The big 3 college all-star games kick off this week and it all starts with the wheelhouse of the SteelerFury team, who like to dig a little deeper and grind a little more tape to find some less-known prospects. The NFLPA normally features prospects who make up the undrafted free agent population, although some at the top will find their way into a mid or late round draft pick. Even those nearer the bottom of the pecking order will be the names you see playing in the XFL, USFL, CFL, and the World League.

So, if you are looking for plauers to keep an eye on during Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (6pm EST/3pmPST on NFL Netwrk/ or you want to be smarter than your friends who will say, “Who is that guy?” when someone stands out in the USFL,  here’s a guide to the prospects who stood out during this week of practices in Pasadena:


Cheikhe “Sidy”Sow, Eastern Michigan
G/T American #62
6046  329 lb   3378 arm  1058 hand
Eastern MichiganThis Canadian import and Outland Trophy finalist has a big build with a solid lower body/base paired with the movement skills of a smaller player. He hit the ground running this week with great lower body work. Sow is so strong at the point of attack and his base and great pad level result in a good anchor & balance for his jump set.
Garrett Nelson, Nebraska
DE American #91
6027  249 lb   3258 arm   968 hand
Nelson is that guy who kept us checking to see who 91 was. He was persistent and a handful for the offensive line, used a nice long arm to keep leverage in run game, an advanced hand swipe to free himself, and backed that technique up with a lot of hustle and flying around to the ball. A team captain at Nebraska, he profiles as a prospect whos all-around talent and great leadership will find him a landing spot on a roster.
Kaleb Hayes, BYU
CB American #18
5113  196 lb   3338 arm   848 hand
Stood out immediately from the first rep of practice. Confident, loose hips. Plays well at the catch point and had a beautiful pass breakup where he exercised patience to wait for the ball and play through the receiver’s pocket to knock away a would-be TD. No panic.
Kemari Averett, Bethune-Cookman
TE American #86
6056  260lb  3468 arm   928 hand

The NFLPA game annually offers some opportunities for prospects who might have had some issues off the field earlier in their careers but worked hard to rebuild their reputations and character. Avrett was top recruit in 2017 and he looks like it on tape the last couple of seasons, with superior size and body control as a pass catcher making him nearly impossible to defend. So, his receiving skills this week were not a surprise… but we came away really impressed with his effort and ability as a blocker. He showed the ability to locate smaller targets in space, he down-blocked DEs, he showed good feet and timing to pull across the formation and find a LB. He’s done everything in his power to prove himself and this week continued that journey in the right direction.
Michael Ayers, Ashland University
LB American #50
6017  224 lb   3338 arm   900 hand
Smaller school players getting their chance at a big college all-star game make for great stories, but Ayers––who plays at a school so obscure, even I had to double-check to remind myself it’s located between Columbus and Akron, OH and about a million miles from THE Ohio State or the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  That said, Ayers definitely belonged alongside the prospects with higher pedigrees and bigger names.This week he was a standout. He has good instincts and a willingness to act on it that resulted in him sniffing out RPOs and always being around the ball. He was also one of the better LBs in coverage, which as a former safety with very fluid hips should be the strength of his game and is.


Braydon Johnson, Oklahoma State

WR National #85

5114  201 lb   3148 arm   948 hand
Braydon Johnson was the class of the WRs in Pasadena. The former Oklahoma State deep threat (17.7 yards per catch in 2022) showed some serious speed getting into and on top of CBs with an effortless release and acceleration. Johnson showed a really great release off the line vs CB Keidron Smith, with a swim and stack win that was so quick and easy, I had to replay it multiple times to figure out what happened. He’s also a dog at the catch point and is one of the better bets to be MVP of Saturday’s game, provided his QBs here can get the football to him.
Isaiah Bolden, Jackson State
CB National #23
6021 203 lb   3228 arm   868 hand

I joked during the week that teams should just draft any CB who has been coached by Deion Sanders (a pretty good bet considering the next couple of CBs he’s got under his wing at CU). This former Deion pupil showed effortless change of direction skills, especially for a CB of his size/length. He gave multiple examples of great jam strength at the line, and remained incredibly calm and confident from his presnap stance all the way through the catch point.

JimmyPhillips Jr., SMU
LB National #59
6014  234 lb   3268 arm   1018 hand
SMU’s leading tackler this season, and a STs star with a knack for blocking kicks (he had two in 2021) showed he’s also capable of making a roster as a coverage defender. He is a nice fit as a middle of the field drop defender in cover 2, showing great position as a trail defender, and using late hands to knock the ball away late on multiple reps vs a visibly frustrated Emmanuel Wilson. Phillips also showed the best blitzing skills in the LB/RB drills, where he bowled over more than one RB and then ran across their face if they retreated to try and reset.  Excited to see him in game action this week, where LBs can show their stuff a little more than in light contact practice.
Durell Nchami, Maryland
DE National #93
6040  258 lb   3448 arm   968 hand
Nchami dealt with some injury issues the past couple of years but if his week in Pasadena is any indication, he is healthy now.  He displayed a MONSTER bull rush on multiple occasions, including one that staggered Senior Bowl call-up Joey Fisher. Probably more suited to a standup EDGE role in the NFL, the Collegiate Bowl rules will have him lining up with a hand in the dirt as a 4-3 DE. He’ll be looking to showcase some run-stopping ability to go with his go-to power rush.
Jacob Slade, Michigan State
DT National #64
6031 293 LB   3268 arm   928 hand
Slade is a guy who does dirty work on the interior and, like a lot of interior defensive linemen, probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Here in Pasadena, he has shown a consistent interior pass rush and some excellent hand-fighting skills. He was this year’s NFLPA version of Teair Tart (Titans) & Eric Johnson (Colts), i.e. the DL who was totally unblockable in 1 on 1s. Slade will similarly find his way to an NFL roster, since interior DL with his skills and size are a valued commodity in the pros.

Best of the Rest

Jon Gaines II, UCLA, G/C American #57
Johnny Lumpkin, Louisiana, TE American # 89
Jason Brownlee, Southern Mississippi, WR American #81
Keenan Isaac, Alabama State, CB American #10
Owen Wright, Monmouth, RB National #36
Joey Fisher, Shepherd, T/G National #76
Anthony Johnson, Iowa State, S/CB National #31
Zeke Vandenburgh, Illinois State, OLB National #45
Michael Ezeike, UCLA, TE National #84
Dillon Doyle, Baylor, LB National #55
Steven Jones Jr., Appalachian State, CB National #26