BBD Editor: Dan Hope
BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
Before the Senior Bowl begins in earnest with practices on Monday, the biggest contest on the pre-draft all-star game schedule thus far came Saturday with the East-West Shrine Game, televised on NFL Network from St. Petersburg, Fla.
The East won Saturday’s game, 23-13, but the final score was essentially meaningless. Instead, the game served as the culmination of a week-long opportunity for 2014 draft prospects to showcase their talents to NFL coaches, scouts and executives in hopes of being among this year’s 256 draft selections.
Which players made impressions, positive or negative, in Saturday’s game? While it’s hard to make any big takeaways from the game, as the practices actually hold more value in the all-star game evaluation process, there were a players who might have made scouts want to go back and take another look at their tape, for better or for worse.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo was not as superb as his performance will be hyped to be, but he clearly looked like the best of the six quarterbacks in the Shrine Game. He put his quick release and ability to zip the ball downfield on display, and will carry momentum into Senior Bowl week, which he was also invited to, despite a few misfires and poor decisions.
LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
Perkins led all players with 114 all-purpose yards (21 rushing yards on four carries, 17 receiving yards on two catches, 76 return yards on three kickoff returns) in this game. Though his week started off poorly when he weighed in at just 5’7” and 189 pounds, per weigh-in results posted by Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko, he looked good on gameday, showing nice vision to find running lanes and shiftiness to make defenders miss.
Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State
Jones was the best wide receiver on the field Saturday. He looked especially good out of the slot but ran crisp routes and caught the ball in his hands for the most part, though he did have on drop; on one play, he had to double-catch the ball after a tough adjustment, but showed impressive body control in stacking his feet to get them both in bounds on the right sideline while securing the catch. He led all receivers with seven catches for 73 yards.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan
Another impressive wide receiver Saturday was Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon. Showing his abilities to get open, attack the ball to make plays at the catch point and turn upfield after the catch, he continue to overcome his lack of size and catch four passes for 55 yards.
Charles Leno Jr., OT, Boise State
Leno could leave scouts far more optimistic of his chances to be a developmental lineman in the NFL. He adequately protected the quarterback’s blind side and secured solid seal blocks in the run game. While he still has some technique and strength issues to iron out, Leno left a good impression after the Shrine Game.
Ethan Westbrooks, DE, West Texas A&M
The 2012 Division II Defensive Player of the Year, Westbrooks looked like his old self with a superb performance in the Shrine Game. Westbrooks provided consistent pressure on the quarterback throughout the contest and finished the game with two sacks.
Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg
Webster showed some disruptive ability off the edge in this game, bringing a good amount with his burst and length, including two sacks. His strong performance was bad news for former Bloomsburg teammate Matt Feiler, however, who was the left tackle matched up against him on both of his sacks and had an overall rough day.
Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech
Another player who has earned an invite to the Senior Bowl next week, he showed why on Saturday. An impressive athlete for a 351-pounder, Ellis beat a center on one play for a hurry off an impressive spin move, while he also tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage that created an interception for his defense.
Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
A number of defensive backs made positive impressions in this game, but perhaps none better than Lawson. He was consistent in coverage and showed his ability to make plays in space. He recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and recorded a pass breakup.
Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
Allen had an up-and-down day in downfield pass coverage, but he showed the skills that could make him a draftable player on Day 3. He did a good job of playing physical and making contact, while he was also impressive as a punt returner, gaining 55 yards between three returns.
Alden Darby, S, Arizona State
On two occasions in this game, Alden Darby broke on late throws from quarterbacks and caught the ball cleanly in his hands for interceptions. The playmaking and ball skills he showed on the back end should have made scouts take notice.
And a few players who struggled…
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
With question marks already surrounding Lynch’s ability to play quarterback at the next level, he did nothing to indicate he should be given that opportunity in the Shrine Game. He only had one more passing yard (three) than he had both completions (two) and interceptions (two) on seven attempts. He looked uncomfortable, lacked arm strength, locked onto his first read and overall, completely out of place as a passer. He should immediately begin a switch to a different position if he wants to improve his chances to be selected in May’s draft.
Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma
With the exception of a late-game 4th-and-1 conversion run, it was a poor performance for Clay. He missed a couple of catch opportunities on well-thrown balls up the right sideline, and he had to double catch the one screen pass he secured. If Clay is unable to contribute as a receiver, he is not going to have the running skills to make it as an NFL tailback.
James Stone, OL, Tennessee
The chances of all five Tennessee starting offensive lineman getting drafted this year took a major hit with a poor performance by Stone in the Shrine Game. He looked overmatched and soft throughout the game, and wasn’t able to generate any push for the rushing offense. He allowed too much penetration as a pass blocker, and the depth of the pocket was inconsistent when he was in the lineup.
Steven Clark, P, Auburn
With an average of just 34.8 yards per punt, a long punt of 39 yards and only one punt inside the 20-yard line, Clark did nothing to make a case for himself as an NFL punter on Saturday, even though he had the advantage of playing in a controlled dome environment. His worst punt was his first, a 27-yarder that died at the 37-yard line.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alden Darby, Arizona State, Auburn, Bloomsburg, Boise State, Brennan Clay, Chandler Jones, Charles Leno, Eastern Illinois, Ethan Westbrooks, James Stone, Jeremy Gallon, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jordan Lynch, Justin Ellis, Ladarius Perkins, Larry Webster, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nevin Lawson, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, Purdue, Ricardo Allen, San Jose State, Shrine Game, Steven Clark, Tennessee, Utah State, West Texas A&M