2016 NFL Draft East-West Shrine Game Scouting Guide
There are four major events during the draft cycle: the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl, the combine and the NFL draft itself. On Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, the first domino of draft season falls.
Split into two teams, some of college football's best senior talent spent the week in St. Petersburg, Florida, preparing for the Shrine Game. They were visited by plenty of power players in the league, including a massive number of scouts from all 32 NFL franchises.
Now, this pool doesn't include any first-round picks, but there is a chance that a few of the prospects in the game push their way into the top 100. In general, this is the warm-up to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, next week, but the Shrine Game is important when looking at Day 3 prospects.
Both casual fans and draftniks can appreciate watching seniors play their last college football game before they make their journey to the pros. To assist your experience of the game, we'll lay out everything you missed during the week's worth of practices.
Both of the Shrine Game squads have plenty of experience up top as far as coaching is concerned. On the East team, Charlie Weis is the head coach, while June Jones leads the West.
Weis has taken an interesting road to get to St. Petersburg. He was once touted as a quarterback guru as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator during the developmental years of Tom Brady. He parlayed that into the head coaching gig at Notre Dame, which went south after five years. He later had stints in Kansas City and Florida as an offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job at Kansas, the final full-time coaching job he finished in 2014.
Jones has also been out of full-time coaching for the past year, as he was the head coach of the SMU Mustangs from 2008 to 2014. He's best known as the head coach of the Hawaii Warriors, who went 12-0 in the 2007 regular season and were invited to the Sugar Bowl, which made them just the third non-BCS conference team to make a BCS game. Before that, Jones spent a decade at the professional level further developing the run and shoot offense.
Each roster is loaded with flashbacks from the past, but most of the names that stand out are former NFL players. Chris Miller, who was a Pro Bowl quarterback, Terance Mathis, who was a Pro Bowl receiver, and Jerry Glanville, the former head coach of both the Houston Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons, are all working under Jones.
On Weis' squad, there's Brady Quinn, the former first-round quarterback he developed at Notre Dame, Troy Brown, a former Pro Bowl receiver, Sam Madison, a former All-Pro cornerback for AFC East's Miami Dolphins, and Mike Alstott, who was possibly the greatest fullback of his generation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It also appears that Jon Bon Jovi is giving a helping hand with Weis' staff. He was once the owner of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul.
Here are the players on the East squad:
|WR||21||Chris Brown||Notre Dame|
|CB||31||Juston Burris||North Carolina St|
|S||2||Deon Bush||Miami (FL)|
|S||3||Jamie Byrd||South Florida|
|TE||87||Kyle Carter||Penn State|
|OG||76||Donavon Clark||Michigan State|
|DT||93||Trevon Coley||Florida Atlantic|
|TE||89||Darion Griswold||Arkansas State|
|DT||97||Javon Hargrave||South Carolina St|
|LB||46||Darien Harris||Michigan State|
|DT||95||Nile Lawrence-Stample||Florida State|
|CB||5||Cre'von LeBlanc||Florida Atlantic|
|CB||23||David Mims||Texas State|
|DE||91||Victor Ochi||Stony Brook|
|DE||45||Romeo Okwara||Notre Dame|
|DE||51||Mike Rose||North Carolina|
|WR||11||Rashawn Scott||Miami (FL)|
|OT||71||Brandon Shell||South Carolina|
|S||22||Elijah Shumate||Notre Dame|
|S||8||Justin Simmons||Boston College|
|LB||44||Terrance Smith||Florida St|
|OG||54||Joe Thuney||North Carolina St|
|CB||27||D.J. White||Georgia Tech|
|S||32||Antwione Williams||Georgia Southern|
|DT||98||Anthony Zettel||Penn State|
Here are the players on the West squad:
|PK||24||Taylor Bertolet||Texas A&M|
|CB||4||Lloyd Carrington||Arizona State|
|TE||86||Kivon Cartwright||Colorado State|
|DE||53||James Cowser||Southern Utah|
|WR||82||Jared Dangerfield||Western Kentucky|
|QB||12||Brandon Doughty||Western Kentucky|
|OG||57||Chase Farris||Ohio State|
|S||44||Jamal Golden||Georgia Tech|
|OC||72||Marcus Henry||Boise State|
|OG||65||Alex Huettel||Bowling Green|
|LB||31||Cory James||Colorado State|
|CB||15||Mike Jordan||Missouri Western St|
|PT||38||Drew Kaser||Texas A&M|
|LB||40||Antonio Longino||Arizona State|
|DT||92||Luther Maddy||Virginia Tech|
|TE||88||Ryan Malleck||Virginia Tech|
|WR||14||Hunter Sharp||Utah State|
|CB||36||Leshaun Sims||Southern Utah|
|OG||73||Vi Teofilo||Arizona State|
|S||26||R.J. Williamson||Michigan State|
|RB||5||Storm Woods||Oregon State|
Every discussion revolving the draft, nay, football in general, starts with the quarterback position. This game is no different. While it's not often that a passer gets drafted out of the Shrine Game as more and more quarterbacks declare as underclassmen—which leaves the senior talent bare for these all-star games—this year's match actually has a fairly solid crop.
