Connor Shaw has national stage to answer doubts

Size, durability are concerns, analysts say

jkendall@thestate.comJanuary 17, 2014 

USC’s Connor Shaw hopes to surprise some NFL scouts on Saturday.

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    NFLPA COLLEGIATE BOWL

    WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.

    WHERE: Carson, Calif.

    TV: ESPN2

Today is the final chance for Connor Shaw to do what he does best before May’s NFL draft, says Bill Polian.

Shaw, who completed a South Carolina career that saw more a quarterback wins (27) than any other, will play Saturday for the National team in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a showcase game for draft eligible players. After today, Shaw’s flaws will be on display, Polian said during an ESPNU broadcast of NFLPA practice this week.

“He’s a prime example of the phase of the draft process we are entering,” said Polian, a former NFL general manager. “He’s performed at South Carolina, and I am sure he will perform well on Saturday, but he’s short. He plays with his feet as much as he does with his arm, and he’s had some injuries. As the draft process proceeds, he is going to have these knocks on him. These are red flags.”

Today, though, is about football, and football is Shaw’s strong suit, Polian and other analysts have said this week. The NFLPA game will be played today at 3 p.m. at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., and be televised by ESPN2.

“He’s a football player’s football player,” ESPNU analyst Desmond Howard said. “I was talking to some former NFL players who are now scouts and we all agree, he’s just a real tough guy, rugged guy. You know what you are going to get when he is under center and in the game. He’s just a tough kid, and he’s a competitor.”

Shaw threw 24 touchdowns and one interception in his senior season, compiling 2,447 yards through the air, another 558 on the ground and leading the Gamecocks to an 11-2 finish and the No. 4 national ranking.

“I think with Shaw, you kind of know his skills. If you don’t know his skills, then you haven’t done the work,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said on the broadcast. “He’s played a long time in the SEC, been very successful, has the leadership and the toughness.”

Shaw’s performance during the NFLPA practices this week has confirmed most of what scouts have seen on tape, McShay said.

“We know that he has to improve his accuracy throwing downfield. He got better at that this year, still has room to grow,” McShay said. “He has the tools to be a good backup in the NFL if he can continue to develop. He’s not quite there yet. The biggest concern with Shaw is always going to be the durability because he’s a quarterback that does rely some on his mobility and he has a slight frame. But I think he has played well so far through two days, and I think it’s going to be big to see how he plays on Saturday.”

Shaw, 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, is expected to be a late-round selection or be signed by a team as an undrafted free agent.

“People are concerned about size, concerned about the fact that he makes his money with mobility and concerned about durability,” Polian said. “He’s going to have an opportunity, so his performance this week is going to be a resume that will stick with people.”

When the draft evaluation process is complete and Shaw lands with a team, he’ll once again be able to focus on football, Polian said.

“He’s going to be one of five or six quarterbacks sitting in the room (of an NFL teams practice facility), and he’s probably going to be the least impressive guy in the room, but somehow, some way he has proven to this point that he can go out and play in the best conference in college football and play at a very high level and win football games,” McShay said. “He’ll be ready for that mentally.”

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