The practice week leading up to the East-West Shrine Game has given us a better look at many under-the-radar NFL prospects, but we've also spent our evenings breaking down tape on plenty of other players, including our first in-depth study of some underclassmen.
After watching an entire game on each prospect as a group to get an overall feel for his game, we each take specific players and study more film before writing complete reports. We'll continue digging into the tape over the next few weeks, but here are some initial impressions from our early work.
The players below -- including a big-name quarterback and a trio of intriguing defensive ends -- could rise or fall as the evaluation process progresses, but all have caught our eye at this point.
Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler
Osweiler is one of the more interesting players we've seen over the past few days. He is every bit of 6-foot-8, and while there are always concerns about how well tall, gangly quarterbacks move their feet, Osweiler appears to be the exception to the rule.
He is a good athlete who chose the Sun Devils over an offer to play basketball at Gonzaga, and Osweiler shows the ability to buy time in the pocket and even pick up yards with his legs when given the opportunity. He'll never have the elite pocket mobility of a quarterback like Drew Brees, but given his frame and above-average athleticism, Osweiler is good enough in that area.
Taller quarterbacks naturally have longer deliveries, as well, and while Osweiler's accuracy will be affected at times by over-striding, he has a unique release that gets good results. He has a unique release that reminds you a bit of Philip Rivers, but because his arm is strong he can get away with looking a bit like a dart-thrower.
Osweiler can be accurate when his lower body is sound, puts enough zip on the ball to fit it into tight spots, and he can vary his launch points to account for hands in passing windows and the positioning of defenders in coverage.
We still have concerns about his ability to get past his second read and avoid forcing the ball when nothing is there, but based on what we've seen so far, Osweiler has the tools to compete with the likes of Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) and Nick Foles (Arizona) to be the No. 3 quarterback on the board and get into the back end of the first round.
Syracuse DE Chandler Jones
We watched Jones last year and felt he was bit of a 'tweener, but too slow to be a quality defensive end and not athletic enough to be an outside linebacker. However, he has added 15 to 20 pounds of good weight since then and now looks like a legitimate end prospect.
The added bulk has not taken away his good initial quickness, but the most impressive thing we've seen on film is his flexibility. He was seen at one point taking a hand to the face, having his torso bent back and still being able to pursue the passer. Jones also shows good ability to bend inside when coming off the edge, and based on initial impressions, he's going to be squarely in the Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) range.
Boise State DE Tyrone Crawford
Crawford is taking part in the Shrine game, and while he hasn't had a big week, we have been impressed with the film we've watched.
His quickness is slightly above average, and Crawford (6-4, 285 pounds) shows the potential to become a starting left end in a 4-3 front or a 5-technique (DE) in a 3-4 scheme. However, it's his power that stands out most.
We saw him on tape post a Tulsa offensive tackle with his right arm, drive him into the backfield, then discard him before diving into the quarterback. Crawford has the upper-body power to hold off blockers with one hand while using the other to disrupt passing windows or grab ball carriers.
He also can track the quarterback while engaging blockers, shows good discipline in terms of playing gaps and staying home against misdirection, and while he plays with a good motor, Crawford knows when to back off quarterbacks to avoid risking penalties.
Crawford isn't an elite athlete, but he certainly appears to have the potential to join Jones as a Day 2 pick.
Toledo WR Eric Page
Page doesn't have elite size (5-10, 193), but he has the quickness, fluidity and change-of-direction skills to separate from coverage and make plays after the catch. He also contributes as a kickoff returner, where his ability to shake defenders in space without losing momentum is an asset.
His top-end speed is questionable and he needs to be more consistent snatching the ball away from his body with his hands, but Page does flash the ability to make tough catches. Throw in is ball skills and vision, and Page could offer good value early on Day 3 as a versatile slot receiver and return man.
Troy DE Jonathan Massaquoi
We often saw Massaquoi dropping into coverage a lot early on the film we studied, and while he's a decent athlete, that is clearly not his strength. However, once we saw him attacking upfield, his potential began to show through.
Massaquoi flashes natural instincts in terms of hand use, pushing tackles outside when he feels them overcommitting in that direction or knocking their hands down and getting under their outside shoulder when they are too far inside. He also has above-average initial quickness, and Arkansas was forced to commit two blockers to Massaquoi after he started wreaking havoc on QB Tyler Wilson.
Massaquoi has to get stronger against the run, though, and he appears to lack instincts when trying to locate the ball. He's also 24 years old after coming to the Trojans out of junior college, so his upside is not through the roof. Still, Massaquoi could be an intriguing mid-round option as a developmental project.