Here is my first of two or three posts reviewing a number of players that I noticed at the East-West Shrine Game practices and in the game this past Saturday. This first post will focus on players that I thought improved their stock during the week, and the following posts will discuss guys that I thought hurt themselves during the week and guys who had up and down weeks and overall did not improve or hurt their stock. Enjoy!
Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse: Carter had a strong finish to his college football career with a MVP performance against Kansas State and that momentum carried through to the week of practices for him. The week culminated in him winning the Offensive MVP award in the East-West Shrine Game by producing 54 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the East. He is a shorter RB at about 5’9”, but he has a lot of bulk for his size. He has huge legs which explains his impressive leg drive and his ability to shed tacklers. He runs well between the tackles, looks quick and has a good burst as a runner, and he seems to have good vision to find cut-back lanes. He also showed good hands all week as I am not sure I saw him drop a pass out of the backfield all week, and that was something I did not know he was capable of since he rarely caught the ball out of the backfield at Syracuse. Carter could go as high as the 3rd or 4th round and I think he has the potential to be a quality 1,000 yard back in the NFL. He can be a feature back in my opinion, and I think he could be one of those guys who goes in the mid-rounds and outperforms guys who were thought to have higher potential after all is said and done. I was actually pretty disappointed that he didn’t garner an invite to the Senior Bowl when Daniel Thomas elected not to participate. I definitely have him graded higher than Da’Rel Scott (who ultimately took Thomas’ roster spot).
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: Austin consistently demonstrated the ability that made him one of the most highly touted recruits coming out of high school four years ago all week. He flashed violent hands and power, he showed more effort in pursuit than I remember seeing from him, and he was tough to move in one on one match-ups versus the run and he fought through double teams consistently all week. He wasn’t quite as lethal against the pass as I thought he might be, but he clearly has a lot of ability that is worth developing despite not playing this year and that was what he had to demonstrate. He definitely did that, so he was definitely a winner this week.
Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU: Toliver had a good week but didn’t do much in the game. Some of that had to do with his route running and some of it had to do with the inconsistent quarterback play in the game. However, Toliver showed that he was the best receiver in Orlando from the first practice in the ballroom until the end of the week. He has very reliable hands, he is tall and can make catches away from his body, he has pretty good vertical speed and he flashed good route running. He still needs to work on his route running though because he did not create consistent separation in the game from what I could see. He also is a relatively finesse receiver, and I’m not sure he is going to be very comfortable going over the middle in the NFL. He can make catches in traffic, it’s just not his forte. I think he is a solid 3rd or maybe 4th round pick after this week.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Southern Cal: Cameron was one of the biggest winners this week in my opinion. He went from relative obscurity at the beginning of the week to one of the guys who impressed everyone who watched him by the end of the week. He is raw because he has only played one year of football, but as a former basketball player turned football player he is naturally going to draw comparisons to Jimmy Graham, the TE out of Miami who had a great rookie season for New Orleans this year. He is very athletic, he can make tough catches because of this ability and he has reliable hands (especially for someone so new to the sport and the position). I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to watch him as a route runner, but his combination of size, athletic ability and soft hands makes him a very attractive option as a mid-round TE prospect. He will probably have to develop as a run and pass blocker as well as a route runner, but that is definitely coachable and considering his progression this week I don’t think that will be a problem for him. He is one of the hottest prospects in the draft right now in my opinion.
David Carter, DT, UCLA: Carter had a solid season this year but it was not spectacular and he seemed to be playing with a chip on his shoulder all week. He told me he has worked very hard to improve his hand usage since UCLA’s season ended because he felt that it was something he really needed to develop. He consistently got off the ball well, fought through double teams and definitely flashed good hand usage this week. I think he would be a great 3-4 DE but he could also play DT in a 4-3. I don’t know if he will ever be a great pass rusher, but I think he has the ability to eventually develop into a starter a couple years down the road. He has the size, quickness off the ball and the work ethic to do it. Given his mediocre statistics this year he needed to show improvement this week and he definitely did that.
Martin Parker, DT, Richmond: Martin Parker was another lesser known player but he had as good a week as anyone in my opinion. Before the week started I am not sure I ever read that he was projected to be drafted, but after this week I think he has moved up to a 5th or 6th round grade. That might not sound like much, but moving up from an undrafted priority free agent to being drafted as high as the 5th round is a significant jump in your stock. He has solid size, he is pretty quick off the ball, he held up well versus the run in one on one matchups and was consistently disruptive in the backfield this week. He finished his week with a bang by winning the Defensive MVP award in the East-West Shrine Game last Saturday when he had two sacks, a forced fumble and a couple of QB pressures. He was very disruptive and it was great to see him do so well. I think he has the potential to be a solid back-up DT in the NFL that can contribute to a rotation after some development.
