With all the talk about the Vikings coaching in the Senior Bowl, we missed one of the other college all-star games. Have no fear, though, as NMVike has us covered. - Chris
Happy Championship Sunday everyone! I just wanted to share some thoughts about this past week's East West Shrine game. I know this game isn't quite as prominent as the Senior Bowl, but there were several players that made a name for themselves and are very likely to become solid players in the NFL. I focused primarily on the positions that I think the Vikings need to address in this year's draft. Those positions are offensive line, defensive secondary, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and linebacker. I also threw in a couple of names of players that might be worth taking a flier on as developmental prospects.
Join me after the jump for the players who I thought stood out.
My eyes were primarily focused on the trenches. All star games usually give the offense an advantage because defense's aren't allowed to blitz or stunt. So for the majority of the game we got to see a lot of one on one matchups between offensive and defensive lines. Here are the players on the offensive side of the ball who stood out:
Brandon Brooks, guard University of Miami, Ohio. At 6'5" 353lbs, Brooks is absolutely massive. And as you might expect, he's a mauler in the run game. In fact, on the West squad's game winning drive, former Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress who coached the West squad, elected to run the ball beind Brooks all the way to the endzone. Brooks neutralized whoever he faced in the game and constantly drove opposing players down the field. Here's what National Football Post's West Bunting had to say about Brooks after the first day of practice:
Overall, I thought the MVP of Monday was Miami (OH) OG Brandon Brooks. Not only is he a solid 353-pound lineman who carries his weight well, but he dropped his pad level well into contact in the run game and was natural laterally in pass protection. He displayed a very powerful punch on contact as well and plays with the kind of mean streak needed to consistently finish in the NFL. Looks like yet another NFL starter to me at the next level, only adding to the very strong guard class.
He added this after day 3:
On the other side of the ball, Miami (OH) OG Brandon Brooks continues to improve his balance and footwork in pass protection. He was routinely able to mirror through contact, lock out his arms and keep his back flat. He’s a heavy-handed player with strong lower half and looks like a capable starting NFL guard prospect.
And finally, Bunting ranked the top 10 NFL prospects after the Shrine game, a list which included Brooks:
3. Miami (OH) OG Brandon Brooks (6-5, 353)
Brooks stood out immediately at the weigh-in, carrying his weight about as well as you can for a 353-pound specimen. He dominated practice all week due to his combination of power, balance, coordination and pop on his punch. He’s a natural anchor player who can slide through contact and overwhelm in the run game. There isn’t a ton of snap off the ball initially into contact, but he still looks like a starter at the next level to me.
Here's what Charlie Campbell had to say over at Walterfootball.com about Brandon Brooks:
Miami of Ohio guard Brandon Brooks was dominant on Saturday. He blasted open holes in the ground game and showed his power. Brooks' strong week to go along with his physical frame has himself in third- or fourth-round consideration.
The other prospect worth noting is Derek Dennis, guard Temple. Bunting wasn't as generous with praise for Dennis, but in the game I thought Dennis showed good footwork and balance. However, Bunting did list Dennis as a prospect to watch:
OG Derek Dennis: Temple (6-5, 328)
Is worth a pick because he moves so well for a 325-pound lineman. Needs to learn to play lower though if he ever hopes to be anything more than a reserve. However, his fluidity on the move says he has a chance to mature into a starter.
One other offensive lineman who I wanted to take a close look at was Wayne State's Joe Long. Joe is the younger brother of Miami Dolphins Jake Long. While Joe clearly is not as developed or polished as his big brother, he more than held his own against tough competition in the all star game. Mike Mayock believes that he will get a shot, not only because of his blood lines, but also because he can long snap. If a team takes a late round flier on him or signs him as an UDFA and allows him to develop for a few years, he might be able to start a right tackle down the road.
