Today marks the kickoff for pre-draft All-Star contests. The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and East-West Shrine games are always the first two games, followed by the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The game will be held January 19th inside the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California at 2:00 PM (EST). Tarik Cohen (Bears), Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks), and Genard Avery (Browns) are just a few of many notable names of who have previously participated in the game.
While it doesn’t receive nearly the notoriety of the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl, it is still a game that is heavily attended by nearly every NFL team. This year’s crop is a mixed bag of prospects from all competition levels, but there are plenty who will catch the eye of scouts and executives in attendance.
The roster, consisting of 112 prospects combined, has been split into two teams. Former NFL player and head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Tice, will lead the National team, while the American team will be engineered by new Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Here are five prospects that are worth keeping an eye on:
1. Hjalte Froholdt, Guard, Arkansas (Senior, 6’5″, 315 lbs)
It has been a long road traveled for the Razorback senior offensive lineman. After starting off his career as a defensive tackle, he transitioned to the offensive side of the ball after his freshman season (2015). A native of Denmark, Froholdt has had a hectic journey. Finding a newfound interest in the game at the age of 9, he began to play in his homeland. At 15 years old, he fell in love with the stylistic ways of the game and transitioned to the United States. From there, he found a home at a small school in Ohio, where he went on to play just one season before heading back to Denmark. After not being able to make ends meet back home, he once again transitioned back to the U.S. and resurfaced at the infamous IMG academy in Florida.
NFLPA BOWL (NTL) | Arkansas OL Hjalte Froholt (6044/306) has a chance to be the highest player drafted from this event. He passed the eye test during weigh-ins and then proceeded to take on all comers during the practice session. Froholt practiced strictly at guard today.
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) January 15, 2019
This is where his stock went through the roof. After receiving offers from Alabama, Florida State, and Indiana, among many others, he felt most comfortable at Arkansas. It proved to be the right decision, as he has now positioned himself as a serious NFL draft prospect. Scouts project Froholdt to be an early-to-mid day three selection during the 2019 NFL Draft.
2. Keenen Brown, Tight End, Texas State (R-Senior, 6’3″, 250 lbs)
A career that originally started as a wide receiver at Oklahoma State before transitioning to an H-Back role in the Cowboys’ offense, Brown saw limited action in his four seasons in Stillwater. Wanting to experience a bigger role and more playing time, he elected to transfer to Texas State. Moving to tight end, it was a role where his skillset shone.
Keenen Brown had a MONSTER season for Texas State and was our highest-graded Tight End. pic.twitter.com/2S2aaaK2LG
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 7, 2019
Recording career highs in catches (51), yards (577), and touchdowns (7), Brown’s small sample size in his expanded role has scouts intrigued. Just scratching the surface of what he potentially could become at the position, he’s seen as an athletic ball of clay that could eventually be molded into something more down the road.
3. John Battle, Safety, LSU (R-Senior, 6’2″, 206 lbs)
The most experienced and unquestioned vocal leader on the back-end of the Tigers’ defense, Battle didn’t receive some of the glory that a few of his counterparts did, but he still held his own. A traditional strong safety and participant on every special teams unit, Battle’s size and value in multiple areas have evaluators intrigued. A starter in 19 of 37 career games, including 10 a season ago, the former Tiger standout recorded a career-high three interceptions during his final season.
Battle unfortunately had an untimely encounter following the thrilling seven overtime 74-72 loss to Texas A&M, which resulted in him serving a suspension. Now moving past that fiasco, his experience as a special teams piece and at safety may earn him a spot on a teams roster long-term.
4. Kyle Shurmur, Quarterback, Vanderbilt (Senior, 6’4″, 225 lbs)
The son of New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, Kyle now has a chance to create his own legacy after a successful career for the Commodores — finishing with 3,120 passing yards and 24 touchdowns to just six interceptions. His smarts, potential, and cerebral traits that he brings to the table have scouts targeting him as a potential late-round selection. Best served as a developmental option down the road, he has taken advantage of the all-star practice circuit and has improved his draft stock from an undrafted option to a potential day three pick.
5. Wes Hill, Running Back, Slippery Rock (Senior, 6’2″, 218 lbs)
An Associated Press Division-II All-American, Hill set the single-season school record for rushing yards (1,714). After not being a household name coming into the week of bowl game practices, he left many scouts intrigued and searching for his film. A bigger runner in stature, he started his career at Delaware. After being there for three seasons, he elected to transfer down a level to finish his career.
FB: BREAKING just announced – SRU running back Wes Hills' performance this week at #NFLPABowl practices has earned him the call up to the @seniorbowl. The Senior Bowl is the premier showcase game for NFL prospects. Hills becomes 2nd SRU player ever to be invited. More info tomo. pic.twitter.com/fe7ejRNtfy
— Rock Athletics (@Rock_Athletics) January 18, 2019
With the Blue Hens, his career was marred with injuries, but he still finished with 1,849 and 14 touchdowns. A two-time team captain, his character is spoken very highly of. The decision to transfer paid off, though, as now he’s firmly on the radar of many teams. Hill has been nominated to be a participant in the upcoming Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile — a huge accomplishment and a credit to just how well he’s stood out during the week of practices.
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*Mandatory Photo Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports