2018 East-West Shrine Game
Northwestern’s Justin Jackson proved he can be a nice change of pace back in the NFL (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2018 East-West Shrine Game is the first step to the NFL Draft process. The annual Shrine Game is all about finding diamonds in the rough. Every smart NFL fan knows the majority of rosters is made up of late round draft picks and undrafted free agents. Last year 100 players from the game were a part of NFL rosters in 2017.

In the past players like Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Steve Smith, and many others have participated in this event. Overall the 2018 edition was extremely frustrating to watch for a number of different reasons. The West team defeated the East 14-10 in a low scoring affair. Overall it appears to be a stacked defensive line group with some linebackers to watch. Maybe not a whole lot outside of that. Who stood out for better or worse on the West Team?

Quarterbacks:

If you have to pick one quarterback from the game on in this game it would be Nic Shimonek. Texas Tech has had success developing quarterbacks which includes the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Davis Webb, and Baker Mayfield. Shimonek is the latest project who displayed some ugly footwork but at least let it rip down the field. Shimonek has good size to him and threw the game-winning touchdown. He went 12/18, 105-yards, and a score. Nick Stevens of Colorado State and Jeremiah Briscoe made up the rest of the group and looked flat out ugly combining for a terrible 5/13, 44-yard showing. All three quarterbacks are probably undraftable with the last two being immediate cross offs on the draft board.

Running Backs:

Phillip Lindsey is under 200 pounds so I’m not going to even waste my time writing about another failed small running back. Jordan Chunn of Troy had the opposite problem; a 235-pound back with zero punch putting up 1.8 yards per pop. I did like Justin Jackson of Northwestern who may be able to stick as a change of pace back. He’s eerily similar to Corey Clement last year who is having success with the Eagles. Jackson showed off nice ball skills out of the backfield and great short area quickness with the ability to make a man miss. He averaged 5.6-yards per carry on 7 touches.

Wide Receivers:

Like I said in my post about the East, it’s almost impossible to grade the receiving group with the abomination at the quarterback spot. Then again, the roster construction was odd. Blake Mack was playing tight end at 229 pounds while Jordan Thomas was out wide at 275 pounds. The later from Mississippi State is a project to watch as he converts to tight end. Not sure why that hasn’t happened during his time in college. Jeff Badet at Oklahoma would be a guy I look at during the undrafted signing period to try to develop a skinny slot receiver.

Offensive Line:

This offensive line group did a much better job than their counterparts on the East. Four prospects to keep an eye on moving forward include Greg Senat of Wagner, Salesi Uhatafe of Utah, Cody O’Connell of Washington State, and Brett Toth of Army. Senat is a basketball player by trade with absolutely raw traits. His 35-1/8 inch arms are a plus but he gets too high with his stance and struggles with speed. There is something to work with and mold for an offensive line coach to get to work with. Toth comes in the same mold but moves a lot better in space coming from that option offense. Can he pass block in the NFL? He moves well enough to kick out on screens and had his moments limiting pressure. Uhatafe and O’Connell are straight road graders. O’Connell might be the most intriguing prospect of the bunch. How is a 6-foot-9 guard built like a house not playing at right tackle? Can he move well enough in the NFL?

Defensive Line:

The defensive line talent on the West is made up of three defensive tackles who can wreak havoc. Poona Ford from Texas was clogging the middle of the line of scrimmage who plays with power. Ford measures in under 6 foot who plays stout in the run game and recorded a sack to end the first half. P.J. Hall from Sam Houston State has the same measurables and a similar playstyle. Hall was in the backfield all afternoon and has a bit more natural pass rush to him recording 37 career sacks. He proved he was not fazed by the step up in competition. Finally, how about Bilal Nichols. The Deleware product forced the fumble on J.T. Barrett who possess some great natural movement skills for an interior lineman.

Linebackers:

Joel Lanning stands out because he played quarterback for Iowa State when they knocked off Oklahoma. Outside of that, he’s trying to find his way as a linebacker. Lanning may have an edge with understanding where he needs to be on the field and made a nice tackle for loss. The best linebacker on the field may have Tegray Scales of Indiana. This dude zooms across the field and can really cover for a linebacker. The NFL today needs those type of guys on sub packages.

Defensive Backs: I really wish I had an answer to this question but the quarterbacks were so bad it was impossible to judge. Thanks – J.T. Barrett, you stink.