2018 NFL Draft: Observations from the East-West Shrine Game

2018 NFL Draft: Observations from the East-West Shrine Game

Get to know the name Daurice Fountain.

The Northern Iowa receiver was one of the standout players at the 93rd annual East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Fountain shined in St. Pete and was named the game’s offensive MVP.

Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson was the defensive MVP after returning a fumble 68 yards to help lead the West team to a 14-10 win in the East-West Shrine Game.

One of the more interesting players was Iowa State’s Joel Lanning, who was both a quarterback and middle linebacker for the Cyclones.

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Iowa State’s Joel Lanning

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Iowa native was selected to multiple All-American teams and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection at linebacker with 114 tackles, 11 for loss, and six sacks to go with an interception. He also threw for 2,584 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions over his career. Lanning is a superb athlete and is perhaps the most versatile player in the NFL Draft class.

Because of what former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was able to do on special teams this past season with the Saints, Lanning is sure to find himself on an NFL roster in the fall.

Here are observations from the 2018 East-West Shrine Game

OFFENSE

Jacob Alsadek, OG, Arizona — Alsadek is huge at 6-7, 325, and understands how to redirect pass rushers. He has good balance and bends well and does a good job of getting to the next level. He’s athletic for his size and was a road grader for the Wildcats and part of an offensive line that allowed just 15 sacks last season.

Jeff Badet, WR, Oklahoma — Badet is a 6 foot, 178-pound receiver with good speed and quickness. He’s an excellent route runner with pretty fluid hips. While ideal as a slot receiver, Badet does have some versatility. He changes direction well and had a solid week in St. Petersburg. Productivity and consistency are concerns. He had just 26 catches last season, but for 400 yards and three scores. Badet aught 108 passes for 1,785 yards and 10 touchdowns over his career.

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Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State — While Barrett’s stats weren’t great — 5 of 13 for 69 yards and a touchdown — he was also the victims of several drops in the East-West Shrine Game. Barrett is a natural leader with every intangible a coach would want. He’s still a developmental project as a quarterback and needs to improve his pocket awareness. Jamerson’s touchdown return came on a Barrett fumble. Barrett is a superb athlete with a strong arm and put up incredible numbers at Ohio State with 9,434 yards and 104 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. He also ran for 3,263 yards and 43 touchdowns while posting a 38-6 record as a starter.

Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State — Despite a prolific college career, Briscoe struggled at the East-West game and may have been the most disappointing player in St. Petersburg. He didn’t just go 1 of 6 for 15 yards, when he missed, he missed badly. While developing timing with new receivers in such a short time can be difficult, Briscoe was inconsistent all week. At Sam Houston, the 6-3, 225-pound Briscoe threw for over 11,000 yards in three seasons with 116 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Jordan Chunn, RB, Troy — Chunn battled injuries as a senior, but his best game was a 191-yard outburst in Troy’s win over LSU. He ran for 774 yards and 10 touchdowns last season after rushing for nearly 1,300 yards and 16 scores as a junior. The 6-1, 235-pound Alabama native showed off good hands and power running at the East-West Shrine Game.

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Memphis QB Riley Ferguson

Steven Dunbar, WR, Houston — The 6-3, 202-pound Dunbar had a productive college career with 180 catches for 2,430 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had a great week of practice at the Shrine Game, showing off superb hands. He caught three passes for 52 yards, including an athletic touchdown to lift the West to a 14-10 win.

Riley Ferguson, QB, Memphis — Ferguson has ideal size at 6-4, 210 pounds and was extremely productive at Memphis with a school record 4,257 passing yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior. Despite his great numbers, he’s an inconsistent passer and struggled with accuracy at the Shrine Game — going just 4 of 11 for 63 yards. He has a lot of upside because of his athleticism and work ethic, but will have to shore up his footwork to make him a more accurate thrower at the next level.

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UNI WR Daurice Fountain

Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa — Fountain was the offensive MVP at the East-West Game after catching three passes for 61 yards and returning a pair of punts for 40 yards. He has good hands, speed and size at 6-1, 210. An All-Missouri Valley Conference selection with 150 career receptions for 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns, Fountain had a wonderful week of practice. His added value on special teams will likely land him on an NFL roster.

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Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton

DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State — Hamilton is Penn State’s all-time leading receiver with 214 receptions for 2,842 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is an adept route runner with good size and speed. Despite an inconsistent week at the East-West Game, the 6-1, 206-pound receiver earned an invite to the Senior Bowl. Usually sure-handed, Hamilton had some drops in St. Petersburg.

Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern — Jackson is a patient runner who catches the ball well. He was extremely productive at Northwestern, where he finished as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 5,440 yards and 41 touchdowns. The 5-11, 200-pound Chicago native ran for 1,311 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He ran for 39 yards on seven carries in the Shrine Game and, though strong runner, he does need to work on pass protection.

D’Ernest Johnson, RB, South Florida — The 5-10, 208-pound Florida native had a nice burst and runs with patience. He has good vision and ran for 796 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his career at USF. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and had 72 receptions for 899 yards and 12 touchdowns over his career.

Austin Kuhnert, C, North Dakota State — Kuhnert is a smart and strong 6-4, 304-pound center who understands hand placement and how to use his arms to redirect defensive linemen. The top FCS offensive lineman last year, Kuhnert is durable with 54 starts over his 59-game career.

Ray Lawry, RB, Old Dominion — At 5-10, 203 pounds, Lawry has good size and runs with power. He had 38 yards on seven carries in the East-West Game. Following a junior season in which he ran for 1,255 yards and 11 scores, Lawry was limited by a hamstring injury as a senior. He still ran for 742 yards and seven scores in eight games. A good receiver out of the backfield, Lawry had 60 career receptions for 496 yards and three touchdowns to go with 4,080 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. He’s a north-south runner with a good initial burst, but lacks great long speed. If he tests well, he could sneak into the bottom of the draft, but is more than likely a priority free agent.

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Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado — Lindsay was perhaps the best running back at the East-West game. He has nice feet and quickness with a good burst. He’s a patient runner with good vision, who cuts well and is elusive in the open field. Though just 5-8, 190, Lindsay doesn’t shy away from contact, running with a toughness that helped him put up 1,474 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Lindsay had 3,770 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns over his career. He also catches the ball well and had 117 receptions for 1,084 yards and three scores over his career. He returned kicks in college, giving him added special teams value. He ran for a game-high 51 yards on 12 carries in the East-West game and could earn a roster spot next fall.

Greg Senat, OT, Wagner — A former basketball player, the 6-8, 290-pound Senat is a project, but has great feet and length. Senat has tremendous upside and held his own against some of the better pass rushers in St. Petersburg. He has to get stronger, but showed good lateral movement in pass protection.

Nic Shimonek, QB, Texas Tech — Shimonek had the best stats in the Shrine Game — going 12 of 18 for 105 yards and a pretty 34-yard touchdown — but was extremely inconsistent as a thrower and many passes were short throws. He threw for 3,963 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his one season at Texas Tech after transferring from Iowa. Shimonek has good size at 6-3, 225 and is a smart player, but tends to panic under pressure.

Nick Stevens, QB, Colorado State — Stevens had a solid week of practice, then underwhelmed in the game. He threw for 8,550 yards with 70 touchdowns and 27 interceptions at CSU, completing 62 percent of his passes. He was 4 of 7 for 29 yards in the Shrine Game. The 6-3, 215-pound California native did play in a pro-style system with the Rams but NFL arm strength could be an issue.

Brett Toth, OT, Army — Though he’ll have to wait two years to fulfill his NFL dream, Toth had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. The 6-6, 305-pound future Army officer played well enough in St. Petersburg to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl. He’s a powerful run blocker who is also a technically sound pass blocker, though has some athletic limitations.

Salesi Uhatafe, OG, Utah — Uhatafe is big and strong at 6-5, 320 and a powerful run blocker. His pass blocking needs some work because he tends to grab at times. He is durable and has a lot of experience as a four-year college starter.

DEFENSE

Dane Cruikshank, CB, Arizona — Cruikshank has good size at 6-1, 206, and excellent ball skills. He had an solid week at the East-West game after picking off five passes over the last two seasons. Though Cruikshank is projected to go undrafted in April, a good showing at the NFL Combine could change that.

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UConn DT Folorunso Fatukasi

Folorunso Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut — Fatukasi consistently beat double teams in St. Petersburg and was one of the more dominant defensive players in Saturday’s East-West Game. At 6-4, 303, he was great off the snap and used that quick burst as well as his strength to be disruptive. He had 169 tackles, 21 for loss, with 13 1/2 sacks over his career at UConn.

Poona Ford, DT, Texas — Stout at 5-11, 303, Ford is a powerful player capable of collapsing the pocket with a middle push. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Ford was productive at Texas with four sacks and 20 1/2 tackles for loss from the middle of the defensive line and he provided consistent pressure in the East-West game.

Marcell Frazier, DE, Missouri — The athletic 6-5, 265-pound Frazier had a great week in St. Petersburg and capped his impressive week with a fourth-quarter sack of Ferguson in the game itself. Frazier could be the latest in a long line of Missouri pass rushers to succeed in the NFL. He has an elite first step that helped him record 17 1/2 sacks and 31 tackles for loss at Mizzou.

Grant Haley, CB, Penn State — Haley is a 5-9, 190 defensive back with some versatility, though his ideal fit is as a nickel corner. He has good ball skills and is a superior athlete who picked off five passes with 22 breakups at Penn State. His experience as a kick returner gives him added value as a possible late-round pick.

P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State — Hall is a wide body and 6-1, 310, with a good burst and strong base. He can collapse the pocket and consistently played in the backfield at the East-West game. He had 37 career sacks over a productive college career.

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Wisconsin LB Leon Jacob

Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern — Igwebuike was one of the defensive stars at the East-West game, showing off his athleticism and excellent ball skills. He has good size at 6-1, 212, but in addition to his tangible traits, Igwebuike is a mature player who was one of the leaders on the Northwestern team.

Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin — Jacobs is a physical specimen at 6-2, 245, and set a school record at Wisconsin for career games played with 58. He’s strong and sets the edge well. Jacobs got better every year at Wisconsin, recording career highs as a senior with 60 tackles, 10 for loss, 3 1/2 sacks and a pair of interceptions.

Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin — Jamerson’s highlight was his fumble return for a score, but he was all over the field and was named the defensive MVP of the Shrine Game. He has good speed and ball skills and had a pair of interceptions — with a touchdown — last season for the Badgers. Jamerson is a high-character player and will go back to Wisconsin this spring to obtain his degree.

Justin Lawler, DE, SMU — A two-time first-team All-AAC selection, Lawler was spectacular at the East-West game. He had one of three sacks of Barrett after tallying 9 1/2 sacks last season. Lawler sees the field well, understands angles and is a sure tackler. The 6-4, 265-pound Texas native was consistently in the backfield in St. Petersburg.

James Looney, DT, California — Looney was disruptive at the line of scrimmage in the East-West Game with a few batted passes. He was able to collapse the pocket and capped his career with 9 1/2 sacks as a senior. The 6-3, 279-pound former Wake Forest player is strong off the snap with powerful legs that allow him to drive opposing linemen.

Avante Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh — Maddox had a very good week of practice. Thought not very big at 5-9, 180, Maddox reacts swiftly thanks to fluid hips and quick feet. He’s not great in man coverage, but would be an ideal nickel corner in a zone defense.

Marcus Martin, DE, Slippery Rock — The Division II defensive player of the year, Martin was used at fullback during the East-West Shrine Game and held up well. As a defensive end, the 6-2, 255-pound Martin recorded 15 1/2 sacks and 26 1/2 tackles for loss as a senior. He ended his collegiate career as the D-II record holder with 56 sacks and 92 1/2 tackles for loss. A two-time conference player of the year, Martin started 48 games at Slippery Rock. He is an impressive athlete and proved his versatility with a seamless transition to fullback at the East-West Shrine Game.

Bilal Nichols, DT, Delaware — It was Nichols’ strip-sack of Barrett that led to Jamerson’s scoop-and-score touchdown. The 6-4, 290-pound prospect had a great week in St. Petersburg and showed flashes of NFL ability. He has to play with more consistency, but can earn a spot on an NFL roster. 129 tackles, 18 for loss, 12 sacks.

Deatrick Nichols, CB, South Florida — Nichols had a great week in St. Petersburg and broke up a pass, or dropped an interception, during the game itself. He’s only 5-9, 186, but has tremendous ball skills and is an excellent athlete. He’d be an ideal fit as a nickel corner in the NFL and has the versatility to play multiple positions and special teams.

Joe Ostman, DE, Central Michigan — Ostman plays with a high motor any coach would love to have. After leading the nation with 14 sacks as a senior, to go with 19 1/2 tackles for loss, Ostman’s relentless pursuit led to another sack early in the East-West Game. The 6-3, 259-pound pass rusher has a very good burst off the edge and should hear his name called in April’s NFL Draft.

Kentavius Street, DE, North Carolina State — Street pretty much lived in the backfield all week in St. Petersburg. He was overshadowed a bit at N.C. State by first-round prospect Bradley Chubb, B.J. Hill and Justin Jones, but Street is still a heck of a player. He has great hands with an explosive burst off the ball. He’s a natural speed rusher with the versatility and size at 6-2, 287 to play up and down the line. He had 122 tackles, 19 1/2 for loss, and 9 1/2 sacks and continued to be disruptive force at the East-West Game.

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Miami DE Chad Thomas

Chad Thomas, DE, Miami, Fla. — Thomas was unblockable at times in the East-West Game. With a great burst off the snap, Thomas uses his hands well and dominated whichever offensive lineman was in front of him Saturday. Thomas has tremendous length at 6-6, 275, and finished his career at Miami with 103 tackles, 26 for loss, and 11 sacks.

Damon Webb, S, Ohio State — Webb is an instinctual center fielder with good cover skills. Thought a bit undersize at 5-11, 195, he always seems to be in the right position. Webb’s junior season got off to a shaky start, but he improved tremendously as a senior. He was an honorable mention all-Big 10 selection and then made the AP’s All-Bowl team after an interception return for a touchdown, fumble return and five tackles in the Cotton Bowl win over USC.

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UCLA LB Kenny Young

Chris Worley, LB, Ohio State — The 6-2, 230-pound Cleveland native offers a lot of versatility. He’s played outside and inside and even seen time at safety. He has experience on special teams and is one of those active, high-motor, sideline-to-sideline players coaches love to have. Though he can get a little too aggressive at times, Worley has a lot of upside at the next level and could sneak into the middle rounds of the draft.

Kenny Young, LB, UCLA — Another sideline-to-sideline linebacker, Young had a very good week at the East-West Shrine Game after a productive career at UCLA. The 6-1, 235-pound New Orleans native is an instinctual player with great vision. He had a team-high 110 tackles as a senior to finish his career with 304 stops, including 22 for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. He has excellent speed and solid ball skills, evidenced by five pass breakups and a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.