The West team took to the practice field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday afternoon. They are coached by former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, and a number of other experienced coaches worked with the prospects. Unlike the East team, the West squad immediately put on the pads and had a full-contact practice much to the liking of the scouts in attendance. The team definitely has more talent than the East.
That discrepancy could be seen along the offensive line. While the East only had three linemen stand out, the West had a solid unit overall. The West's line was watched closely during the individual portion of practice by a lot of the top decision-makers in attendance. Titans vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, Bucs director of player personnel Dennis Hickey and many other scouts were focused on the West's line.
One of the best players on the West's powerful front five in this practice was Colorado guard Ryan Miller. The 6-foot-6, 326-pounder is put together well. He is strong and carries his weight extremely well. Miller showed good technique with knee bend and leverage. In speaking to some of the scouts present, they really wanted to see Miller spend his practice time at right tackle. He played the position previously for the Buffaloes, but mainly was at right guard.
In the one-on-ones, Miller had a mixed outing. At guard, he quickly shoved USC defensive tackle DaJohn Harris to the ground. Scouts got some of what they wanted when Miller took some reps at right tackle. One play was ugly when he was beat by Boise State's Tyrone Crawford on a speed rush that started to the outside before cutting to the interior. Miller also allowed a pass pressure on a swim move. Overall though, he had a quality start to the week and received a lot of attention from scouts after practice. With a good week, Miller could make an argument to be a second-rounder in April.
BYU offensive tackle Matt Reynolds (6-4, 310) was smaller than expected. He had a mixed practice and should probably move inside to guard. His body shape just falls short of tackles in terms of height and arm length. Mississippi defensive end Kentrell Lockett (6-5, 243) beat him in a one-on-one, as Reynolds lost his feet and fell to the ground. In the coming days, he needs to play better.
An interesting player for the West squad is Arkansas wide receiver Greg Childs. He looks the part of a NFL receiver at 6-foot-3 and a chiseled 215 pounds. A knee injury from the 2010 season carried over into 2011, and Childs didn't play the same, but he was coming around at the end of this season. In his first Shrine Game practice, Childs ran well, but his routes were a little sloppy with some extra steps in and out of his breaks. He could be a boom-or-bust pick for the mid-rounds. Childs and Michigan wide receiver Junior Hemingway had bad drops on passes downfield.
A defensive prospect who stood out was TCU linebacker Tank Carder. In the nine-on-nine scrimmage, he started strong by popping the back for a good tackle near the line of scrimmage. A play later, Carder fired through the line to bust a run at the line for a slight tackle for a loss. He did a quality job of taking on blocks and shedding offensive linemen. Carder came close to an interception on the team scrimmage, but the ball flew just past his hands. A tough linebacker, the 6-foot- 2, 236-pounder plays bigger than his listed measurements. Carder could surprise some observers on Draft Day and in the NFL.
West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy had a strong start to the week. He had a nice diving pass break up during the team scrimmage. Overall, Tandy had tight coverage. One aspect that stands out about him is his ability to flip his hips and run with receivers. Tandy (5-10, 202) is put together well, but he might be best as a nickel who specializes with slot receivers.
Texas safety Blake Gideon had a number of missed opportunities on Monday. He used some instincts to get in position to make some plays, but didn't finish them. A potential interception was deflected to Gideon, but he couldn't get a handle on the ball. A second potential pick bounced off his chest. It will be important for Gideon to come through with some splash plays the rest of the week, or his stock could fall dramatically.
The receiver who had the most impressive practice for the West was Boise State's Tyler Shoemaker. He burned a number of corners, and raced by Gideon on a deep post. After practice, Shoemaker had a number of scouts waiting to talk to him.
There are two good slot receiver prospects on the West team. Arkansas' Jarius Wright and Fresno State's Devon Wylie both showed quickness with strong route-running in this practice. Wylie (5-9, 186) had a fantastic catch on a deep ball that fell in over the top of the cornerback. It was a smart move for Wylie to put his hands up late to prevent a break up. He is a quick receiver, but is extremely undersized. Wright (5-9, 176) is even more undersized, but is very polished.
The West team overall has more talent than the East, but the quarterback position is not any stronger. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (5-11, 212) is very undersized and his arm looks too weak for the NFL. Northern Illinois signal-caller Chandler Harnish (6-1, 219) is bigger, but his arm also looks too feeble for the next level. In seven-on-sevens, Harnish fumbled the ball during a scrimmage session without a line or pass rush in front of him. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen didn't impress either.
There are some other prospects worth mentioning based on their Monday performances. Undersized Iowa offensive tackle Markus Zusevics (6-4, 296) had a good practice. He could be a quality developmental type. Northwestern guard Al Netter (6-4, 316) was run over on a few plays and needs to improves on his ability to anchor. Miami University of Ohio guard Brandon Brooks had an impressive day, as did Oregon tight end David Paulson.
Here is a rundown of some of the post-practice interviews between the player and a team that was spending some time talking to the prospect:
Kansas City - Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry, Oregon State corner Brandon Hardin
San Diego - Oregon tight end David Paulson
Philadelphia - University of Missouri-Columbia defensive linemen Dominique Hamilton
Tennessee - Colorado guard Ryan Miller, TCU linebacker Tank Carder
Indianapolis - Boise State wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker
New Orleans - Michigan tight end Kevin Koger
Miami - Fresno State wide receiver Devon Wylie
Arizona - Rutgers defensive end Justin Francis
Washington - SMU guard Josh LeRibeus
Baltimore - West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy, Shoemaker, Nevada linebacker
Brandon Marshall, Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, Miami of Ohio guard Brandon Brooks and Colorado guard Ryan Miller.
Will the broncos realistically be able to snag Zach Cunningham like you're predicting? This is a dream scenario for me as he's my favorite true Inside Linebacker in this draft. I see him coming off almost everyone's day 2 mock draft super early besides yours. He's had tackling issues when coming from behind and doesn't have that elite speed but...will he really drop that far? Oh I've never been so excited for round 2 of the nfl draft!!! Thoughts?