One name to watch is Jake Rudock of Michigan. He's not a physically imposing guy at less than 200 pounds and with a less-than-stellar arm, but he's efficient enough with the ball that he may stick on a practice squad at the next level.
Quarterbacking Michigan and Iowa the past two years, he's thrown 36 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions, along with completing 64 percent of this throws in 2015. Rudock is also a running threat, scoring 12 times on the ground in his three seasons as a starter.
The best quarterback in the game is Vernon Adams of Oregon. Like Rudock, he also is a graduate transfer. Before playing for the Ducks, Adams was the king of Cheney, Washington, where his Eastern Washington Eagles won three straight Big Sky titles at the FCS level.
He led the FBS in passing efficiency, despite playing some games with lingering injuries, and also never lost a game that he was fully healthy for. In many ways, Adams is like the second coming of Johnny Manziel on the field. Don't be surprised if this passer just shy of 5'11" quickly goes from being discussed as a camp-body candidate to a legitimate draft selection.
There always seems to be a rule of three with quarterbacks, and the third in this game is Nate Sudfeld of Indiana. He is a big passer, at 6'6" and 236 pounds, who will remind NFL scouts of Landry Jones, a developmental prospect. His older brother, Zach, plays for the New York Jets as a tight end.
Coming into the week, there weren't many expectations for this group of runners. With the NFL's emphasis on young ball-carriers, tailbacks often leave college early. Between injuries and the 12 underclassman declarations at the position in this class alone, there weren't many options for the Shrine Game to turn to.
Still, the unit surprised many by looking competent throughout the week. For the most part, though, two names stood out among the rest.
Keenan Reynolds of the Naval Academy was a quarterback while playing collegiate football, but h has switched positions for this all-star game. Falling under the 6'0" height and 9" hand marks at the weigh-in, it's probably best that the option passer decided to make the transition deeper in the backfield this winter.
He was the most dynamic runner of the week, which shouldn't be a surprise as he was nearly invited to New York City for the Heisman ceremony. Reynolds also holds the all-time record for career rushing touchdowns at the Division I level. The only concern with the former Midshipman was that he missed Thursday's practice.
Navy's Keenan Reynolds not at practice today. Cause undisclosed. Unclear if he'll play. #eastwestshrinegame— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) January 21, 2016
Also keep an eye on Derek Watt, the younger brother of a certain Houston Texan. A four-time All-Academic Big Ten player, Watt saw eight of his nine rushing attempts of 2015 in the last two games of Wisconsin's season in close victories against Minnesota and USC. J.J.'s younger brother has actually seen more touches through the air (30) than on the ground (13) in his career with the Badgers.
He may have more carries in this postseason game than he ever had in an individual game in Madison, which would give us a better feel on what to expect from him as a running threat. At this point, he's a fullback, but with his production in the passing game, it wouldn't be out of line to see him playing an H-back role in the NFL.
Of all of the positional groups in this game, this unit is the most talented. Entering the week, two fairly well-known names rose above the pack: Tajae Sharpe of Massachusetts and Devon Cajuste of Stanford.
