With the 2013 college football season officially over, it’s time to look ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft. With several collegiate all-star games coming up, it’s the last time for eligible draft prospects to showcase their skills against the best players in the nation. These are the games that influence which prospects “rise” or “fall” in terms of draft stock, as we saw last year with Eric Fisher’s dominant Senior Bowl week elevate him to the No. 1 overall pick.
This week, the East-West Shrine Game is taking place in St. Petersburg, Florida. While the Senior Bowl is the game that will get the most publicity, the East-West game is loaded with talent as well.
I decided to highlight 10 prospects from the East-West Shrine Game that could peak some interest from the Buffalo Bills come draft day in May.
CB Pierre Desir, 6’2” 210 lbs, Lindenwood
A name you can expect to gain some traction following this week is Pierre Desir, a big, physical corner out of Division II Lindenwood. In his three collegiate seasons in which he played at Washburn and Lindenwood, Desir recorded 25 interceptions, the most in MIAA history, while defending 52 passes, good for 2nd in MIAA history, despite teams throwing away from him roughly 95 percent of the time.
Desir was the recipient of the Cliff Harris Award, given to the best small school player in the nation, and could be selected as high as the third round should be put on a show this week in St. Petersburg.
With the Bills needing some depth in the secondary, Desir could be a sneaky pick in the middle rounds.
DT Bruce Gaston, 6’2” 305 lbs, Purdue
When Kawann Short departed for the National Football League following the 2012 season, Bruce Gaston took on a more prominent role for the Purdue Boilermakers defense. In his senior season, Gaston recorded 48 tackles, seven of which came for a loss and three sacks. He moves well for a defensive tackle and does a great job of shedding blocks. There have been some questions about his consistency that he can put to rest with a strong week of practices.
While the Bills re-signed Alan Branch, Gaston could attract the Bills as a late-round pick that projects well to the 3-4 defensive end position.
LB Preston Brown, 6’2” 260 lbs, Louisville
Preston Brown was a force in the middle of the Louisville Cardinals defense over the past two seasons, as the run-stuffing inside linebacker recorded 206 stops, 15.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage, 4.5 sacks and forced three fumbles.
With a thin crop of inside linebackers entering the draft, Brown needs to show that he’s more than just a one or two down run defender this week, showing some ability to drop into coverage, in order to make himself worthy of a mid-round selection.
With the Bills needing help alongside Kiko Alonso at “Mike” linebacker, Brown could be an attractive target for Buffalo.
LB DeDe Lattimore, 6’3” 237 lbs, South Florida
South Florida’s Aaron Lynch has garnered most of the national attention on the Bulls’ defense, but linebacker DeDe Lattimore is an impressive player in his own right. Playing at weakside linebacker for the past four seasons, Lattimore is a rangy and athletic player that should be able to contribute as a pass rusher at outside linebacker in a 3-4 or even inside. He’s a bit undersized, so scouts will want to see how he fares against the premier offensive linemen against the run, as Lattimore has already proven to be a reliable coverage ‘backer.
The Bills need depth inside with Arthur Moats becoming an unrestricted free agent.
S Tre Boston, 6’1” 205 lbs, North Carolina
Coincidentally, Tre Boston took over for Da’Norris Searcy as the North Carolina Tarheels’ strong safety following Searcy’s departure to the NFL. Boston is a physical and rangy defensive back that appeared in 48 games for the Tarheels, recording 282 tackles, 14 interceptions, 20 pass deflections and three forced fumbles in four seasons.
One of the top-rated senior safeties, Boston is projected as a middle round pick in a year where the Bills need to add some significant depth in the secondary.
G/C Gabe Ikard, 6’2” 298 lbs, Oklahoma
Gabe Ikard is one of the top ranked centers entering the 2014 NFL Draft, having started 51 games in his four years with the Oklahoma Sooners, having experience lining up at both center and guard. Ikard isn’t the most powerful offensive lineman, but he moves well and does a good job of getting to the next level on blocks by utilizing solid technique.
The Bills have a massive hole at left guard and don’t have a true center behind Eric Wood, so Ikard would be a solid pickup for the team in middle rounds.
Kaneakua Friel, 6’5” 250 lbs, Brigham Young University
Kaneakua Friel didn’t have the most productive career at BYU, but that was mostly due to offensive scheme over talent. Friel has prototypical size and good speed, and will definitely be a player to keep an eye on during practices to see how he fares against better competition. He’s not a great blocker, but he could be a late riser in the draft process.
Friel was a bigger part of BYU’s offense last year, recording 30 catches and seven scores, but head coach Bronco Mendenhall said that some NFL teams had already shown interest in the 6’5” 250 pounder.
WR Quincy Enunwa, 6’2” 220 lbs, Nebraska
Nebraska wide receiver Quincy Enunwa could generate some interest during the Shrine Game practices, as the big-bodied receiver that has appeared in 49 games with the Cornhuskers has had an impressive career. In his senior season, Enunwa shined, hauling in 51 passes for 753 yards and 12 touchdowns while serving as the team’s captain.
The Bills have already hinted that they want to add some size at the receiver position, and Enunwa would be worth a flyer in the later rounds.
CB Carrington Byndom, 6’0” 185 lbs, Texas
Carrington Byndom has been a focal point of the Texas Longhorns defense for his entire collegiate career, appearing in all 50 games and making 38 consecutive starts. At 6’0” and 185 pounds, he definitely passes the “eye test” but like fellow Longhorn alum Aaron Williams, his future may lie at the safety position.
In his four years as the Longhorns’ cornerback, Byndom racked up 179 tackles, 26 pass deflections and five interceptions, despite rarely being targeted over the past two seasons.
The Bills put a value on versatility on the defensive side of the ball and adding a player that can play multiple spots in the secondary should attract Doug Whaley and Mike Pettine. Byndom is worthy of a 4th to 6th round pick.
LB Max Bullough, 6’3” 245 lbs, Michigan State
Max Bullough was a four-year player for the Michigan State Spartans defense as a captain, and although he was suspended for his final game-the Rose Bowl- he is still one of the more impressive inside linebackers eligible for the 2014 NFL draft. In four seasons, Bullough tallied 299 tackles, 31.5 of which were behind the line of scrimmage and eight sacks to go along with five forced fumbles.
Bullough would be an excellent addition as a high-level inside linebacker next to Kiko Alonso that has a knack for defending the run from the “Mike” linebacker spot.