Tag Archive: West Virginia


Intro: Austin has really emerged in the past few weeks as a dynamic playmaker. Many have taken to calling him Tavon Harvin, alluding to his playmaking ability that reminds many (including myself) of the former Florida Gator, or Tavon Awesome, alluding to the obvious- Tavon Austin is awesome. He is obviously undersized, but he compensates for his lack of size with great speed, elite burst, acceleration, change of direction and impressive vision. He doesn’t have great hands, but when he has the ball in his hands anything can happen. He has made some truly amazing plays and put together some extremely impressive performances this season, and almost single-handedly jump-started the West Virginia offense by balancing the offense when they gave him touches at running back out of the backfield. He’s a dynamic player, and he looks like he has a shot at the 1st round. A creative offensive coordinator could get a lot of mileage out of him, but even in a traditional offense he will make plays on offense and on special teams.

Size: This is one of Austin’s biggest drawbacks as a prospect. He is listed at 5’9” 172 pounds but I wouldn’t be surprised if he measured in at 5’8.” His size is definitely concerning but the way the NFL is changing to protect receivers and essentially eliminate big hits players with Austin’s size will have a better shot at avoiding injury. This is going to be a negative grade from pretty much every scout, but with kick returns being less violent than in previous years Austin should be somewhat protected as a dynamic slot/return man at the next level.

Speed: Austin has sub 4.5 speed without a doubt. I don’t think he’s going to get into the 4.3’s even though it might seem like it at times. He’s in the 4.45-4.48 range if you ask me, but that’s fast enough to outrun angles and rip off big chunks of yardage at the next level. He’s shown that he can take a short reception, a run of the mill carry or any return the distance with his speed. I think it’s one of his strong suits, but I think a lot of people will see his long runs and assume he’s a 4.3 guy. I have to say I’m not convinced of that right now.

Quickness: This is easily the strongest part of Austin’s game. His quickness is something straight out of a video game. He stops and starts on a dime, he gets up to top speed almost instantly, he makes anyone, even quality defenders, look absolutely ridiculous in the open field. He is a very fast athlete so I don’t want this to be taken as an insult, but as fast as he is he is even quicker than he is fast. I actually think that is a very big compliment, because so many fans and teams get wide-eyed looking at very fast 40 times but you can succeed in the NFL without blazing speed, but if you don’t have a certain amount of quickness you will struggle to create separation as a route runner and make people miss in the open field. Austin has quickness in spades and that is clear after you watch one play of him.

Release: I haven’t seen Austin jammed at the line of scrimmage when I’ve watched him, and his lack of size will hurt him when teams attempt to jam him. However, he has more than enough quickness and explosiveness to beat the jam. As I mentioned previously his burst and acceleration is great and that is evident on his release at the snap.

Route Running: Austin can be as good a route runner as he wants thanks to his change of direction ability. I think he runs routes pretty well at this point, but I think there is plenty of room for improvement thanks to his incredible quickness. He ran a lot of quick screens, drag routes and crossing routes at West Virginia and while I think he can run every route in the route tree I think with NFL coaching he can improve this aspect of his game and become a very, very good route runner.

Hands: This is one thing that I think will hold Austin back a little bit. He’s got pretty reliable hands, but he doesn’t make an abundance of catches outside of his frame and he’s not going to snag passes out of the air like receivers with great hands will. He will have concentration lapses every now and again, but his hands are definitely reliable enough to not be considered a negative. He doesn’t have great hands, but they are good enough to be a dangerous option at receiver.

Body Control: Austin has amazing body control when he has the ball in his hands and that is demonstrated consistently in all of his highlight reel runs after the catch or in the return game. He’s a special athlete and this is one of his strengths.

In Traffic: Austin isn’t great in traffic because he doesn’t have the size to shield defenders away from the ball and his lack of size means that plenty of defenders he goes up against will have a size and strength advantage. He will drop a pass in traffic every now and again, and I think there are times when he takes his eye off the ball because he anticipates an oncoming hit. I think that’s why West Virginia worked so hard to get him the ball underneath, in the flat or deep where he wouldn’t be as susceptible to big hits.

YAC: This is one thing that Austin has in absolute spades. I can’t think of many players I’ve ever scouted who are better after the catch than Austin is. He is truly elite after he gets the ball in his hands. I am a big fan of Geno Smith as a prospect, but Austin’s YAC ability has really helped make his stats look better than they are at times and he will continue to do that at the next level as well. He won’t break a lot of tackles thanks to his size, but his amazing quickness keeps defenders off balance and gives him the chance to avoid defenders all together and it helps him encounter more arm tackles that he has the strength to run through.

Blocking: Because Austin is such a focal point of the offense he doesn’t often block so we don’t have a ton to evaluate. As everyone will point out he’s a smaller kid so he’s not going to be able to effectively block some bigger, stronger defenders at the next level. However, when I have seen him block, I saw him give solid effort and sustain fairly well given his size. He’s never going to be a dominant blocker, but that has as much to do with his size as it does the fact that he will consistently have the ball in his hands.

Overall: Tavon Austin is a special player and he definitely reminds me of a smaller Percy Harvin. He doesn’t have Harvin’s insane strength that makes him so rare, but his playmaking ability is comparable and his versatility is certainly similar. Some teams will knock him for his size and wonder if he can hold up at the next level, but as long as he’s not relied upon to be an every down back I don’t think that will be an issue for him. He’s going to be able to get touches out of the backfield as a running back thanks to his vision and burst, he’s going to be a playmaker in the slot and as a return man. His limited range that he presents as a target will hold him back a bit, but he is so versatile and such a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands that I think he will have a long, successful NFL career as long as he can stay healthy. I personally believe he will.

Projection: Top 40. I think he has a shot at the 1st round, but if he doesn’t go to a playoff team late in the 1st I think teams desperate for difference makers on offense will jump all over him early in the 2nd round.

**These are not ranked in any particular order**

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia-

Smith started the season out at an RGIII like pace, but as the season continued his play became more inconsistent and more frustrating. I still think he is the odds on favorite to be the top QB selected, but his issues staring down his primary receiver, throwing with inconsistent footwork and not stepping into all of his throws have been fairly well documented. He has good NFL size, arm strength, impressive accuracy and pocket poise, but he wasn’t as consistent as you would like over the course of the season and even as a fan of his he left something to be desired fairly regularly as the season went on. It’s hard for me to label him as a franchise QB given some of the question marks that surround him this year, but I think he has that upside. I have heard a couple different things about his intangibles so I would love to be a fly on the wall for his interviews with NFL teams. Alas, that isn’t likely to happen, so I’ll just have to keep my ear to the ground to try to get more details about his work ethic (which I have heard is very good) and his leadership capability. He’s still my #1 QB, but like every QB in this class he is not without flaws.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas-

Tyler Wilson and the entire Arkansas team had a very, very underwhelming season and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) Arkansas’ season is over. Wilson is still a first round pick if you ask me, because outside of Cobi Hamilton and Dennis Johnson he did not have much in the way of help this season. I’m sure some will argue that he was boosted by his supporting cast last season, but if his play was elevated by it last year it was dragged down by his cast this season. Outside of Cobi Hamilton no wide receiver was a consistent threat, and Knile Davis was not his regular self for almost the entire year. Dennis Johnson stepped up to fill the void when they gave him the opportunity, but even with his “emergence” (some of us already knew he could play) Wilson was under near constant pressure because of his terrible offensive line. He has a bit of a gunslinger mentality that some will like and some won’t, and he isn’t a perfect prospect by any means either. But I love his intangibles and leadership capability and I think he has more than enough arm talent to be a quality NFL starter. I think he still ends up in the top 15 after the draft process runs its course and teams get to interview him. Someone will fall in love with him (if not multiple QB needy teams) and they’ll make an effort to go get him.

Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State-

Glennon is a guy I just recently caught up on and I have to say I was impressed. We all knew he had the size and arm strength to play in the NFL, but his accuracy is better than it was last season during his first season as a starter and he throws a great deep ball. He flashes the ability to feel the pressure and step up in the pocket, though he does consistently hold onto the ball too long and doesn’t always read blitzes well pre-snap. My big problem with Glennon is that he needs functional space around him, a clean pocket, or room around him when he is throwing on the run to be good and sometimes even great. His issues become evident in muddied pockets or with pressure closing in after which his mechanics break down, he fades away from throws and his accuracy suffers as a result. He has the natural arm strength to get away with some of these throws, and consistently throws accurately on short throws even with pressure in his face (particularly on drag routes) but his drop off in accuracy and decision making is definitely concerning to me. I’ve seen him stand in and make one great throw with a defender in his face in the three 2012 games I’ve watched of him so far, but my impression is that seeing him do that is a rarity. If you draft him and you protect him I think you will be able to win games with him and go to the playoffs, but when the protection breaks down and he has to make big time throws in muddied pockets I think he will struggle. He’s only in his second season as a starter so perhaps he can continue to make strides in this area (Matt Ryan has had issues with this as well) but right now I would have reservations about taking him in the top 40 picks, though I do think he will end up in the 2nd round. I have a 3rd round grade on him at this point in the draft process after watching more of his 2012 games. Previously I had a 4th round grade on him. I look forward to seeing him in person at the Senior Bowl.

Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal-

Barkley came back for his senior season expecting to make a serious run at the National Championship, the Heisman trophy and at the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Having just finished watching his team lose to Notre Dame without him (while his understudy Max Wittek made some freshman mistakes along with some very impressive throws in his first career start) it’s safe to say Barkley isn’t anywhere close to the BCS title game, the Heisman or to going #1 overall. I personally don’t think he will be the 1st or 2nd QB selected, but he does have a good chance to be the #3 QB selected in a class that has really underwhelmed all year long. My friend and colleague Eric Stoner (@ECStoner) pointed out something that had been previously overlooked with Barkley- aside from his fantastic finish to the season last year, he was largely what he was this season his entire career. I had never thought of it that way, but that sums it up pretty perfectly- He kind of had a Mark Sanchez rise at the end of last season and he never really sustained that level of play even with the herculean effort of Marqise Lee over the course of the year. My thoughts on him haven’t changed since the beginning of the season- he seems to be elevated by the talent around him, he doesn’t have the arm strength to put appropriate NFL velocity on some intermediate throws, his deep balls hang in the air, and he threw a mind-blowing number of short/behind the line of scrimmage passes this season as a result of all of this. He might still go in the 1st round, but there will be plenty of people making arguments for him to fall out of the top 32 selections and it’s hard to make a great argument that they’re wrong at this point. I have been on the Barkley bandwagon since he was a freshman and I hate to sound like I’m throwing him under the bus since I have been advocating him to be a starter since before his freshman year and you could tell he had a NFL future early on in his career. But he doesn’t have a lot of upside left and his lack of good/great arm strength is going to hurt him at the next level. I think he will get a shot to be a NFL starter, but I’m not convinced that he will be a quality NFL starter at this point and I wouldn’t be very comfortable drafting him as my definite QB of the future as much as it hurts me to say it.

Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee-

Bray is pretty much the polar opposite of Barkley in my opinion. He is 6’5”, skinny with lots of room to grow, has Jay Cutler-esque arm talent and unfortunately Jay Cutler-esque mechanics/decision making. He is a very talented kid with the ability to make any NFL throw even off of his back foot and that talent allows him to get away with poor footwork and weight transfer very frequently which is really too bad. He needs to be drafted by a team with a QB or QB coach that will mentor him and push him to improve his mechanics because they are a huge part of what is holding him back from reaching his immense potential. He is a frustrating kid to evaluate for this reason, and without being able to talk to his coaches, teammates and Bray himself it’s hard to evaluate how hard he is willing to work to improve his deficiencies, and I haven’t heard great things about his work ethic or intangibles thus far. NFL teams won’t like that, but there is going to be some NFL team that falls in love with his God-given talent that drafts him in the 2nd round if not higher. I liked Bray a lot coming into the season, but he didn’t progress like I hoped he might and his shortcomings were pretty obvious when you paid attention to him. I’m not sure if he will declare or not, it depends quite a bit on who Tennessee hires to replace Dooley if you ask me, but I think he is more likely to leave than he is to stay. He’s not ready to walk in and be a NFL starter in my opinion, but his raw upside gives him a chance at sneaking into the 1st round. Personally I would not want to tie my franchise to him right now, and I think the ideal situation for him would be to go to a team with an established veteran QB that can show him the ropes for a couple years, not unlike Ryan Mallett with the Patriots. I don’t know if Bray will be as lucky as Mallett was though.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma-

I have been underwhelmed by Jones for quite some time and despite a couple late wins this season that has not changed. I don’t think he’s a NFL starter and that stems from his lack of poise under pressure, less than ideal velocity on his passes, and the fact that I think he is elevated by the talent around him versus making everyone around him better. Because draftniks and likely scouts have been down on him so long I think it’s possible that some will start to proclaim he is underrated but I don’t buy that logic. He looked like a fourth round pick and a NFL back-up last year and his play this season hasn’t changed my mind about that. I haven’t studied him specifically this year, but nothing I’ve seen of him live has made me say “wow, I was wrong about him!” If anything it has reaffirmed that he’s good enough to get drafted, but that he is not a franchise QB or even a future quality NFL starter in my estimation.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech-

Thomas may have underwhelmed more than any other draft-eligible 2013 NFL Draft this year and I say that as someone who was very intrigued by his first season as a starter last year. He’s got all the size, arm strength and athleticism you could want in a quarterback, but his accuracy was erratic at best this year and his decision making regressed along with his mechanics over the course of the season. He came into the season being hyped up by some as a potential top 5 pick if he continued to progress and I can’t deny that I was one of the people who thought he had a chance to do that. However, it became clear early on that he was not ready to declare and not even ready to lead Virginia Tech to an above .500 record (the Hokies finished 6-6 this year). He has a LONG way to go before he will be a quality NFL starting QB, but there are split opinions on whether or not he should stay or declare. I think he should absolutely stay, but some think that he should go to the next level and begin getting NFL level coaching. Personally, I think he needs to work hard this offseason to improve his mechanics, gain chemistry with his returning receivers and come back and prove that he can be a leader and a catalyst on a team that competes for the ACC title. I thought he had a chance to do that this year, but the lack of a consistent running game and Thomas’ own issues compounded the problems that the Hokies had from top to bottom. I’m not going to buy him as a leader and as a player with quality intangibles until his decision making improves and until he shows he can command a game pre-snap. He has a lot of room to improve, and if his accuracy never improves he will remain a developmental project that may or may never live up to his immense raw potential. I like him, and I still think he can make strides this offseason and next year in his third season as a starter, but he has plenty of work to do.

Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

SEC Title Game: LSU and South Carolina: LSU is SEC Champion

Analysis: The SEC is loaded as usual, particularly the West. LSU loses Tyrann Mathieu which is unfortunate for every college football fan, but if Zach Mettenberger can establish a consistent passing game then the LSU offense is going to absolutely take off. Alabama is extremely talented as usual, but they are replacing so much on defense and at their skill positions on offense that there’s no way that they replicate their 2011 season. They are my early 2013 favorites however. Arkansas lost Bobby Petrino and their top three receivers, but unless their defense improves they won’t bump LSU or Alabama out of the top of the West. I went back and forth on South Carolina and Georgia a lot because both teams don’t have a great track record of delivering when the pressure is on. South Carolina’s defense could end up better than Georgia’s though, and even though I like Aaron Murray I have some questions about Georgia’s offense. Tennesse has talent and should be solid, but Florida’s ridiculous handling of their quarterback competition means I can’t project them any higher than 4th in the East. Vanderbilt is a bit of a dark horse with a strong core on offense and a bright coach in James Franklin, but just getting to a bowl game would be a successful season for them.

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

Big-10 Title Game: Wisconsin and Michigan: Wisconsin is Big-10 Champion

Analysis: If Wisconsin doesn’t come out of the Leaders division to compete for the Big-10 title again this year then Bret Bielema should just quit, because outside of Illinois there is no eligible team that has a slightly realistic chance of keeping them out of the title game. Michigan and Michigan State will be a terrific battle down to the end of the season in my opinion, and ultimately it will come down to how well Denard Robinson can deliver the ball and avoid turnovers in big games in my opinion. If he carries the Wolverine offense on his back he could be a finalist for the Heisman as well. Nebraska has some talent, but they will never be a legitimate Big-10 title contender until they get a real quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez, who is one of the worst passing quarterbacks of all the teams that don’t run an option offense.

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

ACC Title Game: Virginia Tech and Florida State: Virginia Tech is ACC Champion.

Analysis: Florida State is incredibly loaded, particularly on defense. Their defensive line is the best in football in my opinion, even better than LSU’s, and they return enough talent on offense to be a dark horse contender for the National Championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it because I’m not a big believer in EJ Manuel, but if he can improve enough to put up points this team could end up in the top 5 by season’s end. And yet, I have a gut feeling that this is Virginia Tech’s year and I think they will go toe to toe with Florida State in the ACC Championship game and win. I trust Logan Thomas more than Manuel in critical situations even if he is younger with less experience, and Virginia Tech returns plenty of talent on defense as well. Clemson will be nipping at Florida State’s heels as well but I don’t think Clemson’s offensive line has enough talent and experience to keep Florida State’s relentlessly deep and talented front four from terrorizing Boyd when he drops back to pass.

