Written By: Roy Countryman @Blitzalytics @PreacherBoyRoy
As we continue the march towards the Super Bowl, some teams are focusing on keeping the momentum going in the hopes of bringing home a championship. However, twenty teams are staring right down the road of the draft process, and the first milestone event is taking place on January 19, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fl. Let’s take a look at a highlight of twenty notables to keep an eye on during the East West Shrine game.
Brett Rypien: QB, Boise State (West)
The best QB at the East West Shrine Game should actually have been invited to the Senior Bowl over Trace McSorley or Clayton Thorson. He is a nuanced passer who is dangerous when in rhythm, has great arm talent, and throws with terrific anticipation and touch. He should shine with his leadership skills and ability to quickly pick up an offense. Rypien would be my odds-on favorite for MVP of the game and is squarely in the conversation of the second tiers of this year’s draft.
Ben Burr-Kirven: LB, Washington (West)
Burr-Kirven is a menace on the field and a tackling machine who plays like his hair is on fire. He uses great speed and acceleration combined with quality play recognition to close in on ball carriers. Not only can the linebacker quickly diagnose plays, but he shows up with authority and with tremendous tackling mechanics. The Washington linebacker can be tasked with dropping off into zone coverage and is able to keep pace with running backs and tight ends downfield due to his well-rounded skill set. With a nose for the ball, he always seems to be in the area when a big play is happening. Although he lacks a prototypical build, he makes up for it with instincts and intelligence. He is a three down LB, who most in the media are overlooking, and I believe he will be an impact defender at the next level.
Easton Stick: QB, North Dakota State (West)
Coming from the same small school that produced Carson Wentz, Stick has a lot less fanfare, but do not sleep on him. He has a ton of experience in an NFL style offense, great arm talent, and underrated athleticism that could get him drafted a lot higher than what most are talking about. He just led his Bison to another championship a few weeks back. He is also in the discussion in the second tier of QBs.
Lukas Denis: S, Boston College (East)
True Center Fielder in the secondary. Ability to break on the ball is outstanding and feels where the QB wants to go with the ball. He had 7 INT’s in 2017 at Boston College and shows some ability to come down and matchup with WR’s in the slot. He is very inconsistent in run support, and at times will get abused by bigger players.
DaMarkus Lodge: WR, Ole Miss (East)
One of the best above the rim players in this year’s class, who also has great speed to be a vertical threat. Has great ball tracking ability and can high point passes, even while in a combative state. The problem is he will turn right around and drop an easy pass on the next play. If he can refine his concentration and ability to finish catches he will be a steal in this class, because he understands how to gain separation at different points in the route whether with quickness or with strength. One of the other areas he excels is as a perimeter blocker.
Darrin Hall Jr.: RB, Pittsburgh (West)
Good all-around RB who will play in the NFL for a long time, due to his ability to block in pass protection and be an elusive pass catcher on third downs. He runs with underrated power and will break arm tackles of defenders who miscalculated his lower body strength.
Khalil Hodge: LB, Buffalo (East)
Highly instinctive and intelligent LB prospect, who is a terrific run defender. Shows an ability to stack and shed OL blocks and fills rushing lanes aggressively and in an instant. Very good musculature, and uses terrific short-area quickness to make up any ground between he and the ball carrier.
Delvon Randall: S, Temple (East)
Ballhawking safety who hails from a program built on toughness. He is a tremendous pre-snap communicator and aligns the defensive secondary. Will lay some bone jarring hits, but at times will take bad pursuit angles as well. Tough guy who will grit it out when injured.
Drew Lewis: LB, Colorado (West)
A linebacker who possesses elite athleticism for the position, and will chase down plays sideline to sideline. Can stay with bigger bodied TE’s downfield due to his combination of size, speed, and fluidity. Seems to slip past a lot of blocks, can lockout OL with his long arms, and stack and shed blocks to make plays at the LOS. Is a ferocious tackler, and can separate ball from ball carrier.
Justin Hollins: OLB, Oregon (West)
While everyone in the major media is focused on his teammate, Jalen Jelks, all Hollins did was wreak havoc on the QB’s in the PAC-12. Possesses a lot of quick-twitch muscle fiber and has an amazingly athletic build. Has a host of pass rushing moves and goes into the play with a plan. The only thing he lacks is great bend — he’s more of a heads up pass rusher.
