DorIan Thompson-Robinson, UCLA (6'14/191)
Aidan O'Connell, Purdue (6'3/212)
Tommy DeVito, Illinois (6'05/206)
Despite some scouts floating a potential position change, I think DTR was the best of the top-3 quarterbacks we saw in Vegas this week. He was accurate on his pocket throws, created off platform and is clearly the best athlete at the position on either roster…No surprises here, as the East's QB1 Aidan O'Connell was able to make his progressions and run the offense much more efficiently than his backups Tanner Morgan or Tim DeMorat. Despite not having the prodigious arm strength to hit tight downfield windows, the former walk-on should be able to carve out a similar backup NFL QB niche to fellow former Purdue signal caller, David Blough…Syracuse/Illinois QB DeVito had some promising stretches early in the week and was comfortably the Shrine Bowl QB3 in my opinion. I thought he carried over the short-to-intermediate range accuracy he displayed at Illinois this season when he had a 69.6% completion rate, which ranks second among the 2023 QB class behind only Fresno State QB Jake Haener. He simply has to cut down on the sacks though (career 31% pressure-to-sack rate) and DeVito missed a few second-level hole-shots in practice that could have really bolstered his case for being drafted as a developmental QB prospect.
Mo Ibrahim, Minnesota (5'74/203)
Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State (5'113/199)
Kazmir Allen, UCLA (5'8/176)
With the exception of Tavion Thomas, who flashed raw power while weighing a robust 247-pounds, the top running backs checked in a little smaller than expected. Giving both Ibrahim and Valladay the eyeball test, Ibrahim didn't strike me as sub-5'8 and had plenty of pop in his pads during the blocking 7-on-7s. He had a couple of drops, which is to be expected coming out of a Minnesota offense that targeted him just seven times this season (he caught all seven for 50 yards, 7.1 YPC), but there were also several pass reps where he looked like a natural. I think Ibrahim could carve out a role similar to what we see from former Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard…Valladay hits the hole faster than any back in camp except for the 176-pound Kaz Allen and also seems like he's built more densely than the 199-pounds he checked in at. That being said, his pad level gets high at times and Valladay is a newcomer to the passing game after spending 3 years in pass-averse HC Craig Bohl's Wyoming offense that operated at the 117th pace in the country while averaging just 23 pass attempts per game (125th-of-131). A multiple-time 1,000-yard rusher who has logged three seasons of 200+ carries, Valladay should log a competitive 40-time, but it's his agility testing I'm more interested in. Valladay deserves to be on your radar despite his BMI concerns at his current 199 LBs…UCLA RB/WR Kaz Allen entered college as a RB satellite-back in the Deneric Felton mold, but converted over to the slot in 2021 logging 361 of his 407 snaps at wideout this season, catching 80% of his 61 targets which were essentially extended handoffs (2.2 ADOT). He's been running the majority of his reps in the backfield this week where he looks like he's moving at another speed than the rest of the group. Allen's vision and agility helped him to exploit openings for the dynamic rusher to squeeze through. He gives me Dexter McCluster vibes.