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

Analysis: I’m sure plenty of people will be surprised that I have West Virginia and Kansas State ranked ahead of Oklahoma and Texas, but I have plenty of faith in West Virginia’s offense to pass their way to the top of the Big-12 and if their defense improves at all they could very well win this conference. Kansas State shocked everyone last year by not only being good but by being good enough to get to the Cotton Bowl. And yet, everyone is writing them off again this year even though they return plenty of talent across their roster, and even their losses on defense aren’t irreplaceable. Collin Klein is the Tim Tebow of the Big-12 and he will keep Kansas State competitive even if it isn’t always pretty, and those writing KSU off will look foolish again this year. Oklahoma continues to be ranked in the top 5 year after year regardless of how many times they fail to live up to their talent level. Landry Jones plays a big role in that, and there aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t want leading my team more than Jones. He’s not reliable under pressure, he panics in big time situations and collapsed when his best receiver Ryan Broyles went down last season. Oklahoma has plenty of talent on defense, but that has never stopped them from failing to live up to expectations, and even though Mike Stoops is back in the fold I don’t think it will be enough to win the Big-12 or a National Championship. Texas seemed to be on the right track naming a starting quarterback, but now the competition is back on and when you have two quarterbacks you really have none. So as good as that defense is it won’t matter if they don’t have any continuity at quarterback.

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

Pac-12 Title Game: USC and Oregon: USC is Pac-12 Champion.

Analysis: The Pac-12 is honestly one of the worst conferences top to bottom in the country, I was shocked by how little overall depth both divisions had. The North has three, maybe four bowl game caliber teams and the South has TWO. Look at that 3-6 list, only UCLA has an chance at a bowl game out of those four teams, and ASU, Arizona and Colorado should be awful this season. Oregon and USC both have a pretty easy road to the Pac-12 title game if you ask me, though Washington and Stanford won’t be pushovers even in spite of all the talent they lost.

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

Analysis: The Big East is probably the worst big time conference in college football and they are clinging on for dear life and relevance right now. Cincinnati is the best by default this year now that West Virginia bolted for the Big-12, and after Louisville there isn’t a lot to write home about in the Big East. There’s the potential for some bowl eligible teams, but there isn’t a legit title contender in this whole conference and whoever the winner is will likely play a better conference champion in a BCS bowl game and get the tar beat out of them like Connecticut did two years ago at the hands of Oklahoma.

 

Thanks for reading, and happy college football season to each and every one of you!

–Tom

Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

Defense:

Defensive Line:

1. DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal: DaJohn Harris was a guy that I thought was very underrated all season long and I think he opened some eyes this week. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or speed but he is well rounded and consistent. He needs to play lower at times but he can rush the passer and stop the run from the 3 tech position which is where I think he has the most NFL upside. He should be able to contribute to a rotation early in his career and could go in the 4th round range.

2. Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Canada: Hicks may not have played like the 2nd best defensive linemen every day but I don’t think there is any question he has the upside to be one of the best players that was in St. Petersburg this week. He has all the size, power, athleticism and length that you could want in a defensive tackle and he flashed a lot of potential this week. It wasn’t always consistent, and he needs significant work on playing with leverage and he needs to develop much better technique and hand usage, but there is a lot of raw potential there. If he lands on a team with a good defensive line coach and they are patient with him he could end up being something special.

3. Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton was a late round pick before this week but I think he has piqued some interest through his play this week. He has great size and strength for the position and has flashed some burst off the line of scrimmage to penetrate into offensive backfields. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher at this point and will stand up out of his stance too often which limits his ability to move offensive linemen. He knows that he needs to work on that though and he has been improving in that aspect since the end of his senior season.

4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Crawford was a guy that was not very well known coming into the week but he definitely impressed me when I watched him. I questioned his ability to shed blocks coming into the week but he definitely showed the ability to do that this week and also showed up bigger and stronger than I expected. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the 4-3 defensive end position, but I think he may even be able to slide inside to the 3 tech position or continue to bulk up and play the 3-4 defensive end position. His versatility will definitely help him.

5. Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: Francis definitely looked like one of the better pass rushers at the defensive end spot this week and on top of that he had an absolute non-stop motor all week. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the West defensive line and the guys I talked to from that group mentioned him as a guy with a terrific motor. He will make hustle plays that’s for sure, I just wonder how much upside he has beyond being a rotational defensive end in the NFL.

6. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina: Robertson may not be a great pass rusher at this point but he definitely showed the ability to play strong at the point of attack and wasn’t easy to move off the ball for anyone on the East offensive line this week. He offers value as a run stopper and warrants a late round draftable grade in my opinion.

7. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: Jean-Baptiste (or NJB as I like to all him) definitely showed his potential as a pass rusher this week as I compared him to BJ Raji after watching him in pass rush drills on Monday and Tuesday. He was dominating and he was virtually unblockable 1 on 1. The trouble came in team drills when he faced regular double teams and didn’t look great against the run (which was an issue when Baylor played Washington in the Alamo Bowl as well). He plays a little high at times despite his natural leverage because of his height, but he just isn’t as consistent of a run defender as you would like to see. He has upside and he definitely warrants a draftable grade, I’m just wondering if he will ever be more than a rotational guy.

8. Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber definitely flashed his potential as a pass rusher this week but he is too light and lean to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will have to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in my opinion, and while he has the ability to at least be a reserve and a special teamer there I just don’t know if he has the athleticism to drop into coverage. He’s tall and pretty lanky so he isn’t exactly built for coverage, but I’ve never seen him drop into coverage before so he is a bit of an unknown in that respect. I still think he is draftable though and he showed some of his ability this week and may cause some trouble for the lackluster group of tackles on the West squad.

9. Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis looked quite good in 1 on 1 drills this week when he was rushing the passer and definitely showed throughout the week that he has a good first step, good burst off the line of scrimmage and he has a pass rush move or two that he can use off the ball to beat you right off the snap. He wasn’t as good once he was engaged though and he struggled versus the run this week. He can definitely contribute to a rotation as a pass rusher inside, but defending the run is something he will have to try to work on in the NFL. That makes me wonder if he will get drafted or just signed as an undrafted free agent to let him earn his way onto the roster or practice squad.

10. Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath is one player that I would like to rank higher but based on the week I can’t right now. He was playing out of position this week though and isn’t built for the 4-3 defensive end position in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit inside at defensive tackle either thanks to his 6’7”, 282 pound frame. I think he is definitely a 3-4 defensive end and he really didn’t get to show that this week. He’s someone that I think will go in the later portion of the draft but he takes coaching so well and has a perfect frame for that position that I think he will end up contributing to a roster and potentially ending up as a solid starter in a couple years.

Linebackers:

1. Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey was playing out of position this week as a 4-3 OLB but hopefully he won’t be drafted to play in that scheme. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 OLB. It would have been nice if he had shown the versatility to drop into coverage as a 4-3 OLB this week, but he looked best when he was doing simple drops, particularly in the flat. He didn’t look great in deeper drops and he made his plays on the ball on his shorter drops. He has potential as a pass rusher and should be able to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB well enough to eventually be a starter.

2. Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: Kaddu consistently impressed me with his athleticism this week and should continue to do that in today’s game. He is the best 4-3 OLB here this week and he showed that every day in practice. I never got to see him in full pads though so I am interested to see how he runs with them on and I want to see him tackle more importantly.

3. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas: Franklin is a player that I think is a bit underrated and while he may not be a stud linebacker I definitely think he is a draftable prospect that will provide value as a special teamer and a reserve before potentially being a starter. He won’t start today’s game but he will definitely get playing time. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy between Franklin and Tank Carder at inside linebacker today for the West.

4. Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack: Loiseau isn’t a guy that makes you say “wow” with his size or athletic ability but he definitely leaves you saying that thanks to his passion for the game and his leadership capability. Whether this kid is drafted or not I would be shocked if he didn’t make a NFL roster because he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to and he strikes me as a potential special teams ace. I’m not sure if he has starter upside, but he will definitely be on a NFL roster one way or another.

5. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: Marshall is the “lesser” of the two senior Nevada linebackers but I think he might be a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate James-Michael Johnson who will play in the Senior Bowl next week. I really want to see him tackle though and I haven’t seen him in full pads all week, but he has flashed ability in the run game and in pass coverage.

6. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU: Carder made plays in pass coverage consistently this week as we all expected but I haven’t seen an ounce of physicality from him in the trenches and I don’t think he can shed blocks from offensive linemen up at the line of scrimmage. I really want to see him in full pads when he has to fill versus the run because I think that is a serious weakness in his game. I don’t think he has starter potential in the NFL and I think he will end up being a WLB in a 4-3 when all is said and done.

