2011 East-West Shrine Game: Top 25 NFL Draft Prospects
The 2011 East-West Shrine Game will be played this Saturday, January 22nd in Orlando, Florida. It will be the 86th rendition of the annual senior showcase.
Postseason senior bowls are a huge opportunity for NFL Draft prospects. All week, the players get to showcase their skills, hustle and coachability to NFL coaches and scouts.
This year's game will be coached by Wade Phillips and Dan Reeves. With Phillips heading to Houston, the West defenders will be having a direct audition to be a part of his 3-4 defense.
Although the Shrine Game isn't as high profile as the Senior Bowl, it is still a prestigious event, majorly filled with NFL talent. A player can improve his stock by one to three rounds with a primetime performance.
Last year, we saw a glimpse of what Javarris James, Rodger Saffold and T.J. Ward could do against elite competition, and there is plenty of impact NFL talent in this year's game.
Here are the Top 25 East-West Shrine Game prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Let me know what you think of this year's talent and follow me on Twitter @JohnLorge.
25. Evan Royster, RB, Penn St.
Coming on strong as a sophomore with 1,236 rushing yards and 12 TDs, Evan Royster's career plateaued rafter quickly.
He has cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for three straight years now but never reached the level of production he did in 2008.
Royster isn't guaranteed to get drafted; this is a very thick RB class, but at 6'1", 230, he can offer teams a good change of pace.
The former high school Lacrosse All-American can also be an impact special teamer.
24. Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon
There are a lot of pros and cons on Bair's scouting report.
At 6'7" and 275 pounds, he is an impressive frame for a defensive tackle that could comfortably assume another 20 pounds. That size has helped him deflect 12 passes during his career, including eight this year.
If you watched the National Championship, you might be wondering if Bair was even playing, though. Only posting two assisted tackles in the game. Big stats have never been a major theme of Bair's career.
Overall, he is a solid run defender who does a good job of making plays behind the LOS. Depending on the front he gets drafted into, Bair could be asked to play several line fronts until he finds his best NFL fit.
23. Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
Carter is one of several Shrine Game participants using their bowl game performances to spring board their NFL Draft stock. Against Kansas St., he took 27 carries for 198 yards and two scores.
The performance really helped Carter because he is battling some red flags from an assault charge last spring.
As a prospect you have to like Carter's build. He's a chiseled 215 pounds at 5'10" and would do well in a one-cut zone-blocking scheme.
He isn't much of a receiver, so Carter will have to show scouts he's also willing to be a special team contributor until he gets a shot to carry the rock.
22. Greg Lloyd, LB, UConn
Son of NFL great with the same name, Greg Lloyd might not be his father, but he is a very good NFL prospect.
Lloyd has struggled with injuries throughout his career. When healthy, he is a physical, run-stuffing linebacker.
As an inside linebacker, he might be limited to two downs in the 3-4 scheme, and he hasn't shown great pass rusher skills.
Lloyd can really use the Shrine Game to show scouts he's in good health and ready to become a pro.
21. Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho
An impact performer since his freshman year at Idaho, the 5'11", 220-pound, Keo really brings it.
He's better against the run than the pass, but Keo did start the season with picks in three consecutive games.
He's very stout which brings up questions about his speed and agility, but with his hustle and tackling ability, he's ready to add to a NFL team from day one on special teams.
20. Karl Klug, DE, Iowa
Playing opposite of Adrian Clayborn, Klug was able to register 5.5 sacks for the Hawkeyes this season.
He has the experience and typical size you look for in a mid-to-late round prospect.
If Klug is willing to add another 20 pounds, he could be a dirty-work five-tech in a 3-4 scheme which would fit his blue collar mentality. Doing all of the small things will go a long way for Klug.
19. Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska
The 6'5", 265-pound Allen didn't progress as much as expected this season. He recorded five sacks in 2009 when playing alongside Suh and only three this season.
Allen has the right size and athleticism for the NFL, but his production is a bit puzzling. He played with one of the best secondaries in college football this year, which should have gave him enough time to track down the QB.
Allen will need to use Shrine Game practices to show scouts what he's made of. There are plenty of one-on-one sessions so his future rests on his shoulders.
18a. Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond
An experienced and accomplished corner from the FCS level. Rogers will use the Shrine Game to show scouts the 12 interceptions he's racked-up over the past three seasons are not due to inferior talent, but his skills.
At 5'10" and 185 pounds, Rogers has enough size to compete as a second or third corner in the NFL.
One thing that separates Rogers from other corner prospects are his ball skills. We talked about the picks, but he was actually used on offense. Rogers caught three passes, ran the ball five times and completed both of his passing attempts.
18b. Martin Parker, DT, Richmond
Another Richmond Spider. You have to love a defensive tackle who wears No. 9, but there is more to Parker than just a number.
