ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After getting an up-close look at players competing in practice this week for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, here are 10 players that grabbed my attention. I'll be keeping a close eye on all of these players in Saturday's game and beyond as the evaluation process unfolds leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft.
A quick note on some players that didn't make list but definitely stood out -- the West team's linebackers have been the most impressive position group I've seen all week. Kansas' Ben Heeney, Utah State's Zach Vigil and Stanford's A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters are all terrific space players, and it's not a surprise given the number of big-time aerial attacks that call the Pac-12 and Big 12 home. Now, on to the list.
Bell is a fighter and he's working extremely hard to improve as a blocker. He played quarterback for the Sooners before transitioning to tight end after the 2013 season, and he runs routes with the eyes of a quarterback -- he knows what a QB is looking for downfield having played the position. Bell has a good frame at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, and it looks like he could add more weight if he wanted to. Of course, his bloodline also works in his favor. Bell's father and uncle both played tight end in the NFL.
I didn't see Brown drop a ball this week. The 6-0, 196-pound pass-catcher ran good routes and defenders struggled to cover him. I think he'll be able to play outside and in the slot, too.
With a big, thick, strong body, Brown has really stood out during practice this week. The former Cardinal has played both tackle positions and guard, but I think he will fit best as a guard in the NFL.
Devin Gardner, WR, Michigan
Gardner is making the transition from quarterback to wide receiver and he's been battling some leg issues this week, but he showed improvement with each day of practice here at the Shrine Game. I think he's going to keep getting better, too -- I would love to see where he's at with his progress in a month. He'll continue to refine his route running, and he's a smart player who's familiar with a pro-style offense. We'll have to see how he develops, but I've heard from a lot of teams that are intrigued by him.
Jones looks like an old-school middle linebacker at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, but he can run. He has a suddenness to him that you might not expect from a guy his size. Jones definitely brings the thump with him.
He's played much of his career in the shadow of the much more highly touted Terrapins wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, but Long might have been the best wide receiver I saw here this week. He's very good out of his breaks and showed some toughness in his route running. He made a lot of contested catches, and certainly doesn't lack any confidence.
I was really impressed with McCain's footwork this week. He doesn't have great size at 5-11, 190, but he's really quick. He has the makings of a very good cover corner.
Saxton fits the profile of what NFL teams are looking for in a tight end these days. He looks like a wide receiver playing tight end, and he runs like one, too. Saxton is a threat downfield, but he's not going to help much as a blocker.
The thing that stands out most about Smith is his competitiveness. The 6-foot, 185-pounder competes like crazy. Smith contests every throw his way and makes good plays on the ball.
Zenner goes hard on every snap and in every drill. He kept making plays this week, whether it was catching the ball out of the backfield or running the ball on an inside drill. He's not a big name, coming from South Dakota State, but I think a lot of teams will be intrigued by him.