7. Ronnie Thornton, ILB, Southern Mississippi: Thornton isn’t the best linebacker on either Shrine Game roster but he always looked like a good tackler to me on tape and I am excited to see how he does with full pads on today. He will be a reserve and a special teamer at the next level, but I think he can make a roster doing those things.

Defensive Backs:

1. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Norman definitely had the best week of any defensive back as he regularly made plays on the ball either by intercepting them or deflecting them during all four days of practice. I like his ball skills, his size, his great closing burst and his willingness to hit people. He couldn’t lay anyone out this week, but there were two or three times that I can remember he really looked like he wanted to. I’m excited to see how he supports versus the run and how he tackles today.

2. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater didn’t have a great season this year but he had a good week of practice this week. He doesn’t have great hands but he has pretty good ball skills, fluid hips and a nice, low back-pedal. He looks like he can be a quality nickel back in the NFL and perhaps even a #2 starter at some point.

3. Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin was the second best defensive back all week for the East but he doesn’t strike me as a physical player and I really want to see how he supports the run and how he tackles. He is athletic though and showed some ball skills and closing speed this week, but I’m not sold on him having starter upside.

4. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t have a great week when he was dropping into zone coverage and he didn’t always look good in man coverage (particularly against quicker receivers) but he showed his potential as a press man corner one day this week. He looks huge for a cornerback and it’s hard to believe he is only 6’0” tall, but he warrants a draftable grade in my opinion.

5. Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: I liked Ihenacho coming into the week and I still do but he had his issues in coverage at times this week and didn’t look very fast either. He’s a good tackler though and should be comfortable supporting the run in this game. He’s definitely draftable in my opinion, but I just wonder if he has a future as a NFL starter.

6. Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Henry is someone that plenty of people like but I can’t say I’m as big of a fan. He allowed a lot of big plays this year for Wisconsin and I think that is a problem that will not be easily fixed once he gets to the NFL. He’s got the athleticism and some ball skills but I just don’t think he has starter upside at safety. I could be wrong, but I just haven’t seen it and I have watched a lot of Wisconsin football the past two years.

7. Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: Young didn’t impress me early in the week but he looked better throughout the week to me. I’m not sure where his draft stock is at this point, but I think he is draftable and warrants consideration later in the draft.

8. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy is someone I was not impressed with this week. He looks tight in the hips and is a little tall in his back-pedal, and I don’t think he has much upside outside of being a zone corner where he can close on things in front of him. He struggled in man coverage this week in my opinion and I think he’s a 4th or 5th round pick right now, maybe even a little later.

9. Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: McLeod was a bit of a pleasant surprise in my opinion because he showed fluid hips, good footwork and nice low back-pedal consistently this week. I’m not sure if that transitioned onto the field that well but it was definitely there in drills. He has spent time at safety but I think he has a chance to stick as a corner in the NFL.

10. Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Gideon had some of the same issues that Henry did this week as he let guys get behind him deep at times and he was scolded for it by his coaches when it did. He’s a solid player though and I think he warrants some late round consideration, but if he doesn’t get drafted I think he will be able to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Punters:

Bryan Anger, P, California: Anger looked great punting the ball all week whether it was with the wind or into it. He timed well on his hang time and the scouts I was sitting with pointed out regularly the sound that the ball makes when it comes off of his foot. He surprised me with his leg from day one at the West practices and he kept it up all week. He may even be draftable as a punter which isn’t exactly common, but he will definitely get a chance as an undrafted free agent if he doesn’t get drafted. He has a NFL leg.

Defensive MVP Prediction: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: I like defensive linemen in these games but the interior defensive linemen on the East will have a tough challenge going up against Brandon Brooks, the talented guard on the West roster. NJB has flashed potential this week though and I think he is a bit of a sleeper for this award. He can penetrate and get upfield and he has looked good in 1 on 1 situations this week. He could end up with a tackle for loss or two and a sack today.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) continued to pace the group, but accuracy was still an issue for him today. I like his intangibles and he is supposed to be a film junkie, so I think that with coaching and patient development he could be a starter in two years. He’s got the arm and the tools, he just needs time. Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi), on the other hand, doesn’t have Coleman’s tools as I have pointed out since my preview and he didn’t have a very good day today. He threw a couple interceptions, missed high at times, and was generally unimpressive. He’s a solid guy but when he’s not accurate as he wasn’t today, especially early in practice, his value plummets. He can stick on a roster and possibly be a Chase Daniel type where he develops in one system and eventually becomes the primary back-up, but I think that’s his ceiling. John Brantley (Florida) continues to have some issues, but he looked more comfortable today and showed the ability to climb the pocket (when it was there) and made a couple nice throws today. He’s a project though and I imagine he will be an undrafted guy that gets a chance to make a roster in camp.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) paced this group for the third day in a row as expected. He continues to show good burst, vision and has run through what contact has been allowed through the first three days of practice. I like him a lot and he is my prediction for offensive MVP in the game on Saturday. I bet a scout one dollar that he would be the MVP, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Poole strikes me as a complete back, and I think he will be a steal in the 4th or 5th round. Davin Meggett (Maryland) had a solid day but he still goes East-West more than I would like, and I want to see how he handles contact on Saturday. If he can run through tackles and pick up the tough yards it will help his stock, because from what I’ve seen of him he hasn’t done that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continues to play well and while he hasn’t dominated like he did on the first day of practice he has been consistently good all week. He can create separation, runs good routes and has caught the ball well overall. He’s definitely helped himself this week. He looks like a 4.5 guy to me, but we will see what he ends up running. Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) came into the week with a lot of hype and to be honest I have been a little underwhelmed. I like what he brings to the table as far as his hands and his ball skills, but his route running needs work and I don’t think he has the speed and burst to create consistent separation in the NFL. He looks like a 4.55+ guy to me. He has shown the ability to make catches in traffic though, so I think he has a chance as an undrafted free agent. I’d be a little surprised if he was drafted based on what I have seen so far this week.

Kevin Hardy (Citadel) has good speed and can make good cuts but his hands are very inconsistent. He flashed a nice catch above his head with his hands today, but he body catches consistently and has had issues with drops every day this week. He’s an athletic kid, but his hands limit his upside. B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) has also had a relatively inconsistent week and I think he will end up a 4th or 5th round pick when all is said and done. He will run in the 4.55 range in my opinion and while he has pretty good short range quickness to create a little separation that way you can tell he doesn’t have great speed when he is running longer routes. He just doesn’t have that extra gear. He’s caught the ball better since the first day but his hands are inconsistent in my opinion. LaRon Byrd (Miami) has looked better the last couple days and has made some catches, but it would be hard to look any worse than he did on the first day when he could barely judge the ball in the air and had a number of drops. He will go undrafted and might get a look in camp because of his size and pedigree at the U, but he won’t make a 53 unless there is a lot of hidden talent that he just hasn’t felt like showing scouts this week. I could see him going to the UFL.

A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) has caught the ball much better the last two days which has been nice to see. He’s caught scouts eyes the last couple days especially now that he’s hanging onto the ball, and I still like him as a slot guy in the 4th round range. He could be a nice pick-up for some team there.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continues to have a strong week and while I don’t think he is much of a blocker he has shown value as a red zone receiver and as a guy who has just enough athleticism to threaten down the seam. He’s just such a big target at 6’6” with 33 inch arms. His hands have above average, and he has helped himself this week as much as any of the tight ends. Evan Rodriguez (Temple) didn’t really stick out to me much today, but he did look better than Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts) who missed a couple blocks when he was lined up at fullback today.

Offensive Line:

The offensive tackles at the Shrine Game overall are not impressive to me at all. Jeff Adams (Columbia) continues to look the best to me for the East, and while he isn’t great I think he has a shot as a back-up RT in the NFL. At 6’6”, 306 with 34 3/8 inch arms he has tools that scouts can work with. His feet looked better today to me, which has been an issue at times, and he mirrored well in 1 on 1’s. He’s not great, but he’s draftable in my opinion. That’s more than I can say for the other tackles on the East squad.

The strength of the East offensive line continues to be the offensive guards. Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA) has raw power and a very explosive initial punch, but I think he struggles to sustain in pass protection and looks heavy footed. He’s big and strong so he has potential, but I think he struggles a bit against speed and his character concerns hurt him. Derek Dennis (Temple) had a solid day and still looks like a guy that will end up as a solid starting guard down the line in his career. He played a bit too high today and has struggled with hand placement this week as he lets his right hand get outside the numbers too often. Desmond Wynn (Rutgers) looks like a possible starting guard to me as well. He’s a 5th round guy right now in my eyes, but he has the size and strength to stick on a roster. He plays too high at times though and that has been his issue all week. If you can correct that I think as he continues to get coached up he could find your way into the starting lineup.

