Tony Romo may not be the only quarterback who played his college football at Eastern Illinois lacing it up in the NFL next season.
The East-West Shrine Game is one of a number of opportunities for football players looking to boost their NFL draft stocks after the college season ends. While there were plenty of marquee names on the two respective rosters, much of the postgame buzz centered on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The former Eastern Illinois signal-caller posted a line of 100 yards passing and a touchdown. While yards may not seem like a lot to someone who didn’t tune into the Shrine Game, the quarterbacks are constantly rotated throughout the game to give everyone a chance to make an impression.
He was also named the Offensive MVP of the game.
The impressive performance in the Shrine Game was simply a continuation of a record-breaking season for Garoppolo.
He was an AP FCS First Team All-American, won the 2013 Walter Payton Award, led all Division I players in passing yards (5,050) and touchdown passes (53) and set the Ohio Valley Conference season and career records for passing yards, touchdowns and total offense. What’s more, he posted 300 or more yards in 11 games and had 400 or more in five games.
Garoppolo even threw three or more touchdown passes 10 times.
As for the Shrine Game, Garoppolo’s East squad won 23-13.
Statistically, Garoppolo outshone marquee names like Keith Price, Tommy Rees and Jordan Lynch during the contest. He also did it against much better defensive players than he was accustomed to playing against at Eastern Illinois.
For anyone who saw Garoppolo during the practices leading up to the game though, his performance came as no surprise. Just ask Dan Greenspan of NFL.com:
Garoppolo (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) went from an interesting sleeper during the season, in part because he attended the same school as Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo and was inevitably tagged as the "Next Romo," to the standout in practices ahead of the game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
As with any postseason All-Star game, the draft repercussions for the individual players are more important than who actually won.
Coming into the contest, many NFL scouts graded him as a top-100 prospect for the upcoming draft (per CBS Sports). He has solid arm strength, but it is his quick release that catches the attention of NFL front offices. He has also improved on his touch and accuracy in each of his collegiate seasons.
Garoppolo has formidable vision and is comfortable in the pocket. He isn’t necessarily a scrambling quarterback per se, but he has quick feet in the pocket, which allows him to avoid sacks and keep the offense ahead of the chains.
The only real concern is that Garoppolo doesn’t have the speed on some of his throws to fit the ball through the tight windows he will face at the NFL level.
So if Garoppolo was seen by many as a potential top-100 prospect heading into this game, it isn’t much of a stretch to see him as a selection in the first two rounds of the draft. His impressive performance at the East-West Shrine Game will certainly help, and he has another opportunity at the Senior Bowl in the coming days.
Furthermore, the demand for quarterbacks is always an overarching storyline at any NFL draft. Teams often reach out to get a signal-caller before they would for a comparable player at a different position.
For now, Garoppolo has to be seen as a darkhorse candidate to be a first-round pick. Sure, that may be a reach, but teams are always on the lookout for quarterback prospects, and he certainly caught some eyes at the East-West Shrine Game.
As long as he continues to perform well during these major tests before the draft, Garoppolo will be taken in the first three rounds of the draft.