The Senior Bowl may be the biggest college all-star game of the offseason, but the East-West Shrine Game still carries heavy importance in the evaluation process.
The Shrine Game focuses more on mid-to late-round picks. Whether these players come from smaller schools or are simply not as widely recognized as the premier prospects who attend the Senior Bowl, there are always a few gems in this game. After all, New York Jets stud defensive tackle Damon Harrison was a participant in this game in 2012.
Here are some prospects worth watching for the Jets during the East-West Shrine Game.
There is no doubt that the Jets will emphasize scouting the skill positions this draft season. Using a first-round selection on a playmaker is a favorable possibility. They may be able to land a steal in San Jose product Chandler Jones.
A terrific slot receiver who is dangerous in the open field, Jones was a big reason for David Fales' emergence as a top quarterback prospect.
According to Bleacher Report's own Michael Schottey, Jones was one of the standout players at practice:
On the second day of practices, the slot receiver who stood out the most was Chandler Jones of San Jose State. In the muddier and wet conditions in the afternoon practice, Jones showcased good footwork as his peers were still trying to find their proverbial sea legs.
As Schottey pointed out, Jones projects as a slot receiver in the NFL. The Jets already have a solid player at the position in Jeremy Kerley, but his absence was more than noticeable in the latter part of the season. The Jets desperately need to add depth at this position so they are not so reliant on Kerley to stay healthy for an entire season.
If he is available somewhere in the middle rounds, he could wind up as a steal for the receiver-needy Jets.
The Jets will also be heavily active in the tight end market. Should they choose to grab a receiver (or any other position) in the early rounds, they will need to stock their depth in the later rounds with developmental prospects.
Gilmore is an ideal red-zone threat who has great size and leaping ability to go with his solid hands. As Schottey notes, he made a few impressive grabs during the week of practices:
Gilmore with a nice TD catch now. Away from his body and above his head. Again, nice size that teams will ... http://t.co/yMvf8PbQjC— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 13, 2014
The downside to Gilmore is that while he was a dangerous weapon as a receiver, he has little experience as an in-line blocker in Colorado's offense.
Crockett provides great value if he can develop on a roster while providing some value as a situational player early on.
With Dawan Landry on the last year of his contract, the Jets must continue to build their safety depth in preparation for the future. Based on what he has shown in practices, Penn State's Stephen Obeng-Agyapong may be a excellent choice in the later rounds.
However, Obeng-Agyapong showed off his ability in pass coverage during practice, Jeff Risdon of DetriotLionsDraft.com notes, "Penn State safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong made a nice deflection on a quick hit up the seam, bumping the ball right to Notre Dame LB Prince Shembo."
While he may not be the ideal ball-hawking safety the Jets are looking for, his physicality and competitiveness make him an excellent fit on special teams as a rookie while he develops his skills as a safety.
The Jets may have a pair of starting running backs they can go into the 2014 season with, but with Mike Goodson's ACL leaving behind lingering questions about his health headed into next season, they would be wise to pick up a third-down runner later in the draft.
Bauman has a nice blend of quickness and speed, which he showcased during practice, as Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting notes: "The best running of the day was still Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, showing the game’s best speed up and through the hole and the burners to finish runs when the hole opens."
The question for Bauman will be how quickly he can pick up a an NFL protection scheme, which is an aspect of the game a lot of rookie runners struggle with.
If Bauman is going to make it in the NFL as a third-down back, he must prove that he does not need to be replaced with someone else on passing downs because he cannot hold up in protection.
The most experienced receiver on the Hurricanes' roster, Allen Hurns was extremely productive for Miami this past season, catching 62 passes for 1,162 yards (18.7 average).
Hurns has good size at 6'3" and great quickness when breaking in and out of his routes, making him an ideal slot or No. 2 receiver who can make an early impact on special teams.
However, where Hurns falls short is his mediocre top-end speed.
He may be quick making cuts, but he is not one to turn a seven-yard slant into a 60-yard touchdown. He does, however, accelerate very quickly to get to his top speed.
Hurns' ceiling is a bit limited because he does not have great speed, but he has the tools to be a productive player if he can prove that he can get off press coverage at the NFL level.
Many of the Jets' offensive struggles this season stemmed from the inability of the wide receivers to gain separation—which is exactly where Jeremy Gallon comes in.
According to Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting, Gallon got great separation during the week of practice on a variety of routes—not just on drag routes and comebacks. His ability to get separation on all of the routes on the route tree will make his stock soar.
Gallon separates himself from the rest of the pack because he is so quick at the top of his routes. Combined with his top-end speed, Gallon can be a real weapon if used correctly.
The biggest question surrounding Gallon is his size, as Galko notes that he was "the smallest receiver" at the practices. However, if a team is able to find a way to get him in favorable matchups to deliver him the ball quickly, he can be a dangerous weapon for any offense.
With three of their depth cornerbacks set to be free agents this offseason, the Jets cannot afford to neglect their lack of depth at the cornerback position.
Gaines is a fluid athlete with decent ball skills and route instincts. However, he is a bit unsound from a technical standpoint, as Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting notes:
I really like his balance, low hips throughout his pedal, and his ability to finish plays at the catch-point thanks to his positioning. He had a handful of nice breakups today on hitch routes or quick inside routes because of it. However, he seems to be a little wide in his footwork vertically...
Gaines is also vulnerable against taller receivers because of his shorter stature, which may put a limit on his value as a slot cornerback.
If Gaines can clean up his technique, he can turn out to be a terrific depth corner for whoever is willing to take a chance on him later in the draft.
The defensive line many not be the most pressing need area for the Jets, but with Leger Douzable likely on his way out as a free agent, adding a depth player in the final rounds or on the undrafted free-agent market should be a priority.
Derrick Hopkins was a member of one of the best run defenses in the league this past year at Virginia Tech. For his size, he has tremendous quickness, and he is a better pass-rusher than given credit for. He is good with his hands and can anchor in the run game well.
Hopkins, however, is known for sometimes being too aggressive on plays, outrunning his assignments at times when pursuing the "splash" play.
However, with some coaching, he may be able to clean up his game and still be an effective player without making brutal mistakes.
During the game, it will be interesting to see if Hopkins is the cause of some big runs allowed—or if he can replicate some of the big plays he made at Virginia Tech.