With the 2015/16 season in the books my eyes are now fully on college prospects. After looking at the East-West Shrine practices and the game, Senior Bowl week and the NFL Scouting combine, I decided to list the young men who I thought boosted their draft stock the most during these events. A couple of pro days are already in the books, but I didn’t want to take them into account since a lot of them are still coming up. So here are my ten guys in no particular order:
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State:
The FCS quarterback never looked like any stage was too big for him. He came from a championship program at the second level and he looks like a winner to me and that he’s ready for elite competition. He really came onto the scene at the Senior Bowl, where he looked extremely sharp and shined among the competition at practice. After that he had a very clean workout at the combine. He is ultra-athletic, has a very good arm and has handled everything thrown at him perfectly. To me he simply has to be the number one quarterback in the draft.
Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon:
What a monster East-West shrine game this guy had. Showing himself dominate in something other than an Oregon uniform certainly impressed scouts. If he had been healthy the entire year we might be talking about him as one of the top signal callers in the draft. His movement skills inside and outside the pocket remind me a lot Russell Wilson. And like Wilson he has to answers about his size. At 5’11’’ he certainly lacks prototypical size for the position, but he had some pretty tall guys up front during his time at college and he still found the open guy, so don’t sleep on him.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame:
Speed was never a question with Fuller, but clocking at 4.32 on the 40 yard dash certainly doesn’t hurt. What was way more important for him was to prove scouts he had good hands and he delivered, as he didn’t drop a single ball in any of the on-field drills. Teams looking for a deep threat will be even more interested in the Irish man and he probably worked himself in the first round with what he showed.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State:
The former two-time Big Ten Player of the Year as a quarterback switched positions just about a year ago, but scouts are intrigued with him because of the athleticism and the competitiveness. At the Senior Bowl he showed the kind of fight coaches wanted to see out of him. He didn’t back down or shy away from contact. I didn’t quite like how he caught the ball at the combine and he still has to work a lot on his route-running but he has made himself a name as a wideout now.
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana:
At 6’6’’ and just over 300 pounds he has outstanding athleticism. He recorded the fastest 40-time among offensive linemen at 4.94 and was one of the top performers in every other drill as well. To cap it all off, he showed great lateral quickness and fluidity in his hips in O-line workouts. Coaches will look at his lack of an ability to stop inside moves and think they can work with him because of his abilities and turn him into an elite player.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State:
With 4.63 on the 40, a 121.0’’ broad jump and a 35.5’’ vertical Ogbah was one of the biggest winners at the combine, but what impressed me even more was the weight he did it at – 273 pounds. In a mediocre class of edge rushers setting yourself apart with your athletic tools certainly didn’t hurt, neither did the violent hands and the fluid hips he showed on the field.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville:
Nobody destroyed his competition at the Senior Bowl like Rankins did right away. I don’t think he ever lost a one-on-one because of his power, quickness and excellent hand usage. And then he also made a lot of plays in team drills, where he defeated blocks by simply attacking the gap before anybody could even get their hands on him. His numbers at the combine were not special, but solid. Still, he might have done something similar to his draft stock as Aaron Donald did a couple of years ago.
Deion Jones, LB, LSU:
This highly athletic linebacker from Louisiana has people on notice since the Senior Bowl, where he looked outstanding in coverage drills and made some nice plays in team drills as well. At the combine he flashed some of his skills once again with one of the best performances in the bag and shuffle drills you’ll ever see. At just over 220 pounds he will still have to answer some of the questions about his ability to take on blockers and consistently bring down bigger ball carriers, but in today’s pass-happy NFL there is a place for him.
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn:
At just 5’9’’ Jones is another guy scouts don’t fall in love with because of his size. He came into Senior Bowl week with a chip on his shoulder and proved all week long what kind of competitor he is. He held his own against all the wideouts by working his ass off and not taking any steps back to great competition. Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard gave him high praise by saying he was a guy who caught his eye. He also showed impressive speed during the practices, which he confirmed at the combine with a 4.33 on the 40. In on-field drills he showed his quick feet afterwards.
Justin Simmons, S, Boston College:
The Eagles safety really stood out at the East-West Shrine practices because of great instincts and ball skills. At the combine he demonstrated his explosiveness going for 40’’ on the vert and 126’’ at the broad jump. After that he combined that with good movement skills in the open field to put coaches and GMs on notice. While Simmons might not look the part because of his thin frame he has worked hard to show what he’s capable of.