Jadon Haselwood, Arkansas (6'22/213)
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest (6'33/195)
Zay Flowers, Boston College (5'9/182)
Justin Shorter, Florida (6'36/224)
Antoine Green, UNC (6'16/201)
Jacob Copeland, Maryland (5'113/204)
A pair of former five-star prep wideouts who are on their second school, Jadon Haselwood and Justin Shorter consistently won their matchups and demonstrated NFL-worthy traits. At 6'36/224) Shorter looks like a reasonable facsimile of Julio Jones in pads and has a pugnacious demeanor on the field, routinely imposing his will on smaller DBs. His physical gifts are undeniable and he's going to be drafted based on what he just showed the scouts…Haselwood is the 19th highest rated wide receiver recruit in the 247 era - https://247sports.com/Season/2023-Football/AllTimeRecruitRankings/?InstitutionGroup=HighSchool&PositionGroup=REC ranking just one spot behind Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs. While he doesn't have Flowers' jets, the Razorbacks standout is sudden on his breaks and has experience playing both slot and out wide. He flourished playing in the same slot role that Treylon Burks occupied last year, breaking 17 tackles (15th most in FBS) on 59 receptions thanks to his sturdy 213-pound frame…Zay Flowers had an extra gear than everyone on the field on his Day 2 debut, reeling in a pair of short targets and bursting up the seam during 7-on-7s. He is going to blaze at the Combine and those in his orbit rave about his work ethic. Arizona S Christian Young has been rooming with him at their training camp in Florida and says every morning at 6AM Zay is banging on his door (in a good way) getting him hyped up for their sunrise workout. Flowers also stuck to his word by attending the Shrine Bowl despite being offered by the Senior Bowl. Thus granting Flowers an outsized spotlight in Vegas that wouldn't have been as bright in Mobile. Having seen the justifiably fawning attention the BC standout received at the Shrine Bowl, I think Flowers' decision was a stroke of marketing genius that could be used as a blueprint for savvy agents and players in the future who are looking to utilize the postseason evaluation process to their advantage…A.T. Perry performed as advertised in drills, as the 6'33/195 wideout managed to assuage some of my BMI-related concerns by showing quickness and the ability to separate on the break despite his long frame…Jacob Copeland uses his sturdy 5'11/203-pound frame very well to gain leverage and create space. He transferred out of Florida with the staff changeover this year and was in a muddled Maryland receiving corps this season which resulted in just 40 targets while working exclusively out wide, though his 2.20 yards per route average is reason for optimism. I think Copeland is going to settle into a slot role provided he tests well enough…Antoine Green was able to win downfield pretty consistently all week with advanced ball tracking and ability to win at the catch point. He dealt with injuries this year, playing in only 8 1/2 games but still managing to secure 43-of-65 passes for 798 yards, 18.6 YPC and seven touchdowns with a 28% broken tackle rate and 18.1 ADOT that ranks second highest in the 2023 draft class. In case you're wondering who leads the class, it's fellow All-Shrine Bowl WR Justin Shorter with a staggering 22.2 ADOT.
Leonard Taylor, Cincinnati (6'46/248)
Blake Whiteheart, Wake Forest (6'37/249)
Joel Wilson, Central Michigan (6'33/242)
I really liked the East TE group, but I thought Cincinnati TE Leonard Taylor stood out as having the best potential to have an NFL impact. Like many tight ends who successfully transitioned from the collegiate ranks, he's a former prep star basketball player who considered being a two-sport athlete during his initial recruitment out of Springfield, OH. However the opportunity to sit under the UC learning tree and play for one of the best talent developers in coaching today, Luke Fickell, was too enticing to pass up. The Bearcats ran a lot of 12 personnel with Leonard inline (72%) and Senior Bowl TE Josh Whyle in the slot (40%), forming one of the best tight end rooms in the country. The presence of Whyle may have caused Taylor to slip under NFL Draft radars during the season, but the word is out now…Blake Whiteheart boasts an advanced feel for the receiving aspect of the position despite being at the mercy of Wake Forest HC Dave Clawson's patented “slow-mesh” offense, which anyone that's watched a Demon Deacons game will immediately recognize. When I spoke with Blake, he mentioned how his target volume is completely dependent on how the defense reacts to the delayed-RPO and that they don't specifically design plays where he's a primary option. Lots of Y-option routes inline (81% of snaps) with Whiteheart reeling in 10-of-14 contested targets and leading the nation with a 13.5 ADOT, as his former roommate QB Sam Hartman trusted him to make plays downfield. Hartman's confidence in Whiteheart is well earned, as the Wake TE didn't drop a single pass in 2022…A converted QB, Joel Wilson had multiple eye-popping catches that elicited ooohs and ahhs in the practice sessions. Though he only played in 9 games due to a leg injury sustained in Week 10, Wilson was one of the most heavily targeted TEs in the country at the time of his injury, as CMU HC Jim McElwain relied on Wilson as a playmaker to help makeup for the loss of electric WR Khalil Pimpleton who was in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Despite his abbreviated season, Wilson's usage was so pronounced that he still finished 12th in FBS with 44 receptions and a 77% catch rate that ranks as the highest mark among tight ends with 40 receptions or more. His hands were a little inconsistent during the Shrine sessions, with Wilson allowing a pass to ricochet off his hands in the Shrine Bowl that led to a Trey Dean interception. That was a little surprising to me since he did not drop a single pass all season long for the Chippewas. For now, I think it's fair to go with empirical evidence from CMU over the anecdotal observations from 4-days of practice.
