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Assessing the draft stock of Buffaloes in the Shrine Game

Several graduating seniors are set to take part in this year’s annual college football all-star game.

Earlier this month, two Buffs - linebacker Drew Lewis, and safety Evan Worthington - accepted invitations to the annual East-West Shrine Game. For the eighth year in a row, it’ll be hosted at Tropicana Field in Tampa Fla., and will take place on Saturday, Jan. 19th.

The contest is an invite-only all-star game for seniors getting set to graduate, and acts as another opportunity for them to show off their skills in front of pro scouts. Here’s what’s on the line for Worthington and Lewis for

Free/Strong Safety Evan Worthington, Current Projection: 4th round-UDFA

Breakdown: Like Lewis, Worthington was another guy who burst onto the scene in 2017 but had a disappointing followup campaign. His season was hampered by injuries as he missed three games with a concussion, his third dating back to fall camp. Given the recent revelations and history about concussions, Worthington’s injury history could present some concerns about his long-term future. However, scouts haven’t forgot about his past performance, size, and potential, as former head coach Mike MacIntyre talked about them being disappointed about him not being on the practice field at several weekly press conferences.

What’s at Stake: Standing at 6-2, Worthington is the ideal height for a safety in today’s NFL. At 200 pounds, he’ll likely to need to bulk up a bit to tackle bigger wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends, but that shouldn’t be a problem once he gets with the right training staff. Suspended for the entire 2016 season, he’ll need to show teams that potential character concerns are behind him.

The Aurora native’s real strengths lie in his ball skills and tackling. He had team-highs in interceptions (3) and solo tackles (66) in 2017. If nothing else, the stat sheet shows his ability to play both safety positions, which is a real asset. To really improve his draft stock in Tampa, Worthington will ultimately need to find a way to make plays around the ball, and make a few impressive tackles.

As someone who has two years starting experience, he’s a much more developed product than some of the younger safeties in this year’s draft. With a good performance, Worthington can increase his value by a couple of rounds. Given the uncertainty of rounds 4-7, he could be a late riser if the right team(s) buys into his potential.

Inside/Outside Linebacker Drew Lewis, Current Projection: 5th round-UDFA

Breakdown: After a monster 2017 campaign in which he had a team high 94 tackles, Lewis didn’t quiet have the same impact in 2018. Although he was in on 38 tackles, including 5 TFL’s, he wasn’t around the football nearly as much as two seasons ago. However, when evaluating his performance last year, it’s important to consider he shifted from his natural inside linebacker position to outside backer in training camp to make room for Nate Landman.

What’s at Stake: Lewis is a strong, physical linebacker who excels at open field tackling and has great speed. As someone who’s played a number of positions, he also has good durability for the next level. As the nephew of retired player and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick - who also spent some time working in NFL front offices, he’s likely to gain at least some traction in the scouting community.

To improve his stock, Lewis needs to show his skillset inside is translatable to other backer positions. He can help himself by showing an ability to consistently make plays in coverage - a attribute that is rare in linebackers nowadays. Slightly undersized for the position, Lewis can make scouts forgot about height by making up for the disadvantage with rangy speed and quick instincts. It’s hard to envision the potential for a similar booming rise as Worthington because of where they stood prior to the season, but Lewis certainly can help himself with a good showing.