While much of the football-loving world is focusing on the NFL playoffs, scouts are preparing today for the first of a three week grind of all-star games that will have a huge impact on where (or if) dozens of players are ultimately drafted.
Over the next five days I'm going to highlight a player I believe could stand out and therefore significantly boost their stock. These players could come from the East-West Shrine Game (whose practices begin Monday), the Senior Bowl (whose practices begin Monday, January 24) and the NFLPA Game (whose practices begin Monday, January 31). The games themselves will be on succeeding Saturdays over the next three weeks. The NFLPA Game had previously been known as the Texas vs. Nation game.
One player who obviously has a great deal riding on his all-star performance is former North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin , invited to play in the Shrine Game.
Austin was, of course, suspended for the entire 2010 season after the NCAA discovered that he'd accepted inappropriate benefits from an agent.
Prior to the controversy, however, Austin rated among the elite senior prospects in the country. He was, according to published reports, given a high first round grade entering the year by National Scouting.
Austin, 6-3, 310 pounds has the quick first step, agility and strength teams operating out of the 4-3 alignment are looking for. One of the knocks on him has been an inconsistent motor. Having not played all season long, scouts will expect Austin to be fresh and firing on all cylinders all week long. Any sign of taking snaps off from Austin this week will only reinforce previous concerns - which could have disastrous results on his draft grade.
I've pointed out previously that this is a good looking Shrine roster , but one area that it may prove lacking is with the interior offensive linemen. NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks only one of the six interior offensive linemen Austin is expected to face in practice (East Team) higher than a 7th round pick.
Currently, the East team features Syracuse's Ryan Bartholomew and Texas A&M's JC Brignone at center and Missouri State's David Arkin, Ohio State's Bryant Browning, Illinois' Randall Hunt and Connecticut's Zachary Hurd at guard. Hurd is our highest rated of the bunch. NFLDraftScout.com currently has Hurd as a 5th-6th round value.
If Austin wants to re-emerge as the 50 prospect he'd previously been universally ranked as, he'll need to enjoy a dominant week.
For the entire Shrine Game roster, click here.
Or, for the best in NFL draft coverage, click here for NFLDraftScout.com.