2017 NFL Draft: Which defenders stood out at East-West Shrine

Oct 15, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars running back James Williams (32) runs the ball against UCLA Bruins defensive back Fabian Moreau (10) during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars running back James Williams (32) runs the ball against UCLA Bruins defensive back Fabian Moreau (10) during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports /

The annual East-West Shrine isn’t typically the place to search for first-round level talent, but that may not be the case this year, as a Pac-12 cornerback put in all full week of exemplary practices followed by an outstanding game-day performance that may have vaulted him into the mix of prospects that have a legitimate shot of hearing their names called on Day 1 of April’s draft.

UCLA’s Fabian Moreau was clearly that most NFL-ready player on the field yesterday, who showcased his coverage savvy in several instances, such as a 3rd-and-8 play in the first quarter that saw the 6-foot defender play off-coverage on a deep sideline throw and forced his man (Kermit Whitfield) to launch himself out of bounds by reducing his available space.

Moreau’s discipline to read offenses was evident in the second quarter when he refused to come up on quarterback Nick Mullens’ pump fake on a play where the intended receiver was supposed to execute a stop-and-go and blow by his cover man.

2017 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 10 cornerbacks

He wouldn’t allow himself to be baited. In fact, he is usually the one who lures passers into mistakes by giving them a false sense of security by playing off his target only to then turn on his burst and break up the oncoming throw.

Moreau’s gambling style is a testament to the confidence with which he competes. But while he knows he can get to the ball, he usually does so without getting handsy with the pass catcher and incurring a penalty.

Overall, the former Bruin is patient and fluid along with having a nose for the football which are all desirable next-level traits, especially when they’re combined with 4.39 speed.

But in addition to showing out in pass coverage, Moreau was fantastic on special teams as well in yesterday’s all-star event by outrunning his man on a fourth-quarter punt, accelerating to the football and tackling the returner around the ankles unassisted on a play in which the receiving team didn’t gain a yard.

An interesting fact about the Fort Lauderdale native is that he’s a converted running back that only started playing cornerback upon arriving in Los Angeles in 2012.

Judging on his consistent level of improvement, it’s safe to say that Moreau has mastered the art of turning and running with wide receivers while also flashing his trademark recovery speed.

The heady defensive back is adept at playing zone coverage and has the ability to line up on an island to shadow his opponent.

Looking ahead at the 2017 draft, it would be hard to argue that cornerback won’t be the Packers’ primary position of need.

Though a variety of names have been bandied about from Gareon Conley to Sidney Jones as late options in the first round, those prospects could be long gone by the time GM Ted Thompson identifies his top guy.

Don’t be surprised if Moraeu ends up being the man TT casts his lot with.

Other intriguing standouts at the East-West Shrine

Though there was considerable talent to be hand on both sides of the ball, defense is—or at least should be—the unit that will garner the most attention from the Packers’ front office in the coming months.

Two front seven defenders that put numerous scouts and NFL coaches on notice were Florida’s Bryan Cox Jr. and Louisville’s DeAngelo Brown.

Cox, in case you haven’t yet made the connection, is the son of former pro linebacker Bryan Cox, who now serves as the defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons.

Much like his father, the promising defensive end plays with fire and aggression on every down.

Coming off an injury-riddled 2016 season with the Florida Gators, Cox was on a mission to show he’s better than the sixth-round projection he’s been tagged with by online services, such as NFL Draft Scout.

The former SEC product was a load to handle for 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive tackle Storm Norton, who got away with a hold on a 3rd-and-goal pass play in the first quarter.

Cox continued his assault on the West squad by penetrating the backfield on the next possession and forcing the opposing running back to be tackled for a four-yard loss.

The young lineman showed his ability to create leverage by leaning into his blocker on the play and then using his quick hands to disengage from him.

It was more of the same in the second quarter with Cox turning heads this time for not being fooled by Gunner Kiel’s fake handoff and instead staying with his upfield rush in pursuit of the quarterback, who was left with no other option but to throw the ball away.

Throughout the game, the 260-pound disruptive force was chasing down ball carriers by running across the formation and often catching up to his target.

Cox has the look of a 4-3 end, but he’s one of those players you would love to find a spot for given the constant rage he brings to the field.

The added fact that the coaches at the Shrine game all reportedly took a liking to him, tells me Cox has all the attributes of someone that can develop into a team leader.

Brown, on the other hand, is a run-stuffing interior lineman built a lot like Mike Daniels at 6-feet even and 310 pounds.

He didn’t waste time in making an impact by standing his blocker up on 4th and 1 at the two yard line and hunting down the running back (Joseph Williams) for a one-yard loss.

The heavy-handed Brown used his strong and wide base to get under guard Geoff Gray in the third quarter in turning him sideways and giving Williams nowhere to roam except for another loss.

The mid-round prospect is hard to move off his spot and can hold up versus double teams which make him an appealing choice for 3-4 teams in search of a nose tackle.

Next: 2017 NFL Draft: Ranking the top 10 cornerbacks

Brown’s combination of natural leverage and raw strength make him the type of space eater that you would rather avoid running straight into whether you’re a running back or an offensive lineman.