Perry Baker, WR, Fairmont State: Perry Baker was another relatively unknown guy before the week started, at least in most circles, but he made a bit of a name for himself this week. He still figures to be a late round pick at best barring an incredible combine showing, but being a 6th/7th round pick is still an improvement in his stock from being projected as a near-lock to be undrafted. He told me he has been timed at 4.4 flat in front of scouts not once but twice, so he is looking to break into the 4.3 range at the combine. If he does that I imagine his stock will jump because when scouts see 4.3 anything it pops off the page. He seems to be a good kid and he was a fun guy to interview, and when I talked to him he mentioned that his two biggest areas for improvement were in getting bigger and stronger and in improving his route running. That was cool because those were the two areas that I thought he needed to work on the most also, even though he flashed good route running during the week. I think he will definitely stick on a NFL team because of his speed, work ethic and long term potential as a receiver. Until then he should be an effective special teamer, and he had a nice wrap-up tackle on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game which surprised me. He also flashed some pop as a blocker despite his rail-thin frame. I really like him as a sleeper, so I hope he gets drafted and sticks on a team either on the 53 man roster or on the practice squad as a rookie.
Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond: Rogers was another lesser-known guy from a small school but he had a pretty good showing this week. He showed good closing speed, solid footwork and ball skills to make a play on the ball and to prevent completions. I’m not sure how well he projects to a man-coverage scheme, though he does seem like he could be a solid zone coverage corner. I mentioned that he has solid ball skills, and while he does break on the ball pretty well and get his hands on the ball to knock it down he does not catch the ball well with his hands. His hands are small and he is just not a natural pass catcher, which isn’t a huge issue but it is worth mentioning. Overall, he had a good week and may be picked as high as the 5th round.
Patrick DiMarco, FB, South Carolina: DiMarco had a very good week and showed a lot of ability as a fullback. He is a good blocker both in the running game and in the passing game, he runs with good pad level and power when he has the ball in his hands, and he has soft hands out of the backfield. Fullbacks don’t normally get drafted very early, but DiMarco will be a nice value pick for some team in the mid-late rounds because I expect him to be an effective NFL fullback for a long time.
Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut: Sherman also had a good week, but I am not as confident in him as a blocker as I am in DiMarco. He does have pretty solid athletic ability, not to mention he showed soft hands out of the backfield all week. If I watch him more and he shows me ability as a blocker I think he could be a mid-late round guy, but right now I’d say he’s a 5th/6th round pick.
Greg Lloyd II, ILB, Connecticut: Greg had a good week and displayed his ability versus the run consistently all week and in the game on Saturday. He flows well to the ball, he is a good tackler, and he is an instinctual defender that reads the play quickly. He has pretty good size but he doesn’t run that well. However, I think he would be a great fit as an ILB in a 3-4 defense. He also seemed to be the leader of the defensive unit he was on the whole week and was always pumping guys up and talking to his teammates which I really liked to see. Will he get picked high? No. But I do think he warrants a 6th/7th round pick to be a special teamer and develop into a solid back-up at ILB in a 3-4. Beyond that is up to him and how hard he works. I do think he could eventually be a starter in the NFL, but at worst he will be a good special teams player and potentially a solid backup in the NFL.
Akeem Dent, ILB, Georgia: Akeem Dent had a similar week to Lloyd in that he didn’t look great in coverage and doesn’t run that well but he supported the run well, showed good gap responsibility and seemed to read run pretty well and get himself in position to help stuff it for a short gain. Dent is a great tackler and he was a fun guy to interview. He comes off as a very hard worker and he was aware that he needs to work to improve in coverage but was quick to give credit to everyone else on his defensive unit at Georgia when I asked him how he learned to defend the run so well. He seems like a good guy and he plays well when he can defend the run and play downhill, so I think he would fit very well in a 3-4 defense at ILB much like Lloyd. He probably won’t go before the 6th round, but I think he can stick on a roster and eventually develop into a starter despite his limitations in coverage.
Dontay Moch, OLB, Boise State: Moch was impressive overall this week, though I was not as impressed with him as some were. However, when he weighed in at only 229 pounds to start the week he needed to show some fluidity in coverage as he transitions to an OLB in a 3-4 defense or maybe even a 4-3 OLB if he develops well enough in that regard. I think it would make more sense for him to bulk up to 240 and give 3-4 OLB a shot because he is so good off the edge and such a threat rushing the passer, but I suppose he could be a hybrid version of what Brian Orakpo was in a 4-3 where he plays SLB on run downs and then puts his hand down on obvious passing downs to give the defense a good match-up against a RT or something. That would be fun to watch. He has a lot of potential and showing what he could do with limited practice dropping into coverage only helps his value as a draft prospect, so he definitely helped himself this week even though he still has work to do.
Sorry for the delay on this information. Getting back to school and diving in head-first into all of my classes has taken up a lot of time so I haven’t been able to do as much draft work as I would like. Hopefully this will tide everyone over for a couple days while I work through the next couple of posts. Thanks for reading!