Sharpe just turned 21 years old but has been starting for the Minutemen since he was a freshman in 2012. Throughout the week, reports were positive regarding his on-field play, but his weigh-in measurements took a blow to his stock. Will NFL teams be able to get over the fact that the two-time 1,000-yard receiver has a body type that doesn't typically correlate to professional success?
This will be a red flag: Tajae Sharpe previously listed at 6'3", 200 lbs. Shrine measurement 6'2", 188 lbs, 7 3/8 hands (minimum is 9-9.5)— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 20, 2016
His biggest game in 2015 was against Notre Dame, the only game of his senior year in which he didn't catch a pass of more than 15 yards. He'll need a big game Saturday to build momentum into the combine, where his measurements will again be taken and scrutinized.
Cajuste has seemingly been at Stanford forever. At over 6'3" and 234 pounds, he's not your typical receiver, though. He didn't see many targets, as he was a jumbo slot receiver in a power-run offense, but his talent is obvious. He might be one of the prime candidates for a "better professional than college player" tag.
Here are some other players to think about in the group:
- Cody Core, Mississippi: He's a high-upside player with a solid frame. He was supposed to have a breakout season next to Laquon Treadwell but had a nine-game stretch when he only went over 50 receiving yards once. He's as good as he wants to be, but how motivated is he to play in a second-tier all-star game?
- Geronimo Allison, Illinois: He's one of the bigger standouts in the unit. His emergence is a product of great scouting by the Shrine Game staff, as he was a virtual unknown heading into the event. At over 6'3" and hovering around 200 pounds, the junior college transfer seems better suited to strut his skills in a one-on-one setting than when having to carry the Illini offense by himself. He only caught five conference touchdowns in his career, but I'm not willing to put all of that blame on him.
- Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa: Had Garrett been healthy enough to participate in this game, he could have emerged as the top player from the weekend overall. A foot injury kept this 6'4" target out, but he's a name to keep in mind as the draft process moves along.
The demand for tight ends has never been higher. You'll hear two giant complaints from fans almost league-wide. First, their team doesn't have a pass-catching tight end to their standard. Second, their team doesn't cover pass-catching tight ends to their standard. The problem is that there aren't enough pass-catching tight ends to go around.
Three tight ends in his game have very real NFL potential. The first is Kyle Carter of Penn State. His numbers have dropped every year since his freshman total of 36 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns, but he was surpassed by Jesse James, now of the Steelers, in 2013, and if everyone is going to use the excuse of Bill O'Brien to crutch up Christian Hackenberg, then the same can apply for Carter.
The riser of the week in the group was Darion Griswold, who was hidden in the Sun Belt playing for Arkansas State. Video after video surfaced on Twitter as those on the ground noted his ability to attack the seams of the defense. He also has all the buzz words you want to hear from a small-school, dark-horse tight end. In an interview with Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, he stated he was a high school quarterback, so he's new to the position, and he was recruited to play basketball.
The final tight end who has some buzz is Kivon Cartwright, who just finished his sixth year of football at Colorado State. Ankle surgery led to his second redshirt in 2014, but Cartwright hasn't lost any of his burst off the line of scrimmage. The Rams didn't use him much this past season, so it's hard to get a great feel on how he would function as a heavily targeted pass-catcher, but all of the tools are there, if you're willing to get over the fact that he'll be 24 years old on draft day.
The biggest riser of the week might have been Graham Glasgow, the center from Michigan. He has always been on the draft media's radar, but he dominated practices to the point where many now consider him as a potential draft choice at both center and guard. He was also picked up for the Senior Bowl, the premier senior all-star game, next week.
WOW. Graham Glasgow/Michigan just pulled across the line of scrimmage and drove Terrance Smith/FSU into the ground.— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 20, 2016
Glasgow's pulling and movement skills may have been hidden at center, whereas guards are typically the offensive linemen who are asked to pull on power plays. His newfound ability to play any of the interior line spots is a giant positive for him, as NFL teams typically only keep three backup offensive linemen for five starters on their roster.
There are two giant offensive tackles that everyone needs to have on their watch list as possible starting bookends at the next level. The first is Keith Lumpkin of Rutgers, who measured in at over 6'7" and 327 pounds, and the second is Stephane Nembot, who almost hit 6'7" and 318 pounds.
