The East-West Shrine Game is the first stop in the draft evaluation process and several players stood out when given their chance. A low-scoring first half turned into a pretty good game in the second half. Players from top BCS schools to FCS programs were highlighted in the game, but the stars of the entire day were Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on offense and West Texas A&M pass rusher Ethan Westbrooks and Arizona State safety Alden Darby on defense. While it really does not matter who won the game, players on both teams featured solid talent and question marks.
- Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois): This kid is everything he is billed to be pretty much. He was accurate, smart with the ball and efficient. He finished 9-of-14 for 100 passing yards and a touchdown, but really only made one inaccurate throw all game. He was interviewed by Daniel Jeremiah and seemed to have good head on his shoulders and was well-spoken. He also looks like a young John Stamos, so he will be pretty easy to sell to a female fanbase. People will compare him to Tony Romo because they went to the same school, but his pro comparison for me is Ryan Tannehill. He is an understated athlete that is perfect for the West Coast Offense. He won the offensive MVP award for the game. He will also play at the Senior Bowl this weekend and should increase his stock even more.
- Westbrooks (DE, West Texas A&M): He got pressure all game long and got a sack on Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning that was absolutely crushing. Westbrooks later had a sack-fumble on Notre Dame passer Tommy Rees. He has extreme speed off the edge. He is 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, so there is a big chance that he could be asked to lose a little weight to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He won the game's defensive MVP award.
- Darby (S, Arizona State): The Arizona State safety had two picks in the game and stole a late would-be touchdown with the second one. He was a play-maker during his tenure in Tempe and has an eye for the ball. Both interceptions were plays made by Darby and were not just tipped balls or throws directly to him. The first came when he jumped a slant route on a throw by Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. He picked off Cornell passer Jeff Mathews in the fourth quarter on a ball that floated a bit, but Darby came from the other side of the field to make the play.
- Chandler Jones (WR, San Jose State): Jones had some stellar possession catches on Saturday. He got open with relative ease and was able to show great hands on balls. He finished with seven catches for 73 receiving yards and looked to be uncomfortable both on the outside and in the slot. More likely to man the inside at the next level.
- Zach Bauman (RB, N. Arizona): This kid has moves. Bauman runs low and has a bit of a joystick to him. He also showed good burst on several runs. He finished with eight carries for 47 rushing yards and a 19-yard beauty early in the game.
- Jay Bromley (DT, Syracuse): The versatile lineman was able to clog holes several times in the game. He was the key player to force a stop on 4th down as a he broke through the opposing offensive line. He was active all game.
- Phillip Gaines (CB, Rice): Gaines did a great job defending the ball in the air. He had back-to-back pass defenses in the first quarter and looked comfortable against talent from better programs. He did have a pass interference call late in the game though.
- Larry Webster (DE, Bloomsburg): The long-armed lineman was prominent throughout the game. He had a sack on Garoppollo and just destroy his teammate Matt Feiler, who was playing left tackle on the opposite end. He could be a nice late-round find for a team.
- Will Clarke (DE, West Virginia) This guy is absolutely huge. He is likely to play 3-4 defensive end at the next level but has pass rush ability. He took down Rees for a sack in the game.
- Matt Hall (OT, Belhaven) Of all of the offensive lineman, Hall really stood out to me. He is a very big guy that can move. He was used on a few screens and got to the second level pretty well.
- Pierre Desir (CB, Lindenwood): He played the ball well on Saturday. He almost had two interceptions but likely needs to work on his hands. Desir looked fine playing against BCS players.
- Ja'mes Logan (WR, Mississippi): He has a big body and plays like it. He was thrown to quite a bit by Garoppolo and secured three catches for 23 yards.
- Bernard Reedy (WR, Toledo): He is short (5-foot-9) but tough. He made a great leaping touchdown catch in the game and finished with four catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
- Jordan Lynch (QB, N. Illinois) He had a rough day. Lynch started off 1-of-5 for two yards and two interceptions because he was pressing. For those that are unaware, a lot of NFL teams are looking at Lynch as a possible running back or safety due to his athleticism and lack of height (listed at 6-foot but probably a bit shorter). Some teams are willing to let him fail at quarterback first, but his 2-of-7, three-yard performance with two interceptions probably won't help his case.
- Matt Feiler (OT, Bloomsburg): He had a tough game at left tackle. He gave up a lot of pressure and a few sacks. Most likely headed to guard in the NFL and there is no shame in that.
- Keith Price (QB, Washington): He had a touchdown but it was a poor decision and a lucky break because his wide receiver made a play. He finished 2-of-6 for 28 yards and 20 of those yards came on the score. He did add 18 yards on two scrambles, but that will likely highlight the need for him to switch positions for the NFL. At 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, he could be a good fit at wide receiver and should catch passes at the Combine.
- Nevin Lawson (CB, Utah State): He did have a fumble return for a touchdown, which was a great play, but it is hard to not acknowledge his constant need for holding. The guy grabbed more than he covered and that was apparent to everyone. Mike Mayock brought it up at least three times during the broadcast.
- A lot of people will look at the interception numbers and immediately rush to judgement. That is fine, but somewhat misleading as passers are working with wide receivers for the first time. They do not have a timing together and it is easy to have confusion that leads to interceptions. You even saw it on a hand off early on from Wenning to a running back. These games are more about seeing guys against solid competition and looking at the physical aspects and decision-making. There were five interceptions in the game, split by four quarterbacks.
- Purdue cornerback Richardo Allen is a lauded defensive back and was a play-maker in college, but his prowess on special teams made him standout in the game. He had two excellent punt returns, one of which went for 30 yards. He is 5-foot-9 with long arms and could be a nice fourth cornerback for the Eagles, if they decide to make exceptions on size.
- North Carolina safety Tre Boston has a serious chip on his shoulder. He was literally jawing all game but was also very vocal with teammates. He did not have an eye-opening performance but played the run and tackled well. I still think he would be a great fourth round target for the Eagles. At 6-foot-1, he meets the height requirements.
- Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson had an unbelievable one-armed interception on Lynch. The ball was batted but he made a great break on the ball. He is 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds so he could be an Eagles target. He is a bit of a project with his overall coverage ability but he has talent.
- The Texans are catching all the breaks this offseason. For one, they have the first overall pick. Secondly, they just hired Romeo Crennel as their defensive coordinator after he spent the week coaching the West in this game. Inside information will help a staff that fired their scouting department prior to draft season (WHAT?).
- I was a bit disappointed that Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel was not targeted more. He got a one-yard touchdown reception off a Garoppollo pass but was only targeted three times in the game. The guy is a play-maker and it is a shame he did not get to show that.
- Cornell's Jeff Mathews is an interesting guy. He showed great pocket awareness and mobility and connected on 4-of-5 passes for 37 yards with his only bad pass being an interception that floated on him a bit. I am not sure he would be an Eagles target, but the kid is a solid player and scouts raved about him in practice in the lead up to the game.
Well, there you have it. We will have similar coverage for the Senior Bowl this weekend and draft profiles will follow shortly after. If you have any questions about prospects and just want to have a draft discussion, feel free to contact me on Twitter, @mike_e_kaye. The fun season has begun!
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