-Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: 6’2”, 275 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Francis isn’t a freak athlete but he did demonstrate production at Rutgers, especially this season, when he produced 64 total tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, 1 interception and 3 blocked kicks. That was a stark increase from his production as a junior and while he isn’t necessarily projected to be drafted right now this week is important for him. It gives him a chance to demonstrate his potential as a 4-3 defensive end (likely at LE if you ask me) and gives him a chance to improve his stock to a draftable level or he can help make himself get signed as a priority free agent.
-Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: 6’4”, 273 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Crawford was overshadowed at Boise State but was a significant contributor to what was a very talented and experience defensive line. This is his chance to shine now that he isn’t surrounded by the talent of his former defensive line. He’s a mid-to-late round pick right now but in a defensive end class desperate for pass rushing talent he could improve his stock considerably if he can demonstrate those skills this week.
-Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: 6’5”, 305 pounds, 5.24 40 yard dash
-Hamilton could be a big riser this week in my opinion. He’s not very well known and while I personally haven’t seen him much he has demonstrated the ability to stuff the run inside at defensive tackle. Hamilton was a critical part of Missouri’s defense that bottled up a very talented running back in Giovanni Bernard in their bowl game against UNC. I really like the West’s talent along the defensive line and on the defensive side of the ball in general, but defensive tackle seems to be a strength of the roster. Hamilton may end up being one of the highest rated of the group, so keep an eye on him. He’s not a big-time pass rushing threat, but I am very interested to see how he holds up against double teams in the run game.
-Vaughn Meatoga, DT, Hawaii: 6’1”, 295 pounds, 5.02 40 yard dash
-Meatoga is another big, strong defensive tackle that I am anxious to see in the trenches. I haven’t seen much tape of him, but he’s definitely a player to keep an eye on. He’s a guy who could definitely help his stock this week if he holds up well at the point of attack and demonstrates the ability to clog running lanes up the middle. Like Hamilton I’m not expecting a lot from him from a pass rushing standpoint but his strength should be in the run game.
-DaJohn Harris, DT Southern California: 6’4”, 310 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Harris is a very underrated guy that I have been high on all season. He hasn’t gotten much love and he may not have eye-popping stats but every time I watched USC this year he was effective. I rarely (if ever) saw him get pushed off the ball, he made plays at or behind the line of scrimmage and he consistently did his job for USC’s defense. I really expect him to rise this week because he’s got NFL defensive tackle size, he’s athletic and looked pretty fundamentally sound when I watched him. Like Hamilton and Meatoga I think he will make his money stopping the run, but I think he has more pass rush potential than both of those guys. Keep an eye on him, I guarantee Harris will be making plays this week.
-Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Franklin doesn’t get a lot of love because Arkansas’ defense has not traditionally been a powerhouse SEC defense. That overshadows him a bit, but I like him at linebacker. He’s not the biggest or the strongest but he has showed ability defending the run, seems to be a reliable tackler, and has flashed upside in pass coverage. I will be very interested to see where the coaches line him up on defense but I am also curious to see how he does at stacking and shedding near the point of attack. I don’t think he does that very well and if he can be reached by an offensive lineman he can be taken out of the play. But because he has never gotten a lot of attention I think he has chance to boost his stock this week.
-Tank Carder, LB, Texas Christian: 6’2”, 237 pounds, 4.67 40 yard dash
-Carder is a well-known prospect thanks to TCU’s win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year. He’s not a very big linebacker and many are projecting him outside in the NFL, but regardless of where he plays I have concerns about his ability to shed blocks and to hold up at the point of attack. He’s demonstrated his value in coverage but this week is going to be about his run defense. If he can defend the run well and tackle well (he has a reputation as a good tackler but I question his tackling a bit) then he should solidify himself as a 4th/5th round linebacker that warrants drafting. I have a feeling Carder is a guy who is going to let people down though because he has a reputation as a stud linebacker of sorts and I think some of his shortcomings will be exposed this week.
-Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Marshall is another overshadowed linebacker that will be at the Shrine Game. He was overshadowed by James-Michael Johnson’s ability at Nevada but he may be the more fundamentally sound and reliable linebacker at the end of the day. I think he is a guy who will definitely help himself this week and show people that Nevada had more than one talented player at linebacker this past season.
-Ronnie Thomton, LB, University of Southern Mississippi: 6’2”, 240 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Thornton is a guy that I like. He’s not a stud linebacker prospect but I think he has draftable talent. He impressed me when I watched Southern Mississippi ruin Case Keenum’s day in the Conference USA Championship Game as well as in their bowl game. He looked like a very reliable tackler but I didn’t get to see him much in coverage. I will be watching him in that aspect this week without a doubt, but I think he can be a quality special teamer and reserve linebacker in the NFL if nothing more.
-Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: 5’10”, 185 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Prater is a quality cover corner that can play man and zone coverage. His size hurts him a bit in man coverage and he doesn’t have great ball skills, but he is still relatively effective. He will peek into the backfield at times which helps him in zone, but hurts him in man coverage at times. He has pretty good recovery speed though, which helps him in both man and zone coverage. He’s not a great tackler but he gives pretty good effort in run support. Overall he’s a solid corner, so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with a pretty talented group of receivers all week.
Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: 5’10”, 199 pounds, 4.54 40 yard dash
-Tandy isn’t an ideal man coverage corner as he doesn’t have great size or recovery speed to react when beaten. He does have speed so there’s a possibility he could develop in man coverage, but his value is as a zone corner. He doesn’t have great hands but he does have good ball skills and he has good instincts in coverage. He’s also a pretty good tackler and definitely has draftable talent. It will be interesting to see how he does this week. If he excels in man coverage and takes well to coaching this week he could definitely improve his stock.
-Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.52 40 yard dash
-Henry is likely one of the best safeties in this game and is pretty well known. He was one of Wisconsin’s captains this season and has plenty of starting experience in their secondary. Despite that I have never been overly impressed with Henry. I think he leaves something to be desired in pass coverage and Wisconsin had serious issues defending the pass this year and some of that had to do with their struggles to keep things in front of them on the back end. Some of that has to be on Henry, and it makes me wonder how good he is in coverage. I’ll absolutely be watching that this week, because if he has struggles in coverage then his stock is going to take a serious hit. His tackling worried me at one point but while he isn’t a great tackler I think he is solid in this aspect. So overall he’s a solid safety prospect, but I have my concerns about him. I’ll definitely be watching him closely this week and hopefully I will be able to land an interview with him.
-Blake Gideon, S, Texas: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.64 40 yard dash
-Gideon is a unheralded safety from Texas and considering Texas’ proficiency when it comes to churning out talented defensive backs he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Gideon isn’t a flashy player but he strikes me as a reliable, fundamentally sound player. I’m not sure how much potential he has to be a starter in the NFL, but he strikes me as one of those guys it would be unwise to bet against. I am looking forward to evaluating him this week to see if I think he has starter upside, but even if I don’t think he does I would be surprised if he didn’t end up on a NFL roster.
-Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Ihenacho is my favorite safety at this game and I can’t wait to see him in person. He looked very impressive to me when I watched coaches tape of San Jose State this summer and I can’t wait for him to ball out this week. He’s definitely going to be a riser and I think everyone who hasn’t seen him play will be very impressed with what he brings to the table. I think he could end up going in the 3rd or 4th round because this strong safety class doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent or depth to it. Keep an eye on Ihenacho, I’ll be trying to track him down for an interview without a doubt.
Apologies for getting this up so late everyone. I didn’t have internet access all day today and just got my internet working a bit earlier. I will be covering all the Shrine Game practices this week so check in every day for your updates on the action. Thanks for reading!