The pre-draft process kicks into high gear this week with the 84th annual East-West Shrine game, the first of two postseason all-star games that give senior prospects a chance to show their wares in front of NFL scouts.
Scouts Inc. will be filing daily practive reports from Houston, but first here is a quick look at the top five players to watch during Shrine week and those prospects who come to the game with the most to prove
Top five to watch
1. Boston College DT Ron Brace -- The 324-pound Brace is a massive interior run-stuffer who plays with adequate leverage and rarely gives ground. Though he doesn't have prototypical quickness or lateral mobility he is a powerful bull-rusher who flashes the ability to collapse the pocket.
2. South Carolina OT/G Jamon Meredith -- Meredtih started 13 games at left tackle in 2007 but moved to guard early in '08. While he could line up at either position, his best fit in the NFL will likely be at guard so the move should prove beneficial in the long run. He isn't a traditional mauler and doesn't have elite size or lower-body strength, but he gets into position quickly and sustains his blocks once locked on.
Top five with something to prove
1. Boise State RB Ian Johnson -- Yes, Johnson has 58 career rushing touchdowns and this season passed former San Diego State great Marshall Faulk as the Mountain West Conference leader in career rushing touchdowns. However, Boise State's spread scheme and the vertical seams it created for Johnson likely inflated his production.
Perhaps more importantly, the speedy defenses of Oregon (regular season) and TCU (in the Poinsettia Bowl) appeared to expose his lack of elite quickness and power. As a result, it's important that Johnson take advantage of this opportunity to show he can produce in a pro-style offense going up against a talented group of linebackers from the East that includes South Carolina's Jasper Brinkley, Georgia's Dannell Ellerbe and Boston College's Robert Francois.
2. Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee -- McGee injured his throwing shoulder during the Aggies' second game of the season and then re-injured it two weeks later. Making matters worse, redshirt sophomore Jarrod Johnson played well enough to hold on to the starting job when McGee returned to the lineup. McGee ended up starting just three of the six games he appeared in this year so it's important that he show scouts his shoulder is healthy and he can make all the NFL throws.
Additionally, there are concerns about McGee's inconsistent footwork. He doesn't always step into his throws and failure to do so can put unnecessary wear on his shoulder so scouts should keep an eye on his mechanics.
Steve Muench is a former college football player and has been evaluating college and pro players for Scouts Inc. since 2002.