Players to watch in the East-West Shrine Bowl

It’s time to get this pre-draft process truly underway. The East-West Shrine Bowl is an excellent opportunity to begin scouting players more in depth. Most of these players won’t hear their name called on Day 1 or maybe even Day 2, but there are always a few players who climb up draft boards with their performances in this game and the Senior Bowl. In 2018, Chase Edmonds, Phillip Lindsay, DaeSean Hamilton and Poona Ford all featured. 2019 had Cody Barton, David Blough and Jesper Horsted. These aren’t the stars of the draft, but plenty of these guys will be Day 3 picks come April. Additionally, the talk is this year’s roster is much better than last year’s.

Looking at this group, the offensive line group is particularly impressive. There are a few players I have third and fourth round grades on at this point set to play, including Calvin Throckmorton, Jack Driscol and Darryl Williams. Here are the players worth keeping an eye on Saturday January 18, at 3 pm on NFL Network.

Jack Driscol, OT, Auburn (6’5″, 296 lbs)
Driscol started all year at right tackle for Auburn. He would probably be best suited to stay on that side or even kick inside in the NFL. He has the length, but he will likely need to bulk up a little bit once he gets drafted. His movement skills have already been on display this week at practice.

Darryl Williams, C, Mississippi State (6’3″ 310 lbs)
Another lineman who started for an SEC school in need of some gym time here with Darryl Williams. His is technically sound, but definitely needs to improve his play strength. This is really clear in the run game because he doesn’t often generate a ton of drive off the line. Buzz at practice this week is he is looking stronger already.

Charlie Heck, OT, UNC (6’8″, 315 lbs)
This is a name I have seen popping up in mock drafts more frequently. Charlie Heck undoubtedly has the size to play tackle in the pros, but he flew under the radar a bit at UNC. His hand usage is pretty good and he actually held up pretty well when he played Clemson. A good showing here could push him up a lot of boards. He has NFL pedigree as well as his dad Andy was a former first round pick.

Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama (6’0″, 191 lbs)
He is nowhere near as polished or talented as his Crimson Tide counterpart Xavier McKinney, but Shyheim Carter could be a sleeper in this draft. He moved around a lot in the Alabama defense, showing some nice versatility. He might not be an immediate starter, but he could end up being a solid depth player right away.

Michael Divinity II, LB, LSU (6’2″, 242 lbs)
No one has had a more interesting season than Michael Divinity. Between academic issues and team rules violations, Divinity missed a solid chunk of LSU’s late-season games. However, he was cleared to play in the national championship game. He has the prototypical size of an NFL linebacker. He is talented enough to play in the NFL, where academic issues won’t follow him. Any team misconduct will be something teams will address during the combine.

Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami (6’1″, 241 lbs)
This was not the season expected of Miami entering the year. Shaq Quarterman and the defense were solid though despite the disappointing record. He topped 100 total tackles and showed flashes of playmaking ability. Size shouldn’t be a problem, so if he can play sideline to sideline again, he should be in good shape.

Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte (6’4″, 242 lbs)
Here is the list of players with more sacks than Alex Highsmith this season: Chase Young and Gregory Rosseau, potentially the top two edge players selected in the 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts. Highsmith obviously did it against much weaker competition. He will need to get stronger to truly compete in the NFL, but he reads his keys and has a good number of pass rush moves to go to.

Tavien Feaster, RB, South Carolina (6’2″, 221 lbs)
The former Clemson running back stayed in state and moved to the SEC. He likely fits as a complementary back at the next level, but he has some receiving work under his belt as well. He could be an interesting Day 3 prospect. His size could have teams interested in using him as a short yardage option.

Malcolm Perry, WR, Navy (5’9″, 190 lbs)
Malcolm Perry bounced all over the place at Navy and finally landed at quarterback. He mostly ran the ball for the Midshipmen, but this week, he will get a chance to show off his receiver skills. He could be a late-round flyer teams hope to develop into a receiver. The athleticism is definitely there. Reports are he has looked fairly comfortable this week running his routes. I’m excited to see how he handles this new role in a game.

