East-West Shrine Game practice report: Tuesday
Michigan TE Kevin Koger can be a major sleeper in a thin class at the position
SDSU WR Dale Moss, a former basketball player, is opening eyes with his speed
Despite popular opinion, Justin Blackmon may not be top WR on teams' boards
The NFL's 32 franchises are well-represented in St Petersburg, Florida this week to take in the East-West Shrine Game, the first of the major postseason scouting events. The 80-degree temperatures made for pleasant viewing for league scouts, though its been tough for some of the participants, many of whom have not played football in almost two months. Numerous next-level prospects stood out during Tuesday's practice. Here are the 10 best.
Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan -- Koger was lost for much of the past three seasons in a Michigan offense that had little use for a tight end, but he displayed NFL ability in a big way. Koger was a dominant blocker all practice long, stopping opponents dead in their tracks. He made a terrific 25-yard reception down the seam in scrimmage, displaying natural pass-catching skills. Koger lacks the foot speed to be a true downfield threat, but at a position that's thin on talent in April's draft, he could be the biggest sleeper of them all.
Travian Robertson, DL, South Carolina -- Robertson was a steady force for the Gamecocks all season, but was overlooked with the star talent around him. He proved Tuesday that he's an NFL talent in his own right. Robertson looked athletic, quick and very strong. Lined up primarily at defensive tackle, opponents found it impossible to move him off the line, and on several occasions he defeated blocks to make his way behind the line of scrimmage. Robertson is a thick lineman with the strength to hold down the tackle spot in a conventional four-man front and the athleticism to get consideration as a two-gap end in a 3-4.
Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH) -- Brooks was graded as a free agent prior to the season, but has made the long climb into the middle rounds with terrific play as a senior. Tuesday he made his case to be a top-100 pick. Brooks is well-built and fundamentally sound, and stopped all defenders that dared tried to get by him. He was terrific in one-on-one drills, then repeated that performance during scrimmage. Brooks intrigues a number of teams with his ability to play several positions on the offensive line and slot into a number of different blocking schemes in the NFL.
Rishaw Johnson, OL, Cal (PA) -- The Cal-Pennsylvania product, who started his college career at Mississippi, looked dominant all day. He's mechanically sound and athletic, and overpowered everyone that lined up against him. Defenders were stopped dead in their tracks once Johnson got his hands on them. The small-school lineman really elevated his stock in front of scouts.
Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa -- Prater is trying to make up for a poor senior campaign, and he got off to a good start today, sticking like glue to opposing receivers, running downfield with them and remaining with them out of pass routes. He was in on several pass defenses throughout the practice, and made one very nice interception.
BJ Cunningham, WR, Michigan State -- Cunningham looked polished today and was the top receiver in the morning practice. He displayed reliable hands, easily making the underneath reception, while also contorting to make acrobatic grabs downfield. Cunningham's route-running was also much better than anticipated. He lacks classic foot speed and does not display a deep burst, but showed enough skill to cause NFL decision-makers to believe he'll be a solid third receiver.
David Snow, OL, Texas -- Snow looked dominant at two positions; guard and center. He's feisty, strong and football smart. Snow does not necessarily look the part, but gets the most from his ability and did not give up an inch to opponents this day. The versatility to play intelligent football at two offensive line positions helped his stock greatly.
Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State -- Scouts have been waiting for Crawford to break out all season, and it looks like he picked the Shrine Game to impress them. He's an athletic player who flashes a lot of explosion and strength. Crawford impressed with his inside moves today and ability to rush the passer.
Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina -- Of all the defensive backs in attendance, Norman is the one that truly passes the eyeball test. He's a tall, impressive looking athlete with a smooth and quick style. During full scrimmage he came up with a number of big plays, knocking away passes and almost intercepting throws. Norman also showed a good head. In the end he proved he belonged on a field with some of the better receiving talent in the nation.
Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State -- Moss is one of the most interesting stories at the Shrine Game. A former guard on the SDSU basketball team, he never played college football until last season. After a year in which he developed his game almost weekly, Moss did not look out of place Tuesday. He was smooth and graceful on the field, displaying solid downfield speed and catching the ball well. Grace admits he's still a work in progress, but there's no doubting that, based on Tuesday's showing, the arrow is pointing north for him.
Notes: Some of the biggest buzz at the Shrine Game surrounds the receiver position. The consensus has Oklahoma State junior Justin Blackmon as the top wideout in April's draft. But that does not match the reality on many a draft board around the league, which has Big 12 counterpart Kendall Wright of Baylor as the top receiver available. Wright is being fondly compared to Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, with one insider mentioning he's a bigger version of the former All-Pro.
Another player shooting up draft boards is Ohio State tackle Mike Adams. Adams missed the first half of the 2011 season due to his participation in Tattoogate. Scouts love his upside and think Adams will only get better and stronger with more experience. Many in St Petersburg are predicting Adams, who's scheduled to play in next week's Senior Bowl, will be a mid-first-round choice in April.