A four-year, full-time starter, Parker racked up 288 tackles, with 56 of them for a loss. Nineteen sacks and seven forced fumbles are also notable stats.
Standing 6'3" and around 300 pounds, Parker's stout to say the least. He owns the Richmond squat record (640 pounds), and his bench was at 420 pounds last spring.
Both Richmond players will be at the 2011 NFL Draft Combine.
17. Graig Cooper, RB, Miami
It's tough to discount any running back coming out of The U. They just know how to get it done in the NFL.
Like many Miami backs before him, Cooper had mixed production in college due to injuries and the talent on the depth chart. This season was is least productive, and he didn't record any stats in the Sun Bowl.
Cooper's ability to return kicks and punts is attractive to teams, and he's a talented receiving back. He has good burst and quickness.
16. Lestar Jean, WR, Florida Atlantic
Didn't see many Florida Atlantic games this year? Not surprised. About the only thing you missed out on was Lestar Jean.
Really coming on as a senior, Jean caught 64 passes for 988 yards and eight TDs.
At 6'3", 195, Jean has the size team, and he also has the speed. With great burst, Jean can go from 0-60 in a flash.
15. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland St.
The Associated picture is no mistake. Thomas is a hooper turned tight end, this season was his first since his freshman year of high school.
The 6'5", 240-pounder is still a project, but after the success of Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, teams are becoming more-willing to spend late-round picks on these type of prospects.
Twenty-nine catches for 453 yards and two TDs were highlighted with 100-yard games against Montana St. and Weber St.
Coaches have said Thomas is a better blocker than anticipated, if he can show that against the young men he will face in the Shrine Game it will really help his stock.
14. Cecil Shorts, WR, Mt. Union
Sure, it was against DIII opponents, but scoring 22 TDs is killer production at any NCAA level.
No small school prospect needs to show he can compete with DI guys more than Shorts because of the gap in opponents quality.
Shorts could break through in the NFL with his return ability. At 6'0", 190, he won't wow anybody by stepping on the field, but given the opportunity, he has the skills to succeed.
13. Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU
Listed at 6'6" 320, I wouldn't be surprised if Big Joe is carrying another 20-30 pounds somewhere. He doesn't appear tubby, but he has tree stump legs, muscular arms and is massive overall.
Barksdale has spent time at left and right tackle for LSU, and most scouts project him to move back to the right side, or possibly guard, though left tackle isn't out of the question.
In high school, Barksdale was an All-American defensive tackle, and he came to LSU as a five-star blue-chip recruit.
He's faced more talented rushers in his career, like Von Miller and Carlos Dunlap, than he will face at the Shrine Game, so he can play with total confidence.
12. Brian Rolle, LB, Ohio St.
Rolle is a familiar name in NFL defensive backfields. Brian, the cousin of Antrel, plays the game differently than his namesake, but he's a pro talent nonetheless.
Following a long line of successful inside backers, Rolle has been OSU's man in the middle for the past two seasons. From sacks to interceptions, and a plethora of tackles, he's done it all for the Buckeyes.
His size (5'11", 225) has teams puzzled as to where Rolle will fit-in. The best bet is an in the box strong safety so showing off his speed will be important over the next few months.
Whether he's a backer or safety, Rolle can be a impact special teamer. We've seen sub-six-foot middle backers before (London Fletcher & Lofa Tatupu), and with a little more bulk, Rolle could be the next.
11. Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
An Honorable Mention All-American selection, few players have played on a bigger stage than Maehl over the past three seasons.
Against Auburn, his explosive speed was on display. He showed he can get behind the defense for deep balls, and he is a talented executioner on screens.
Currently, Maehl projects as a No. 3 receiver on a passing team, but in the right situation, he could have a Mike Wallace-esque career.
10. Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois
Experience can be one of the most underrated attributes of an NFL Draft prospect. So often, we look at physical measurements, highlights and what they did this year.
Lindsey should measure in around 6'0" and 190 pounds. He has interception highlights and was stellar this season.
Lindsey is also a four-year starter. He has had twice as many in-game reps as some of his peers.
The Shrine Game will be a chance for Lindsey to put his savvy on display against elevated talent than what he saw at SIU.
9. Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati
Entering the season, Binns was challenging to be the top senior WR in the draft. A four-win year and lack of polish, has hurt Binns' stock, but there is still plenty of love about the prospect.
In the absence of Mardy Gilyard, Binns caught 75 balls for 1,101 yards and 10 TDs. He had 888 yards and 11 TDs as a junior.
The 6'3", 204-pound WR has the size and ball skills to be a playmaker in the NFL. What teams will want to see during Shrine Game week is his dedication to blocking and the finer things in practice.
