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2019 East-West Shrine Game -- Prospect Preview Scouting (QBs, TEs and LBs)

Air Date:
January 16, 2019

The East-West Shrine All-Star game has pushed away from the NFLPA Collegiate All-Star game as the better pre-Senior Bowl game/week collection of talent event, and it is also making some strides at out-scouting the Senior Bowl in some of its player invites. The East-West week of practices and game is becoming a must-observe event for scouts.

Last season, the East-West game featured some solid (and one ‘great’) 2018 rookies such as Phillip Lindsay, DaeSean Hamilton, Bilal Nichols, P.J. Hall (eventual #57 pick for OAK), Jordan Thomas, Justin Jackson, Avonte Maddox, Chase Edmunds, Tre Flowers (day one starting CB for Seattle) among others.

I think there might be a deeper talent pool of prospects at the East-West event in 2019 than were at its vastly-improved 2018 event. For sure, the number of potential ‘high-end’ prospects appears better at the E-W game this year. There are some prospects at the East-West game in 2019 that (to me) are like ‘wow’…and that’s coming from a guy who has covered this game week for about 7+ years now. It used to be a waste of my time (mostly inconsequential NFL prospects)…now, it’s becoming a game I’m excited about this year.

I would especially like to point you towards the WR group here – an amazing collection for the East-West Shrine week. A few who should be in Mobile, and one WR prospect the Senior Bowl already poached from an East-West commitment a few days ago and possibly a second that they are trying to grab. Based on this East-West WR group and what I’ve seen of the Senior Bowl WR class – the NFL is about to be overrun with WR talent, as it has been for a few years building up – 2019 might be the tipping point in the oversupply/saturation of quality WR prospects for the NFL.

In addition to the WR group, the East-West event has a few defensive players that look like legit top 50 draft picks, maybe even first-round prospect hopefuls.

For my East-West (and Senior Bowl) preview scouting, I am watching 20-45 minutes of player’s tape and looking over their performance numbers at a glance and making notes – not running anything through our computer scouting models yet (except some of the QBs). Until I have the measurables, I only have half the picture I want to scout on the non-QBs. This is my best effort to preview scout, without diving deep into their backgrounds, looking at the computer comparisons, etc. (that’s all to come). These grades are obviously subject to change, and sometimes a wild change based on their pre-Draft workout times, etc.

This is just a preview to get to know the group, give a first impression, and start to build towards grading this entire 2019 group draft prospects as well as we possibly can.

With that, here’s our first impressions via my preview scouting…

*Listing by worst to best grade order by the position we’re looking at.

Scheduled release of previews…

1/15: RB and WR previews

1/16: QB and TE and LB previews

1/17: DL and DB previews

========================

QUARTERBACKS

(West) QB Marcus McMaryion, Fresno State (5’11.5”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = F

A smaller, mobile-spread QB but not all that fast and doesn’t have the body of a legit QB prospect for the NFL. Looks like a punt returning WR more than a QB. Weaker arm/poor downfield passer. Runs the college spread in a mid-major conference acceptably. I don’t see one scouting reason for hope here – but he might be OK in the East-West game because he’ll take check-downs and can run a little.

(West) QB Easton Stick, No Dakota State (6’0”/210) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-

Nothing stands out to push Stick as an NFL prospect. He has a below-average size with below average feet with a below-average NFL body. He can zip passes a little when he has a clean pocket/time to plant and step into a throw but when he has to move or there is pressure, he doesn’t have enough arm to make magic…a trait needed at the next-level. A solid FCS QB, but a forgettable NFL prospect.

(East) QB Taylor Cornelius, Oklahoma State (6’0.5”/195) *Preview Scouting Grade = D

Has some solid college quarterbacking skills, but not a real prospect for the NFL. Too skinny. Below-average arm. Below-average feet. A solid college QB but not going to make an NFL roster.

(East) QB Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss (6’2”/215) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+

He’s not terrible. He’s got some tools to work with, but overall I didn’t see any real spark for the NFL. Nothing about his skill set that made me jump up in excitement. OK arm, but too often plays a lazy spread style sitting flat-footed and throwing with his arm and not his legs. He has an NFL-ish arm when he wants but he doesn’t usually bring it, not in college – more a finesse, touch passer, an alley ooper type thrower. Occasionally, he’ll zing one in and give you hope…but that’s not his norm.

He has a decent NFL body. He doesn’t have any great athleticism…he’s an OK runner. Not very agile or decisive. He benefits from having a lot of athletic talent among his Ole Miss WR group.

He’s too easily forgettable to take seriously for the NFL. He’d have to grind for years to make it to a main NFL roster someday. He’d be better off going straight to Canada.

(East) QB David Blough, Purdue (Bl-oww, rhymes with cow) (6’0”/200) *Preview Scouting Grade = C-

I’m impressed with Blough’s tape. The best way I could describe him is ‘a poor man’s Baker Mayfield’. You see a lot of Mayfield mannerisms in Blough’s play. Short in stature. Good mechanics. Confident/aggressive, but savvy and will take what is given…but will press the pedal, smartly, as well. Really liked what I saw – except, everything is a ‘C’ grade version of ‘A+’ Mayfield. Not quite the arm. Not quite the feet.

