ORLANDO, Fla. -- The East-West Shrine Game's practices have been under way for the past three days, and scouts are starting to make solid assessments on the players in attendance.
While these instant evaluations aren't binding, they serve as a starting point for some of the general managers, personnel directors and coaches who are beginning to start their research on the top players in the 2011 draft class.
Given the long-lasting impact of first impressions, let's take a look at some of the notable performers during the first few days of practice:
» LSU's Terrence Toliver has created a little buzz with his solid performance in practices. He has caught the ball well in practices and has the look of a classic No. 1 receiver. The 6-foot-4, 203-pound Toliver glides like a gazelle in routes, but has enough balance and body control to get in and out of his cuts. While bouts of inconsistency plagued him throughout the season, he has been on his game during practices this week, and scouts are raving about his potential.
» Jordan Cameron of Southern California could be the latest basketball player to become a pass-catching force as a tight end. He has been sensational during practice, and few defenders have been able to stay with him down the field. His combination of size, speed and athleticism are exceptional for the position, and he looks like a polished product in the passing game. While he will need to continue to develop as a blocker, he has shown enough promise in practice to merit serious consideration as an early-round draft candidate.
» North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been one of the most impressive players on the practice field during the first three workouts. He has repeatedly dominated blockers in one-on-one drills and shown the combination of brute strength and athleticism that earned him high marks heading into his senior season. Although most in attendance expected him to be the most dominant player on the field based on his immense talent and ability, few would expect him to regain his game so quickly after sitting out all of the 2010 season due to a school-imposed suspension. However, Austin has not only found his rhythm as a rusher, but he has shown a more diverse game by mixing in power moves to complement his athletic skill set. If his dominance carries into the game on Saturday (on NFL Network), Austin will re-emerge as one of the top interior tackles on draft boards across the league.
» The Citadel's Allen Cortez has shown some promise as a potential press corner. As a tall, rangy athlete with long arms, he does a good job of getting his hands on receivers at the line. He repeatedly outmuscled receivers early in routes in one-on-one drills, and showed enough burst to close on short and intermediate routes. Although his game still needs some refinement in a few areas, teams that covet big corners with aggressive man skills will push Cortez up the board based on his performance during the practice week.
» Running back Da'rel Scott of Maryland has opened some eyes with his quickness. He gets to his top gear quickly and flashes a tremendous burst in the open field. Although he shows questionable running instincts in traffic, his ability to turn perimeter plays into big gainers makes him an intriguing prospect.
» Southern Methodist receiver Aldrick Robinson is emerging as a potential sleeper after stringing together a pair of solid practices over the past two days. He shows good balance and body control getting out of his cuts, and flashes a burst to get behind defenders on vertical routes. He has also shown natural hands as a pass catcher and flashes a little wiggle as a runner in space. Robinson looks like an ideal slot receiver on the next level.
» Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch is an impressive athlete with exceptional straight-line speed, but there are questions about his instincts, awareness and potential pro position. While he has an explosive first step, he lacks the body control and balance to turn the corner on a consistent basis as a defensive end/pass rusher. As a stand-up player, he doesn't have a feel for coverage or special awareness. He will certainly play at the next level, but it will be important to place him in the right spot for his skills to shine.
» Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech has been one of the more consistent performers at quarterback. He has shown good skills in and out of the pocket, and his ability to throw on the move makes him an ideal weapon in a movement-based passing game. While some would like to project him at another position, he has shown enough potential in these practices to garner serious consideration as a developmental quarterback prospect.
» The NFL has seemingly phased out the fullback, but Connecticut's Anthony Sherman looks like a keeper at the position. He is a rough and rugged blocker in the run game, and shows decent skills with the ball in his hands. If he can function in the passing game, he could be an intriguing prospect in the mid-to-late rounds.
» Quarterback Jerrod Johnson of Texas A&M has not helped his stock with his performance this week. He has been woefully inaccurate with his throws and doesn't have a good feel for the timing of a pro passing game. He hesitates before letting the ball go and is repeatedly forced to tuck and run due to his uncertainty with the passing progression. Unless he quickly improves his game, he might be headed for a position switch in the near future.