With three consecutive weeks of all-star games fresh in their minds, NFL scouts have the unenviable task of sifting through their daily practice notes to ascertain just who among the hundreds of players viewed at the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, and Texas vs. Nation Game actually raised or lowered their ranking.
Clearly Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Colorado State running back Gartrell Johnson were among the early winners of the post-season all-star games. Unfortunately, just as clearly, Big 12 quarterbacks Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) and Chase Daniel (Missouri) were unable to shed the concerns about their lack of prototype arm strength and size during these games.
With many teams’ scouts only now getting an opportunity to huddle with their peers and share their impressions over the three a new group of Risers and Fallers has quietly emerged from the all-star game festivities. The most dramatic Fallers of the week, however, have nothing but their drug and alcohol habits to blame for their drop.
Other players that are rising and falling during post bowl game scouting meetings include juniors, who teams are just getting to know, and seniors who have regional scouts battling for "their guy" or telling his superiors that he's not worth contacting until after the draft. A few of each are also listed in this week's Risers and Fallers.
Ayers entered the Senior Bowl hoping to prove he could rush the passer, as he finished with only three sacks as a senior, despite earning first-team All-SEC honors. Spirited battles early in the week of practice against Michael Oher turned scouts on to Ayers, and for those who stuck around for the game, Ayers proved able to transfer his newfound burst into the stat book, leading the game with 1.5 sacks and earning Defensive MVP accolades. With only two games started prior to his senior season, scouts will question whether Ayers is a flash in the pan, but his performance in Mobile could be enough to land him in the first round.
Ayers, Raji, and Mississippi’s Peria Jerry may have earned the headlines with their play throughout the Senior Bowl practices, but Gilbert was arguably just as dominant – and some scouts claim even more so – throughout the East-West Shrine Game practices. Gilbert, at 6-5, 287 pounds, has unbelievable athleticism and proved to scouts that his eye-popping 22 tackles for loss this season were no mirage.
Perhaps because so much attention was heaped upon the Texas Tech offense throughout the year, many scouts entered the East-West Shrine practices willing to acknowledge that McBath was a nice player, but a late rounder, at best. That talk ended after scouts came away impressed with McBath’s instincts and physicality early in the week. A tweaked hamstring limited him later in the week and ultimately kept him out of the game, itself, limiting the exposure McBath received from the game. Still, scouts were impressed enough to pop back in the film on the three-time all-conference pick and now view him as a legitimate middle round prospect.
Many scouts spent much of the week in Mobile grumbling about the lack of skill position talent there, but one player who quietly made positive impressions was former Purdue back, Kory Sheets. A versatile athlete who caught the ball cleanly throughout the week (including 4 receptions in the game) and showed good acceleration and agility in the open field, Sheets fits the mold of the “lightning” backs NFL teams have paired in recent years with bigger, bulkier backs. Scouts are always looking for special teams help, and Sheets’ career-long 61 yard kick return in the game did not go unnoticed.
It would be hard to fault the Maine Bears for moving Belcher, a three year starter at linebacker, to defensive end in 2008, considering that he did earn the Colonial Athletic Association’s Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the league with 17.5 tackles for loss (including 7.5 sacks). It was the move back to linebacker – both at weakside and inside – at the Texas vs. Nation game that had scouts buzzing. Quietly among the more versatile linebackers in the draft, Belcher is emerging as one of the hotter prospects from that game.
When Casey showed up at one of the East-West Shrine Game practices in Houston (just down the street from Rice University), teams took a double take. His athletic build is intriguing…but their interest really piqued when they watched him on film. His stock should continue to rise during the Combine, probably into a early-to-mid second round grade.
Wildcat fans can tell you that Freeman's inconsistency sometimes trumps his potential. But with a huge gap between top quarterback prospects Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford and all of the others in that class, Freeman is likely to fill in that late first/early second slot reserved for QBs with more tools and potential than production.
8. Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU Current Rating: 2009 Draft Scout #1 DE, Overall #7, Compiled Projected Round(s): 1
The Tigers' troubles kept Jackson on the down-low this year…he didn't even make the coaches' first or second All-SEC teams. But 3-4 teams looking for a nice combination of strength and speed are looking at him as a mid-first round pick. A nice Combine could push him into the top 12.
More than one NFL scouting director has said Matthews could be better than fellow Southern Cal linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga before their respective careers are over. His pass rushing prowess really caught the eye of 3-4 teams watching him in Mobile, making him a probable first round pick.
Although Maybin was a finalist for post-season awards at defensive ends, his speed and 250-pound frame will most likely be valued by 3-4 teams as a rush linebacker. Considering the needs at that position for Cleveland, Green Bay and San Francisco, Maybin may not be available outside of the top ten.
02/10/09 - Chad Reuter & Rob Rang, Draft Analysts, The SportsXchange