January 22, 2010

ORLANDO -- After moving around in recent years, the annual East-West Shrine Game has finally found a long-term home in Orlando. As a result, NFL scouts, coaches and general managers descended upon the Sunshine State for the first of two important college all-star games down south. (The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is next week.)

The level of talent on the Shrine roster was better than years past and several players improved their draft stock during a week of practice. Here's a baker's dozen of the best prospects from the week.

Pat Paschall/RB/North Dakota State: Paschall was the top small-school prospect on the field during the week and one of the best ball carriers. He's a smooth back with a gliding style, but also displays plenty of toughness when running inside. More than anything else Paschall proved all week he belonged on the field with players from bigger schools.

Freddie Barnes/WR/Bowling Green: Barnes caught everything thrown his way each day at practice. He impressed scouts with the ability to consistently separate from defensive backs and find the openings in the coverage. Barnes proved to scouts that his record-breaking numbers in college had more to do with his skills rather than the offensive system at Bowling Green.

Dennis Pitta/TE/BYU: Pitta showed why he's considered one of the best pass catching tight ends in April's draft. He displayed reliable hands while making some acrobatic receptions. Pitta is not known for his blocking yet did better than expected when asked to display his skill.

John Estes/C/Hawaii: Estes could well be the big winner of Shrine week. He played with terrific fundamentals and strength from the first day of practice. Estes had no problem handling bigger opponents on the line and was flawless blocking on the move. Estes, who has not yet received an invitation to February's combine, elevated his draft stock at least one round.

Rodger Saffold/T/Indiana: Saffold was another impressive lineman who really improved his draft stock. He blocked with great fundamentals, showed solid footwork in pass protection and was much stronger than people thought. He was impenetrable all week and solidified himself as a top 100 selection.

Kevin Haslam/T/Rutgers: Haslam was one of the biggest surprises of the week. He looked athletic, powerful and handled just about everyone he went up against. Haslam looks the part in his pads and will only get bigger and stronger. He could find himself in the middle rounds of the draft based on his performances during Shrine week.

Brandon Carter/G/Texas Tech: Carter was a monster from day one and manhandled anyone he went up against. His power was obvious, but Carter also blocked with good fundamentals, which surprised some. He worked hard and was nasty from start to finish.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald/DE/Kansas State: Fitzgerald, who surprisingly has not yet received an invitation to next month's combine, was applauded by coaches throughout the week. He made a lot of athletic plays on the field and exploited a number of offensive tackles each day. Fitzgerald could easily land in the draft's top 100 selections.

Earl Mitchell/DT/Arizona: Mitchell had three solid days of practice and definitely elevated his draft stock. He's explosive, quick and built low to the ground, which he uses to his advantage. Mitchell also displayed power and pushed a number of larger opponents off the line, to the delight of scouts in attendance.

Nate Collins/DT/Virginia: Collins was one of the hardest workers of the week and played with a great motor every day. He's another solid athlete who displayed a lot of talent.

Torell Troup/DT/Central Florida: Troop had a home field advantage playing in Central Florida's backyard and he took advantage of it. He showed outstanding quickness and explosion every day, easily beating opponents off the snap then quickly changing direction to chase the action.

Jason Beauchamp/OLB/UNLV: Beauchamp looked strong and athletic and impressed with his ability to make plays all over the field. He was forceful against the run yet also fluid moving sideline-to-sideline in pass coverage. Beauchamp definitely built some momentum for himself during the week.

Alterraun Verner/CB/UCLA: Verner was the best looking defensive back of the week and looked very natural on the field. He regularly shut down opponents every day and displayed top ball skills. His 40 time at the combine will be critical, but many scouts already grade Verner as a top-60 selection based on his play this week.

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