8. Jah Reid, OT, Central Florida
Big Jah Reid has a lot to offer NFL teams. At 6'7", 325, he has the prototypical size for a starting offensive tackle.
Reid is thickly built throughout his body, carrying his weight well.
His three years of starting experience are at right tackle which is a slight knock on his stock, but the gap between the two bookend positions isn't as wide as the movie The Blind Side suggests.
Beating Georgia in the Liberty Bowl showed UCF and Reid could hang with the big boys.
7. Dontay Moch, LB, Nevada
Moch's production, 30 career sacks, speaks for itself.
He has spent time as both a DE and OLB at Nevada, and the biggest pre-draft worry scouts have is where to put him.
At 6'1", 245, he isn't a 4-3 DE. As a linebacker in that scheme, he will need to progress in terms of pass coverage, but he has good instincts that should help him adjust. A 4-3 team that blitzes their linebackers would appreciate him more.
In the 3-4, Moch projects as a better fit. His lack of size will scare some teams off, but his measurements are similar to James Harrison.
Moch will be looking to have an all-around showing in Orlando to help his stock.
6. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
Elmore was top 10 in the nation in sacks with 11 this season; it was the second year in a row which he posted a double-digit number.
The most impressive thing about Elmore is his burst. When he gets the ball carrier in his sights (especially QBs), he punches in an extra gear and closes in the blink of an eye.
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Elmore can play wide in either scheme. He needs to do a better job of chopping at the ball, but that's a skill that's often worked on in the NFL.
5. Cliff Matthews, DE, South Carolina
The Gamecocks great defense was led by end Cliff Mathews this season.
Over the past two years, the 6'4", 270-pound end has recorded 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles.
Matthews broad experience makes him an attractive prospect to NFL teams. In 2007, he was a Freshman All-American at OLB. In high school, he was a talented tight end and an all-state performer in basketball and track.
In short, Mathews is an athlete that adds value in the 3-4 and 4-3.
4. Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU
There were times in 2009 when Toliver looked like a better prospect than now-Carolina Panther Brandon LaFell. Unfortunately, there have been too many times over the past two seasons where you forget he's on the field.
Coming off a 112-yard, three-TD performance in the Cotton Bowl, Toliver is riding his rising draft stock in to the Shrine Game.
At 6'5" and 210 pounds, there is a lot to like about Toliver. Not only is he a great downfield threat, but he plays quicker than expected on short routes and is a legit threat after the catch.
To be fair to Toliver, his stats do reflect the caliber of his QB. Option QBs Tyrod Taylor and Ricky Dobbs on the East squad may not be much better, but if he can get as many reps as possible with Pat Devlin, it will help Toliver impress.
3. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech
No, he isn't Mike Vick, but Tyrod Taylor is still a special talent. We're seeing the influences of the shotgun spread offense all over the NFL, and whether Taylor is a QB, RB, or WR, he fits in that scheme perfectly.
In his final two seasons, Taylor threw 37 TDs to 10 INTs. His only 300-yard passing game was against Duke as a JR, but he was able to supplement the air game with his dual-threat ability. The Hokies also had a talented stable of backs that kept pressure off the passing game.
Taylor is a winner. At Va. Tech, he played on teams that were in three Orange Bowls and one Chick-fil-A Bowl.
It will be interesting to watch Taylor's progression into an NFL weapon, but as long as he is open-minded and willing to do what coaches ask of him—starting in the Shrine Game—we should continue to hear his name for years to come.
2. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
Pat Devlin has everything scouts look for in a QB prospect. At 6'4", he can see over the line, his mechanics are sound and he is an experienced starter.
Although he comes from the FCS level, it won't be a major mark against Devlin as long as he plays at an elite level during Shrine Game week.
Devlin was a Top 150 recruit coming out of high school in 2006. He accepted a scholarship to Penn St. but left school to fill Joe Flacco's shoes in pursuit of playing time (and a more NFL friendly offense).
Currently, he is challenging for a second-round pick.
1. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
He's the top prospect in the East-West Shrine Game, and at the same time, this game isn't bigger for any prospect than former North Carolina DT Marvin Austin.
It's been over a year since we've seen Austin in Carolina blue. He was suspended for the entire season due to involvement with an agent last year—Austin was heavily considering going pro as a junior.
The last time we saw Austin, he was an explosive and disruptive 6'3", 305-pound tackle.
The biggest question is what type of shape will he be in? I can give him a small pass if his in-game conditioning isn't peak, but I want to see a trim gut. Austin is very stout in build, with massive arms, so he could have easily stayed the same weight but added five to 10 good pounds in the last year.
The offensive line talent in the game isn't nearly the same quality as in the Senior Bowl, and I expect a hungry Austin to have a dominant performance all week. If he does, his stock will be upgraded to fringe first round, even with the DL depth in the draft.