Texas A&M's Christine Michael definitely has a future role in the NFL.
Note: The game is scheduled for Saturday, January 19 at 4 p.m. ET. Live action at Tropicana Field can be seen on NFL Network.
From big-armed developmental quarterbacks to near NFL-ready safeties, players on both sides of the ball will command the gaze of 49ers scouts.
Practice took place Monday through Thursday for both the East and West squads. Whereas sloppy performances were prevalent at the start of the week, players showed improvement later on after donning pads and acclimating to pro-style coaching.
Many either maintained or increased their draft stock. Other NFL hopefuls, however, saw a precipitous decline to their already low-rated standing.
We’ll now provide a scouting guide on eight offensive prospects worthy of a mid-round to free-agent level selection that the 49ers should keep an eye on in the East-West Shrine Game.
Check back later today for a guide covering eight prospects on the defensive side of the ball.
Colby Cameron of Lousiana Tech thrives on efficiency.
Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech
6’2’’, 210 Pounds, 4.87-Second 40
Cameron enjoyed a breakout campaign during his senior year at Louisiana Tech.
He ranked fifth in the NCAA with 359 pass completions and a 68.8 completion percentage. His 4,147 yards passing were the seventh-most in the nation, while his 35 total touchdowns (31 passing) led the Western Athletic Conference.
Only one other college gunslinger eclipsed his remarkable 345.6 yards passing per game this season. Said accomplishments earned him WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
From 2011-2012, Cameron set an NCAA record with 444 pass attempts without throwing an interception.
The ever-efficient quarterback consistently showed a quick release and great touch on mid-range passes in practice, according to Eric Galko of OptimumScouting.com. He impressed scouts by recovering from a poor early showing on Monday.
CBS Sports notes that Cameron’s lack of elite size and arm strength will minimize his viability at the NFL level.
That said, a strong performance in the East-West matchup could substantiate his current late-round status as a future NFL backup. The 49ers might very well deem him worthy of a spot on the practice squad behind Scott Tolzien and starter Colin Kaepernick.
Alex Carder, Western Michigan
6’2’’, 220 Pounds, 4.89-Second 40
This Mid-America Conference quarterback compiled his best work during the 2010-2011 seasons at Western Michigan.
Carder totaled 7,207 yards and 61 touchdowns in those two years. He reached his apex in 2011 after leading the MAC with 338 pass completions, 3,873 yards passing and 31 TDs.
He unfortunately suffered an injury to his throwing hand in the fourth game of 2012 and didn’t return until November for the final two contests. Overall, Carder threw for 1,652 yards and 13 TDs to 10 interceptions, completing 58.5 percent of his passes in six total games.
Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc. testified to Carder’s athleticism and mobility in Monday’s practice that helped produce 10 rushing TDs during his NCAA career. Muench also commended his patience while waiting for downfield routes to develop.
Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko viewed Carder as exhibiting impressive touch on outside throws, calling him the “best of the bunch” on Monday. He gave him similar marks later in the week despite Carder’s inconsistencies.
Like Louisiana Tech’s QB before him, Carder possesses a limited skill set. But, like Cameron, he also could develop into a backup down the line.
The 49ers may want to give Carder a look if he produces on Saturday—the very least as a possible free-agent pickup following the draft.
Michael and Ray Graham sure enjoy getting their stiff-arm on.
Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
5’09’’, 192 Pounds, 4.58-Second 40
CBS Sports currently lists Graham as its No. 14 running back with late-fourth to early-fifth round value.
But don’t let that seemingly lowly ranking confuse someone who’s otherwise the most pro-ready back at the East-West Shrine Game.
Graham one-upped his rushing totals from 922 to 958 to 1,042 yards, and from eight, nine and finally 11 touchdowns from the 2010 through 2012 seasons.
He averaged 5.5 yards per rush and totaled 32 TDs for his career, and added another 98 receptions for 799 yards and four TDs during his four years at Pittsburgh.
If stats generally aren’t your thing, check out this effusive praise from Eric Galko:
The only real note from the running backs…was how much quicker, faster, and more elusive Ray Graham was than the other two (Zac Stacy and Montel Harris)…just how drastically quicker to the edge and decisive/explosive laterally Graham compared to the other two really stood out...[his] burst certainly was shown off today.
The record-setting back at Pittsburgh erased all doubts regarding his sustainability following a torn ACL in 2011. One cannot deny his speed, explosiveness and burst to the outside.
There are some off the field character concerns and questions over Graham’s abilities as an every-down back in the NFL. But there also exists the potential of Graham becoming the next LeSean McCoy.
San Francisco could very well find itself a big-time home-run threat at the end of the fourth round.
We suggest watching Graham come Saturday.
Christine Michael, Texas A&M
5’10’’, 221 Pounds, 4.49-Second 40
If not for injuries, Michael would be a much sought after back.
