After a productive Shrine Game week of practices that featured more defensive talent than they've had in recent years along with two of the best quarterbacks they've gotten to invite since Joe Flacco in 2008. Instead of looking at winners and losers, which you can certainly gather from our extensive practice notes this week, I decided to rank the players at the game by when they'll get drafted.
Lead by Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be at the Senior Bowl, and a handful of other small school prospects, there could be as many as five Top 100 picks. Here's my list of 20 who project to get drafted, in order of where I think they currently stand projection-wise. Also, there's eight more prospects that earned the "Re-Watch" label after their performance this week.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo is a bit of an unfair pick, as he’ll be playing in the Senior Bowl next week too. But as a quarterback who many feel is a developmental NFL starter, he’s a strong Senior Bowl away from being a near-lock for the 2nd round. His quick release was on display at the Shrine Game, but seeing him side-by-side with other quarterbacks will be huge for his evaluation.
2. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Desir didn’t get a chance to press this week, something NFL teams are likely most excited about thanks to his length and physicality on film. He may get the Senior Bowl call-up, and if he does, he’ll prove why he may end up as a Top 100 pick.
3. Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech
Ellis flashed when I watched two games coming into the week, but after showcasing plus athleticism for a 360 nose tackle this week, he’s certainly emerged as one of the more intriguing nose tackles in this class. When a player at his size moves as well as he does (two successful spin move rush moves), the sky is almost the limit for how highly viewed he’ll be.
4. Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
At 6’6 and playing with a great first step and activeness at the line of scrimmage, Clarke was the best on a mediocre-to-bad West Virginia defense. He did nothing to disappoint during Shrine Game practices, and his size, length, and ability as a wide defensive end should put him firmly in the mid-rounds.
5. Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse
Bromley proved to be the best interior rusher at the event, and his burst off the line and efficient first rush move made him a very difficult block for all of the East interior linemen. His aggressiveness as a pass rusher leads him to some inconsistencies in the run game, but as a pass rusher at 3-technique or as a down linemen in a 3-4 defense, he can be a solid mid-round pick.
6. Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell
After garnering a second round grade coming into the 2013 season, Mathews struggled mightily as a senior at Cornell. However, his in-person display of arm strength and lower body mechanics certainly impressed me to feel that 2013 shouldn’t define him as a prospect. I still have concerns about his footwork under pressure, but he helped himself in St. Petersburg.
7. Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
Playing a bit of everywhere in college on the Stanford defensive line and during practice this week, Mauro doesn’t have the wowing athleticism to be a high pick, but wins when he has to. As an edge protector in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, Mauro holds ground well and sets up fellow rushers well. On the inside, where he had success rushing this week, he can attack upfield and generate pressure as well.
8. Gabe Ikard, OC, Oklahoma
While he struggled a bit this week with bigger nose tackles, Ikard is a zone blocking interior lineman who likely only fits that team in the NFL. He has since gotten a Senior Bowl call-up, and he’ll get another crack at top nose tackles in Mobile.
9. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
Hal showed his great fluidity and body control as he worked down the field in coverage, and even showed improved positioning when locking on downfield. Hal didn’t do anything wowing during the week, but was the most efficient cornerback during practices.
10. Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue
Gaston impressed during practices in both run drills, holding up against doubles very well, and in pass rushing opportunities, using his leverage and size to generate pressure. His film is riddled with inconsistency over the past two years, but he likely doesn't fall far on Day Three because of his flashes.
11. Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State
12. Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan
13. Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State
14. Tre Boston, SAF, North Carolina
15. Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
16. Hakeem Smith, SAF, Louisville
17. Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
18. Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
19. DeDe Lattimore, OLB, South Florida
20. Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville
Who To Re-Watch
1. John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State
Coming in as a relative unknown, Brown emerged as the quickest of the route runners and most efficient receiver here in eating up cushion and winning in one-on-one situations. Because he’s only 5’10, has small hands, and isn’t from a bit program, he isn’t a lock to be drafted. But he’s done enough to build intrigue as a late round option.
2. Austin Wentworth, OG/OT, Fresno State
A potential late round offensive tackle prospect coming out Fresno State, Wentworth impressed more than expected as he played both guard and tackle this week in practice. Utilizing great hand strength and a strong base, Wentworth did the best job against nose tackles all week and showed that he has a place in the NFL.
3. Zach Bauman, RB, Northern Arizona
While the all-star game practices aren’t usually a great opportunity for running backs, Bauman showed the great burst up and through the hole throughout practices. His speed on display here certainly made an impact with evaluators.
4. Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
Effective all week in both short and vertical routes, Richardson was probably the most consistent cornerback all week. While he didn’t wow in any key area, he minimized his receiver separation and finished at the catch point well all week.
5. Jordan Najvar, TE, Baylor
The best pass catching tight end invite despite being a late replacement, Najvar showed he can fill the H-Back or receiving TE role for an NFL team. His ability to win at the catch point with soft hands and positioning against zone coverage could make him a late round option.
Also On the List
6. Chidera Uzo-Diribe, DE, Colorado
7. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, SAF, Penn State
8. Xavius Boyd, OLB, Western Kentucky