John Ojokwu, Boise State (6'54/317)
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington (6'6/322)
Dalton Wagner, Arkansas (6'83/321)
Juice Scruggs, Penn State (6'26/308)
Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas (6'31/315)
The offensive linemen had a tough draw this week against a loaded defensive line class. Boise State OT John Ojokwu did a nice job of keeping his chest clean while also punishing opposing rushers on finesse moves. He handled power better than speed, but his feet moved well enough to stay in front of most speed rushers in camp regardless…Jaxson Kirkland, Washington played primarily OT for the Huskies, but projects as a guard at the next level and looked very comfortable in that role during practices. Kirkland refused to be bullied, did a great job of beating opponents to first contact and dropped anchor like a ship captain. The move to guard keeps him locked into the interior where he doesn't have to chase speedy edge rushers and can focus on doing what he does best - acting as an impenetrable human shield in pass pro….Dalton Wagner is as big as advertised at 6'83/321, and could realistically add more functional weight under the tutelage of an NFL strength program. He showed enough movement ability to me this week that I'm on board with the Dalton Wagner project and am eager to see how he progresses over the next few years…Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas is another Hog I was impressed with, as their HC Sam Pittman is a renowned OL guru and has done a fine job with both Wagner and Stromberg. He held up reasonably well in 1-on-1s showing ample power in his hand strikes and dictating the terms of the encounter. Stromberg credibly backed up his strong 2022 season where he was credited with zero sacks allowed in 416 pass snaps…Juice Scruggs, Penn State had a solid all-around camp and put enough good reps on tape to warrant a draft selection. Both he and Stromberg should carve out nice careers at the center position, as Scruggs was a big part of Penn State finally turning around their run game this season.
Dante Stills, West Virginia (6'34/289)
Moro Ojomo, Texas (6'24/293)
Tyrus Wheat, Mississippi State (6'22/269)
Kobie Turner, Wake Forest (6'22/288)
Habakkuk Baldonado, Pitt (6'36/257)
Brenton Cox Jr, Florida (6'31/254)
Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan (6'17/249)
Dante Stills created an abnormal amount of pressure from the interior and is built like an absolute brick with very little non-functional weight on his 289-pound frame. He's so quick and agile for his size that the offensive linemen just could not stay in front of him, constantly getting caught reaching and out of position. On one rep Stills chased down a slot receiver whom he outweighed by 100+ pounds on a reverse, drawing gasps from the scouts in attendance. A wildly productive player for West Virginia, Stills ranks 2nd in Big-12 history with 53 tackles for loss and 8th in sacks with 24.5. I think he's a third-round worthy player…My colleague Ian Cummings from PFN is extremely high on Ojomo and it's not hard to see why. His arms are in the 34” range despite measuring in at 6'24/293, allowing Ojomo to drive and stay low while still making first contact with his hands despite lack of prototypical height for the interior. He also generates impressive power from his lower half, as was evident in one particular rep where he pushed an opposing guard 12-yards back into the media/scouts surrounding the field. There's a place for Ojomo in an NFL defensive line rotation…Wake Forest DL Kobie Turner is another talented player who is slightly shorter than preferred for the position. He took over the base DE role from Buffalo Bills DE Boogie Basham at Wake and at 288 pounds is likely destined for three-tech work at the next level since he's going to have trouble challenging NFL OTs when running the loop. His motor was running hot at the practice sessions as his quickness and first step were giving the opposing linemen fits. Turner has the highest PFF run defense grade in the class (93.2) and is one of just 3 IDLs with a run defense grade over 90 and a pass rush grade above 80. The other two are Georgia top-5 selection-to-be