Lumpkin was best known for his tape against Randy Gregory of Nebraska last season. Before Gregory had a misstep on a drug test at the combine, he was considered a top-five pick as a pass-rusher, and Lumpkin closed him out for their entire matchup.
Nembot's potential as tackle has been known, as Tony Pauline of Draft Insider reported last year that he was considering declaring early for the 2015 draft class.
Word from the CU-CSU game this evening is Stephane Nembot/OL/Colorado giving indications he'll enter the draft once the season's over.— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) August 30, 2014
Two other offensive linemen to keep an eye on are Brandon Shell of South Carolina and Jake Brendel of UCLA. Shell was the "other" offensive lineman for the Gamecocks in 2014, as A.J. Cann, a guard, was the top prospect. South Carolina struggled all of 2015, spending most of it without its Week 1 head coach Steve Spurrier. Shell has been a riser at nearly 6'6" and 325 pounds. It's not out of the question that someone falls in love with this tackle.
Brendel is the other name to jot down. He's an undersized lineman from UCLA, but at 6'4" he can add some weight to his sub-300-pound frame. Either way, he has the movement skills you want from a zone center.
Interior Defensive Linemen
The interior defensive line unit is the strongest in the 2016 pool, so it's no surprise that the Shrine Game shines on the defensive side of the ball.
There are some big names in this group, including Anthony Zettel, who once tackled a tree. The Penn State hybrid defensive end and defensive tackle is most likely a 5-technique defensive end at the next level in a 3-4 defense. While his senior year was hyped up as his potential breakout into the first round, instead his teammates Austin Johnson and Carl Nassib were rewarded in 2015.
Will Zettel do enough Saturday to build some steam to make up lost ground?
Another two-gap prospect who made a splash this week is Dean Lowry of Northwestern. At 6'6" and 295 pounds, there's no "hybrid" tag attached to him. If your team runs a traditional 3-4 defense, he's going to be high on the limited list of candidates to address the position. His effort even impressed the new-to-Twitter Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.
EW Shrine day 2 - NW DE Dean Lowry a lunch pail guy... All day sucker.... Goes to work every snap !— Mike Mayock (@MikeMayock) January 19, 2016
For my money, though, the best player on the defensive side of the ball is Javon Hargrave of South Carolina State. If there happens to be an injury at the Senior Bowl, expect him to be the immediate call-up. He has the high potential of a small schooler like Brandon Williams, but as a 3-technique undertackle.
SC State DT (97) Javon Hargrave vs Clemson in 2014...he's the best player at E/W Shrine game. https://t.co/LMw9vxqphg— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 21, 2016
Think of him as a penetrator in both the run and pass game. There's no question that the talent he flashed against lower-division opponents holds up, as he proved it over and over again against FBS foes this week.
A sleeper defensive tackle to look after is Luther Maddy. Virginia Tech fielded a poor defensive scheme this year. It involved defensive ends the size of safeties playing defensive tackle, which really made life hard for every Hokies defender, including Maddy. He's less than 300 pounds, but as a 4-3 undertackle, he should do fine, despite the "tweener" stamp on his forehead.
There are two interesting pass-rushers in this game. The first is Victor Ochi from Stony Brook, an FCS school in New York. He has just about every cliche you could come up with for a sports story. He was born in the Bronx but was raised on Long Island, where, despite his slight frame, he was an all-state player as a senior.
He's 6'1" and change and less than 250 pounds. If you were to compare him to NFL pass-rushers, you wouldn't say he looks like a defensive end. Coming from a small school, his path to draft radars hasn't been easy, but after essentially three-and-a-half seasons as a starter, his skills are just too hard to overlook for much longer.
He's explosive, and it shows consistently on tape. Jeff Risdon of Draft Breakdown tweeted he had "rockets in his shoes."
Victor Ochi impressive once again. Kid has rockets in his shoes off the line— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 20, 2016
The other defensive end you should be interested in is Aziz Shittu. He was a highly touted high school football prospect who decided to spend his college years at Stanford. He was mostly a two-gapping player for the Cardinal, and he tried to apply for an extra season to the NCAA, but his waiver fell short. This will be the first time that there's film of him as a 4-3 defensive end for an extended period of time, which can impact his NFL future, as pure 5-technique defensive ends in 3-4 schemes are becoming less and less of a demand.
