Matt Forte, RB, Tulane:
Forte was one of the big stars of the Senior Bowl, with a game-high 59 yards on eight carries for a 7.4 yard average. He also registered a game-high four receptions and showed his receiving ability and tenacious running style on a 13-yard screen pass late in the game, bullying his way to the North's two-yard line to set up the winning score.
Everyone knew coming into the game that Forte is a talented back that is a load to bring down between the tackles. He simply needed to prove that he could be that type of punishing, explosive runner against a higher level of competition. He certainly accomplished that on Saturday, although some scouts may choose to remember the fumble he lost midway through the first quarter.
He certainly made himself a lot of money in practices this week and only improved his stock throughout the course of the Senior Bowl. However, this is but the first step in his ascension, as he must continue to impress scouts at the Combine and his Pro Day in order to cement his position in the first or second round.
The thinking, though, is that he has already punched his ticket to becoming a first day selection with his offseason thus far.
Keith Rivers, LB, Southern Cal:
Ironically, Forte's fumble was forced by Rivers, another prospect that the Colts showed interest in during last week's practices. Though he registered only one solo tackle, he did force a turnover and showcased his speed, athleticism, and sideline-to-sideline range.
Coming into last week's practices and Saturday's game, Rivers was already a consensus top-10 selection. He did nothing to hurt his stock or raise his status.
The biggest statement that he and teammate Sedrick Ellis made was that they were both comfortable against this level of competition and that they were willing to suit up and play in Saturday's game. Many other highly-touted prospects were unwilling to do so and risk injury or aggravate existing, nagging injuries.
That Rivers did play, and play well pretty well, ensures that he won't be available when Indianapolis makes their first selection in April.
Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri:
Another player that essentially showed scouts what they already knew, Rucker displayed soft, reliable hands in snaring three receptions for 36 yards. He showed himself to be steady in the red zone as well, catching a four-yard touchdown from Chad Henne to open up the fourth quarter.
While he didn't display the kind of deep speed or explosiveness that would have turned a lot of heads on Saturday, he also displayed the kind of reliability and consistency that has become his hallmark. At his position, traits such as consistency and reliability are at least as important as explosiveness and deep speed, so he certainly did not hurt his cause, either.
The most important part of Rucker's journey is yet to come — impressive drills and individual workouts at the Combine will boost his status and possibly give him first round consideration.
Philip Wheeler, LB, Georgia Tech:
Even though he saw limited action, Wheeler still registered three solo tackles and was constantly around the ball, as he was during his time with the Yellow Jackets.
Most scouts are still concerned about his abilities in the passing game, as his coverage skills appeared to be lacking in Saturday's game with zero passes defensed and a tendency to trail the play.
Additionally, there is some concern that Wheeler does not have the necessary bulk to play Mike or Will linebacker at the NFL level. But, at 6 feet, 2 inches, 235 pounds, he certainly fits the mold for an Indianapolis linebacker at either position.
Wheeler is obviously the less desirable of the two linebacker prospects the Colts showed interest in — with Rivers being the other — but he's also the one that they have a good chance at acquiring. He's currently rated as the fourth-best prospect at his position and 75th overall.
Saturday's game did not have any affect on that ranking, but his workouts in the next two months will. Poor results at the Combine, then at his Pro Day will cause his stock to drop, possibly into the second day.
In the fourth or fifth rounds, with other, more pressing needs at other positions taking precedence in earlier rounds, Indianapolis would be wise to pull the trigger and add depth to their suddenly strong corps of linebackers.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Kentucky:
Tamme registered two receptions for 12 yards and committed two costly mistakes in adjusting to his quarterback and the ball on Saturday: one, a misread of a Colt Brennan pass that led to an interception, and the other when he broke off his route too early in the back of the end zone, leading directly to an Erik Ainge incompletion.
He did not post the numbers that Rucker did in college, with his lone standout season coming in 2007 with 56 receptions for 619 yards and six touchdowns, and appears to lack the bulk (6 feet, 4 inches, 236 pounds) that scouts look for at the position — particularly as a blocker.
But, with the tight end position emerging as the most glaring position of need in the 2008 draft, the Colts would be wise to take a long look at Tamme, even though his stock is declining after his performance in the game, if for no other reason that they can get good value for him later in the second day.
Brad Cottam, TE, Tennessee:
Another such prospect to keep an eye on is Cottam. While the huge prospect (6 feet, 8 inches, 270 pounds) saw limited action in Saturday's game, he was on the field long enough to catch a six-yard touchdown pass and show what he and his large frame can do in the red zone and goal-to-go situations. During his career at Tennessee, he only amassed 21 total receptions for 342 yards and one touchdown.
His lack of production in college was largely due to injuries as well as the fact that he couldn't seem to crack the line-up. But, with the offseason in full swing, Cottam's stock is on the rise.
He had a terrific week in practice, is certainly improving as a blocker after taking some sound advice by his coaches, and certainly could leapfrog a lot of prospects between now and April.