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January 23, 2014

Senior Bowl a perk for prospects who stick around

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Being a senior NFL prospect does have some perks.

While many of the likely top picks are underclassmen, their slightly older counterparts get an expenses-paid week at the Senior Bowl to showcase their talents before a few hundred NFL coaches, executives and scouts plus the chances to make a good impression in face-to-face meetings.

Saturday's game won't feature three top-5 picks like 2012, when Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and Ziggy Ansah catapulted into that rarefied air. The weeklong audition could make some prospects extra money when the draft comes around in May.

"I do think you're going to see some players maybe that were second- or third-rounders that could elevate into the first round, because they're seniors and that reliability and the willingness to compete and those sorts of things are going to be an easier sell," said Phil Savage, the game's executive director and a former general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

"They are going to know these players better than the junior who just declared, who they've got to figure out in the next three months."

The game has opened its doors the past two years to juniors who have graduated like Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

Potential No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron even took in a Tuesday practice.

Clowney was among the record 102 underclassmen who declared for the draft. He, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson are among the potential Top-5 selections in that group.

They'll get plenty of chances to impress NFL teams before the draft, including the combine. They just don't get to do it in Senior Bowl practices with the bleachers and sidelines packed with potential employers watching matchups like Baylor guard Cyril Richardson going against Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

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