NFL scouts are some of the most meticulous talent evaluators in professional sports, and those scouts are taking notes this week at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Shrine Game week present scouts with an opportunity to get a look at college prospects that may be flying under the radar at this point in the pre-draft process. Some of those prospects will hear their name called on draft day with help from a good performance this week.
Several offensive prospects will garner attention from pro scouts, and we’ll take a look at some of the best.
Ray Graham: RB, Pittsburgh (East)
Graham had a productive career at Pittsburgh, rushing for more than 900 yards in each of his last three seasons. In 2012, Graham rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was a major piece of Pitt’s offense.
NFL teams in need of a change-of-pace back in mid-to-late rounds will certainly have their eye on Graham, who is a small but shifty back with good vision and exceptional speed. His footwork and cutback ability are terrific, and Graham is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield.
Of all the running backs on the Shrine Game roster, Graham is the most intriguing. His draft stock won’t depend solely on his performance this week, but he should catch the eye of more than a few scouts.
Collin Klein: QB, Kansas State (East)
It’s unusual for a Heisman finalist to be so far off the radar, but Klein’s slight frame and run-first mentality are often signs of caution for NFL scouts.
Klein’s presence at the Shrine Game is a good sign for his draft stock, because it will give him the opportunity to showcase his throwing ability at practice during the week in a less formal environment than a pro day or the scouting combine.
Still, Klein’s throwing motion and inconsistency in the passing game will work against him, but if nothing else scouts will get a look at what he can do with his legs. He rushed for 2,061 yards and 50 touchdowns in his final two years at Kansas State, and may garner some consideration in a different offensive role in the NFL.
Jasper Collins: WR, Mount Union (West)
Mount Union has churned out some pretty good receivers lately, and Collins has the potential to be another quality NFL receiver.
Collins stands just 5’11”, but he has terrific speed and soft hands to pluck the football out of the air. He finished his career at Mount Union with 232 catches, just 27 catches behind the school’s all-time leader, Cecil Shorts (via CBSSports.com).
Collins’ production at Mount Union was terrific, but he’ll need to prove to scouts that he has the physical tools to succeed at the next level. He’ll be one of the most electric offensive players to watch this week, and could play his way into the fifth or sixth round of this year’s draft.
Joseph Fauria: TE, UCLA (West)
Fauria’s size is his best asset, and scouts will get a good look at him in person this week. At 6’7” and 255 pounds, it will be hard to miss Fauria on the field.
In 2012 at UCLS, Fauria caught 46 passes for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s a natural receiver with a tight end’s body, but he needs to work on his blocking skills to be a well-rounded player.
In a draft class with little depth at tight end, Fauria could find a way to move up into the middle rounds of the draft with a good showing this week. The NFL is trending toward big, athletic pass-catching tight ends, and he certainly fits the bill.
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