St. Petersburg, FL -- In almost 80-degree heat, more than 100 NFL prospects displayed their skills in front of future employers as just about all of the league's 32 franchises were on hand Monday for the 2014 edition of the East-West Shrine Game. The East began that day with a rousing practice in the early afternoon followed by the West, who chose to go the no-pads route. Despite just a single practice, a number of players impressed the NFL scouts on hand. Here are just a half-dozen of them.
Jimmy Garoppolo/QB/Eastern Illinois: All eyes were on Garappolo, the highest-rated prospect invited to participate at the Shrine Game, and the small-school signal-caller did not disappoint. He displayed a next-level arm as well as complete poise and control all day. What was really impressive was the way Garappolo accurately delivered passes to receivers he was throwing to for the first time. Rumor is there could be an invitation to next week’s Senior Bowl in the offing for Garappolo and on day one, at least, he proved he belongs on the field with the best the senior class has to offer.
Jeff Matthews/QB/Cornell: If Garoppolo ranked as the best quarterback on the field, Matthews was not far behind. He hit a few bumps early in practice but eventually everything clicked for the big-armed passer. He displayed the physical skills NFL teams want in a starting signal caller and, by the end of the day, he was hitting receivers in stride and threading needles with his throws. Matthews showed steady improvement on the field and it will be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going tomorrow.
Zach Kerr/DT/Delaware: Shrine practices are an opportunity for small-school players to prove they can play at a big-league level, and that's exactly what Kerr did on Monday. The powerful lineman was explosive and showed a variety of skill. On one play, Kerr annihilated John Urschel of Penn State. Later, he looked fluid moving about the field in pursuit of the action. The ability to clog the gaps as well as make plays behind the line of scrimmage or in lateral pursuit will surely enhance Kerr's draft grade.
Jay Bromley/DT/Syracuse: Bromley was a one-man wrecking crew on Monday, a force too powerful to stop. Just about every time he lined up, Bromley penetrated the line of scrimmage and collapsed the pocket. During full scrimmage, he devoured double-team blocks, pushing multiple linemen off the ball to disrupt the action. And though Bromley looked a bit one-dimensional in his game, he was dominant in that single dimension.
Jordan Najvar/TE/Baylor: The Bears had little use for a tight end in their wide –offense, yet Najvar showed NFL skills today. The tall, angular athlete looked natural catching the ball and made several spectacular one-handed grabs. He also displayed the speed teams want and the ability to stretch the field. Najvar was not asked to block as his West team practiced without pads today, yet he put everyone on notice that he's a next-level prospect who should not be dismissed.
Rajion Neal/RB/Tennessee: Neal showed both strength and power carrying the ball on Monday, as well as a great deal of instinct He patiently waited for blocks to develop only to hit the hole with such quickness that defenders were unable to catch him. When they did, Neal would break their tackles and pick up a lot of yardage off initial contact.
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