Jeremiah Warren (South Florida) had a good day today, his second in a row. I like what I saw from him today and while he doesn’t look like he’s athletic enough to succeed as a puller he drew compliments from scouts today. He does a good job of redirecting, looks strong and when he had good hand placement he could win a 1 on 1 match-up with anyone today. His hand placement could be improved though and he had some trouble moving Travian Robertson off the ball in the run game. I like him though, and I am going to have to go back and do more film study on him.

Defensive Line:

Nick-Jean Baptiste (Baylor) has lost some of the momentum he had in earlier practices. His motor is still there and that is good to see, but his active hands, burst off the snap and size only get him so far. I don’t think he’s going to be an impact pass rusher at the next level, and looks like a guy who could be good in a defensive line rotation at this point. He has helped himself in my eyes though, as he definitely showed some ability to win 1 on 1 match-ups this week. Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) continues to show his upside but he is raw and needs patient development. I definitely think he is draftable though. You can’t coach size and power and he has that, just needs refinement from a technique and leverage standpoint.

Micanor Regis (Miami) and Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) have had solid weeks, but both are late round guys at this point. They both have their upside and have flashed in 1 on 1 drills, but Wilber is too light and struggles versus the run against bigger defensive tackles. Regis can beat you with his speed and athleticism off the ball though, and Wilber showed solid moves to beat offensive tackles with today. He uses the same move(s) over and over though, so he is limited in that aspect.

Travian Robertson (South Carolina) looked solid again today. I don’t think he’s much of a pass rusher but he is strong and can play the run effectively. He’s hard to move off the ball 1 on 1 and I think he can contribute to a rotation in some way. He’s a late round pick, maybe 6th round, but I think he can make a team.

Linebackers:

The linebacker group as a whole at the Shrine Game is weak this year, but Brandon Lindsey and Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) are guys that keep sticking out. Lindsey is playing out of position obviously and his upside is at 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has shown some ability in coverage. 4-3 teams should avoid him because he isn’t a good fit at 4-3 DE or at OLB, but he should get grades in the 4th round range from 3-4 teams. Shawn Losieu (Merrimack) isn’t an overly impressive kid, but he’s a high effort guy and I have a feeling he will end up making a squad as an undrafted free agent. He strikes me as a guy who will be a valuable special teamer during his career even if he never works his way into the starting lineup.

Josh Linam (Central Florida) had an interception on a bad throw from Austin Davis today, but overall I don’t have draftable grades on him, Najee Goode (West Virginia), Steve Erzinger (Army) or Nick Sukay from Penn State.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) set the curve for the defensive backs again today. I only saw two of his interceptions, but I heard that he ended up with three. He continues to show good ball skills and athleticism. He showboated quite a bit today which you’d think he wouldn’t need to do since he should be up to 6 interceptions on the week by my count, but the scouts I was around weren’t too impressed by that. They were impressed by his closing speed and his athletic ability though, and he has definitely helped himself as much as anyone at the Shrine Game this week. Micah Pellerin (Hampton) had a couple nice plays today as well, but he doesn’t look very physical and I am interested to see how he supports the run and tackles in the game. From what I’m hearing about him from scouts I’m not expecting much from him as a tackler. R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) had his best day so far as he looked good in press-man coverage. His size and solid arm length help him in those situations, and he showed his value there. He has struggled in off-man this week, but when he can get physical he has value.

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) is the best QB on this roster but he had a rough day as he missed high on a number of throws throughout practice. I have seen this on film before so it didn’t surprise me that it showed up during this week of practice, but it’s still a concern. His accuracy and arm strength are both above average, but they aren’t good or great. That’s why I don’t think he’s got much starter potential in the NFL, though I do think that he could develop on a depth chart for a while and emerge as a capable back-up and spot starter. Tyler Hansen (Colorado) looked solid today as he continues to have solid mechanics. He’s a fringe draftable prospect though, and despite looking good today Dan Persa (Northwestern) isn’t more than an undrafted free agent at this point. I like what Persa brings to the table though, so I think he should play in the CFL.

Running Backs:

I’m not very high on Marc Tyler (Southern Cal) and Lennon Creer (Louisiana Tech), though both flashed some potential today. Tyler is a strong guy who caught the ball better out of the backfield pretty well today, and Creer even lined up in the slot at times and looks strong up close in person. My favorite back on this roster is still Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) though. He’s a smaller back but he’s quick and has good burst. Inexplicably the West wasn’t in full pads today so the backs didn’t show much for the second day in a row, but they will hopefully provide more value in the next two days and in the game on Saturday that I will be in the press box for.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright (Arkansas) had a much better day today catching the ball and continues to run good routes as expected. He has the most upside of all the receivers at the Shrine Game and if he continues to catch the ball well this week he will move up boards. He didn’t do that well yesterday, but his speed and route running is catching scouts’ attention. Devon Wylie (Fresno State) is catching scouts’ attention as well and he continued to catch the ball well and run good routes today. He’s definitely impressed me this week and is definitely moving up many people’s WR rankings.

I’m still not high on Dale Moss (South Dakota State) though he did look better running routes today and caught the ball well. He didn’t look as slow as yesterday, but still didn’t look fast. He’s got quality size and he’s got pretty good hands, I just wonder how well he will create separation in the NFL.

Darius Hanks (Alabama) didn’t look as good as I expected him to today. He’s undersized and though he improved his hands over the course of this season I am still not 100% sold on him. He’s got potential as a slot guy and I could see him as a 5th/6th round guy right now, but I am interested to see if he brings more to the table the rest of the week.

I have continued to be impressed by Tyler Shoemaker (Boise State). As I mentioned yesterday he comes back to the ball well, I still haven’t seen him drop a pass, and is still creating separation with his route running. He seems like an underrated receiver to me and I definitely think he will get drafted and stick on a 53 man roster.

Greg Childs (Arkansas) still doesn’t look 100%, though he looked better today than he did yesterday when he was running routes. He’s got good hands, that was never in question, it’s all about that knee and how much of his previous athleticism he can get back. This week is big for him. Junior Hemingway (Michigan) seemed to have a better day today, though I still question his speed and burst a bit. We’ll see if he builds on this and improves throughout the week.

Tight Ends:

Not surprisingly, I still like what I am seeing from David Paulson (Oregon) catching the ball. I have not been impressed with George Bryan (North Carolina State) as a receiver though. I didn’t focus much on the TE’s today, but Bryan did look good as a blocker.

Offensive Line:

Tom Compton (South Dakota) intrigues me for multiple reasons. First, he has a fantastic first name. Second, he looked pretty good at left tackle for the West today. I’m not sure he can stick there in the NFL, but I think he has a chance to stick at right tackle at the next level. He showed some push in the run game and has solid length for an offensive tackle with just under 34 inch arms which helped him in pass protection. He did get blown by on a speed rush by Justin Francis on the first play of team drills, but it was a quick throw so it may have gone largely unnoticed.

I liked what I saw from a few offensive guards today. Brandon Brooks (Miami, Ohio) was definitely the stud of the bunch as he provided quality push in the run game and could not be bull rushed in 1 on 1 drills. He’s raw as a technician with his hands, but he’s got so much power and strength that he definitely has starting upside as a guard. I’ll need to watch more of him after this week. I also liked what Al Netter (Northwestern) did inside at guard today. I definitely like him more inside at guard than I do at tackle, though I think he could kick out to RT if necessary. He looked much more comfortable at guard and handled DaJohn Harris twice when he was inside. I also liked some of what I saw from Ben Heenan (Saskatchewan) at guard today. He did a good job against the bigger, stronger Dominique Hamilton in 1 on 1’s and looked good overall in the 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t look great in the team drills, but I think there is potential there. I think he’s a long term developmental guy, but he showed some toughness and nastiness despite not being in pads and I liked that.

I was not impressed at all with Ryan Miller (Colorado) or Moe Petrus (Connecticut) today though. Miller got absolutely dominated by bull rushes from DaJohn Harris and Vaughn Meatoga today and looked like he was too tall/not strong enough to anchor as a guard and didn’t look like he had the length to play outside at tackle either. Coming into the week it looked like he could have been a riser, but I have not been impressed so far. Petrus also struggled with quality defensive tackles 1 on 1 today in drills, though I think he has potential to be drafted and stashed late in the draft. However, today David Snow (Texas) looked like the better Center prospect at times.

Defensive Line:

DaJohn Harris (Southern Cal) continued to impress as expected today, though he wasn’t perfect. He ended up on the ground a couple times, once when he was matched up with Brandon Brooks, and was neutralized by Al Netter’s length when he went up against him once or twice in drills. He is disruptive in team drills though and continues to help himself. He’s been underrated all year so it’s not surprising to see him playing well.