As I mentioned earlier, the defenses were very vanilla in this game, and not many defensive players stood out during the actual game, but there were a few guys who made a name for themselves in practice. And no one made a bigger impression than Coastal Carolina's Josh Norman. After the first practice, Norman was one of 2 players that had Mike Mayock's attention. According to Mayock, Norman was all over the field, intercepting passes and swatting balls away from receivers. Norman did get beat on a double move late in the game, but he did show some aggressiveness and willigness to come up and deliver a hit earlier in the game. Here's what Wes Bunting had to say about Norman, who he ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect:
2. Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman (6-0, 203)
If there was an MVP of the week in St. Petersburg, Norman was the guy. He’s long, physical and showcased an impressive burst when asked to drive on the football. He was making plays all week and not only has a “plus” skill set, but also exhibits a very natural feel deciphering routes developing in front of him. There are some off the field character concerns, but he’s a legit top-100 pick.
Heres what the said about Norman over at walterfootball.com:
Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
Perhaps the player who laid claim to be being the top prospect at the East-West Shrine practices was Norman. All week, he had dominant practices that showcased him producing some splash plays. On Tuesday, Norman made an acrobatic interception reaching behind his head as he leapt into the air. The next practice, on Wednesday, saw Norman record two diving interceptions. He had good coverage all week and did not allow separation. The 6-foot-3, 203-pounder has size and athleticism to go along with speed and quickness.
In his collegiate career, Norman totaled 13 interceptions with 35 passes broken up, four forced fumbles, four blocked kicks and 196 tackles. He broke out with eight interceptions as a sophomore in 2009. Norman has the physical skill set to potentially be a starter in the NFL. After his stellar week in St. Petersburg, he could get consideration as a second-day pick next April.
One other DB who flashed in the game was Duke safety Matt Daniels. He is a big hitter with a nose for the ball, but he needs to improve his tackling in space. He has decent size and could easily challange Jamarca Sanford at strong safety.
Walterfootball's Charlie Campbell took notice of Matt Daniels' inconsistent play:
Duke safety Matt Daniels started the game with some nice plays, but then had his ankles broken on a juke by Fresno State wide receiver Devon Wylie. It got worse for Daniels when he allowed an onsides kick in the second quarter. It was a bad end to an otherwise good week for Daniels.
There weren't many splash plays made by the wide receivers in this game, but 2 guys I had my eye on were Michigan State's BJ Cunningham and Illinios wide out AJ Jenkins. BJ Cunningham started the week slow by most accounts, but progressed through the week and ended up with a touchdown in the game. Cunningham is not going to be a #1 WR at the next level. But I see him as a Michael Jenkins clone. Good size, good hands and the strength to move the chains. After Blackmon, Floyd and Wright, I don't see much difference between the rest of the wideouts in this draft. So rather than use a 2nd round pick on Dwight Jones, Nick Toon or even Marvin McNutt, I'd be happy with Cunningham in the 4th. Here's what was said about Jenkins during the week:
Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins made a nice catch plucking the football off his frame early in the day. However, after that he displayed his struggles as a route runner not really setting up his routes and running through his breaks. He also struggled to gain much separation and was inconsistent all day catching the football. Looks like an inside player only in the NFL who needs to be used off the line and asked to run mostly vertical routes.
Here's what walterfootball's Charlie Campbell had to say about Cunningham:
Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham started the week slow, but finished strong with a quality game. On a pass from Coleman, Cunningham caught a quick out before breaking a tackle and springing down the sideline for a touchdown catch of about 15 yards.
There were 3 defensive tackles who got plenty of attention in this game. Two of them could possibly end up as defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme, but could also play the 3 technique in the 4-3. I want to start with the one guy that could definately help the Vikes at the NT position. Here's what Charlie Campbell had to say about Baylor's Nick Jean-Baptiste:
Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor
Jean-Baptiste was one of the few Baylor defensive players who had a good 2011 season, and he carried that over into an impressive week in St. Petersburg. The 6-foot-1, 335-pounder was like a bowling ball rolling through offensive linemen and causing disruption in the backfield. Every lineman who went against Jean-Baptiste had problems with his bull rush. He has natural pad level, and the low-man wins. Consistently, Jean-Baptiste would get underneath the pads of the offensive linemen and push them straight back. He also showed some quickness with the ability to dart by them when using leverage to create a crease.
As a senior, Jean-Baptiste totaled 36 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and three passes broken up. He could be a nose tackle in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense at the next level. Jean-Baptiste is a sleeper prospect who could move up draft boards much like former teammate Phil Taylor. Right now, Jean-Baptiste looks like a second-day pick.