Blough feels like a nice NFL backup (for Mayfield) and would do fine if pressed into starting due to injury as a rookie – he has that new age QB skill…comfortable passer out of the chute. Like a better Nick Mullens/SF.

(West) QB Brett Rypien, Boise State (6’1”/205) * Preview Scouting Grade = C+

Clearly the best QB talent at the East-West game, and I like David Blough but Blough is a grinder whereas Rypien is polished and NFL capable – Rypien makes it look easy. If Rypien were two inches taller and 15-pounds heavier, he might be considered a top 5 QB in this draft class.

Rypien has fantastic mechanics and QB prowess to go with it. Excellent feet and balance in the pocket. Has a well-schooled delivery/snap release (his dad was a long-time starting NFL QB, so he likely had great training his whole life…or just ‘born with it’). Rypien is also a very smart QB and can read the field like a pro. He is very, very polished, ready-to-go as a passer.

Rypien is just not much to look at. He doesn’t have the ‘look’ of a franchise QB, and that will hurt him. Playing at Boise State will hurt him…as people assume he’s another mid-major, Boise State high-volume producer not to be taken too seriously.

I think, at first glance, Rypien has NFL starter skills…but his not-NFL body ‘look’ is going to hurt anyone from seeing that. The NFL overlooks guys like Rypien all the time, so it’s going to be a long journey to be taken seriously in the NFL…and a lot of luck. Having the last name he does might give him a tiny boost.

Best prospect here at QB…might worm his way into a Senior Bowl late fill-in invite if he practices well here.

TIGHT ENDS

(East) TE Daniel Helm, Duke (6’3.5”/240) *Scouting Grade = F

Nothing jumps out there. Not a great NFL size. Played in a high-functioning/productive passing game in 2018 and really wasn’t a big part of the action…mostly 2-3 catches for 15-30 yards every game. Wasn’t a TD threat or a sought-out option. Solid college TE, but I don’t see much for the NFL.

(West) TE Andrew Beck, Texas (6’2”/245) *Scouting Grade = F

Played a lot of H-back from what I saw…he looks and moves and plays like a FB/H-back. Choppy, a blocky-body type. Decent hands but no real pop in his legs and not the height to be a coveted NFL TE, nor the athleticism to be a ‘move’ TE. Might make the NFL as a FB/H-back, perhaps.

(East) TE Matt Sokol, Michigan State (6’5”/250) *Scouting Grade = F+

Not much here but ‘size’ at 6’5” or 6’6”. Thinner-frame; looks more like a big WR than an NFL TE. Slow off the blocks. Nothing special as a receiver, average hands at best. Doesn’t work like a confident pass receiver, just a random option. Career highs for catches and yards in a game were 3 and 35. Had 1-2 catches for less than 30 yards in most every game in his career.

(East) TE C.J. Conrad, Kentucky (6’4”/245) *Scouting Grade = D+/C-

Has some characteristics of a legit NFL TE. Nice hands, nice awareness in the passing game…hard to scout his full ability because he played on a challenged passing game/with a sketchy run-first QB system. I see signs of a low-grade NFL TE prospect on tape, but I also see he needs more work in the weight room. Not as much muscle/definition as you’d like to see from a serious prospect wanting to making the leap to the big leagues. In a boring group, might be the best all-around TE here.

(West) TE Kendall Blanton, Missouri (6’5”+/250) *Scouting Grade = D+

I saw limited production in a high-volume offense, on paper, before I turned on the tape and was ready to see another dull East-West TE prospect, but I left the tape wondering if Blanton might have a little more to his game…if he was a possible fringe NFL TE.

He’s all of 6’5”+ it looks like. Built like a rangy/wiry, tall WR. He moved a little like a WR more than a TE. Had a decent get-off the snap. Got open…but Drew Lock barely looked at him, and I think that’s more on Lock’s limitations – he should’ve used/made Blanton a red zone weapon more than he did (6 TDs in 22 career games).

I wasn’t blown away, but I thought there might be more here in a different offense/with a bit of a push.

(West) TE Keno Dillon, Oregon (6’4”+/260) *Scouting Grade = C

The TE prospect here that will get everyone excited – a very raw, athletic TE prospect that looks like poor man’s David Njoku.

I watched preview tape of all the TE prospects here, and it just so happens Dillon was last…and as I was being put to sleep by the other five TE prospects, Dillon at least woke me up – looks, moves, has the fluidity of an NFL TE…but not the experience because he has spent as much time off the field with various injuries as he has spent on the field.

I could see Dillon disappearing into a land of TE prospects who never were, or a guy an NFL team grabs to try to develop…and that rarely has a happy ending because NFL teams don’t have the time, or vision, in most cases to hang with a so-so prospect for years on end hoping for a payoff someday…there’s no NFL minor leagues.

