QB Philip Nelson, East Carolina (6’1 | 216 | 4.76) – Was by far the most polished quarterback at the Collegiate Bowl. He led two scoring drives and the offense just looked significantly smoother with Nelson under center than it did with the other QBs.
Nelson showed the ability to make plays both in the pocket and on the move, got rid of the ball quickly when necessary, and displayed good accuracy downfield. I hadn’t considered Nelson much of a prospect before this weekend (despite watching plenty of ECU tape on Zay Jones), but watched a little more and was impressed.
He doesn’t have the ideal quarterback size but gets good zip on the ball and his mobility to make plays outside the hashes makes his lack of height less of an issue. I was most impressed with his poise and leadership ability.
All-star games are generally dominated by the defense since the offense only has a week to work together, but it looked like Nelson could have led his squad down the field for scores all game if he played more.
Both his coach, Mike Martz, and the opposing coach, Jon Kitna, were extremely high on Nelson as well with Martz “convinced” that Nelson will be an NFL starter and Kitna comparing him to Tony Romo.
That’s high praise from two guys who have spent plenty of time in the league. Nelson isn’t currently projected to be drafted by any of the major sites, but that could change quickly in a weak quarterback class.
RB Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico (5’8 | 190 | 4.42) – Had a solid game in a losing effort for his squad with 54 yards on eight carries and three catches for 32 yards. Gipson’s lack of size may keep him out of the draft, but he’s explosive enough that he should get a chance in some team’s training camp.
Gipson is a fun back to watch and a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He led the nation in yards per carry with 9.2, which is a full yard more than the next best player. Gipson has also put up 1,209 yards and 12 touchdowns in just ten games this year.
The Lobos run a triple option offense will be much different than what he’s going to run on the next level, which won’t help his draft stock. Gipson also hasn’t caught the ball much with just eight catches this season.
He does have the speed and vision to help a team as either a change-of-pace back or more likely a return man. Gipson lacks the size to be an every-down NFL back but is so explosive with the ball and naturally elusive that he could be a weapon at the next level if used right.
S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma (6’0 | 215 | 4.60) – Hard-hitting safety who led his side’s defense with six tackles. Thomas is an explosive force in the middle of the field against both the run and receivers bold enough to cross in front of him.
He’s started for three consecutive seasons and averaged 71 tackles per year during that stretch. Thomas also picked off four passes, had seven pass defenses, and 2.5 sacks. He has starting experience and both strong and free safety, which is valuable to teams who like interchangeable safeties (like the Bears).
Thomas doesn’t have elite size or ball skills, but he’s an intimidating presence in run support who isn’t a liability against the pass. Right now he’s a solid day three pick, but if he can run better than 4.6 before the draft, then Thomas could sneak into the end of day two.