The 2016 East-West Shrine Game was dominated by the Western squad in a 29-9 victory, but it was more notable for the individual players who showcased their talents in front of NFL scouts Saturday.
Quarterbacks are always under the microscope in All-Star showcases such as the East-West Shrine Game. While there was some erratic play from the position on both teams, Oregon Ducks star Vernon Adams put on a show for the West with plays such as this 93-yard touchdown pass to Danny Anthrop:
Adams finished 6-of-9 for 191 yards and three touchdown passes, winning MVP honors.
This game continued Adams' trend of strong play, as the senior quarterback completed 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,175 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception over his final four games with Oregon.
During the NFL Network broadcast, draft analyst Mike Mayock praised what he saw from Adams (via CollegeFootball 24/7):
CollegeFootball 24/7 @NFL_CFB
.@MikeMayock on @WinTheDay's Vernon Adams: I've been doing @Shrine_Game for many years. This is by far the sharpest I've seen a QB look.2016-1-23 22:16:53
Chris Biderman of Scout.com said that Adams' skill set will impress NFL fans during training camp:
Chris Biderman @ChrisBiderman
Vernon Adams is going to be everyone’s favorite quarterback in August.2016-1-23 22:13:00
Adams does have a lot of obstacles to overcome before he can make it to the NFL. At 5'11", 201 pounds, he may have to switch positions to find a spot in the league.
However, Benjamin Allbright of 1340 AM in Denver noted he sees Adams as a quarterback in some league moving forward:
Benjamin Allbright @AllbrightNFL
Vernon Adams is undoubtedly a QB. I think his game is better suited for the CFL, but I'd definitely bring him in to take a look in NFL.2016-1-23 22:19:28
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated also made a good point:
Chris Burke @ChrisBurke_SI
Not sure Vernon Adams ever thrives as an NFL QB but rush to move guys to other positions makes no sense. NFL has like 15 good QBs right now.2016-1-23 22:17:22
As far as the player on the receiving end of Adams' long touchdown pass, Anthrop has also gotten strong reviews for his effort throughout the week, per Jeff Risdon of RealGM:
Jeff Risdon @JeffRisdon
Purdue WR Danny Anthrop proved he can play this week. He's an odd size for his skill set, however2016-1-23 22:21:33
Another player who shined for the West was Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who had two touchdowns and 37 yards on four catches. He also garnered positive buzz, per Risdon:
Jeff Risdon @JeffRisdon
Few players here made more money for themselves than Geronimo Allison. Handily the best WR on the West, and they're not a bad group overall2016-1-23 21:16:22
Allison struggled to garner national attention because Illinois has been a mediocre, at best, Big Ten program for years, but he put up 1,480 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 catches over the last two seasons.
The Illini wideout also has terrific size at 6'4" and 200 pounds, so his performance in the Shrine Game will help him move up draft boards as the scouting process rolls on.
Even though there were not a lot of big plays to celebrate on the East's side, Florida defensive back Brian Poole did one-up Adams' 93-yard score with this pick-six against Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty:
That was as good as things got for the East on either side of the ball, though some strong individual performances stood out.
Every year during the predraft process, players from smaller schools pop up on the radar. Based on the results, both during the week and in Saturday's game, Stony Brook defensive end/linebacker Victor Ochi is going to get a lot of attention.
The 22-year-old was an unstoppable force for the East team. He entered the game as a projected third-round pick, according to Risdon, with scouts telling Risdon they had reservations about his small stature (6'1") and lack of versatility as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
However, Ochi gets to the quarterback. The Stony Brook star sacked Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld using lightning-quick speed and timing at the snap to get around the left tackle.
After that play, Shane Alexander of Inside the Pylon noted the pass-rusher's bank account is going to look a lot better in three months:
Shane Alexander @Alexander1Great
Victor Ochi. Sick bend around the edge for the sack. Probably needs to buy a wheelbarrow to carry all this $$ he's earning in.2016-1-23 22:23:21
One of the key things to take away from Ochi's performance, beyond the measurables, is what he's capable of doing.
Jared Tokarz of Who's Next Football summed up why Ochi deserves more attention from NFL teams:
Jared Tokarz @NFLDraftInsider
Man I'll admit I didn't know much about Stony Brook's Victor Ochi but he has a motor that does NOT stop. Teams always need pass rushers.2016-1-23 22:12:04
The ability to get after the quarterback is a rare skill that teams will always pay for. The NFL is a pass-first league, so it's vital to have players who can disrupt the backfield with sacks or force the quarterback to move and throw off-balance.
One player for the East whose numbers won't impress is Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock. Coming into the game, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted one NFL offensive coach called the Wolverines star "a poor man's Andy Dalton."
Wisconsin's Michael Caputo picked Rudock off in the end zone, but he responded on the East's final drive with a terrific pass into the corner of the end zone that showed textbook touch and accuracy. Chris Brown dropped it, though, so he had nothing to show for it.
There will be plenty of time for Rudock, and other stars who struggled, to improve his draft stock. This was just a brief snapshot of where players are in their development heading into the long scouting process.
Not surprisingly, the glow was still on Adams after the game. June Jones, who was coaching the West team, had an interesting classification for the Oregon quarterback, per Feldman:
Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB
JuneJones on Vernon Adams: "There's 2 kinds of QBs: Ones that get worse in the game & ones that get better. He's the kind that gets better."2016-1-24 00:11:51
Adams did remain humble despite his brilliant performance, just saying he is hoping to get a chance, per CollegeFootball 24/7:
CollegeFootball 24/7 @NFL_CFB
Vernon Adams: I just showed (scouts) that I can play this game with the top-line guys. ... Hope I can get a chance w/ some team. #ShrineGame2016-1-23 23:39:05
During the NFL Network broadcast, per CollegeFootball 24/7, Mayock speculated that former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly was "taking a look at Vernon Adams and seeing what he can do."
There are plenty of teams, including the 49ers, that will have to answer questions at quarterback this offseason. Adams just gave all of them a little more to think about, even if he has to start his pro career as a backup.