The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl roster was able to put together an impressive week of practices prior to their game-day showdown. The West Team prevailed in a 12-3 offensive struggle. Despite the lack of scoring, scouts saw everything they needed to see in 1-on-1s and team reps.
Fallout From the 2023 Shrine Bowl
Some players were able to prove themselves against higher levels of competition than what we were able to see throughout their collegiate careers. Others were unable to take advantage of this multi-day event that gave them the platform to shine.
Either way, the Shrine Bowl is a piece of the evaluation puzzle that will factor into where players are selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s dive into the fallout and my top takeaways after watching every practice and game rep from the week.
Stars Stepped Up on Game Day
It usually doesn’t take too long for talent to show itself in drills or in games. Some guys start slowly and work their way toward a crescendo performance, and the Shrine Bowl was no different.
Most of the top individual players were showing off on Day 1, but I want to highlight the gamers who thrived when it mattered most.
Eastern Michigan edge defender Jose Ramirez held his own in the week’s drills but really stood out in the game. His burst off the snap and flexibility to drive through contact around the edge of his blocker was at an NFL level, making him a prime candidate to be developed into a situational pass rusher at the next level.
Ball State cornerback Nic Jones had a fine week of practice, but he didn’t stand out most amongst defensive backs. That was instead Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark and Texas’ D’Shawn Jamison.
Nevertheless, Jones did log an interception, and the 6’0″, 185-pounder showed great instincts as he undercut the flat pass while in zone coverage. Considering he had only three career interceptions, teams may need to consider Jones as a late-bloomer who has his best days coming.
Finally, West Virginia big defensive tackle Dante Stills stepped up during the game. Stills was able to crash the pocket with his strength, showing potential as a nose tackle who could prove to be a late-round value.
The Playmakers Had Juice
The playmakers had a harder time showing off in the game due to the strength of the defenses and QB struggles. However, the 1-on-1s and team practice drills provided ample opportunity to see the collective explosiveness and talent of the unit.
Several individuals caught my eye, including Wake Forest receiver A.T. Perry, who proved to be a major vertical threat with his terrific speed. However, Perry might be a one-trick pony as he struggles to make sharp cutting routes.
Arkansas’ Jadon Haselwood, Fresno State’s Jalen Moreno-Cropper, and Central Michigan’s Joel Wilson each also consistently won their one-on-one reps throughout East Team practices.
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The West Team had some unexpected standouts. Boston College’s Zay Flowers was basically invisible despite his credentials and large fan base in the scouting community.
Instead, it was Jackson State’s Dallas Daniels and Florida’s Justin Shorter who continued to catch my eye. It’s always interesting when someone like Shorter has a ho-hum collegiate career but dominates in drills, so this is something worth watching moving forward to see if he was just in the wrong situation at Florida.
The biggest riser of the week for me was Arizona State’s Xazavian Valladay. The versatile tailback had three years of more than 1,000 yards rushing, but he was unstoppable throughout practice and the game.
Valladay clearly has value as a pass catcher, blocker, and has the explosiveness as a rusher to believe he can be an impactful rotation member of a backfield.
The Quarterbacks Failed To Exceed Expectations
The 2023 crop of quarterbacks is interesting because several of the individuals took advantage of 2020’s waiver that allowed them to have an extra year of eligibility.
We’re also seeing smaller quarterbacks than ever before. As a result, both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl group of QBs makes up the oldest and smallest collection of senior passers we’ve ever seen.
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There was hope that the experience would pay off. Despite having impressive physical tools, Aidan O’Connell, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Tommy DeVito, and Tanner Morgan each struggled to show out in a meaningful way. It’s not uncommon for these events to struggle producing offenses, but the two teams combined for 24 completions on 56 attempts, 212 yards, and three interceptions.
All is not lost for this group, as I think each of these players is draftable on Day 3. However, the opportunity for O’Connell, in particular, to rise to a Day 2 prospect looks gone after not standing out in practice or the game.
The Trench Talent Was Impressive
We saw some tremendous trench matchups in 1-on-1 drills and in the game. Defenders are at an advantage in drills, but there were several blockers who won more than lost despite the circumstances. I could see several players from this roster being at least subpackage difference-makers, if not starters.
West Team interior blockers Jaxson Kirkland (Washington), Mark Evans II (Arkansas Pine-Bluff), and Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas) were consistently very good. I also found the East’s Jerome Carvin (Tennessee) stand out in the game.
Unsurprisingly, the defensive line prospects were ahead of the blockers. In addition to Ramirez and Stills, Pitt edge-rusher Habakkuk Baldonado and Lousiana’s Andre Jones were absolutely unstoppable. Those two should’ve secured being drafted, with Jones in particular looking like the best overall defender in the game.