NFL scouts, coaches and other front office members have already begun the pre-draft process and one of the first chapters of that journey is the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., an all-star exhibition game for senior prospects. The 90th edition of the Shrine Game will be played at Tropicana Field on Saturday but all 32 teams were represented this week to evaluate the 120 prospects during daily practices.
The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. next week is the premiere senior prospect All-Star game, but the Shrine Game will showcase dozens of future NFL starters as well. Over 100 players from last year's game were either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents, including second round pick QB Jimmy Garoppolo and kicker Dan Bailey is one of a few Shrine Game alums currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Below are five prospects at the East-West Shrine Game to watch on Saturday:
OG John Miller, Louisville (6-3, 315)
One of the better offensive line prospects at this all-star game, Miller flashed explosive lower body traits and point of attack power to be a people mover in the ground game during practice this week. He has taken well to the coaching and has improved in several areas, most notably rolling his hips at the contact point to generate movement as a run blocker. Miller, who played both left and right guard at Louisville, will overextend himself at times, but he does an excellent job on combo blocks, shifting his weight with smooth hips to motion and pull. He has also been the meanest lineman during practice, displaying the attitude needed to bury defenders.
DE Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky (6-5, 265)
Although he's only an average athlete, Smith showed off his combination of initial quickness and core power to be effective both rushing off the edge and playing the run during seven-on-seven drills. He is at his best using his long arms and heavy hands to initiate contact and drive blockers into the pocket. Smith has only been playing the sport since his senior year in high school, but he has acclimated himself quickly with aggressive swim and swat moves and the passion needed to be effective at the NFL level. He projects best as a base left end in a four-man front.
WR Tre McBride, William & Mary (6-1, 205)
McBride is arguably the top offensive talent on the Shrine Game roster and showed why during practice this week with his advanced understanding of the wide receiver position. He doesn't have imposing size or blazing speed, but he prides himself on the details, selling routes and using foot quickness in his breaks to create just enough separation. He did an excellent job during drills tracking and attacking the ball with quick eyes and hands to pluck, also taking reps as a punt returner. McBride is more smooth than explosive, reminding me a lot of Pierre Garcon.
OG Sean Hickey, Syracuse (6-5, 300)
Although he lined up at left tackle in college and right tackle during Shrine practices, Hickey's best NFL position is inside at guard where he can best use his strengths. He sets up quickly and gets into position to react, staying coordinated and balanced through contact with proper technique. Hickey does just enough to cut off edge speed, but that's likely not something that he will be able to get away with in the NFL as his lack of length is a glaring weakness. Nonetheless, he has the mental make-up and resolve to be a starter at the next level.
DL Tyeler Davison, Fresno State (6-2, 310)
A versatile defender who lined up everywhere on Fresno's line, Davison showed off his mix of brute strength and foot quickness during practices, taking advantage of suspect offensive line talent. He is built like a rock and is at his best as a block-eating war daddy, taking on multiple blockers and clogging the middle of the line. He doesn't always have a consistent plan, but does an excellent job occupying bodies up front and staying aggressive with a resilient attitude. Davison fits best as part of a rotation and has some similarities with current Cowboys one-technique, Nick Hayden.
*Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) is the Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com. *