There’s a spark of hope here, but you’d have to bet against it…but he could be the most promising TE prospect of this group.

LINEBACKERS

(West) LB Justin Hollins, Oregon (6’3”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = F+

Not much here. Perhaps some upside if he fills his body out more. Taller/skinnier-looking OLB. The tape I watched was him playing 4-3 DE and getting totally consumed by blockers – he doesn’t have enough upper body to matter it appears. Maybe a long-shot chance as a pure OLB but didn’t look like anything special.

(East) LB Khalil Hodge, Buffalo (6’0”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-

Some people like Hodge as a sleeper LB from this class early on. I don’t see it…at all. Below average movement for an NFL LB prospect. 120+ total tackles three straight seasons…but over half of them are ‘assisted tackles’ – more scorekeeper talent than Hodge. Didn’t like anything I saw, from an NFL-translation standpoint. He’s a 4-3 OLB prospect at-best.

(West) LB Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin (6’3”/233) *Preview Scouting Grade = D

*Off the roster as of 1/13

Hard to project. He’s either a 3-4 OLB that’s too slow or a 4-3 DE that’s too small. There’s a lot of ‘tweener’ here. Good college player but not much of a prospect at my first glance.

(West) LB Cody Barton, Utah (6’1”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade = D

Looks more like a SAF/LB hybrid, sand more Safety like. Solid enough speed. Tries hard. I didn’t see any ‘wow’ moments on his tape. Could hustle his way into the league if he has good Pro Day numbers.

(East) LB Ulysees Gilbert, Akron (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade = D

Has some NFL quickness in his movement, but I saw a guy that was more SAF than LB…and a pretty poor tackler, in form. With improved tackling he might make the fringe of a roster/special teams. He’ll be an OLB/SAF for the NFL.

(West) LB Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington (5’11/220) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+

*No longer on roster as of 1/13

Solid tackler. Smart player. 2018 PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year. 176 tackles in 2018. I was all ready to love him based on the resume’ but then I watched the tape and ‘meh’. Big, blocky ILB who hits you hard when you’re in his area, but I didn’t see him making/creating chaos…just tackled things if he was near them.

(West) LB Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin (6’2”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-

*Off the roster as of 1/13

Solid college ILB with fluid movements and smart pursuit…looks more like an average 4-3 OLB than a stud ILB in the middle.

(West) LB Joe Dineen, Kansas (6’2”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade = C-

Looks like a solid NFL prospect…good size, muscle/definition, solid form tackler, moves fluidly around the field. However, his tape totally put me to sleep. About 5-10 minutes in I was daydreaming of something else and when I came to it was like 5+ minutes of tape had gone by. Some LBs you can see ‘it’ right away…didn’t see it here. 142 tackles in 2018…he did work, but his team was a loser and got run on a lot for tackle opportunity.

(East) LB Sione Takitaki, BYU (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = C

A really nice player…moves well, quick first step and quick in pursuit. Worked a lot as an ILB for BYU but looks more like a legit NFL OLB. A late add to the East-West game, but he looks like he should have been on the first round of invites compared to the group. Not a star, but a useful NFL player. Fringe NFL starter depending upon his measurables.

(East) LB Tre Watson, Maryland (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+

Played mostly OLB on the tape I watched but he didn’t seem 100% comfortable in the middle. Looked better dropping into coverage and pursuing – feels like an NFL 4-3 OLB or hybrid SAF/LB. Has NFL movement skills and is built sturdy. Good burst/pursuit. Raw material here to work with.

(West) LB Drew Lewis, Colorado (6’1.5”/220) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+

Another safety-type body playing ILB…the new way of the world in college football to keep up with the spread offenses. Really quick feet with great closing speed and nice dropping back into coverage. He could make a nice defensive piece for an NFL team. His Pro Day will mean a lot in translating him to what position and his draft stock because he didn’t play safety much in 2017-18. A good Pro Day and his grade goes higher.

(West) LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky (6’1.5”/212) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+/B-

*Off the roster as of 1/13

Played ILB mostly on the tape I watched. Body of a safety, playing ILB. Moves well…nice burst, quick feet, tracks well, and tackles well. A solid player who looks like a way better 4-3 OLB or SAF/LB hybrid than an inside linebacker.

If his college tape and data is thrown out and you’re left to project him to a different position in the pros, it would be good for his draft stock. He’s a prospect you gamble on converting to another position. The Combine/Pro Days will mean a lot for him.

(West) LB B.J. Blunt, McNeese State (6’0”/215) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+

A real defensive monster – amazing closing speed, hits like a ton of bricks. His basic tape shows signs of special, but we need to see more. This might be a Darius Johnson, Telvin Smith type story in the making – looks like a safety but plays (and stars) at linebacker.

102 tackles, 20.0 TFLs, 11.0 sacks in 10 games in 2018. Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year.



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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

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