Chuck Landon: Dobson did himself big favor at Senior Bowl
Aaron Dobson jumped at the invitation.
When Senior Bowl officials invited Marshall's former star wide receiver to participate in the annual college all-star game at Mobile, Ala., in late January, Dobson didn't hesitate.
He punched his ticket.
Then, Dobson turned in an enormously successful week under the watchful eyes of NFL scouts and coaches, raising eyebrows, turning heads and making lasting impressions with his effort, hands, athleticism and willingness to learn.
Then, there's Geno Smith.
West Virginia University's star quarterback also received an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, but he declined the offer.
And what happened almost exactly three months later?
Dobson became the surprising 59th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft as a second-round pick by the New England Patriots.
The expectations of being an early first-round pick and the first quarterback selected spiraled into a well-documented, disastrous evening in New York's Radio City Music Hall. The shell-shocked Smith watched in undisguised dismay, head in hands staring at the floor, as the stunning free-fall left him waiting to become a second-round choice of the New York Jets the next day.
What was the common denominator?
The Senior Bowl.
Dobson's stock soared because of his workouts that week, while Smith's plummeted in part because his absence raised a red flag to NFL executives.
That's a fact, not an opinion.
Right, John Thornton?
"Dobson is a good player," said Thornton, who owns the Cincinnati-based management firm "JockBiz" and served as a consultant to Dobson. "But it was hard to see that on film when you watched a game because he really wasn't targeted a lot at Marshall.
"Even though he was one of their better players, he didn't do a lot. When he got to the Senior Bowl, he moved around and played inside and outside on both sides, so it opened a lot of people's eyes about his skill set."
Marshall's decision to embrace a predominantly horizontal passing game on offense during Dobson's senior season didn't help matters any. That led to his touchdown reception output dropping from 12 as a junior to only three.
He simply wasn't the featured receiver any longer.
"I see guys come out of college with a hundred catches, who aren't even good," said Thornton. "Teams do their homework and they'll see how he was used. Not anything against Marshall, it's just how they used him.
"I watched the Purdue game when (Tommy) Shuler caught 19 balls, so Aaron helped get teammates open. But, as far as his skill set, I think he helped himself at the Senior Bowl when he got to play all kinds of positions and, then, at his pro day when he ran really fast and sort of quieted a lot (of doubts).
"I think he'll be fine. I think he'll get better at the pro level."
As for Smith, he fired his team of agents shortly after the NFL Draft. It was partially because he wasn't a first-round selection, but published reports insist it also was because Smith's agents pushed him to decline the Senior Bowl invitation.
How important was that decision?
Well, E.J. Manuel was named "Most Outstanding Player" in the Senior Bowl and ended up being the first quarterback selected in the NFL Draft instead of Smith.
Obviously, the Senior Bowl can make or break an NFL prospect.
Just ask Dobson or Smith.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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