Calvin Throckmorton, OT, Oregon (6’5″, 309)
Calvin Throckmorton was part of one of the best offensive lines in college football this year. He played right tackle, but his size could lead him to a future at guard in the NFL. He played all over the place in 2018, starting at every position but left guard. He will find a home somewhere and his versatility could make him appealing for teams looking to fill multiple depth positions with one player.

Binjimin Victor, WR, Ohio State (6’4″, 199 lbs)
Despite not getting as much press as the receivers that came before him Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell, Binjimin Victor seems ready to stand out. His size and speed make him intriguing. Word is that he has impressed this week in practice as well. He likely won’t go before Day 3, but he could have an early impact.

Yasir Durant, OT, Missouri (6’7″, 330 lbs)
Entering this process as a massive prospect, Yasir Durant is a wild card in this tackle class. He started the past two years for Missouri at left tackle and put together some decent tape. The hype around Missouri died down without Drew Lock, but Durant’s size should be enough to keep teams interested. Some solid work here could help him be a mid-round selection.

Levante Bellamy, RB, Western Michigan (5’9″, 190 lbs)
One of my favorite sleepers in this year’s draft, Levante Bellamy is explosive. He was a great playmaker for Western Michigan this year. He is a bit undersized, but his speed should help him turn some heads. If given the right opportunity to shine here, he could find a home in the later rounds.

Kelly Bryant, QB, Missouri (6’3″, 225 lbs)
Two years ago, he was starting in the national title game. Now Kelly Bryant is hoping he can do enough to convince an NFL team to give him a chance. His mobility has never been an issue, but his accuracy and mechanics are questionable. He is one of the biggest profile players in Florida based on name-recognition. People will be talking if he can show some improvements.

Jon Runyan Jr., OT, Michigan (6’5″, 321 lbs)
Another offensive tackle to add to the mix. Jon Runyan, son of former Washington offensive tackle Jon Runyan, has reportedly looked solid all week at practice. He is very fundamentally sound and clearly understands how to play the position. If he can show some nastiness and consistency, his physical tools should he enough to pique someone’s interest.

Diondre Overton, WR, Clemson (6’4″, 210 lbs)
A late arriver after the Clemson-LSU game, Diondre Overton made an instant impression on Wednesday with one of the catches of the week. He had to play behind some really talented receivers at Clemson. I am excited to see how he does in a more prevalent position here. He is a big body target with production in the red zone. He could fit a role right away in the NFL.

For more NFL Draft coverage, check out the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast, with new episodes every Thursday.

2018 Heisman Hopefuls are Hard to Find

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Only quarterbacks and Alabama running backs have won the Heisman dating back to 2000. (Wikimedia Commons)

After five weeks of action in the 2018 college football season, the shortlist of contenders for the Heisman Trophy is shrinking. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are the clear front runners at this stage. All four of them are undefeated quarterbacks playing on Power 5 conference teams ranked in the top 10. At this stage, any of them could win the award, but it seems like there is not much chance anyone else manages to get their name into the running. Let’s break down who else was supposed to be in this race.

The Preseason Hopefuls
There were several other players who were supposed to challenge for the highest individual honor in the college game. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor headline this group. Love was the runner up for the award last season when Baker Mayfield took it home. Taylor finished sixth in the voting. The pair finished second and third in the nation in rushing respectively behind Seahawks first round selection Rashaad Penny. This season Taylor is fifth in the country for ground yardage, but hasn’t scored in either of his past two games and Wisconsin lost to an unranked BYU squad. Love has missed time with some nagging injuries.

Also in this group is Shea Patterson of Michigan and Kelly Bryant of Clemson. The two quarterbacks had rough starts to the season. For Patterson, he lost his season opener to Notre Dame and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He only has seven through five games this year. On the other hand, Bryant actually lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence and announced he plans to transfer.

