Every year, I get the list of East-West Shrine prospects and go through each one for a 15-30 minute tape and initial data scouting session. I then slap an initial (school) grade reaction on each prospect and write a few lines about my first reaction to my preview study on them – to publish during East-West Shrine week to get ready for the E-W practice week and game.
I’ll get a better feel for these players after we get their Combine and/or Pro Day numbers and run our scouting analytics and do deeper research on some of them, but for now he’s a first reaction preview of the players going into their East-West week (ranked by lowest-to-highest initial reaction grades)…
WR Nick Westbrook, Indiana (6’3”/215) *Early Preview Grade: F
Capable but forgettable Big Ten WR. Solid for a college team, but I don’t see any markers of a future NFL WR. He looks more timid and unathletic than anything else to me. His one bit of grace – the QB play at Indiana wasn’t great the past couple years. Maybe there’s more to his game but I really didn’t see a lot of reason for hope.
WR Derrick Dillon, LSU (5’11”/186) *Early Preview Grade: F
I’m not sure how/why Dillon is here? Constantly out with nagging injuries. Played in 8 games in 2019 with Joe Burrow, and in an offensive explosion season…Dillon had 15 catches for 202 yards and 2 TDs in the season, and his best college season isn’t much better than that. He must have friends that got him to this game.
WR Josh Hammond, Florida (6’0”/194) *Early Preview Grade: F+
Another guy I do not understand how or why he got an invite to this game – the East-West Shrine management must be trying to cozy up to the SEC, maybe? Low impact player his entire career…28-369-4 in 12 games in 2018 was his best season. Has some speed but not a game changer and has a very thin frame. I don’t see much of anything here.
WR Jordan McCray, Oklahoma St. (6’6”/187) *Early Preview Grade: F+
Certainly has a catch radius – very tall, incredibly thin/lanky…too small for the NFL right away. He’ll need to work on his body to ever have a chance. He was almost no impact in four years of college play between South Alabama and Oklahoma State. He doesn’t make a difference as a WR, except everyone notices how tall he is…and I get why he’d be invited here on that alone – there are only so many 6’5+ WR prospects in the world. He’ll get a look because of his height but I didn’t see much of anything else to go with it.
WR Chris Finke, Notre Dame (5’9”/184) *Early Preview Grade: D-
An underneath WR like Hunter Renfrow type, but nowhere near as talented. His tape put me to sleep. The Notre Dame QB did not seem like Finke was important to the operation at all.
WR John Hightower, Boise State (6’2”/172) *Early Preview Grade: D-
A real lanky WR prospect with suspect pro level speed. A good college player. Decent hands, decent feet for a mid-major school but not a legit pro prospect. If he adds to his frame, his foot speed may really suffer…and it isn’t that good to begin with.
WR Diondre Overton, Clemson (6’4”/210) *Early Preview Grade: D
Nice hands. Decent athleticism. Thin-framed and plays tentative. Was lost/a non-factor for Clemson for most of his four seasons – a career best 22-352-3 season logged in 2019 with Trevor Lawrence…why should anyone get excited about that?
WR Johnathon Johnson, Missouri (5’10”/180) *Early Preview Grade: D
Scrappy, good football player but not a legit NFL prospect. No skills that standout…a mediocre-to-good-ish SEC WR. Has, maybe, 4.5-4.6 speed, solid agility. There’s nothing that jumps out here besides he was a really nice college player for Missouri on and off. Not a standout or a star or a go-to. Might grind his way to a practice squad level for the NFL, maybe.
WR Dezmon Patmon, Wash State (6’4”/228) *Early Preview Grade: D+
Body of an NFL #1 WR. Tape of a guy who won’t make it in the XFL potentially. Playing for an offense that throws a million times a game, Patmon had his best season in 2019…but just a 58-762-8 tally. Nothing special. Body is wonderful, abilities are very suspect/not there.
WR Keith Gavin, Florida State (6’3”/220) *Early Preview Grade: D+
As a WR…not happening. His future is absolutely as a conversion to TE. He has the frame/muscular build for it. He just needs to add 10+ pounds more muscle. I think he’ll get work with the TEs this week, I bet. He has OK WR speed, but that would be good-great TE speed…he just doesn’t have the TE experience or mindset. He’s a developmental TE, one that might take 3-4 years, so it’s going to be a long, uphill battle to get him there…and this rarely/never happens in the NFL. They don’t have the time or patience to do such things…and Gavin is not so amazing an athlete profile (that I see) that a team should exercise the patience (like say with a Darren Waller).
WR Freddy Swain, Florida (6’0”/199) *Early Preview Grade: C-/D+
If I only saw Swain’s five best college plays on a highlight reel…I’d swear he was a top 100 NFL Draft pick. But looking at his CFB career and watching him in games…he was more of a non-factor. Best season was 2019 with a 38-517-7 tally in 12 games, but that’s not close to impressive on a decent passing game in this era of elevated WR talent.
