|Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports|
|San Jose State CB Bene Benwikere's cover skills and instincts have impressed scouts at the Shrine Game workouts.|
A driving rainstorm led to alternative workouts at the East-West Shrine Game on Tuesday, but scouts were still able to take a long, hard look at some of the hidden gems in the 2014 draft class. Although it's tough to assess pro potential while watching prospects move around on carpet inside an indoor bubble, the conversations with general managers, scouts and coaches provided a little insight into the latest buzz brewing in the scouting community.
Here are some nuggets that I uncovered standing around shooting the breeze with NFL officials today:
San Jose State CB a sleeper on the rise
The corner that has been garnering the most attention at the East-West Shrine Game has been San Jose State's Bene Benwikere. The 6-foot, 192-pound standout has shown impressive movement skills, footwork and awareness covering receivers in drills. He has consistently maintained tight coverage on receivers out of the break and shown an aggressive knack for playing the ball. With defensive backs required to play extensively in "off" coverage, Benewikere's ability to backpedal, break and drive has made him a favorite of team's employing zone-heavy schemes.
Speaking to several scouts about Benewikere, most have raved about his size, cover skills and instincts, but the prevailing concern centered on his tackling and toughness. Some believed he didn't attack runners or receivers on the perimeter; he will need to display better courage and toughness to solidify his status as a top corner in the draft. If Benewikere tackles well in the game this weekend, look for his name to rise in scouting circles heading into the NFL Scouting Combine.
Colorado's Uzo-Diribe shows off his moves
Colorado's Chidera Uzo-Diribe opened eyes with his explosiveness and athleticism in drills. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder was impressive rushing the passer in 1-on-1 drills. He blew past challengers with an explosive speed rush move; he flashed an inside spin as a complementary move. Uzo-Diribe followed with a powerful bull rush that showcased his exceptional arm length.
Watching Uzo-Diribe throughout the fall, I was encouraged by his quickness and athleticism. Although he looks a little stiff turning the corner, Uzo-Diribe displays good initial quickness and movement skills. He was effective playing from an upright stance, but also showed some skills with his hand in the dirt.
Looking at weak spots in his game, I would cite his inconsistent pad level and hand usage against the run. Uzo-Diribe plays too high against physical blockers, leading him to get pushed off the spot. Additionally, he fails to aggressively shed or disengage from blockers to get in on plays at the line of scrimmage. With his run defense standing out as a glaring weakness, Uzo-Diribe must show up as a run defender when scouts pop in the tape of Saturday's game.
So far, so good for Wenning
Ball State's Keith Wenning was the most impressive thrower on the West squad on the first day of workouts. He threw the ball with better zip and velocity than his counterparts -- Washington's Keith Price and Notre Dame's Tommy Rees. Wenning also stood out with his accuracy and ball placement. He connected on a handful of curls and dig routes that showcased his anticipation, and a completion on a deep crosser highlighted his touch.
On the second day of workouts, Wenning continued to be the headliner of the class by showing consistent ball placement and accuracy on throws in drills. Additionally, he flashes superior anticipation and awareness releasing the ball well before his receivers make breaks. If Wenning can continue to build on his solid start this week, he will force scouts to revisit their grades on him from the fall.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.