NFL draft: Dolphins, Panthers selected to coach Senior Bowl

Eric Edholm
·4-min read

The staffs of the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers will coach the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Every year, the NFL selects two teams’ staffs to lead the more than 110 draft prospects who attend the all-star game in Mobile, Alabama, giving them a unique advantage toward working with several potential draft picks.

The Dolphins, by virtue of the pick they acquired by trade with the Houston Texans, will select third overall in the 2021 NFL draft. The Panthers hold the eighth overall pick in Round 1.

Miami also owns its own first-round selection at No. 18 overall, along with two second-round selections. Carolina owns all of its original picks (except for its seventh-rounder) but is likely to receive two Day 3 compensatory picks as well.

The Senior Bowl figures to carry additional weight this year considering the shortened college football season, a large number of opt-outs amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of the 2021 NFL scouting combine.

This year’s practices and game have been moved to South Alabama’s new football facility, Hancock Whitney Stadium, which was used for one day of practice last year amid bad weather. The game and practices were previously played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which had hosted the game since 1951.

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will be one of the most touted NFL draft prospects at the 2021 Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will be one of the most touted NFL draft prospects at the 2021 Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

A strong Senior Bowl roster

As of now, there are more accepted invites (more than 130) than expected roster spots. Some players — especially those playing in Monday’s CFP championship game — could opt out of the Senior Bowl, as could prospects who have injuries or who feel their stocks are well-solidified.

Among the group of top prospects committed to the game so far includes a strong group at quarterback: Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Notre Dame’s Ian Book, Florida’s Kyle Trask, Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks and ex-Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman, who transferred to Georgia before the season but opted out of the 2020 campaign.

Other top offensive prospects slated to attend the game include: Ohio State RB Trey Sermon, North Carolina RB Michael Carter, Florida WR Kadarius Toney, Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace, Michigan WR Nico Collins, Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg, Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins, Northern Iowa OT Spencer Brown, Tennessee OG Trey Smith, Alabama OG Deonte Brown, Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey and Ohio State C Josh Myers.

On defense, the group is led by: Wake Forest DL Carlos Basham Jr., Washington DL Levi Onwuzurike, Pitt DL Rashad Weaver, LSU LB Jabril Cox, Ohio State LB Baron Browning, Cal CB Camryn Bynum, Washington DB Elijah Molden, LSU CB Kary Vincent Jr., LSU S JaCoby Stevens, Virginia Tech S Divine Deablo, Florida State S Hamsah Nasirildeen and Missouri S Tyree Gillespie.

The Senior Bowl produced 93 drafted prospects (including 40 picks in the top three rounds) for each of the past two drafts. The 2019 Senior Bowl featured 10 first-rounders, although that number dropped to four from the 2020 game.

“We are extremely grateful to have two of the brightest young minds and respected leaders in the league coaching our Reese’s Senior Bowl rosters this year,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said. “Matt Rhule and Brian Flores are both excited to get to Mobile and our players are incredibly fortunate to have a weeklong experience learning under these two great teachers and their respective staffs.”

Why were Dolphins, Panthers chosen over other options?

The league office, not the Senior Bowl staff, is in charge of selecting the NFL teams to coach at the game. Typically, the offers are extended to the franchises with the worst records from the season before with coaching staffs still in place. The owners of the two worst records are the 1-15 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 2-14 New York Jets.

Did the 4-11-1 Cincinnati Bengals turn down the opportunity? There have been reports floating around that some NFL teams were hesitant to commit to coaching the game amid the uncertainties of COVID-19.

The Bengals coached the 2020 Senior Bowl and ended drafting three players they coached that week: LBs Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither, and OT Hakeem Adeniji.

There is no rule preventing one team from coaching the game in consecutive years. The Jaguars coached the game three straight years from 2014-2016, as did the San Francisco 49ers three straight years from 2006-2008.

The league’s other 4-11-1 team, the Philadelphia Eagles, also appear to have been passed up for this year’s game.

Technically, there were another dozen teams in the pecking order with worse records before you get to the 10-6 Dolphins. But Nagy indicated last week that the Dolphins receiving Houston’s first-rounder moved them up the chain, and as a result Miami received the added bonus of being in a great position to upgrade its roster after getting an up-close look at the prospects who show up in Mobile.

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