Dominique Hamilton (Missouri) has the size and strength to be a good run stuffer in the NFL, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher which limits his value. He also doesn’t look like a guy who can take on double teams and stuff the run in a 3-4 defense. But if he is going to play the nose tackle position in a 4-3 teams will want more from him as a pass rusher. Will be interesting to see what he shows the rest of the week.

Kentrell Lockett (Ole Miss) is an impressive athlete and showed that he has some ability today by surprising a couple of the West offensive tackles with a bull rush and some speed off the edge. He’s got long, 34 inch arms along with his 6’5” frame and surprising power given his 243 pound weigh-in.

I wasn’t that impressed with Arnaud Nadon (Laval) or Kaniela Tuipulotu (Hawaii) today, but Vaughn Meaotga (Hawaii) showed a nice bull rush on a couple instances, but has struggled to shed blocks so far this week. Justin Francis (Rutgers) has been fun to watch so far this week and seems like he is the emotional leader of the defensive line group. He seems to have a lot of energy and seems pretty excitable.

Linebackers:

I didn’t see much of the linebackers on the West today, but I did see Josh Kaddu (Oregon) running well with tight ends again, and I did see Tank Carder (TCU) dropping effectively in zone and he had good coverage on a running back out of the backfield on one play. But enough with these shells, put some pads on these guys!

Defensive Backs:

The best corner on the West roster is Shaun Prater (Iowa) and it’s not even close in my opinion. He is the only corner that has looked good in drills, 1 on 1 and in team situations this week. He doesn’t have great size but he is a pretty fluid athlete, seems to flip his hips well, turns and runs pretty well and has solid ball skills despite not having great hands for the interception. He could end up in the 4th round (which is incidentally where I projected him before the season).

I’m not high on Keith Tandy (West Virginia) after the first two days of practice. I haven’t been impressed with him in man coverage and his ball skills haven’t impressed me. I have a 6th round grade on him right now because I think he has ability in zone. One guy I had never paid any attention to before is Rodney McLeod (Virginia). He looked good in drills but struggled some in 1 on 1’s and in team. I think he has a little upside, but he struggled to locate the ball in the air today.

Aaron Henry (Wisconsin) and Blake Gideon (Texas) both looked good and fluid in their back-pedals in drills today, but I want to see them more in game situations when they are tested. They aren’t great in man coverage, so I want to see more of them back at their more natural positions. Duke Ihenacho (San Jose State) was a guy I liked coming into the week but he has struggled in coverage overall but particularly in man coverage unfortunately. He looks like a 4.6 40 yard dash guy which is where he is supposed to time.

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Not surprisingly Harnish was the best quarterback on the field for the West practice this afternoon. He doesn’t excel in any one phase of the game but is sound in most of them. He showed above average ball velocity today and had a couple impressive bucket throws downfield including a great one down the sideline against good coverage to Devon Wylie. Harnish is probably the 2nd best quarterback here and it showed today. He was definitely the most impressive quarterback on the West roster and I imagine it will remain that way for most of the week.

Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern: This is going to sound like an insult, but I truly believe that Dan Persa has the skill set to be a terrific CFL quarterback. I’m sure that’s not what he wants to hear (I wouldn’t want to hear it right now either) but being a quality CFL quarterback is a lot better than taking a shot at the NFL and quitting after you didn’t make it. His size hurts him as he measured in at 5’11” this morning and while he has some arm strength and solid accuracy I just don’t think he will be able to stick in the NFL. I enjoy watching him play though and that’s why I think he could be so good in the CFL.

Tyler Hansen, QB, Colorado: Hansen played better today than I expected him to but that isn’t saying a whole lot. He regularly just stared down one side of the field and threw to his primary read which got monotonous after a while, but he showed the ability to throw the ball on the move and has solid arm strength and accuracy. He’s a fringe draftable prospect at this point and I don’t think he has a future in the NFL outside of a career back-up but he wasn’t bad today.

Running Backs:

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky: As I mentioned in the East roster post, today was not the day to take a lot of notes on running backs. It was a shells practice and you couldn’t tackle, so there wasn’t a lot to glean from the running backs. Rainey looked the best of anyone though as he showed good burst and quickness as well as soft hands as he caught passes in the flat (unlike Marc Tyler who dropped a pass or two and lacked burst). I am definitely going to keep an eye on him the rest of the week, he caught my eye today.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: I went out on a limb and said that Jarius Wright was the best prospect at this game and while I still think he has that potential he definitely had his highs and his lows today. He demonstrated his fantastic athleticism as he burned a number of defensive backs today, created consistent separation and ran crisp routes. He caught the ball well with his hands early on in practice and flashed the ability to come down with a pass in traffic as he made a nice catch on a deep ball for one of the only touchdowns I saw the whole day. However, his hands were also an issue today as he let a number of passes bounce off his hands and hit the turf. I’m not sure if it’s a concentration issue, a hands issue or both, but it was frustrating to watch as the practice wore on. I’m still high on Jarius and I am going to try to track him down for an interview but I hope he catches the ball better the rest of the week than he did today.

Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Childs is supposed to be healthy, but he didn’t quite look like his old self today. He didn’t have much burst in and out of his breaks and looked relatively slow when he was running his routes. He displayed good hands as expected and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass today, but considering his skinny frame and his somewhat unimpressive route running this afternoon I am a little worried about his stock. I’m not sure if the knee injury is still bothering him or not, but I talked to him after practice and will have an interview with him later this week.

Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Wylie was probably the best player on the entire West roster today. He displayed good hands, good route running, impressive burst and quickness and was just fun to watch at receiver today. He adjusted to the ball well deep and tracked the ball well into his hands and helped make one of the best plays of the day on a deep ball from Chandler Harnish against good coverage. I was waiting for him after the practice to try to talk to him but scout after scout was talking to him, and it looked like a Ravens scout even had him filling out a survey of some kind as someone was announcing that the player bus was leaving soon. I took that as a sign to try to talk to him later, but he definitely helped himself a lot today and I, as well as many other people, was very impressed by his play today.

Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State: I mistakenly tweeted that Moss “truck-sticked” a player at the East practice earlier today, but obviously that was a mix-up on my part. I have to say that I was not very impressed by Moss today. He measured in well at 6’3”, 220 pounds with 10 1/8 inch hands and a 79 ¼ inch wingspan, but he looked slow the entire practice and didn’t impress me as a route runner. The sad thing is that he still created separation despite route running without much suddenness or burst which really says a lot about some of the players in the West secondary. I’m not high on Moss right now, but we will see what he shows the rest of the week.

Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Hemingway was not very impressive today either. He also looked slow and didn’t create a lot of separation due to his route running. His hands were also inconsistent and that really hurts him. He’s not a burner and I didn’t think he was going to be able to threaten defenses vertically in the NFL like he did in college and that seemed to hold true today as he just couldn’t catch up to a couple pretty well thrown deep balls this afternoon.

Tyler Shoemaker, WR, Boise State: Shoemaker may have been the second best receiver on the field today behind Wylie. I noted multiple times that Shoemaker seemed to be the only receiver who continued to come back to the ball after making his breaks on curls, etc. That’s good coaching in my opinion and a couple of times it enabled him to catch a pass relatively easily when it could have been a tough catch in traffic had he completed his break and stood there while the corner closed. I don’t think I saw him drop a single pass today so his hands definitely impressed me and he seems to be pretty athletic. I liked what I saw from him today and I definitely think he has draftable talent.

Tight Ends:

David Paulson, TE, Oregon: I have been signing Paulson’s praises for a long time and while he wasn’t a stud today he did make a few nice catches on high throws and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass today. He’s underrated and while he doesn’t project well as an in-line TE he can definitely contribute to a NFL passing game at TE or H-Back. He’s consistent and catches the ball when it comes his way, that’s all you can ask.

George Bryan, TE, North Carolina State: This kid is big but my god is he slow. I see why people were mentioning moving him to offensive tackle, though I have seen plenty of offensive tackles move better than he did as a route runner at times today. Not only that, but a couple times he let passes bounce right off his hands when he wasn’t 5 yards downfield. His hands are definitely inconsistent and his speed and lack of quickness will really make it hard for teams to draft him early. He’s a late round pick at this point in my opinion, but the move to offensive tackle may not be a realistic one at this point considering his 33 ¼ inch arm measurement. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either.

Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan: Koger didn’t flash much today. He showed pretty solid hands but didn’t look fluid in his routes and seemed to lake suddenness and burst in and out of his breaks. I’m not sure he’s going to do very well as an in-line tight end this week but we will see how he does in the run game. I think Koger is an underrated pass catcher but he has more to prove to me this week.

