It has been a very rewarding first visit to St. Petersburg for the 88th East-West Shrine Game and the practices leading up to the event. There are some NFL hopefuls who have the opportunity to make their mark in the 2013 NFL Draft that I had the pleasure of viewing this week. In the first part of this article, I will discuss my top four running backs and top five wide receivers that should be drafted in your rookie drafts who participated in the Shrine Game Week. In the second half, I will discuss some players whomade their mark during the 88th Shrine Game.
1. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
He isn’t the biggest back here, but he is the shiftiest. Graham is a very smooth runner who gets small in the hole and doesn’t give defenders much to hit. He might start off as a third down back, but he has the speed and vision to become a three down player. The injuries were a concern at the beginning of the season, but he seems to have recovered nicely. Graham is closer to fellow former Pittsburgh Panther LeSean McCoy in overall talent than compared to Dion Lewis. With the softest hands of all the skill players here, the running back will be an asset to any offense and he can pass block as well. If his medical comes back fine from the combine doctors, I consider Graham a top five rookie running back option.
2. Christine Michael, Texas A & M
He is a big, muscular man who runs powerfully into the line. The running back has quick feet, decent vision and has a chip on his shoulder. By not playing much his senior year due to injury and conflict with the coach, Michael has a lot to prove. He looked to hit people, kept his legs driving forward, and was a willing blocker. In a rookie class that does not have a true superstar, Michael has the upside to pay off big or crash and burn. I was impressed enough to put him near the end of my top 12 rookie running backs.
3. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt
There is so much to like about Stacy. He is a hard-nosed runner who is very effective running inside and outside the tackles. I really like the versatility he brings in the passing game as he was the best pass blocker at his position here in St. Pete and can catch the ball in space. Stacy has good vision, decent lateral movement, and strong leg drive. When I look at Stacy, I’m reminded of former Bengal Rudi Johnson. He is willing to do the dirty work to get the job done. Stacy is in my top 15 rookie running backs.
4. Kerwynn Williams, Utah State
He sure looked bigger and more powerful on tape than he did live. I came away more impressed with his speed, agility and vision after seeing him in person. Williams takes great angles, sees the field well, gets separation and runs to daylight. He is big enough to take the hits, but gets small enough to avoid taking many of them. Out of all of these running backs I’ve discussed, his impact will be greatly influenced by where he goes. Williams could become a good returner who sees the field sparingly or he could become a third down specialist to start. I have him just outside my top 15 rookie running backs.
1. Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech
He might be one of the rawest wide receivers I have seen since Brandon Marshall. Davis was the biggest wideout in St. Petersburg and he used his size to box out the defenders. He tracks the ball well in the air, catches the ball at its highest point and has good body control. He is more quick than fast, but has inconsistent hands at times. He seems to have a knack for catching the long ball and playing physical right back to defensive coverage. Anyone who selects him in their rookie draft will need to be patient with him as he needs to work his craft, but in a year or two he could be something special. I have him in my top 15 rookie receivers.
2. Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller is the better finesse receiver. He has amazing body control, can pluck the ball at its highest point, and has excellent hands. The wide receiver has good speed and agility to make people miss, but has enough physicality to fight off press coverage. Fuller also has a spin move that can get him out of arm tackles and forces defenders to take bad angles to try to bring him down. I’m not sure he will ever be more than a WR2 in the NFL or in dynasty, but he should thrive in a pass first offense. I have him a slot or two below his teammate.
3. Tyrone Goard, Eastern Kentucky
Some say I fell in love with this young wide receiver’s talent. Goard is quite skinny and is mostly known for his ability to run nine routes; however, he offers much more than that. He can start and stop on a dime while finding the ball quickly. He made some big plays downfield and amazed with a few one-handed receptions. Like Davis, Goard is raw and doesn’t run precise routes, but fights for every yard and makes defenders miss. He has top 20 talent, but may need time to develop his muscularity. Plus, I love the fact that he looks at his hands in disbelief when he doesn’t make a catch.
4. Erik Highsmith, North Carolina
Out of all the receivers I saw, he’s the one who kept on getting better each day. Highsmith is quick off the line, can throw a juke move or dart right past his initial coverage. He attacks the ball in the air and usually catches it in stride. Despite his thin size, he can hold his own against physical coverage and I don’t think I saw him miss a catch the entire week. Highsmith will probably start as a slot receiver initially, but I can see him becoming a solid WR2 for his NFL team and perhaps your dynasty team.
5. Jasper Collins, Mt. Union
I like Collins almost as much as Highsmith, but unlike Highsmith, Collins struggles against physical coverage. He is only suited to play the slot in the NFL. Collins can contort his body to make almost any catch high or low. He needs less than two steps to get to full speed and has amazing lateral shiftiness. Even though he is under six feet tall, he can climb the ladder and get to highly thrown balls while making the difficult catch.
Now onto the Shrine Game blog itself (by the way, I love the view from the press box):
Chad Bumphis, the West team wide receiver from Mississippi State, has been the story today with a 57 yard touchdown reception (he would finish with over 90 yards receiving). He got a great block by my man “the Mudder” (TE Zach Sudfeld). Bumphis gears down quickly and makes the most of his opportunities. His downfield vision and sideline awareness were keys to his long touchdown reception.
East team wide receiver Corey Fuller has been responsible for the majority of the passing highlights on his team. He broke out a nice spin move to get away from two defenders as he caught a pass in the flat in full stride. Fuller is getting good separation on his routes, but the ill-equipped East quarterbacks keep missing him.
Ray Graham, the East team running back, looked explosive whether running inside/outside or catching passes in the flat (outside of his first carry on which he fumbled). He makes the first defender miss and takes great angles making it hard to hit him straight on. Graham looks great in space. I hope the rest of your league is sleeping on him too.
Outside of the first series near the end zone, West team running back Christine Michael has been relatively quiet. He ran tough inside with a little shake-n-bake, but he had a critical fumble with less than 1:30 left in the first half that led to a West touchdown. While he runs with good power, I’m not sure how well he sees the field. Michael looked quick on a pass to the flat. On his six yard touchdown run, he gave a little stutter step and powered into the end zone. He might start out as a goal line/short yardage back first, so keep that in mind.
Zac Stacy, an East running back, looked hesitant with his carries and was caught a few times dancing too much for negative yardage. He got stuck playing fullback and couldn’t manage to bring in a nice pass thrown to him in the flat. When he ran straight ahead, Stacy was more effective.
West running back Kerwynn Williams looked good when he broke plays outside whether it was on designed sweeps or on kickoff returns. He has the speed and wiggle to break plays outside. He tries to run hard inside, but doesn’t seem to generate enough power to be effective there. He might be better off as a third down, change of pace type back.
Jasper Collins (Mt. Union) and Marcus Davis (Virginia Tech), wide receivers, flashed on a few plays showing good wiggle and nice ability to track the ball in the air. Collins is more quick than fast, but isn’t stout enough to hold up as an on-line receiver. Davis, on the other hand, is very powerful and has a nose for the ball, but struggles with consistency and concentration on shorter routes. I came away impressed with their talent, but well aware of their need to improve their technique.
It looks like next year I will try my hand at the Senior Bowl, only to return to the Shrine Game in 2015. I hope this has been helpful. If you have questions, please contact me on twitter – @AndrewMiley.