Two of the better prospects in this unit had to back out due to injury. Ryan Brown of Mississippi State missed this week due to a foot injury that also kept him out of the Bulldogs' bowl game. Matt Judon of Grand Valley State, the team's all-time leader in sacks, also had to withdraw from the game.
Based on the takes of everyone on the ground, watching De'Vondre Campbell of Minnesota in this game should be a treat. Almost 6'4" and 235 pounds, he can be used as a pass-rusher in specific situations, but he's going to hang his hat as an off-the-ball linebacker at the professional level.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports highlighted him as a one of the five players who had scouts buzzing this week:
A key trend that scouts look for at all-star games is consistency or improvement by prospects from practice-to-practice. And that's something that stood out with Campbell, who settled in with more reps and started to play with less hesitation and more urgency. He was solid on Monday, better on Tuesday and saved his best for Wednesday's practice.
A prospect who certainly passes the eye test, Campbell looks like he was built with a NFL starter kit due to his tall, well-built frame and the athleticism to play downhill or cover in space. His long strides allow him to stretch his range and cover a lot of ground, but his inconsistent diagnose skills during live game action will be the key to whether or not Campbell is a future NFL starter or a simply a back-up.
Antwione Williams of Georgia Southern, standing at 6'3" and 247 pounds, is another player with great size, but the frame of a linebacker isn't everything. Last year, the biggest riser from this game was Anthony Chickillo, who came from a blue-blood program in Miami.
Another defensive blue-blood, this time from Michigan, might have stolen the show in practice. Joe Bolden was a senior captain for the Wolverines and looked the part down in St. Petersburg. Jeff Risdon of RealGM noted his leadership qualities after the first two practices:
What also stands out is his leadership. In a group filled with some other alpha males, the players definitely respect him and listen to what he has to say. That’s of incredible importance for Bolden, who is an average athlete with limited range to the sidelines and in coverage. He’s going to make it on his smarts, leadership and thriving in a role as an inside linebacker destroying plays in the tackle box and blowing up screens and draws. He’s done all of those with aplomb here.
Finally, if you're looking for a "Sam" linebacker or a 3-4 prospect, Victor Ochi is going to be your go-to guy. The Stony Brook product is going to line up as a defensive end for this game, but as a 6'1" pass-rusher, there's no promise that he's going to be able to play with his hands in the dirt in the NFL.
In the NFL, there has been more of an emphasis on longer defensive backs. Franchises are now adding red zone-specific stretch receivers, and the league has yet to solve how to stop super tight ends. Along with that, length also helps cornerbacks in press coverage and at the catch point.
Two defenders stand above 6'0" and stole the show this week. The first is Deon Bush of Miami, who was a three-time honorable mention candidate in the ACC as a safety. Mike Mayock of NFL Network seemed to believe that Bush could be the answer to a team's problem in neutralizing tight ends.
The long cornerback to watch is Michael Jordan of Missouri Western. No, not that Michael Jordan, but he has NFL bloodlines and 16 career interceptions. The speed transition to FBS opponents from the Division II level didn't seem to bother him this week. Missouri Western, despite being a small program, has had success putting players in the NFL, like David Bass of the Tennessee Titans and Greg Zuerlein of the Los Angeles Rams.
The other defensive back to keep an eye on is Cre'von LeBlanc. He played football at Florida Atlantic and isn't a tall player (5'10"), but he does well enough in coverage to consider him a potential nickelback. He also has a shot to return kicks at the next level.
This might be the most confusing unit for a scout. From a logical perspective, specialists' stats should be their stats, right? Sure, hashes are wider at the college level, but there are fewer variables to get a kick or punt off than at any other position of the sport. Still, using pure statistics to project specialists usually won't yield quality results.
The West squad hosts a tandem of Texas A&M Aggies, with Taylor Bertolet as the kicker and Drew Kaser as the punter. Bertolet was a highly touted kicker coming out of high school and also was a kickoff specialist while in College Station. Kaser is a soon-to-be 23-year-old who was once a Ray Guy finalist, despite being overshadowed by talents like Alabama's JK Scott in the SEC.
