The 2012 East-West Shrine Game took place last night at Tropicana Field in Tampa. As I mentioned earlier today, Mark Dominik is fairly skilled at working the back-end of the roster and that starts with mid-to-late round draft picks and UDFA’s. The Shrine game is a college all-star game, just not THE game (that’s next weekend’s Senior Bowl).
As a result you get an interesting group of prospects from all across the country participating. You have small school kids looking for any chance to raise their draft stock. You get a few starters from big schools who have been overlooked and are looking to improve their stock. And you also get a lot of kids from major programs that may not have gotten on the field a lot for depth reasons or other issues, but that still have NFL skill sets.
The Bucs were there last night with a contingency of scouts evaluating players and trying to get an idea of what mid-to-late round prospects would be a fit, as well as who could be worth a contract as a UDFA if they aren’t selected.
After a week’s worth of practice and last night’s 24-17 West win, here are six prospects that the Buccaneers should be following up on.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky (5’9, 205 lbs, 4.4-4.5 range)
Bobby Rainey is a very talented runner who will likely be available in the middle rounds of the draft. Rainey was second in the nation last season, averaging over 141 rushing yards per game at Western Kentucky. He was first team all-Sun Belt and would likely be considered a lot higher on a lot of draft boards had he not been buried in obscurity playing for the Hilltoppers in a hapless mid-major. Despite being a workhorse back in college, concerns about his size could prevent him from getting that chance in the pros. But Rainey brings a good combination of speed, agility and pass-catching skills and would likely make a great compliment back who can also be a weapon on passing downs. That’s something the Bucs were sorely lacking after Earnest Graham was lost last season.
Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami-OH (6’5, 353 lbs.)
Brooks is an absolute monster of a man at 6’5, 353 lbs. He will likely be a mid-round selection though he could improve his stock if he can show he is athletic in spite of his massive size or drop a little bit of weight. Brooks had a solid showing for the West on Saturday night, helping to open up holes for the West backs all day and proving serviceable as a pass-blocker. The Bucs could definitely use upgrades along their line. I’m personally in favor of shedding Donald Penn and Jeff Faine’s dead weight and going younger. Neither of them plays guard, but Jeremy Zuttah, is a better center than Jeff Faine is now and could slide inside, allowing the Bucs to add a left guard. If Tampa wanted to address their line in the mid-rounds of the draft, Brooks would be a solid option.
George Bryan, NC State, TE (6’5, 265 lbs.)
Bryan was one of the most productive Tight Ends in NC State history and lead the West team with three receptions for 55 yards on Saturday night. Before NC State Bryan was a three-sport star in high school. He is deceptively athletic and despite not having great speed, is still a fairly elusive ball-carrier. He’s a solid blocker though he could improve in some aspects of that, but his forte for the Wolfpack was more pass-catching. I see Bryan as a late-round pick, but he could make a solid second or third tight end and core special teamer should the Bucs want to go that direction late.
Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina, CB (6’1, 203 lbs.)
Here’s something you may not know about me, I love big-bodied corners. There’s a line where a corner can get too big, but for me I want a good six feet, 190-200 lbs on a guy. NFL receivers are not getting any smaller so you need a player who can be strong and physical, and isn’t dwarfed. Enter Josh Norman who impressed coaches all week at the Shrine Game and has the size and athleticism to be a real steal for someone. Coming from Coastal Carolina (also famous for Tyler Thigpen), Norman isn’t going to be on a lot of team’s radars based on the fact hardly anyone go to see him play. But the 6’1, 203 lb. corner has tremendous ball skills and good speed. He accounted for 196 tackles, 36 passes defensed and 13 picks in college. He could make a very good mid-to-late round selection.
Julian Miller, West Virginia, DE/OLB (6’3, 268 lbs.)
Miller had a solid showing at the Shrine Game, recording a sack on Saturday night. He was a versatile defender for the Mountaineers in college and could play a couple of positions in the NFL. He’s a mid-to-late round guy and he doesn’t have an exceptionally high ceiling. He does everything pretty well, though he’s not particularly spectacular at anything. He’s a good to above average pass-rusher, a solid run defender and he’s serviceable if asked to drop into coverage. Though Miller may never be an All-Pro, he could develop into great depth and become an excellent contributor on special teams if he’s available late and can receive the coaching.
Jabaree Tuani, Navy, DE (6’1, 265 lbs.)
If Tuani isn’t draft he’s reporting to active duty, so options are limited on him since he can’t be signed as a UDFA. Tuani is a high motor player who likely could have played at a major program. He was a three-sport standout in Tennessee prior to enrolling in the Naval Academy. At the Shrine Game Tuani was disruptive to say the least. If the Bucs want to shake up their line with another end late in the draft Tuani is the kind of player that would be a welcome presence in that locker room. Tuani would certainly bring a level of work ethic and leadership that would be invaluable to the line and he’s quite frankly a pretty athletic specimen. Much like Rainey, Tuani suffers from the stigma of attending a weaker football program. But make no mistake about it, he was a presence on the line for the Midshipmen and he could develop into a solid NFL D-Lineman.