With the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl now concluded, the National Football Post looks back and breaks down the prospects who did the most to improve their draft stock the past two weeks.
QB John Skelton, Fordham
This may have a little to do with the struggles of some of the draft’s higher-rated senior quarterback prospects, but if I’m looking for a quarterback to develop in hopes of stumbling across a potential NFL starter, I’m not drafting Tim Tebow or Dan LeFevour -- I’m taking Skelton. Skelton has a strong arm, can get the ball down the field and has an ability to create big plays in the pass game. Sure, he needs time to improve his footwork, but in an uninspiring quarterback class, this is one guy I’d be targeting.
RB LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
After missing nearly the entire 2009 season after his postgame outburst against Boise State, Blount looks like a new man who’s serious about football. He showed up at the Senior Bowl in great shape, ran hard all week and displayed the type of power and agility in the game that made him one of the top running back prospects entering the season. He now looks like someone who’s starting to gain some momentum and appears poised to make a move up the running back charts.
TE Jimmy Graham, Miami
Graham, a former collegiate basketball player, entered the season as one of the more intriguing tight end prospect in the country. However, he’s now starting to prove he can be more than just a developmental guy. Graham looks to be improving in the nuances of the position, showcasing a better release off the line and getting into his routes more quickly. At 6-7, 260, he has the size to create mismatches at the next level, but he now looks capable of maturing into a starting-caliber tight end sooner than later.
OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana
His combination of size, fluidity and base strength made Saffold one of the real standouts in pass protection in the Shrine Game. He displayed the range to reach speed off the edge and the power to consistently sit into his stance and anchor vs. the bull-rush. Plus, he looked natural in space, displayed good initial pop as an in-line blocker and now looks to be in that range of second-tier tackles in this year’s draft class.
OG Brandon Carter, Texas Tech
Give it up to the tighter splits because when Carter is able to extend his long arms and get his hands on defenders, the battle is over. He did a nice job during one-on-one drills all week at the Shrine Game, using his size and length to get into blocks and simply engulf defenders on contact. He still needs to do a better job firing off the snap and not rolling into opposing linemen in the run game, but for a team in need of a big, powerful guy who’s at his best in a phone booth, Carter is the man.
OL Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
Speaking of rising offensive linemen, no one may have done more for himself the past two weeks than Ducasse. He was a downright dominating offensive tackle at the 1-AA level last season, but his ability to significantly improve every day at the Senior Bowl and follow his practices with an impressive game is what really stood out. The guy possesses a thick lower half, good natural power and impressive athletic ability for his size. He’s a lineman who could start at either tackle or guard spots in the NFL and will add a lot of talent and versatility to whatever NFL team drafts him.
DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
If there was one prospect who dominated day in and day out at his all-star game, it was Michigan’s Graham. His worst performance of the week came at the weigh-in, where he measured just 6-1 and 263 pounds. However, he guy looks effortless off the edge, using his hands, power and suddenness to shed blocks and flatten out along the edge. He’s one of the draft’s most natural pass rushers and will find a way to get after the QB in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.
DT Nate Collins, Virginia
NFL teams in need of an explosive, one-gap defensive lineman should look no further than Virginia’s Collins. He did great job all week at the Shrine Game fluidly slipping blocks in space and was one of the real matchup nightmares in one-on-one drills. Plus, he displayed good leverage and power on his bull-rush and consistently was able to create havoc inside during 11v11 drills. He isn’t quite the prospect of Georgia’s Geno Atkins, but he should be able to find a niche for himself in a penetrating scheme.
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
No corner the past two weeks played with the balance and overall coordination in coverage as Boise State’s Wilson, who was brilliant all week in Mobile shutting down the best receivers on the North roster at practice in press and off-coverage. He did a great job cleanly changing directions, finding the football and playing with good physicality on contact. Don’t let his size full you. Wilson is one of the best press corners in this year’s draft and looks like he’s ready to step into a starting role early in his NFL career.
FS Nate Allen, South Florida
Allen’s fluidity in coverage and ability to cleanly get out of his breaks was one of the real eye-openers in Mobile. To be honest, he was more fluid and impressive in his drop than most of the corners there, including teammate Jerome Murphy. The guy also possesses a nice-sized frame, finds the football quickly out of his breaks and grades out as the nation’s top senior safety in my opinion.
S T.J. Ward, Oregon
Another safety who impressed with his fluidity and nose for the ball was Oregon’s T.J. Ward. Ward is a safety who will get caught freelancing at times, but there’s no denying he has the ability to ball-hawk in the pass game. He did a great job all week diagnosing plays in coverage, cleanly getting out of his breaks and quickly closing on the football. Plus, he plays a lot bigger than his frame indicates and loves to come up and tackle inside the box.
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