Assessing the NFL Potential of 10 East-West Shrine Game Draft Prospects
Action typically picks up on day two and three of the Shrine Game practices every year, as players put on full pads and start showing off more than just their athleticism.
This year, the second day was a bit of a downer, as both Jerry Glanville and Leeman Bennett ran more lackadaisical practices in which there was more teaching than getting in solid reps. The teams also seemed to be running more special teams reps than usual, which isn't always the best way to get a good look at most of the talent.
Still, the shining moment of any All-Star game's second day is "the pit"—a drill in which offensive and defensive linemen line up and go mano a mano. Since so many factors can go into line play, it's always a treat to see which guys are able to step up, take on good competition and put the other guys on their backside.
On day three, it's a perfect opportunity to take a look at defenders, as the pads are on and speed starts to pick up. It isn't the same as watching these guys during game conditions to be sure, but it's as good of a look as scouts will get at them apart from pouring through tape.
So which linemen and defenders are most ready for the pros?
Mike Catapano, DL, Princeton University
In a league where background or situational ends are quickly becoming a dime-a-dozen, it's important for a young man to prove that he has the ability to be more than that.
Catapano quickly did that on the second day of practices, showing talents against both the run and the pass and incredible savvy technique against read-option plays that were giving other linemen fits.
Thinking I may be overestimating him, I floated his name to several agents, scouts and former scouts, and everyone said that Catapano has established himself as one of the studs in Tampa.
Izaan Cross, DL, Georgia Tech
Cross has tantalized NFL teams with his talent for a while. He's not an elite player by any means, but he had stretches where he looked like a man among boys at the ACC level.
He had much the same experience in Tampa, where interior linemen can often disappear during teamwork drills. Against both run and pass plays, Cross found ways into the backfield, showcasing a devastating rip and the ability to lean through the line without losing a lot of momentum.
Terron Armstead, OL, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Armstead flipped between right tackle and left tackle during reps at practice. He showed off some good agility in pass protection along with a pair of "sticky" hands that grabbed on to pass-rushers' frames and steered them to where he wanted them to go.
He may not have the elite athleticism that teams look for in their starting left tackle, but he could intrigue teams as a possible starter/developmental prospect on the right side in the later rounds. Teams don't look for "average" guys then; they look for guys that can be great.
David Bass, DL, Missouri Western
A lot of non-draftnik media types hadn't seen a lot of David Bass before Tampa, but almost everybody is hoping to get another look at him now.
Right from the start, Bass looked impressive in his stance, and he has the length to keep blockers off of him as he gets into the backfield.
As a small-school prospect, he'll be someone that many teams will want to bring in because one can never have enough pass-rushers.
Will Campbell, DL, Michigan
Campbell is an infuriating prospect and has been since high school.
Scouts break down players between "natural skill" (what your momma and the good Lord gave ya) and "acquired skill" (things coaches have taught). Campbell is, almost entirely, natural skill. The same scouting report on him now was written by plenty of recruiting services five years ago.
That, however, makes him a blank slate. Coaches love blank slates.
Campbell can play either tackle position in a 4-3 and anywhere on the line in a 3-4. He's big and athletic, and some defensive line coach is going to climb up on the table demanding that he be the one to mold him.
James Ferentz, OL, Iowa
Ferentz was overpowered on play after play during Shrine Game practices.
The thing is, that happened in college too...and in high school against good competition.
Like Campbell, Ferentz hasn't changed his stars much since he was the guy that only earned one D-1 scholarship—from his dad.
Yet Ferentz has always been able to overcome his physical deficiencies with great play and an understanding of leverage that comes from his days as a wrestler.
He may never be a starter in the NFL, but he could be a dependable backup, and he is the kind of intelligent kid that teams love to have around.
Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State
Hodges had a bumpy week to be sure.
He's athletic, big, and he loves to stick his head into the pile and blow up plays at the line of scrimmage. He also shows good vision through traffic on the way to the ball-carrier. The problem is, a lingering hamstring injury sidelined him for a practice, a walkthrough and probably, the game this weekend.
He'll almost certainly get a look as a depth linebacker at any number of positions in any number of schemes. A good pre-draft process could rocket him up boards, however, this bump in the road will be tough to overcome unless he gets a shot at the Senior Bowl next week.
Earl Wolff, S, N.C. State
The first time East Team defenders let the wolf-howl rip, everyone looked around and wondered what the heck was going on. Then, as the N.C. State safety kept making play after play, it started to sound more like a night under the full moon than a day out on the practice field.
Wolff is physical in coverage and found himself in the "right place at the right time" often during passing drills.
Devin Taylor, DL, South Carolina
Normally, "he doesn't belong here" is a terrible thing to hear about a prospect at an All-Star event. Guys that get invites because of reasons other than play (hype, school affiliation, agent schmoozing, etc.) often can get embarrassed on the practice field.
When people started saying it about Devin Taylor, however, they meant something completely different—as in, he belongs at the Senior Bowl.
When Taylor was taking a rep, it was almost certain that he would find his way into the backfield. The offensive line talent was great this week, and Taylor still shined. Don't be surprised if he's called up to Mobile or if he's the first Shrine Game participant with his name called on draft day.
Wes Horton, DL, USC
Horton is a pretty freakish athlete compared to many of the defensive linemen on the West Team. He has violent hands and was launching bags as he punched and ripped past them. He wasn't the most balanced through drills, and it's unclear if he'll be able to hold up as a defensive end at the next level. If that means he'll be a rush linebacker, Horton will need to get better on his feet than what he showed in Tampa.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.