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Not every prospect who will hear his name called during the NFL draft this weekend was invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. Below is a breakdown of five offensive and five defensive players that could surface as either mid-to-late round draft picks or potential summer gems that break out during training camp.
WR Maurice Price, Charleston Southern
The Division I-AA leader in receptions (202) the past three years, Price impressed scouts with his smooth routes and ideal hands while practicing for the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge. Price ran in the 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash at each of his pro day sessions, but also got scouts' attention with his 40-inch vertical, 11'0" broad jump and his size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds). The only other receiver prospect with as many catches over the past three years is USC's Dwayne Jarrett. According to his trainer Tom Shaw, Price is just scratching the surface of his talents and should continue to grow into a full-sized receiver with big-play speed, but the sure-hands of a possession receiver. One NFL position coach wrote that Price currently ranked among the top-10 receivers in what is perceived as being a solid draft for receivers.
QB Cullen Finnerty, Grand Valley State
The consummate team leader and winner at the college level, Finnerty led his team to back-to-back Division II titles. He trained with former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg, which netted impressive pro day numbers. The 6-2, 228-pound signal caller ran 4.62-4.65 in the 40 and bested Brady Quinn's bench press total (24) at the combine by one. He followed that with a very solid positional workout at Central Michigan's pro day. He has had at least four private workouts over the past month with at least one team commenting that he could be chosen in the sixth or seventh round.
RB Justise Hairston, Central Connecticut State
A transfer from Rutgers, Hairston ran for 1,847yards as a senior and earned the chance to play in both the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge and Hula Bowl. Hairston has displayed better straight-line speed than advertised. He ran the 40 in the 4.50 range at each workout and has good enough hands to be used on third downs. Several teams have also worked him out as a possible kick returner, which has helped him see a spike in his final grade. Several teams are talking to him as a possible fifth-round selection, and he seems assured of being given a legitimate chance of earning a roster spot this summer.
OT Jermon Bushrod, Towson
An athletic offensive tackle that caught the eye of several area scouts in-season, Bushrod jumped on the radar screen after posting sub-5.0 40 times at his pro day. At 6-5, 315, he posted 4.92-4.98 in the 40, a 30.5" vertical and completed 22 bench reps of 225 pounds. Noted for his footwork and long arms, most evaluators believe that he can be tried out at tackle first, then possibly move inside if he continues to add bulk. He also needs to develop more of a nasty streak as a run blocker. Bushrod does not make great use of his hands, but he keeps his feet moving on most downs. Once he can get with an NFL position coach, his upside could lead to a future starting spot. Rather than being a late-round or priority free agent, he now has ascended to being a solid mid-round type that could go as early as the top of the fourth round.
OL Mike Elgin, Iowa
OK, Iowa is not a small school, but this is a kid that has mostly gone overlooked. Elgin is a very bright, versatile blocker with the ability to become an NFL starter at either center or guard. He plays with very good balance, shows a good initial punch off the snap and can contain larger, bull rushers by using his quick hands and solid base that come from him being a sound technician. It cannot be overlooked that he has been under the careful tutelage of head coach Kirk Ferentz, who himself was an NFL lineman. Any of the teams that have shown great interest in USC's Ryan Kalil would be able to find themselves a more affordable version of that type of center prospect if they turned to Elgin in the middle rounds of the draft.
LB Kyle Shotwell, Cal Poly
He's an all-out, motor never stops, diehard football player that instantly gained the respect of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary during practices for the East-West Shrine Game. Shotwell gets the most out of himself and finds that extra gear or ounce of desire to make the play when it counts the most. A top-notch student on and off the field, he was the winner of this year's Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the top-rated Division I-A defensive player. He also won the prestigious Pat Tillman Award at the East-West Shrine Game. Shotwell overcame having his appendix removed to run between 4.52 and 4.55 at his pro day. He's had a number of private workouts and visits. The overwhelming opinion is that his character, high level of production and versatility will allow him to be picked by a Cover 2 team in the middle rounds of the draft.
S/LB Jay Staggs, UNLV
Having evaluated nearly 1,000 players for this year's draft and getting the chance to meet several hundred in person since January, the one player that jumped out at me the most was Staggs. He is the ultimate team player who is willing to sacrifice himself time and time again for his team – changing positions on defense, playing every special teams down and showing rare intangibles as a person let alone as a prospect. During a game last season, Staggs left the field with a broken nose. As he headed to the hospital, Staggs stopped the trainer and asked “Can this get any worse?" When the trainer responded "no," Staggs simply asked him to tape it up, returned to the sideline and eventually got back into the game. He's the type of no-nonsense guy that may never start, but will give your team a chance to win each week because of his play on special teams and his effort in practice.
DE/LB Jason Trusnik, Ohio Northern
After missing most of the 2005 season with a foot injury, the premier Division III pass rusher posted 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks last season. His career numbers bear out the consistency of his play; 85 tackles for loss and 43 sacks. At just under 6-4, 249, he posted 4.65-4.68 in the 40, a 35" vertical, 18 bench reps and looked much more fluid and athletic during the agility drills. He has some room to grow, but 260 is his likely game-weight peak. At times, he can get pushed around or consumed at the point of attack because he lacks the pure bulk to handle 330-pound blockers one-on-one. Ideally, he'll be put out on the edge in pass-rushing situations and allowed to use his quickness off the ball and high motor to chase down the passer. Trusnik is also a bright, dedicated worker off the field, which should make coaches respond well to him and give him the chance to shine on special teams. His agency, ISA Sports, has gone about finding late-round gems like this the past few years, so NFL teams are now reviewing these type players with more regularity.
CB Derrick Roberson, Rutgers
Roberson posted high 4.3's to low 4.4's 40 times, a 42.5" vertical, a 10'11" broad jump and then showed very good quickness and ball skills during the positional portion of his workout. Strong for his size (5-9, 188), he completed 18 bench reps and his feisty play on tape makes NFL defensive back coaches think he could contend for a spot in nickel or dime coverage plus special teams. He scored a touchdown on a punt block as a senior. His cover skills are still a little raw and he will take a few missteps in his back pedal, but natural athleticism is there for him to be scooped up in the later rounds.
S Melvin Bullitt, Texas A&M
One of the better all-around safeties in the draft, Bullit has played both safety spots at a high level in college and is a solid special teams performer. He recorded 4.45-4.49 in the 40, a 40.5" vertical and a 10'5" broad jump, while running under 4.00 in the short shuttle during his pro day. He also exhibited an ideal combination of ball skills, toughness and agility in his positional workout. Overall, I have him right outside the top-5 overall safety prospects and right behind Michael Griffin.