NFL Draft Prospects Who Blew Up at Shrine Week
The East-West Shrine Game continues to grow in importance by the year.
Started back in 1925, it still won't make a bigger splash than the Senior Bowl by any means. But in 2017, the week of practices swapped out retired coaches for current NFL coaches, with the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings running things this year.
And a guy named Jimmy Garoppolo having a breakout performance in 2014 helped accelerate the game's importance and prominence in the national spotlight.
The NFL draft itself is becoming an almost year-round event and the league itself is seemingly more willing to take gambles on smaller-school players. That, or the information gap between the public and NFL front offices continues to shrink because coverage of events like Shrine Week continue to unearth potential draft risers, lessening the surprise of sleeper picks. Either way, players who come out of the week looking good do so while under a huge amount of pressure and amongst some of their elite, hand-picked peers striving for the same thing.
Which isn't a bad thing. With the week of practices coming to a close in St. Petersburg, Florida, these are the names generating the most buzz for themselves after bumping their stock early in the draft process.
Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati
The rise of "smaller" defensive tackles was bound to continue this offseason.
Cincinnati's Cortez Broughton seems more than happy to help the trend as the league shifts more toward a generate-pressure-but-without-sending-extra-guys ideology to counteract the pass-happy offenses.
Listed at 6'2" and 290 pounds, Broughton wasn't a big name before Shrine Week. But coming out of drills, he's generating plenty of praise from analysts such as Real GM's Jeff Risdon: "Watching East DL doing footwork and bag drills. Cincinnati DT Cortez Broughton is thriving, great feet for a big guy."
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah also listed Broughton as a standout player to watch.
Now fully on the radar after performing well in a high-pressure situation and among his peers, Broughton is an interior disruptor whose stock should only keep climbing.
Joshua Miles, OL, Morgan State
Joshua Miles could end up being one of the better stories of the 2019 draft.
Miles missed all of 2017 after being declared academically ineligible. Where some next-level hopefuls might fizzle out and drop off the radar, Miles used the chance to get things back on track while fine-tuning his 6'6", 310-pound frame for the 2018 season and the pro level.
Morgan State interim head coach Ernest Jones documented the change, per PressBox Online's Scott Lowe.
"What he's done to change his body in the weight room, I mean, he was a huge man to begin with, but there's no fat on him," Jones said. "It's all rock solid. On the first day of camp guys were like, 'Wow, look at that 300-pound dude up in front running the way he does, not giving up, never bending over to rest.' I've been a lot of places—Notre Dame, [Connecticut], Cincinnati—but I've never seen anyone work like this kid. I'm glad he's on our team. He's phenomenal."
Fast forward to Shrine Week, and Miles held his own against solid pass-rushers and earned praise from the likes of Fran Duffy of the Philadelphia Eagles' official website. Footage of him performing drills was also impressive.
At this pace, Miles is well on his way to being the first Morgan State product drafted to the NFL since tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in 2003.
Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas
Flipping back to the defensive trenches, Kansas' Daniel Wise was another tackle giving offensive draft hopefuls problems and otherwise crushing drills.
Another sub-300-pound tackle, Wise was a versatile piece in the Jayhawks defense and checks in at 6'3", 290 pounds. His explosiveness off the snap was always going to be apparent in drills, but getting a chance to see him shove around some of the invited offensive line prospects allows scouts to see just how good of a prospect he can be.
Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network wrote the following coming out of Day 1: "He attacked team periods, showing a nasty bull rush and creative hand usage to work over the top of blockers as well. Unblockable is not an over-exaggeration. Kansas moved him around their defensive line on tape, but he seems to have found a home at 3-technique this week."
Jeff Risdon added: "Kansas DT Daniel Wise making his presence felt in team drills. Good punch, has some countermoves."
This isn't going to be the last time observers hear about Wise, not after he entered the week with high expectations chasing him and still managed to surpass those during an all-star showing.
KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State
KeeSean Johnson knows how to make a first impression of sorts.
"Of sorts," because those who catch highlight reels or college football in general were likely already familiar with the senior Fresno State Bulldogs wideout. He caught 95 passes for 1,340 yards and eight scores this past season, improving upon the first two stats from the year prior and matching his eight scores from 2017.
Still, Johnson didn't play at a massive program, and that combined with his 6'2", 199-pound frame meant he flew under the radar en route to Shrine Week.
Given his limited route tree at Fresno State, the NFL will want to see if Johnson is anything more than a deep threat with a big catch radius. This week, Johnson took a big step in the right direction.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU
It isn't often a prospect hailing from a program like LSU heads to Shrine Week looking to make a name for himself.
Yet for Nick Brossette, waiting behind Derrius Guice stalled his hype train. Don't forget Leonard Fournette before that.
Granted, the 6'0", 221-pound Brossette still rushed for 1,039 yards and 14 touchdowns last year on a 4.3 per-carry average. But he is already having a hard time sticking out among his peers. He's not even listed among backs at various outlets.
As always, versatility is the name of the game for backs, and Brossette showed that in practices with pretty catches down the field. Keep in mind he caught 14 passes this past season compared to 240 rushes. He's also looked better than any other back in pass-blocking, per Risdon.
Going into the week, it was expected Brossette would bully defenses right up the middle. Flashes in the passing game are a big bonus to his game and draft stock, which will help him climb boards in a hurry if it continues.
Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
A four-year starter at Boise State, Brett Rypien is a fairly recognizable name who had interesting upside coming into the week in large part thanks to the experience factor and scheme he ran with the Broncos.
But whether the 6'2", 202-pound passer—who is coming off 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 67.3 percent of his passes—could stand tall in an all-star-type experience was a different conversation entirely.
But Rypien responded well, with Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko singing his praises: "Boise State's Brett Rypien looked as reliable as a pocket passer as he did on film, and he picked up the scheme/timing/coaching dynamics as quick as I can remember an all-star game quarterback adapting. He showed great timing and rhythm in drops and progressions, and is proving even early here he's a reliable quarterback."
Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan offered additional details: "Lots of good stuff from the West practice today, and I think Brett Rypien was the best QB of the day ... Looked good on the run, throwing with zip on intermediate routes and showing touch on deep passes."
In what is supposedly a weak quarterback class, Rypien has an outside chance to climb as high as third in the rankings if he can ride this wave of a debut. Based on what he showed in Florida, he might be up to the challenge.