The Sleeper Picks
Every year, there are a bunch of dark horse candidates to win the Heisman. 2018 was no different. The most popular sleeper pick this year had to be Penn State’s Trace McSorley. A true dual-threat quarterback, the senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 450. Normally, that would put you right in the heart of the conversation. However, McSorley sustained a heavy blow to his candidacy with PSU’s loss to Ohio State at home. On top of that, he has a woeful completion percentage of 52 and had two games where he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing.

Alongside McSorely were Drew Lock and Jarret Stidham, two SEC quarterbacks with first round potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lock was always going to have a tough road to the award being on an unranked team. He opened the season on fire, but came back down to Earth when Georgia drubbed Missouri. Lock failed to complete 50 percent of his passes against the Bulldogs, threw no touchdowns, one interception and for under 250 yards. For a quarterback who doesn’t run much, that pretty much ended Lock’s campaign. Stidham’s candidacy turned out to be mostly hype. Through five games, the Auburn quarterback has only thrown five touchdowns, lost at home to LSU and topped 200 passing yards twice.

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Mayfield became the first senior to win the award since 2006 and translated it into the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Still Could Join the Party
I have bashed the depth of the hopefuls pretty thoroughly, but it is still early and there a are a handful of players who could make some noise and draw Heisman attention before the season is over.

The first is Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback is making a case to be the first quarterback selected in May at the NFL draft. He could also sneak into the Heisman conversation, but it feels like he missed his best chance to assert himself. It will be hard for voters to shake the memory of him throwing four straight incompletions to lose at home to Stanford in overtime. He also has a couple of ugly statistical games on his record where he tossed multiple interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

There is no way that only quarterbacks finish as finalists either. Travis Etienne of Clemson has a chance to thrust himself into the conversation before the season is out. He is currently seventh in the country in rushing with an outrageous 8.1 yards per carry. The sophomore running back also has eight touchdowns so far. Additionally, Etienne might have just had his Heisman moment as he carried Clemson to a comeback in Death Valley over Syracuse with the team’s third-string quarterback under center. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Tigers undefeated. Being the lead back on a team likely to make the playoff and having your starting quarterback transfer, Etienne has everything in place to take a stab at this.

One last one that is a bit of a unique case is Ian Book. The Notre Dame quarterback took over as the starter in the third game of the season. He threw the game-clinching touchdown against Wake Forest and has thrown for 603 yards and six touchdowns over his last two starts. He torched what is a good Stanford defense and has a stellar 74 percent completion rate. On top of all of that, he hasn’t thrown an interception. The Irish sit at sixth in the AP poll and have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If Book puts up similar numbers and leads Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season, he could be in the mix.

The Longshots
Just because you aren’t at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make some noise. Now, Kentucky is a big school, but you probably know them for basketball. However, Ben Snell Jr. is having an impressive year running the ball. He is fourth in the nation in both yards and touchdowns. Kentucky is also 5-0 and up to #13 in the AP Poll. He will get a chance to play some great competition as Texas A&M and Georgia are still on the schedule. He could be a late riser.

Even more of a long shot is John Ursua of Hawaii. He really doesn’t belong, but he leads the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He is on pace to finish with 100 catches, 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. That kind of production usually catches the eyes of Heisman voters, but the best team Hawaii has played all year is Army. Unless Ursua can step it up and start shattering some records along with Hawaii winning out, he won’t really draw much attention.

One last name to throw around is Steven Montez from Colorado. The Buffaloes are 4-0 this season for the first time in 20 years. Montez is completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the nation. Colorado is 21st in the polls and has road games against USC, Washington and Cal. Montez has thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in four games so far. He still has two-thirds of his games left in his season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

The season is far from over, but it seems like the majority of the whittling down for the Heisman Trophy has already occurred. We might get some fireworks by season’s end, but this feels like a four-man race with a lot of people wondering what could have been.