- Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
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HOUSTON -- The East-West Shrine game has become the annual proving ground for second-tier NFL draft prospects. In 2008, college football's oldest postseason all-star game saw 43 of its players drafted and 93 participants spent time on an NFL roster. The 2009 crop is lacking in first-day talent, but the overall depth is similar to that of a year ago.
With a week of practices and the 84th edition of the game in the books, let's take a look at the players who helped or hurt their draft stock.
USC S Kevin Ellison (precautionary; knee), USC CB Carey Harris (tight hamstring), Texas Tech S Steven McBath (hamstring), Texas G Cedric Dockery (undisclosed), Cal OLB Anthony Felder (tight hamstring) and BYU G Ray Feinga (hamstring) missed practice time and Saturday's game due to injuries. Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane, who has ballooned 30 pounds in less than a year, suffered a left knee injury and did not finish the game.
Cream of the crop
1. South Carolina OT Jamon Meredith
Meredith is not as strong or nasty as we'd like to see, but he has a size-agility combination that cannot be coached. That's why he projects as one of the only first-day draft selections from the 2009 E-W Shrine game.
2. Texas A&M DE Michael Bennett
Bennett is a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect. He's had some academic issues early in his college career and isn't known to be the hardest worker on the field either. However, the light seemed to come on a bit for Bennett this year and he proved to be one of the most talented players at this year's game. Bennett still can improve his strength and technique, but he is a good-sized end with impressive natural athleticism. Some team will either be getting a good value or a waste of time when it gambles an early Day 2 selection on Bennett.
3. Rice WR Jarett Dillard
Arizona's Mike Thomas carries a nearly identical grade, but Dillard earned the nod with his terrific performance throughout the week. He showed precise route-running skills, ridiculous leaping ability and an uncanny knack for delivering in the red zone. Simply put; Dillard knows how to separate. Sure, below average size and a lack of elite top-end speed will undoubtedly hurt Dillard on draft weekend, but some team will be rewarded for gambling a second-day pick on this scoring machine.
4. Fresno State TE Bear Pascoe
Pascoe doesn't win many style points, but he gets the job done. The 6-foot-6 and 264-pound tight end stood out as one of the premier offensive talents throughout the week. Pascoe showed solid technique as a blocker and also proved to be a reliable short-to-intermediate pass catcher.
(On a side note, Northeastern TE Brian Mandeville emerged as a legitimate mid-round prospect with his play in Houston. He still needs to add bulk to his frame but Mandeville is a tough blocker with good straight-line speed and reliable hands.)
5. TCU ILB Jason Phillips
Phillips did not play as well as expected this week and his lack of athleticism could limit his contributions at the next level. However, he is an instinctive playmaker who diagnoses plays quickly and always seems to be around the football. He displays excellent straight-line closing burst and the toughness to overcome a lack of ideal size at inside linebacker.
Kevin Weidl also contributed to this report. Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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