The former Texas A&M Aggie broke his right leg in 2010 and tore his left ACL in 2011. He also wasn’t the every-down rusher this season.
All that said, Michael grades out as an even better running back than Graham.
He possesses the physical measurables of size, speed and strength, as well as the requisite vision, agility and ballsy demeanor of a three-down back at the next level.
Despite limited seasonal action in college, Michael rushed for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman, 899 yards a 6.0-average in 2011 and 12 TDs as the Aggies’ goal-line threat this year.
For the 49ers, we at the very least like Michael as a short-yardage weapon and fully serviceable backup for them behind Frank Gore. They’ll surely train their eyes on him as the premier RB for the West on Saturday.
Sudfeld (No. 44) scores one of his eight senior-year touchdowns.
D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers
6’6’’, 255 Pounds, 4.82-Second 40
Looking at his collegiate stats, Jefferson would not appear as a draftable prospect. He had just 47 catches for 560 yards and two touchdowns.
In this week’s practices, however, the underutilized Rutgers tight end showed legitimate developmental value as a receiver and blocker.
Rob Rang, meanwhile, noted his “large, athletic frame and [showing as] an imposing target downfield and [as] a physical blocker.”
The 49ers would have preferred more consistent physicality and production in college.
But with his evident future potential and value as a late-seventh round or free-agent pickup, Jefferson is surely a player to watch for a team that holds tight ends in such high regard.
Zach Sudfeld, Nevada
6’6’’, 261 Pounds, 4.76-Second 40
Colin Kaepernick may have a familiar face gracing the sideline after this East West Shrine Game.
Nevada’s Sudfeld came on to the scene this season with 45 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns.
He was one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award (nation’s top tight end) and offers a noteworthy combination of size, athleticism and sure-handedness, according to Chris Murray of The Reno Gazette-Journal (via CBSSports.com).
Sudfeld made up for his lack of speed by tracking the ball in traffic and running good seam routes in practice.
B/R’s own Michael Schottey acknowledged Sudfeld’s 20-yard reception as the highlight of the first day. He enjoys the prospect’s standing as a “developmental pass-catcher.”
Both Schottey and Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting praised Sudfeld for stepping up in the absence of the more highly-regarded Joseph Fauria of UCLA, as well.
On the down side, he has a long way to go as a consistently reliable blocker. Steve Muench acknowledged as much.
With Delanie Walker’s likely departure in free agency, the 49ers will keep an eye on Sudfeld as a No. 3 receiving weapon behind Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek.
Blake makes an impressive dive for the end zone against Arkansas.
Emory Blake, Auburn
6’1’’, 196 Pounds, 4.58-Second 40
With or without Cam Newton as his quarterback, Blake produced consistent results at the wide receiver position.
Blake averaged nearly 650 yards, 16 yards per reception and five touchdowns during his final three seasons at Auburn.
Alabama Live’s Joel A. Erickson astutely pointed out that Blake attained career-highs in 2012 “despite playing in one the nation’s worst passing offenses” (via CBSSports.com). No pass-catcher hauled in more than 18 passes or 139 yards for Auburn this season.
Optimum Scouting gave Blake high marks for superior route running, timing his breaks well and gaining consistent separation from defensive backs. Despite lackluster quarterback play throughout the week, Eric Galko saw enough of an impression and foresees Blake making an NFL roster.
One knock on Blake is his lack of size and top-end speed. This may indeed prove troublesome against physical, talented corners at the next level.
Outstanding body control and reliable hands, though, should give the 49ers ample reason for watching Blake in this weekend’s on-field action.
Keenan Davis, Iowa
6’2’’, 216 Pounds, 4-48-Second 40
The East-West Shrine Game version of Davis is far more encouraging than the one that appears on the statistical register.
Davis accumulated just 117 catches for 1,470 yards and seven touchdowns for his career. He averaged 18.8 yards on 19 kickoff returns as well.
Yes, these are by no means eye-popping numbers. They certainly do not reflect a wide receiver as talented as former Iowa product and current member of the Philadelphia Eagles Marvin McNutt.
Fortunately, Davis served as the most consistent West receiver in practice this week. He proved his value as a leading inside wideout with his “high-pointing ability, willingness to work in traffic and…body positioning in the mid-field” (h/t Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting).
Not only was he the most sure-handed WR throughout practice, Davis also showed the “route definition needed to succeed early in the NFL,” according to Galko.
And Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc. applauded Davis for not registering a single drop on the final day of practice.
Finally, both Galko and B/R’s Michael Schottey agreed that Davis’ NFL stock is at its highest. He consistently generated separation (press or zone), caught nearly everything thrown his way and showcased his overall proficiency out of the slot and in intermediate areas.
With 2012 first-rounder A.J. Jenkins appearing lost on any area of the field, taking a flier on Davis as a free-agent pick up seems entirely reasonable.
Expect the 49ers to closely evaluate Davis when he plays in live action this weekend.
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