Jalen Carter, and the other is fellow Shrine Bowler Moro Ojomo. He profiles as an interior slasher/penetrator, which is a nice niche to fit into with today's pass happy league…Despite growing up in Italy and not playing football until 16 years old, Habakkuk Baldonado channeled a soccer background from the pitch to the gridiron seamlessly, consistently pestering the East team's QBs with his speed and flexibility off the edge. He's well proportioned at 6'36/257 and rushes with a plan in mind, which is to be expected from a person who speaks three languages fluently. I'm confident “Haba” will find his way onto an NFL roster once he polishes up his moveset…Brenton Cox Jr. was clearly on a mission to prove to NFL evaluators that he is singularly focused on doing what it takes to become a dominant NFL pass rusher. Cox Jr. showed off his twitch and power combo which propelled him to lead Florida with 21 pressures at the time of his departure. He had no problem standing up to the Shrine Bowl tackles with power, flashing a stab/rip move to go with his ability to put pressure on tackles off the edge with his burst. I can't wait to see how he tests…Tyus Wheat was billed at 260 at Mississippi State but checked in at 6'22/269 at the Shrine Bowl. He played exclusively edge in college and has raw, edge-setting strength that stood out amongst his peers. He's got a nice burst off the line and the strength to bow-up to 310+ pound linemen, but isn't a top-end speed isn't his game. Wheat has a George Karlaftis-type mold to his game where he plays with enough leverage to be a base DE. The Patriots staff were pretty forthright about their interest in him and it showed in the practice drills…The MAC leader in sacks this year, Jose Ramirez (6'17/249) is a pleasure to watch compete. He's so slick and refined in his moves that he was giving big school tackles nightmares with his ability to keep his chest clean and win hand position. His dimensions are problematic for NFL Edge work and he's going to get washed out in run support, but I'm rooting for Ramirez to find a situational pass-rush specialist role where he could be a real asset in a role tailored to his strengths.
Drake Thomas, NC State (5'112/228)
Amari Burney, Florida (6'13/233)
Jeremy Banks, Tennessee (6'1/225)
Jaiden Woodbey, Boston College (6'04/231)
Drake Thomas' play recognition and spatial awareness in coverage netted him a few highlight-worthy INTs during the week. His coverage acumen displayed in Vegas was a real boost for Thomas' profile, as the NC State LBs calling card in college was his ability to fill gaps versus the run. In addition to a sterling 90.5 PFF run grade, the Wolfpack LB put ACC signal callers in peril by recording 49 pressures and 7.5 sacks in 2022 while leading all FBS linebackers with 30 QB hurries. By showing improved pass defense chops after allowing an 85% completion rate this year, Thomas made himself some money…Jeremy Banks is an older prospect at 24, but he's got the pedigree and athleticism to warrant a look at the next level. I felt like when Banks is going forward, sifting through traffic, wrapping up the ballcarrier, he's a solid defender. It's when he's got to backpedal and react in the passing game that he breaks assignments…Another 230-ish LB who made an impact this week, Amari Burney looked great taking on blocks and flowing to the ball. Coaches also recognized Burney's potential, singling him out for an outstanding camp. He also had some big moments during the season including an interception to seal the opening game of the year against Utah…An indispensable leader of the BC defense and former five-star Florida State recruit, Woodbey recorded at least 59 snaps in every game this season with 505 of his 824 snaps coming in the box which should ease his transition to LB. He bulked up from 222 in college to 231 at weigh-ins in preparation for the positional change and showed advanced agility and change of direction compared to the other LBs when going through drills and disengaged well from blockers well in run support. I'm excited to see what kind of numbers he can post at the combine/Pro Day testing since he has real hybrid potential due to his safety background.
