Practice for the 2nd biggest postseason All-Star game will get underway in St. Petersburg, Fl. on Monday. The Shrine Game routinely produces players who hear their name called during the draft and many of the weeks more impressive performers earn the call up the premier draft showcase, the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Last year, 4 Shrine Game participants earned the call up to Mobile with an impressive week of practices. There are a lot of promising prospects in this year’s crop of Shrine Game prospects, having had a quick scan over both the roster this year and the roster from last year, I would say the Shrine Game has a stronger roster this year. Many of these players will be competing for the chance to improve their stock and get the Senior Bowl nod.
The 5 Best Prospects:
DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss
Lodge is often overlooked by analysts and casual football fans as he shared touches with D.K. Metcalf in college. He is a legitimate Day 2 prospect in his own right and I graded him as the 2nd best of Ole Miss’ trio of talented receivers. The body control, top speed and combination of quickness and nuance as a route runner, suggest Lodge will carve out a role as a starter in the NFL. I will be keen to see how he wins in contested catch scenarios as his ability to fight for the ball through contact and in jump ball situations is inconsistent on tape.
Lodge will shine in vertical 1 on 1’s and will no doubt make a few spectacular catches that do the rounds on social media. Of all the prospects I have done a formal evaluation on in this year’s Shrine Game crop, Lodge is comfortably the best.
Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
A favorite of Draft Twitter, Rypien is another Shrine Gamer who received a Day 2 grade from me. He won’t wow you with his physical tools, he is a pedestrian athlete with middling size (6’2″, 208lbs) and his arm won’t exactly give you Pat Mahomes flashbacks, but the dude is solid. Rypien is an excellent anticipatory thrower who can throw with timing and touch. His accuracy to all levels is impressive and he shows particularly good placement on his deep ball.
I would love to see Rypien added to the Senior Bowl roster, but I think they are happy with the guys they’ve got and could be adding Tyree Jackson to the mix. A solid week in St. Petersburg should solidify Rypien as a top 5 QB in this draft, even if the guys in Mobile don’t want to hear it.
Terry Beckner Jr., DL, Missouri
Beckner was a highly touted recruit out of high school who has battled injuries during his time at Mizzou. He is my top defensive prospect at the Shrine Game this year and I think there is a chance he plays his way into the Senior Bowl. Beckner flashes explosive upfield quickness and really gets after it as a pass rusher. He uses his hands well and maximizes his natural traits as a rusher, he will be a tough assignment for any of these OL to handle in 1 on 1’s. I think there is a good chance Beckner ends up a Day 2 pick, even in a loaded DL class.
Michael Dogbe, DL, Temple
Dogbe is an incredibly gifted athlete whose game is tailor made to excel in 1 on 1 reps during practice week. Whilst listed at 6’3”, 280lbs, Dogbe exhibits immense power in his lower body. This enables him to anchor against the run and collapse the pocket as a pass rusher. I was impressed with his hand use when I watched him and think he has significant upside. Expect a strong week from the powerful Temple prospect.
Jordan Brailford, EDGE, Oklahoma State
Brailford flashes some intriguing pass rush traits. His upfield quickness is impressive and he routinely challenges blockers outside shoulder, relying on his speed to win. Flashes solid cornering skills and is moved around the LOS a lot by Oklahoma State. Some scouts will question whether Brailford is a one-year wonder type producer, but a good showing during practices could see him shooting boards.
Other Names To Know – KeeSean Johnson (WR, Fresno State), Adarius Pickett (S, UCLA), Tyler Jones (OT/G, NC State), Qadree Ollison (RB, Pitt.), Khalil Hodge (LB, Buffalo), Tyree St. Louis (OT, Miami), Blace Brown (CB, Troy)
Offensive Sleeper – KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State
Johnson may have some of the best ball skills in this class. He routinely pulls in contested catches and has the body control to adjust to the ball in the air. He flashes nuance as a route runner and separates with smoothness out of his breaks. Often overlooked in a loaded receiver class, Johnson could establish himself as one of the top 10 receivers available this year with a good outing at the Shrine Game. His skillset should translate to him dominating 1 on 1 match ups in practice.
Defensive Sleeper – BJ Blunt, LB, McNeese State
Blunt is a ridiculously athletic LB who will have a role at the next level. He’s only 220lbs, but in today’s NFL, where a team just won a playoff game with 3 safeties playing LB, he can play. Blunt is a former safety who is still learning the position. As a result, his read and react ability is still a work in progress, but he flies to the football with outstanding close speed. He plays with great tenacity and excels on special teams, which will help him make a roster. The upside is there for him to be a rotational nickel LB or full time Will ‘backer in the league. A good week in St. Pete’s will do a lot for Blunt’s stock.
Best 1 on 1 Matchup – Tyree St. Louis (OT, Miami) Vs. Jordan Brailford (EDGE, Oklahoma State)
St. Louis moves well for a tackle and covers a lot of ground in pass pro. He had some good reps against Brian Burns, but was also cooked pretty badly by the FSU rusher earlier in the season. In Brailford he will be going up against another rusher who causes blockers problems with his speed and cornering ability. It will be interesting to see how St. Louis deals with Brailford in 1 on 1’s. If he can hold his own, teams will feel much better about him as a prospect.
This matchup could also be important for Brailford. St Louis is an athletic tackle and it will be a good measuring stick of how well Brailford’s speed based pass rush approach holds up against NFL level athletes.
Most Likely Senior Bowl Call Up – DaMarkus Lodge
Lodge should have been on the Senior Bowl roster to start with, but I expect him to get a call up after a week dominating practices. DaeSean Hamilton got the call up last season after demonstrating a polished skill set in 1 on 1’s. I believe Lodge has a far more dynamic skill set, but shares the technical refinement in his release work and route running that enabled Hamilton to succeed during practices.