David Blough: QB, Purdue (East)
A great comeback story. Blough had a horrendous lower leg injury in 2017 and returned in 2018 to Purdue, only to lose out in a QB battle. The starter gets injured early in the year, and Jeff Brohm and Co. turn back to this 5th year senior to save their season. Brohm is a prolific leader and is a decorated off the field presence as well. Some of his coaches are even quoted as saying Blough’s personality is a mix of QB’s. He has Peyton Manning’s obsession with film study, his charisma in front of cameras, Tim Tebow’s faith, mixed with Drew Brees’ stature. He possesses good arm strength, throwing with great anticipation. He is gritty and will not get shaky under duress, but will hang in tough against the blitz. I see him as a poor man’s Kirk Cousins.
Qadree Ollison: RB, Pittsburgh (West)
North/South runner who is hard to bring down without a crowd, especially when he is at full steam. Can run through arm tackles and break tackles downfield, which should make him an ideal fit as a member of an RB committee as a power back. Runs with patience and will allow the blocks to develop in front of him. Is an underrated pass catcher out of the backfield as well.
Adarius Pickett: S, UCLA (West)
He possesses a very talented skill set that includes good speed, great diagnostic ability during the play, instincts to react in a flash, and fluidity in his hips to flip and cover downfield. Where he truly is a difference maker is his ability to set the tone with some bone-jarring hits. He brings his pads and a mean disposition every time he has a ball carrier in his sights. He not only has a nose for the ball in run defense but has the ability to come up with turnovers, evidenced by his 6 career interceptions.
Derrick Baity: CB, Kentucky (East)
Tall, lanky press CB who shows some stiffness in his transition. Allows the WR to come to him in coverage and shows patience when mirroring their movements. He has experience in man and zone and trusts his instincts when it is time to make a break on the ball. He is not afraid to scrap and make plays as a run defender even with his very lean build.
Andrew Wingard: S, Idaho (West)
A lanky safety that excels in the box as a run defender. Quickly diagnoses run keys and fills rushing lanes adequately. Very disciplined when asked to cover in zone, but can be exposed in man coverage due to a lack of fluidity. Should be a star on special teams at the next level.
Matthew Gay: K, Utah (East)
We have seen this past year the value of having a quality kicker, especially after a heartbreaking miss by Bears kicker Cody Parkey. Gay is a former soccer player who was a consensus All-American and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker in 2017. He possesses great leg strength and gets good trajectory on his field goal kicks. His career long is 56 yards and he has a career 84% FG Pct. Gay has made a number of clutch kicks over his years at Utah and relishes the opportunity to win games.
Montre Hartage: CB, Kansas State (West)
Cerebral cover CB who is not a great athlete. Rather, he’s extremely intelligent and trusts his instincts. Will get physical with WRs throughout the entirety of the route and is very disruptive at the catch point. Extremely confident and scrappy, and loves making big hits on ball carriers. Should be a solid late-round pick, and excel on special teams as well.
Joe Dineen Jr.: LB, Kansas (West)
Dineen is the embodiment of a cerebral middle linebacker who is a true force in run defense. He has terrific play recognition and the instincts to flow to the ball quickly, along with enough speed to cover plays sideline-to-sideline. He uses his instincts to gain enough depth in his coverage drops that he becomes a pain for quarterbacks’ throwing lanes. With terrific tackling mechanics, the linebacker doesn’t let runners out of his grasp. He possesses a booming voice and takes great pride getting his teammates in the right spots to succeed.
Evan Worthington: S, Colorado (West)
Tall and long safety who moves with surprising fluidity for his size. Can flip hips, transition, and stick to his assignment. Diagnostic skills seem to be average, and really does not process route concepts quickly. A willing run defender who takes good angles to the ball.
Kendall Blanton: TE, Missouri (West)
Athletic TE who is raw in a lot of areas but can make some acrobatic catches. Has great size and speed to be an asset going vertically as a seam stretcher. He needs refinement as a blocker but displays a willingness to get dirty in the trenches or on the move.