There is raw, physical talent here. He should move to CB/SAF, if I were him…because WR doesn’t seem like his path to NFL starting lineups. There’s talent here, we’ll see if it shines at the East-West week…or just confirms he’s not a real NFL WR prospect.
WR Binjimen Victor, Ohio State (6’4”/195) *Early Preview Grade: C-/D+
Has the body and the movement of a legit NFL WR prospect, but then you look at his CFB career and see a bunch of ‘meh’. He’s played in a lot of games the past three seasons with top QB play and nice offenses and in 33 career games he’s never had an 80+ yard game…which seems unconscionable given his raw physical tools. He just doesn’t have that presence of a star WR. His best games came against weaker competition – I just don’t see evidence of a fire in his belly for his craft…he’s coasting on natural gifts.
WR/QB Malcolm Perry, Navy (5’9”/180) *Early Preview Grade: C-
Was an option QB for Navy…and quite a successful option-QB at that…2,017 rushing yards and 21 rushing TDs for his 2019 season. The AAC Offensive Player of the Year. There is 0% chance he’s an NFL QB…he’s listed 5’9, might be 5’7”/180 and I have a better arm throwing the ball and I’m old and have shoulder issues.
BUT Perry can play the game…he ran the ball like a Phillip Lindsay-type playing QB. He’s tough with some nice speed/burst. If he can catch, he could have a career in the NFL as an underneath WR…one who offers jet sweep and wildcat QB options. Really looking forward to seeing how he transitions to WR during E-W week.
WR Ja’Marcus Bradley, Louisiana (6’1”/195) *Early Preview Grade: C+
Hard to profile…sometimes I thought I was watching a potential NFL star – quick feet, high-end agility/stop-start skills. Uncoverable at times, so quick/bounces around quickly. Other times, he looked a little soft, tentative. I cannot give him too high a grade for fears he will fail at that next level because he’s not alpha enough. He’s the kinda guy that has amazing highlight moments and you see the potential and want it, but then mostly has drops and fails in key spots when you give him more work. I’m not saying this for sure, just it’s on my radar. There is real hope…and some concern here.
WR Mason Kinsey, Berry (5’10”/191) *Early Preview Grade: C+
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Berry College…or knew they had a football program…
Kinsey is a machine at the D3 level…49 TDs the past three seasons. He’s built like a Julian Edelman-type WR but runs routes like a pro and has the best hands of any WR in this showcase, by far. He’s fantastic. Whether he has the body or spirit to defeat elevated D1 cover guys…we’ll get to see soon, but he’s definitely one I’m looking forward to watching this week.
WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota (6’2”/198) *Early Preview Grade: B/B-
An absolutely legit NFL WR. Whether he is an NFL star or just ‘on the team’ needs further study but Johnson is one of the top prospects here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he also wound up at the Senior Bowl. In Minnesota’s Outback Bowl shocker defeating Auburn, Johnson had 12 catches for 204 yards and 2 TDs…he was uncoverable. He’s had back-to-back 1,100+ yards and 12+ TD seasons the last two years. There’s a little ‘Michael Thomas’ action here, maybe? That might be a stretch…but this guy can play the game. I can’t wait to see the measurables.
WR Joe Reed, Virginia (6’1”/215) *Early Preview Grade: B+
Hands down the best traditional WR at this showcase. He’s a tough, fast, good hands quality WR…and a topflight kick returner. Was #3, #1, #2, and #1 in the ACC in KR return average in his four year college career…#2 all-time in the ACC in KR average and #10 all-time in the NCAA, and #9 all-time in career KR TDs (5).
He kinda reminds me of a Chris Godwin type WR, maybe all-around better than Godwin considering his kick return ability. Some Michael Gallup maybe? Hard to fully classify because he played with a running QB who was not a precision passer. He’s a go-to guy in the NFL, I think…go-to to make plays.
WR Isaiah Wright, Temple (6’2”/220) *Early Preview Grade: B+
The most interesting offensive player at the East-West week and it’s not even close. He’s a new age Cordarrelle Patterson…is perhaps the best way to describe him. 3 punt return TDs, 2 kick return TDs in his four-year college career. Very good hands. Amazing instincts running with the ball. Has played tail back, wide receiver, wildcat, been an ace return man – all that work at a beefy 6’2”/220. He’s maybe more like a Josh Cribbs, if you remember him. A guy that just makes things happen with the ball, and the coaching staffs that they play for never seem to get them the ball enough.
Had 9 catches for 104 yards and a TD in a game in 2019 (vs. E. Carolina). Ran the ball 70 times total in his freshman and sophomore years for over 6+ yards per carry. He didn’t shine in any statistical category for a season as a receiver or rusher, but all combined with his return game – he was an all-around weapon.
As I’m watching the tape, I’m wondering why they didn’t get the guy more involved in the offense…but then I watched Cordarrelle Patterson his entire NFL career wondering that. I fear the same fate for Wright.