picks, including 40 in the first three rounds. Rookie-year standouts who where there a year ago included New York Giants QB Daniel Jones, Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock, Jacksonville Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew, San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, New Orleans Saints C Erik McCoy, Washington Redskins WR Terry McLaurin and EDGE Montez Sweat and Green Bay Packers S Darnell Savage.

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