The other two players who made a name for themselves are Missouri's Dominque Hamilton and Regina University's (Canada) Akiem Hicks. Wes Bunting ranked both prospects in his overall top 10:
4. Missouri DT Dominique Hamilton (6-5, 320)
Hamilton flashed all week. He can bend, has a good first step and can overwhelm on contact. He will get himself into some trouble when he gets upright inside and I would like to see him continue to fill out his lower half a little more. However, he looks like an ideal five-technique at the next level who should be able to earn a starting job in the league.
Plays the run much stronger than his frame would indicate. He's got a burst off the snap, plays with leverage and extends his long arms. Has the frame to add 15 to 20 pounds and could get some real looks as a 43 nose or even a five-technique in a 34 if he stays at 305. Either way, if he can stay healthy he looks like an intriguing 34 prospect because of his ability to win vs. the run. If he continues to improve, certainly looks worthy of a pick and a roster spot.
10. DT Akiem Hicks: University of Regina (6-5, 325)
A tall, long-armed lineman who carries his weight well, displays impressive power on
contact and has the first step to get up the field and overwhelm. For a big guy he displays
some natural movement skills as well and his long arms allow him to gain leverage
consistently. However, the former LSU transfer is still raw, but with some development
looks like a guy who could end up starting in the league if he puts in the time. That is a
question mark though.
This recap is turning out longer than I planned, so I will end with one final prospect who definately caught the attention of fans and scouts alike. Tennessee Chattanoga QB BJ Coleman turned some heads. But don't take my word for it. Here is what the pros said about him:
9. UT Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman (6-3, 234)
In a quarterback starved league, you can’t ignore a kid with Coleman’s skill set. He’s a strong kid with a great arm and flashes the ability to balance himself into throws and accurately deliver the football on all levels of the field. Now, he’s inconsistent, but most of that stems because of poorer footwork, which can be fixed with more development because he has the natural athleticism and work ethic to improve.
He needs to improve his footwork from the gun and from center before he's ready for the NFL game. However, Coleman has a good skill set, can make all the throws and is an intriguing developmental kid with a "plus" upside.
• On the other hand, QB B.J. Coleman of UT Chattanooga was a well-put-together kid at 234 pounds and was the one quarterback down here who definitely looked the part.
Finally, watching UT Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman spin the football Monday gave me flashbacks of when I saw John Skelton down here two years ago. However, much like Skelton, Coleman was inconsistent with his balance in the pocket, looked rushed when trying to settle his feet and his accuracy struggled because of it. However, when he did have time to set his feet and see the throw he showcased the ability to make some tight throws on the skinny post in the intermediate pass game.
Walt himself wrote: B.J. Coleman, QB, UT-Chattanooga
B.J. Coleman was impressive in the first half, going 6-of-6 with a touchdown. He showed off his really good arm strength on one throw, and then aired out a nice touch pass to his tight end on the ensuing drive. I also thought his play-action fakes were really effective.
"He's the biggest, most strong-armed quarterback that we've had here this week," Mayock said. "He has NFL talent, but his footwork and mechanics need a lot of work."
Coleman struggled a bit in the second half until the final drive in which he nearly led his team back to victory (he finished 10-of-15 for 170 yards and a touchdown); earlier, he had an open receiver downfield, hesitated, and then settled for an intermediate throw along the sideline, which was ruled incomplete because the running back couldn't stay in bounds.
Still, Coleman has good talent and possesses a good amount of upside as a former Tennessee Vol; as Mayock said, he was "real impressive."
Charlie Campbell wrote: Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman looked better in the game than he did in practice throughout the week. Coleman threw some bullets downfield. He had a 27-yard toss, a 64-yard completion and a touchdown pass on a quick to the flat. Coleman was more accurate against the West than he typically was in practice. Coleman was 6-for-6 in the first half. He fit in a beautiful pass down the seam between defenders in the fourth quarter, but the pass was dropped. The scouts that take the game into consideration will definitely give Coleman a boost for his performance. Coleman has a plus arm with size, and against the West he showed some developmental potential as a third-day pick.
If you want to take a closer look at all the prospects, visit NFP's East West Shrine game weigh in.