Rather than breakdown the East and West rosters position by position, I decided to take this review a different way. Honestly, after the first day it was fairly obvious who the prospects were that had a chance to impress this week. Those players put on consistent performances each day, standing out in individual and team drills. With that said, these rankings are not based solely on this event (as you will see with some prospects that had “down” weeks), but rather how I rank the prospects moving forward. All postseason practices and games are used as an extra exposure, as complementary pieces, not the backbone of an evaluation.
You will notice a trend in certain positions being listed. That was not on purpose, but I truly feel those spots generated the most talent this week and are some of the deeper positions in this year’s draft. As a side note, I will have my Senior Bowl preview posted on Saturday along with updates throughout next week.
1. RB Zac Stacy (5083/215), Vanderbilt - Was this a great week for Stacy? No, but his running style is not one that would stand out in situations with limited contact. The Commodore would thrive in a slant or zone blocking scheme, using decisive cuts and physicality to make defenders miss at the second level. I am not saying he is the next Alfred Morris, but the Redskin was at this event last year and made very little noise. The two play the position similarly.
2. RB Ray Graham (5093/192), Pittsburgh - Unlike Stacy, Graham’s explosive style did impress onlookers during limited contact practices. His right knee looks fully healthy, and Graham was unafraid to burst off cuts in either direction. I still consider him an early third day selection, but like Stacy, Graham could be a productive back if given the opportunity.
3. OLB Keith Pough (6016/241), Howard - The main difference with Pough this week compared to his college film is that he played a lot on the weakside during practices, while also seeing time near the line of scrimmage or in space. He was unable to participate in pass rush drills, but Pough’s closing speed around the edge is excellent. Add on his active and talkative personality, and Pough could be the top player selected in April’s Draft that attended this event.
4. OLB Gerald Hodges (6011/239), Penn State - Unless you watched Hodges closely, his week likely appeared average, but the Penn State linebacker was consistently where he needed to be against the run and pass with sound technique and positioning. Hodges likely projects as a weakside linebacker behind a four man front but might get some looks from 3-4 teams on the inside.
5. T/G Terron Armstead (6050/304), Arkansas-Pine Bluff - The small schooler has some issues to iron out, most notably growing a stronger upper body to help win more consistently on first contact, but Armstead was easily the top offensive lineman during the week of practice. Considering he was rarely asked to pull and locate linebackers at second level, something Armstead did very well in college, he has even more to show evaluators. I worry if he has the anchor to sustain power rushers on the inside, but Armstead might end up at guard in the future and possibly earned a Senior Bowl call up.
6. S Earl Wolff (5111/206), NC State - As I stated earlier in the week, whenever East safeties coach Marlon McCree spoke, I listened. However, Wolff consistently stood out on his own, showing a lot of range on tight angles to make plays or line up non-hits at the catch point due to limited contact. The senior played a lot of free safety while at NC State, and although the coverages were very basic this week, Wolff showed off a lot of talent.
7. OLB Sio Moore (6006/240), UConn - The future weakside linebacker presents an array of skills, including some production as a speed rusher off the edge. Moore is still learning and was frequently seen taking directions from coaches, but thats part of what the event is all about. For now, Moore is active when running and chasing and likely helps in a special teams role.
8. RB Christine Michael (5096/221), Texas A&M - Michael was my top senior running back prior to the 2012 season, but a lack of touches obviously produced less tape and allowed others to pass him. This week, however, Michael showed off aggression when finishing runs with a wide base and powerful strides to make cuts off blocks. He has a long injury history and butted heads with A&M coaches, but it is tough to doubt Michael’s talent.
9. S Zeke Motta (6022/215), Notre Dame - After a poor individual performance in the BCS National Championship game, Motta put together a consistent week of practice in St. Petersburg. He isn’t Harrison Smith, especially when attacking the run in space or locating the football on downfield throws, but Motta looked good in man to man situations and could sneak into the third day.
10. S Duke Williams (5106/203), Nevada - I was really impressed with Williams’ game against Cal, when he locked up Keenan Allen in the slot on multiple occasions. He saw some one on one snaps on receivers this week, but Williams worked best as a strong safety closing on runs between the tackles and on the edge.
11. DE David Bass (6036/263), Missouri Western State - I will admit to only have watched highlight tapes of Bass prior to Shrine week, but he easily looked like the most polished pass rusher on the East squad. After winning with a dip around the edge, Bass followed it up with a latch and pull technique to keep his opponent off balance. Add in a slick outside to inside move, and Bass could be the top defensive end from this event.
12. DT William Campbell (6047/318), Michigan - The Wolverine isn’t going to wow with consistent penetration or a variety of pass rush moves, but Campbell can hold an anchor with a powerful frame. He was consistently holding his spot in individual drills, making it very difficult for the West offensive linemen to generate any push.
13. CB Brandon McGee (5106/195), Miami - While it is difficult on corners to stand out in this environment, McGee made a handful of splash plays that were tough to forget. Above all, his fluidity in space when mirroring to go along with a smooth hip turn
14. S Cooper Taylor (6042/229), Richmond - I had watched very little of Taylor prior to the week, but his consistently tight angles to get in correct positioning caught my eye and many others’. The massive safety might not have the range some look for, but Taylor likely helped solidify an evaluation with a draftable grade attached to it this week.
15. OLB DeVonte Holloman (6014/246), South Carolina - The former safety turned “Spur” found a home on the weakside this week. As stated when discussing the other linebackers, it is not a position that can easily draw praise at this type of event, but I like his experience in coverage and a willingness to stick his nose in on running plays when closing from the backside or holding the edge.
16. S Josh Evans (6011/205), Florida - Marlon McCree mentioned Evans’ name more than any other during the four days of practice. With Matt Elam asked to play in the box at Florida, Evans was stuck patrolling the back half and was rarely in a position to make a play on passes. After this week, I think Evans could be asked to do more in the NFL and produce in a backup role.
17. CB Terry Hawthorne (6000/194), Illinois - Did Hawthorne make anyone remember his high preseason evaluation? No, but I still think there is talent that can be extracted. He is worth a draft pick and that is notable when comparing him to many other prospects on the two rosters.
18. TE D.C. Jefferson (6056/255), Rutgers - Jefferson is who he is: a willing blocker and underused receiving option that will be an upside pick in the later rounds. The former quarterback is a proficient blocker but a bit stiff in his routes, especially when asked to break them off. With all things considered, a fifth-round selection is nothing to frown upon.
19. WR Marcus Davis (6031/230), Virginia Tech - Davis’ practice performances could not even be termed adequate, but considering his frame and future workout numbers, the Hokie is going to get drafted. He struggled to adjust his body on downfield targets, but he is absolutely worth a flier.
20. C James Ferentz (6007/289), Iowa - I am not giving up on Ferentz, even though he failed to connect on multiple snaps from center. Honestly, it makes no sense, since Ferentz was used to a quarterback working behind him at Iowa. He weighed in at a solid 289 pounds, and ferentz should at least get a shot with a zone heavy team due to his positional blocking and active feet.