Offensive Line:

I didn’t see much of the offensive line at practice today since I had a much better look at the 1 on 1’s for the receivers and defensive backs, but I will definitely keep an eye on them throughout the week.

Defensive Line:

Again, I didn’t see a lot of the defensive line today either but when I did watch I was impressed by DaJohn Harris and Dominique Hamilton. Harris was consistently in the backfield when I saw him today which doesn’t surprise me one bit because I think he is one of the most underrated players here. Hamilton is a big, big guy and looked pretty strong at the POA when I saw him, but I have to see a lot more of both of them.

Linebackers:

I didn’t see a lot of the linebackers today, but predictably Tank Carder looked good in coverage. I’m very interested to see how he does in the box against the run the rest of the week. We all knew he could drop into coverage, now we need to see how he does filling versus the run in the middle of the defense. Jerry Franklin also flashed some ability in coverage which was good to see, but I definitely didn’t see him enough to make many conclusions about him. Josh Kaddu was a player I had never really watched before and he flashed potential to me today. He is an athletic kid and he demonstrated that when dropping into coverage today. I don’t know much about him, but I’m looking forward to learning more about him as the week goes on.

Cornerbacks:

Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater was the best of this lackluster group in my opinion. He closes on passes well and drove on the ball well in practice today for the most part. He should have had at least one interception when he made a nice break on the ball but it went right off his chest. He doesn’t have very good hands but he does have pretty good ball skills. He looks like the cream of his unimpressive crop early in the week.

Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy did not impress me at all today. He was playing pretty soft coverage and gave up slants pretty freely today. His backpedal looked high and I didn’t think he turned and ran well with receivers downfield. He has a lot of work to do to help his stock this week because he definitely didn’t do so today in my opinion.

Brandon Hardin, CB, Oregon State: Hardin may have been the worst of this batch of defensive backs and that is absolutely not a good thing. He inexplicably gave up slants over and over again and never showed any burst to close. It was baffling really, but slow receivers were creating 3 yards of separation against him on simple slant routes. He seemed to be reacting in slow motion and just looked awful today.

Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: I didn’t see much of McLeod, but I also didn’t see him getting beaten that much either. That puts him in the top half of this crop of defensive backs unfortunately. He is only 5’9.5”, 195 pounds which hurts him, but he may be a sleeper in this group of corners. I’ll keep a closer eye on him the rest of the week.

Safeties:

None of the safeties were particularly impressive in my opinion. Duke Ihenacho and Blake Gideon didn’t look very good in man coverage though I didn’t really expect Ihenacho to be good there. He did look slow in man coverage though which was concerning. I’m not as high on Aaron Henry as others are because I think he gives up too many big plays but that wasn’t as much of an issue on day one of practice. We will see how he does the rest of the week.

Punters:

Brian Anger, P, California: I almost forgot to include him in this, but he needs to be mentioned. I was watching him punt early on in practice and in comparison with Matt Prewitt from Kentucky Christian he looked fantastic. You can really tell when a punter or a kicker has a strong leg because the ball will sound like a gun-shot (or something similar) when it comes off of his foot. That was the case for Anger today and he was getting fantastic hang time (though I didn’t have a stop watch handy). He was beating the pigskin off the ball today and while he may not end up getting drafted if he keeps punting like this all week he will make a NFL roster.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman was far and away the best quarterback on the East roster and was in my opinion the best quarterback of both practices. He measured in at 6’3”, 234 pounds and had huge 10 ¼ inch hands (this was apparent when I shook his hand when I chatted with him after practice, he has a very strong handshake). His arm strength was apparent from the first throw he made and his passes cut right through the wind. His mechanics looked good as he has a compact, over the top delivery. The ball really shoots off of his hand and he has a quick release. He threw a couple nice deep balls today and demonstrated quality play fakes which I like to see. His accuracy was a bit erratic at times so he has room to improve from an accuracy perspective, but he easily has the best arm in St. Petersburg. He did have a couple wobbly throws during practice and that is something I noticed when I watched film of him, so that’s something I will be keeping a close eye on. I’ll have an interview with BJ up later in the week, so look out for that!

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis was probably the second best quarterback on the East today. He doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Coleman or John Brantley, but he still made some impressive throws over the middle and had a nice deep ball one play after Coleman’s beautiful deep ball early in practice. You couldn’t tell the difference between who threw the ball if you only saw the ball, which is a plus for Davis. Davis’ height will make it hard to boost his stock since he measured in at just over 6’1”, 218 pounds. He isn’t the most physically impressive quarterback, but a couple times after a play I saw him pull a receiver aside and talk with him. That definitely impressed me, and it gave me a sense for the intangible qualities I’ve heard he has. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the week, but he’s never going to throw great passes from the far hash to the opposite sideline, he just doesn’t have that kind of arm strength. I’m not sure he has upside as a starter like Coleman does, but I do think he has the potential to stick on a roster and develop as a back-up.

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Brantley definitely has a strong arm but from the first throw he made you could see the hitch in his throwing motion. His mechanics definitely need work because his throwing motion dips down which elongates it. He has the arm strength to mask it a bit, but his mechanical flaws were obvious when he was alternating snaps with BJ Coleman early in practice. His arm strength was apparent, but his accuracy was inconsistent. Here’s hoping he picks it up the rest of the week because he left something to be desired today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole is the top running back in St. Petersburg in my opinion. It’s not easy to evaluate running backs when everyone is in shells and no one can tackle, but Poole displayed quality burst to hit the hole today. Obviously it will be easier to see more when they have pads on the rest of the week, so I will definitely have my eyes on Poole tomorrow. He may not go higher than round 4 or so but I think he can contribute to a NFL team as a rookie at running back. I’ll have an interview with Tauren later this week as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford was the best receiver on the East roster today without question in my opinion. I was consistently impressed with him and three different scouts I talked to liked what they saw from him as well. He created very consistent separation, was regularly targeted and had only one drop near the end of practice. Otherwise he was catching everything with his hands whether it was inside or outside of his frame. He seemed to be running crisp routes and showed some physicality and toughness which I liked. He absolutely ran over Jerrell Young on one play when Young got in his way on his route, and after he beat another defender for a catch in traffic he bumped him as he finished the rep. I really like this kid and I can’t wait to see how he looks the rest of the week. I will have an interview with Tim later this week as well.

Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Mayo has been getting some hype as a small-school receiver and he definitely lived up to some of it today. He displayed impressive hands as he made a couple nice snags outside of his frame today. One scout I talked to said that when he worked him out he thought he had some concentration issues that led to drops, but that didn’t look like an issue today. It’s something I will be looking for the rest of the week though. I thought he looked a bit slow when he was running his routes though and he does need coaching up with his route running, but I think he has more straight line speed than quickness and burst. It will be interesting to see if that hypothesis holds up this week, but I did like some of what I saw from Mayo today.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is a guy that I have been high on for a long time and I even had him on my list of potential break-out players before the season started. He had a good season like I expected, but he did not have a good day today. He had way too many drops, at least four if I remember correctly, and while he showed the ability to create separation and to beat guys deep he didn’t finish the play with a reception. That really disappointed me, and I’m hoping that since he was a relatively late addition to the game that he just had an off day. I have high expectations for him the rest of the week, but today was not a good start for him at all.

Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis didn’t stick out to me much today, but on a couple plays he did demonstrate solid athleticism and hands. He looked passes into his hands well, but early on in practice he seemed a little bit nervous. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but regardless I expect him to be more involved in the next three days of practice than he seemed to be today. He’s got draftable ability despite measuring in smaller than his previously listed 6’3” height.

B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham started off the practice great today making catches on passes outside of his frame and looking like a polished receiver ready for the next level. But as practice progressed and he started going up against defenders he struggled to separate from some of the athletic defensive backs and showcased his inconsistent hands by dropping a number of passes. I was frankly surprised how well he was catching the ball early on in practice because I always questioned his hands when I watched film of him. He definitely lived up to that billing though, but it’s tough to figure out if his hands aren’t that good, if he has concentration issues or if it’s a mixture of both. I’ll keep track of it the rest of the week and post my thoughts on it.

Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy definitely has some athleticism and he showed quality speed and burst when he was running routes. His hands were inconsistent as well and definitely dropped some passes early on in practice. This same thing happened with Perry Baker last year and he recovered well and had a great rest of the week, so hopefully Hardy can do the same.

LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: This may be one of the last times I give Byrd much mention in my notes because as expected I don’t think he will be drafted. He looked slow today, showed little to no burst or suddenness in his route running, and had as many dropped passes as anyone if not the most of any receiver all day. He’s an undrafted guy for sure and I’m not sure he will even get practice squad looks.

