As NFL Draft evaluating continues to explode as a cottage industry, it makes sense that more and more of these "all-star" games are popping up to help scouts get a look at league prospects facing off against high-caliber talent. Though it's not the biggest or most high-profile of these games, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is interesting in the sense that it looks to feature talent that may have floated under the radar to this point. Rather than being a game to highlight "small schools," it's a game that brings together players from teams like Texas A&M (SEC) and Bloomsburg University (Division II), to put them all on an even playing field. For the D-II prospects, this is really their first chance to go up against the sport's top-tier talent and in many cases, this can decide whether they're going to be selected in April's NFL Draft or not.
But enough back story. Who are the Mountain West Conference players participating in this game? We break it down by "team" -- the "American Team" is coached by Dennis Green (former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals), and the "National Team" is coached by the Super Bowl-winning Dick Vermiel (former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs).
Caleb Herring, QB/UNLV: Herring was stellar as the senior leader of the Rebels, passing for over 2,700 yards to go with 24 touchdowns (and just five interceptions). He's currently unlisted on most draft boards and is considered to be a potential (at best) free agent pick-up. But if he can somehow make an impact in this game, perhaps that stock goes up a bit. He'll be pressed to find a ton of time on the field though, with SMU's Garrett Gilbert and Missouri's James Franklin also on the squad.
Tim Cornett, RB/UNLV: Over on CBS, Cornett is currently rated the 49th-best running back prospect in the draft -- not a great sign for selection -- but like his college teammate Herring, this is his golden opportunity to shoot up the charts. He's one of just three halfbacks on the American roster, and figures to get the majority of carries compared to Bloomsburg's Franklin Quiteh and Arkansas's Kiero Small.
Chad Young, FB/San Diego State: Young was able to make a solid impact as a short-yardage option for the Aztecs this year, and he'll likely be used in the same capacity in this contest. He's not on draft boards right now, though if he can punch it into the end zone a few teams or show off some elite blocking ability on Saturday, that might at least put him on scouts' radars.
Chris Grant, WR/Hawaii: Grant had a big senior year with 59 catches for 973 yards and nine touchdowns, but playing for a lowly Hawaii team this year, attention has seemed to allude him. Currently unrated, he's going to need to put scouts' fears to rest about his size (6'0" and 185 pounds) in this game if he wants to start hearing his name mentioned as a prospect. He's one of seven wideouts on the roster, which means his chances will be few and far between.
Matt Paradis, C/Boise State: Paradis is oddly the only center on the roster, and should see plenty of burn as a result. While he's not slated to be selected at the moment, CBS does have him as the 15th-ranked player at his position right now. This is a perfect opportunity for him to improve his stock -- especially following a season that saw the Broncos struggle a bit.
Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe, DT/Boise State: Tjong-aTjoe is the 34th-ranked defensive tackle prospect by CBS, and his biggest challenge to getting drafted is likely to be his size (just 300 pounds). If he can get solid penetration against the National's O-line though, and show that his speed can become a factor, that's where he'll start moving up draft boards.
Nat Berhe, SS/San Diego State: Berhe has a huge chance to vault himself up in the minds of evaluators this Saturday, made even better by the fact that there are only a few defensive backs on this team. His size has been a concern, but if he can display the type of strong tackling ability he did all year, scouts could decide to give him another look. CBS currently has him 10th among all strong safeties, but if he can shut down the National squad, that number's sure to go up.
Isaiah Burse, WR/Fresno State: The 75th-rated wideout by CBS, Burse has some work to do to show that size is not an issue. But with a QB who throws a decent deep ball (South Carolina's Connor Shaw) at the helm of the National squad, perhaps he gets his chance to showcase his talents. Just like Chris Grant, though, he'll have six other receivers to compete with for catches, so he'll need to make the most of the five to seven looks he's going to get.
Jared Biard, OT/Colorado State: This year's is a very deep class at offensive tackle, so it's understandable that Biard's gotten pushed down draft charts a bit (36th amongst CBS's OTs). He has the right size (6'7" and 315 pounds) to excel, though, so for him it's not about dispelling concerns. It's simply about putting on a good show against elite competition. The National team is carrying just four tackles, so as part of that rotation, he'll have plenty of opportunities to show his stuff on the field.
Interested in checking out your favorite Mountain West players in the game? Be sure to watch the game live on ESPN at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET. And if you happen to be in Southern California, perhaps even check out tickets to the game, which takes place at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.