For the 12th consecutive year, I’ll be covering to the 2018 East-West Shrine Game, which starts Monday, on the first stop in what I call my “all-star road trip,” which also includes the Reese’s Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, and NFL Draft.
During these events, scouts will watch some of the best college prospects heading to the NFL will perform football drills and participate in professional-level practices.
Among the prospects at the Shrine Game, here’s a few from the state of Colorado who will be trying to impress NFL scouts in Tampa.
Quarterback Nick Stevens, Colorado State
Stevens completed 61.9 percent of his passes in 2017 for 3,799 passing yards, which ranked 13th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Stevens has remarkable toughness despite not being the heaviest quarterback. He’ll have to gain muscle mass if he wants to hold up against the beating he’ll take in the NFL.
The Rams quarterback does a good job of attacking opponents with deep passes. Stevens isn’t afraid to challenge a defense vertically, as evidenced by his 53 pass completions of 20 yards or more in 2017 (eighth most in the FBS). CSU’s receivers had 2,068 yards after the catch (fifth most in the FBS), which shows how well Stevens’ pass-placement set up his receivers to do more with the football.
Stevens is seen as a late-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Running back Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Lindsay was the heart and soul of the Buffaloes offense in 2017.
On 301 carries, Lindsay rushed for 1,474 yards this season, which ranks 12th in all of major college football. His 14 rushing touchdowns in 2017 show that Lindsay has a knack for finding pay dirt, and his longest carry of 74 yards displays how he has the speed to take it the distance from anywhere on the field.
Lindsay can also contribute as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 116 passes in four years up at Boulder.
He is a smaller back, measuring in at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, but he doesn’t hesitate to run in between the tackles like some his size do. Instead of bouncing runs outside, which doesn’t work consistently in the pros, Lindsay is adept at running through trash near the line of scrimmage.
He’s not going to run over defenders in the NFL, but Lindsay has the make-you-miss ability that could make him a dangerous change-of-pace back at the pro level.
Wide receiver Bryce Bobo, Colorado
Bobo has been a steady force for the Buffs receiving corps for years, improving his receptions and receiving yards total each year he was in college. In 12 games this season, Bobo caught 62 passes for 693 yards and three receiving touchdowns. His receptions-per-target average (63.3 percent) and percentage of receptions that went for first downs or touchdowns (56.5) both rank above average for the FBS in 2017.
He measures in at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds and can make tough grabs to move the chains. His speed isn’t going to be outstanding at the pro level, but Bobo does operate with a quickness that does allow him to gain separation through the route tree.
Bobo is seen as a late-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Center Jake Bennett, Colorado State
Bennett was a key piece of a strong offensive line for the Rams in 2017. The team ranked 11th in the FBS in yards per game (492.5) this season, and Stevens was only sacked 13 times in 13 games. Stevens’ sack-per-attempt ratio of 2.8 percent was the seventh-lowest in all of major college football. CSU’s third-down conversion rate (50 percent) was second only to Army in the 2017 season.
Clearly, Bennett helped anchor an offense that had plenty of firepower. He’s an athletic prospect at 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds, getting to the second level of the defense with ease. Scouts call him a “sticky” blocker, as he can consistently hit moving targets and get them out of the way.
Bennett is seen as a seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent at this time.
Free safety Afolabi Laguda, Colorado
Laguda had big shoes to fill in 2017, as three players from the Buffaloes secondary were drafted into the NFL in 2016. In a season that didn’t go as well as the previous one, the Buffs pass defense allowed 128 passing first downs in 2017, which mark ranked around the middle of the pack in the FBS (68th).
He is a rangy player who can operate as a center fielder deep on defense, but his best assets are on display when he plays close to the line of scrimmage. “Agent Uno,” as he’s been nicknamed, is not afraid of contact and is more of a hitter than some free safeties out there.
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