Tight Ends:

Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez looked like the best tight end on the East roster today. He showed good burst and speed to threaten down the seam and absolutely burned Jerrell Young down the seam as he used good suddenness in his route to catch him flat footed and literally fly right by him. Young recovered though and managed to get up and deflect the pass which was lucky for him because Rodriguez was 5+ yards away from him down the field. Regardless, Rodriguez impressed me today and I will definitely be paying more attention to him as a blocker the rest of the week.

Chase Ford, TE, Miami: I did not have a lot of praise for Ford in my preview for this game but I have to admit he looked pretty good today. He isn’t a great in-line blocker and that showed today, but he made a number of nice catches outside of his frame and showed quality hands. I don’t know that he will be able to threaten much down the seam, but he made a couple nice catches in traffic today which helps him. He’s still an undrafted guy in my book, but he helped himself today.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis may have been the most impressive offensive lineman today in my opinion. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the offensive line today, but every time I watched him he played with good pad level, bent at the knees, showed good hand placement and balance. I didn’t see him match up with Nick Jean-Baptiste at all, but that is a match-up I can’t WAIT to watch the rest of the week.

Desmond Wynn, OT, Rutgers: Wynn was listed as an OG by the Shrine Game roster but I think he has a chance to stick as a RT or as a guard. He measured in at 6’5”, 305 pounds today with 34 inch arms and 10 inch hands. He definitely started the day out right at the weigh in and continued his strong day in practice. Wynn was one of the only guys I saw slow down Akiem Hicks today and if he can work on his pad level a bit I think he has a future as a starter on the offensive line.

Rishaw Johnson, OG, California (PA): Johnson was getting some hype coming into the day but I wasn’t very impressed, particularly in the run game. He did a better job in 1 on 1’s in pass protection, but looked slow and heavy footed in the run game.

I didn’t get many notes on the offensive tackles today, but overall I was not impressed with them as a group. They did a good job in 1 on 1’s against guys like Julian Miller and Jabaree Tuani, but struggled against guys like Kyle Wilber and Micanor Regis. I don’t think this OT class is particularly strong, but it was only the first day. I’ll definitely have more notes on the offensive line the rest of the week.

Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry doesn’t look like a dominant center but he looks like a well-rounded player who looked good in 1 on 1’s. This may just have been because his teammate Tyler Horn looked completely overmatched and didn’t look draftable today, particularly in 1 on 1’s. I’m excited to see him the rest of the week.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: All I can say is WOW. NJB as he will be referred to in the rest of my notes was fantastic in 1 on 1’s today. I didn’t pay attention to him in the team drills, but believe me I will be the rest of the week. I had concerns about him holding up versus the run and those concerns have not yet been dissuaded, but NJB looked like BJ Raji in 1 on 1’s. He is a shorter defensive tackle as he measured in at just under 6’2”, 335 pounds much like Raji is and his frame reminds me of Raji’s as well. That’s not to say NJB will end up in the top 10, but the comparison popped into my head today when I was watching him. He showed good burst off the snap, very active, strong and powerful hands and was essentially unblockable. Even when an offensive lineman was in good position and mirrored him he continued fighting thanks to an impressive motor (at least in this drill) and usually ended up winning the drill. I was very impressed and he looked like the #1 DT on either roster based on what I saw from him today. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table the rest of the week, but I hope he does this well in team drills particularly versus the run.

Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (Canada): Like NJB I mostly saw Hicks in 1 on 1’s but he impressed me there as well. He was solid off the ball, showed active hands and quality bend and hip flexibility which was very nice to see. I was told to watch out for him this week and I definitely see some of what I was told to watch for. He’s got a ways to go as far as technique but the effort seemed to be there. While his hands were active they weren’t always effective and his pad level was inconsistent. When he got his pads low though he showed an effective bull rush which was definitely encouraging. He needs coaching, but the kid has upside without a doubt. He definitely won the weigh-in if that counts for anything since he measured in at 6’4.5”, 324 pounds with 35 1/8 inch arms and 10 1/8 inch hands.

Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath predictably looked slow off the edge today and gave credence to the people who have been projecting him inside to defensive tackle. But he measured in at 6’7”, 281 pounds so I don’t think that is his best position despite what others might think. I think he should continue to bulk up and get stronger and attempt to play 3-4 defensive end where his edge speed wouldn’t be as much of an issue and his height and frame would be a huge plus. He has upside but it isn’t as a 4-3 defensive end which is where he is playing this week. That’s unfortunate for him, but hopefully he can demonstrate his value despite playing out of position today.

Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber looks just as skinny in person as he does in film and his legs in particular looked very lean which is concerning, but he looked like a natural in 1 on 1’s. He demonstrated quality hand usage and looked smooth using his hands and pass rush moves to beat seemingly overmatched offensive tackles. He won’t hold up well in the run game because of his lack of size and strength, but he is a possible OLB convert thanks to some of his pass rush potential. He didn’t have a big year rushing the passer like I thought he might, but I am really excited to see what he does the rest of the week.

Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis had a couple nice plays today and looked solid in 1 on 1’s. He had a couple impressive bull rushes where he decimated the offensive lineman he was going up against but he was also swallowed up at times. He’s got upside and I think he has some draftable ability so I will be watching him the rest of the week, but I don’t think he helped himself too much today.

Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: Miller didn’t impress me much today and looked unspectacular in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t create much push and didn’t show much edge speed either. He is either a versatile player or a ‘tweener, and right now it looks more like the latter unfortunately.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey started his full-time transition to linebacker today and from what I saw it went pretty well. I am very interested to see how he does in coverage the rest of the week but the little I saw of him today was positive. It’s not easy to transition from a down lineman to outside linebacker so I expect some significant growing pains at some point, but I expect he will demonstrate his upside at some point as well.

Max Gruder, LB, Pittsburgh: A couple of scouts sitting around me had good things to say about Gruder today and they were talking about the positive experience they had watching him when they traveled to Pitt’s campus on a scouting trip this year. That doesn’t surprise me one bit because while Gruder isn’t a physical freak he is very fundamentally sound. He’s easy to like for that reason, so while he may not have much starter upside I do have a draftable grade on him because I think he would be very valuable on special teams and as a reserve.

Cornerbacks:

Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Everyone was talking about Norman today as a result of his two interceptions. Not too many people mentioned that on the play he collected his 2nd interception on he made significant contact with the receiver as he was running his route and enabled him to recover and track the deep ball and come down with the interception. Not exactly perfect coverage, but he did display quality ball skills all practice thanks to his two interceptions plus a couple of nice pass deflections. He definitely impressed me as I had never seen him before but he consistently stuck out in one on one drills. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on him this week.

Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin impressed me today as well though I didn’t see him very much. He definitely seemed to give B.J. Cunningham fits when he matched up against him, but he showed quality athleticism, closing speed and seemed to be a pretty fluid athlete. Combine that with measuring in at just over 6’0” this morning and he had a good day.

R.J. Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t stick out to me too much today but he did seem to have a pretty good feel in coverage. This isn’t a great barometer, but on one play he was covering LaRon Byrd and he almost seemed to run Byrd’s route better than he did. That probably has something to do with Byrd having no suddenness as a route runner, but it was still impressive to see from Blanton.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: As I pointed out in my preview, Brown’s upside is as a zone corner and he showed that today as he closed well on plays in front of him. He turns and runs pretty well though he does have a bit of tightness in his hips. I’m not very high on him and I don’t think he has a lot to offer as a man coverage corner, but he has a chance to prove me wrong this week.

Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian: Bethel was a bit of a confusing prospect for me today because he showed some ability to close on plays in front of him but his backpedal needs serious work. There were times he wasn’t even pedaling in 1 on 1’s which was a bit surprising to see. He’s a small school guy who probably got away with some sloppy technique against a lower level of competition, but that won’t work very well here. If he tries that against the talented group of West receivers on Saturday he will get abused.

Safeties:

Matt Daniels, SS, Duke: Daniels has some ability but he didn’t look very good in man coverage today. He got burned a couple times and one time he got burned so bad that when he reached out to try to grab and hold the receiver as he ran his route he couldn’t even reach the guy. I expect that he will have better days than he did today, but today wasn’t a great day for him.

Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: I mentioned him a few times in earlier notes I had on offensive players and that means there weren’t a lot of positive plays that I saw from Young today. He got caught flat-footed in coverage a couple times and got burned as a result of it.

Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State: I didn’t take a lot of notes on Thompson but he didn’t measure in very well this morning. He was just over 6’0”, 213 pounds and only had 31 5/8 inch arms and small 8 ¼ inch hands. He also looked leggy in his backpedal and didn’t click and close very effectively when I was watching him early on in drills. Overall this group of safeties did not impress me, the corners looked much better today.

Defensive Ends:

-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.

Defensive Tackles:

-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.

Linebackers:

-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.

Cornerbacks:

-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.

Safeties:

-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!

–Tom