Will Monday of Duke is the second punter in this game, playing for the East. His teammate, Ross Martin, will be represented at the Senior Bowl as a kicker. Monday has been awarded plenty of All-American and all-conference honors. Monday's partner on the East team is John Lunsford of Liberty, a place-kicker best known for hitting a 60-yarder in a game and even longer attempts on social media.
Players to Watch
Javon Hargrave, DL, South Carolina State: There's a good chance that Javon Hargrave is the first player off the board in this game. He's an explosive defensive tackle who is perfect to play in a 3-technique role. Every 4-3 defense should have him on the draft board, if not the top 100.
Graham Glasgow, IOL, Michigan: When you get a Senior Bowl nod during Shrine Game week, you're doing something right. Glasgow can play either guard or center, which makes him valuable as a swing interior lineman. Think about it this way: If you pair Glasgow with a swing tackle, that leaves room on your bench for one developmental project on the line. Those are the factors that come up in war rooms.
Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon: If Vernon Adams wants to get drafted, he has to hit on just about every cylinder this draft cycle. He's the most talented and electrifying quarterback in the game, plus he'll see the ball often. He's the reason you buy a ticket to Tropicana Field.
Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy: Keenan Reynolds holds the Division I record in rushing touchdowns, and he's just now playing his first game at running back. Will he show enough to prove he has staying power at the position? Will he have to transition to slot receiver or defensive back by the combine? A lot of results ride on Saturday's performance.
Anthony Zettel, DL, Penn State: Once a highly touted prospect, Anthony Zettel has dropped out of the mainstream spotlight. One explosive game to remind everyone who he was, and possibly still is, could do a lot for him. Were his Penn State teammates just profiting off his established presence? Now is the time to prove it.
1. Javon Hargrave, DL, South Carolina State: Javon Hargrave is going to be at the top of all of these lists. In one-on-one drills, he's just too explosive to contain. Going against vanilla schemes, expect to see offensive linemen get demolished Saturday.
2. Graham Glasgow, IOL, Michigan: If Graham Glasgow loses against a 1-technique Saturday, it will be an upset. The 6'6" offensive lineman proved himself valuable at two positions this week and solidified himself another shot to rise at the Senior Bowl.
3. Victor Ochi, EDGE, Stony Brook: The best pass-rusher at the Shrine Game was Victor Ochi, who refuses to play to his size. He's likely either a pass-rushing specialist at defensive end or outside linebacker early in his career, and we may be looking at the broke man's version of Elvis Dumervil.
4. Darion Griswold, TE, Arkansas State: Everyone wanted a tight end to emerge from these all-star games, as four of the five best underclassmen returned to school. The first seems to have broken out in Darion Griswold. He's a former basketball player with limited experience at the position and room to grow with plus athleticism. Will he be the second coming of Ladarius Green, another former Sun Belt pass-catcher?
5. Tajae Sharpe, WR, Massachusetts: Tajae Sharpe had a chance to break out in the national media when his Minutemen faced Notre Dame on NBC in 2015. His shot didn't land, but he's made the most of his rebound attempt in St. Petersburg. He's your in-game MVP candidate for Saturday.
1. Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon: Don't get me wrong; by all accounts, Vernon Adams did great in practice, but the Shrine Game's purpose is to judge a prospect's NFL future, and after his weigh-in results, Adams may struggle to find a gig. On film and in function, he's the best on the field heading into the game, but with his 5'10" height and sub-9" hands, he's going to be a hard sell in a war room.
2. Travis Feeney, LB, Washington: While Adam Jude of the Seattle Times offered up a good report on Travis Feeney's week, the fact he reportedly struggled in coverage against Colorado State tight end Kivon Cartwright in St. Petersburg, as reported by RealGM's Jeff Risdon, is a red flag. If you can't cover in the NFL, you can't play.
3. Stephane Nembot, OT, Colorado: Despite his raw talent, it appears that Nembot was beaten frequently by reports on the ground. He's a project, but take that meaning to its full extent and don't assume any more than the bare minimum from him outside of his frame.