Cameron Brown, Ohio State (5'117/196)
Terell Smith, Minnesota (6'04/207)
Lance Boykin, CCU (6'22/202)
Starling Thomas IV, UAB (5'96/194)
Eric Scott Jr, Southern Miss (5'116/191)
Kei'Trel Clark, Louisville (5'102/179)
Ohio State CB Cameron Brown only practiced one day, but did enough to where it was obvious that he's one of the top CBs in Vegas NFL caliber and shut it down for the rest of camp. I talked to Cam who said it was a precautionary decision since he has suffered an Achilles and a hamstring tear over the past few seasons and didn't want to risk tweaking something which could jeopardize his ability to test at the Combine. Brown thinks he can chart an impressive 40-yard dash if he can maintain his current health throughout the offseason…Terell Smith, Minnesota has a thick, well developed frame at 6'04/207 that allowed him to mix it up on the line with the big wideouts. Despite looking like a box safety in pads, Smith was able to keep up with wideouts both large and small in 1-on-1s where the DBs are at a distinct disadvantage. Smith was every bit as fast as his smaller CB contemporaries and brought tenacity to his press-man reps...Every time I looked up Lance Boykin, CCU was wearing some unfortunate WR like a cheap suit. This Sun Belt standout locked horns with his Power Five contemporaries for four days and time-after-time proved up to the challenge. Boykin's long frame allows him to play aggressively on the line while still snuffing out both quick slants and deep fades alike…Starling Thomas IV might be best suited for slot duty due to his size, but you wouldn't know it from the way he attacked every snap at the Shrine Bowl. The UAB product did not lose many reps and competed like it was his last play on every route. He allowed a scorching 37% completion rate during the season with 9 PBU and a 69.4 passer rating when targeted. Thomas is carrying over his exceptional play to the postseason and has clearly boosted his draft stock…Southern Miss CB Eric Scott Jr. was one of the fastest players in camp, rarely losing a downfield rep. He was so quick that West Virginia WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton had to change up his release package when he faced Scott Jr. since he was getting stonewalled by Scott's jam and ability to recover. Scott Jr. performed as well as any CB on the field this week…Can't forget Louisville CB Kei'Trel Clark who has the speed, tenaciousness and agility to be a valuable slot corner where his lack of bulk won't expose him.
Trey Dean, Florida (6'25/211)
A.J. Finley, Ole Miss (6'21/202)
Nehemiah Shelton, San Jose State (6'0/186)
Trey Dean looks like the kind of safety you would create in a lab. He's long, flexible, super-athletic and could have single-high potential if he can avoid coverage breaks. Unfortunately his tape at Florida is littered with miscues which led to explosive plays that simply cannot happen in the NFL. He had multiple splash plays in practice sessions and has the raw talent to be a core contributor if he can learn to keep the big plays to a minimum. A.J. Finley was the most complete safety at the Shrine in my opinion. He doesn't quite have the build of Dean, but Finley is very savvy and tough to beat over the top. His ability to diagnose plays is a byproduct of the 2,436 snaps he has logged in the SEC over the last three years for Ole Miss. I'd like to see him put on 5-10 pounds, but Finley proved his worth this week…Nehemiah Shelton was my favorite small school safety this week. He showed out in some tough 1-on-1s against physical wideouts like Elijah Higgins and Joe Ngata despite being one of the lighter safeties on the field. Loved his desire to compete which was rewarded with an interception in the Shrine Bowl itself.