The next couple of months are crucial to a college player looking to improve his draft stock. While many players make their move during the NFL Scouting Combine and individual pro days, some are able to get a head start in postseason exhibition games. It's the week of the Senior Bowl and we have already seen the East-West Shrine Game and The AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. These five players have made an early impression thus far.
Michigan St. WR B.J. Cunningham
Cunningham has a solid NFL body already (6'1", 209 pounds). He does not have top-end speed, but his above-average route running and ability to go up and get the football has scouts intrigued. He helped himself over the weekend with an impressive 17-yard touchdown catch in the East-West Shrine Game over the weekend. Cunningham can have a long, solid career at the next level as a secondary receiver.
Miami TE Chase Ford
If you look at Ford's two seasons at Miami not much stands out. Only 16 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Before last week he was not even projected to be drafted. After an impressive showing in practice at the East-West Shrine Game the big target (6'6", 245 pounds) has put himself in the late rounds and could be a fifth-round pick when it's all said and done. He showed impressive ball skills in an era where tight ends are the new "it" thing. He must improve his blocking at the NFL level.
Fresno St. WR Devon Wylie
Versatility can go a long way in the NFL. Wylie brings just that to the table. Slowed last season by a foot injury, he still managed 56 receptions and an impressive 15.3 average on punt returns with two touchdowns. Wylie is a player in the mode of Wes Welker as he is small in stature (5'9", 185 pounds), but has great ability to make people miss in space. He did just that in the East-West Shrine Game. Look for him to be a slot receiver and punt returner on the next level.
Did you watch the East-West Shrine Classic?
Virginia DT Matt Conrath
This member of the 2011 All-ACC first team has had a solid career. His size (6'7", 281 pounds) gives him the flexibility to line up inside or outside on the defensive line. He did just that during practice last week at the East-West Shrine game. He needs to improve his pass rushing ability at the next level, but his length will give offensive linemen trouble. He batted down three passes in practice last week and had a knack for blocking field goals in his collegiate career.
Arizona St. QB Brock Osweiler
Osweiler raised plenty of eyebrows when he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He also has not played in any postseason exhibition games. However, with his stock on the rise his decision is looking better each day. Osweiler and former great Jake Plummer are the only two quarterbacks to start as a true freshman at Arizona St. His gaudy numbers (over 4,000 yards and 26 TD's last year) and terrific size (6'7", 240 pounds) have cemented him in the Round 2-3 area. In an era where we saw Christian Ponder go early last year and Andy Dalton go too late, don't be surprised if Osweiler sneaks into the back end of the first round.