A preview of the East-West Shrine game ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, including the top five offensive and defensive players — many of whom could be targets for the Oakland Raiders.
The East-West Shrine game practices have been under way this week, with the game commencing mid-day Saturday, January 20. The game plays second fiddle to the Senior Bowl, which is known as the postseason all-star game and scouting event that hosts the top Senior talent headed to the NFL. Nonetheless, the East-West Shrine game put together some quality rosters with several players that will probably be taken on day two of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Here is a look at my top five offensive and defensive players in the game that are playing — and are not injured but still invited — along with some players that might be on Reggie McKenzie’s radar.
Top 5 Offensive Players
#1 – KC McDermott, OT, Miami
KC McDermott is one of the most improved players from what I saw from his 2016 to 2017 tape, and a big reason why Malik Rosier was able to have some success this year for Miami. McDermott was extremely effective in pass coverage, allowing only 2 sacks and 10 total pressures on 419 pass block snaps — a pass blocking efficiency of 98.1, good for 16th in FBS among draft eligible OTs (according to PFF).
I think a big reason for that improvement had to do with a focus on his technique through footwork, hand placement and pre-snap recognition. He always had the tools to be an above average OT, but 2017 was the year he finally put the technical pieces together.
Grade: Late 2nd or early 3rd Round
#2 – Daesean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
I have been a big fan of Daesean for a while. He played primarily from the slot at Penn State but I think he has the skills to play outside if asked. He perfected the slot fade from Trace McSorley over the years, which as evident in their Fiesta Bowl victory in which Hamilton went off for a couple TDs, was nearly unstoppable in 2017.
He is also very dangerous after the catch and I believe he will test very well at the combine. He needs to develop a more diverse route tree, but I think he has the tools to be a productive slot receiver in the NFL.
Grade: 4th Round
#3 – Brian Allen, C, Michigan State
If you are following a lot of the national scouts reporting from The East-West Shrine game, you will notice that a lot of people are raving about Brian Allen– it’s easy to understand why if you watch his film. He is a nasty, old school center type that plays through the whistle and gets under his opponents skin. I love his playing style.
Allen has been on the interior for Michigan State for years and has led many productive groups during his time. He is a leader and a player that is fits the description of “NFL ready”. He isn’t the biggest or strongest but he gets it done with technique, intelligence and attitude.
Grade: 4th Round
#4 – Coleman Shelton, C, Washington
Another center prospect that plays with an edge, Coleman has more mobility and lateral quickness than Brian Allen, but he is not as strong all-around and can at times get overwhelmed with bigger and stronger interior defensive linemen.
I love the edge that he plays with and I think he can be a quality NFL starter, which is a steal if you can get him in a mid-late round.
Grade: 5th Round
#5 – Jacob Alsadek, OG, Arizona
Jacob Alsadek has been a reliable and high-performing four-year starter for the Arizona Wildcats. He has prototypical NFL size and strength at the offensive guard position and he has really strong hand technique. He does a good job of keeping his hands inside and has the strength to stay engaged with his blocking assignment and create holes for his running backs.
Alsadek is balanced and reliable in pass protection, allowing only 1 sack and 8 pressures in 2017 on 302 pass block snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
Grade: 5th Round
Honorable Mentions – Offense
Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa: He has created some buzz at practice with great size and speed combo. I think his route running is still pretty raw, but he knows how to go up and get it. It sounds like he is going to test really well and he might continue to shoot up boards as a result.
Jordan Thomas, WR/TE, Mississippi State: At 6’5″, 270, he is built like a TE but was primarily used as a WR at Mississippi State. He shows some smoothness in his routes and has massive mitts that he uses to attack the ball at the catch point. He needs work, but he is worth a late-round pick with some physical gifts you can’t teach.
D’Ernest Johnson, RB, USF: He actually reminds a little bit of USF’s feature back last year and now Indianapolis Colt, Marlon Mack. He is a lean and athletic and is effective as a pass catcher. He shows pretty good burst and change of direction ability and I think he will be a nice RB2 or RB3 at the next level.
Top 5 Defensive Players
#1 – Chad Thomas, EDGE, Miami
Chat Thomas is my top rated player at the East-West Shrine game now that Javon Wims is out nursing a shoulder injury. I have Chad as my 5th ranked 4-3 EDGE defender and he is someone I think the Raiders could target in the 2nd or 3rd round if he slips a little bit.
He has great size at 6’5″, 275 (same size Bradley Chubb) and he is fantastic against the run. He creates early leverage on offensive tackles and sheds them with ease and he has started to develop nicely as a pass rusher. He has developed more of a pass rush repertoire that typically feature his strong and fast hands, as well as a powerful bull rush.
Thomas split time with fellow EDGE defender Trent Harris, so his numbers don’t blow you away at first glance. But with 264 pass rush snaps he generated 5 sacks, and 30 total pressures for pass rush efficiency of 8.8 (according to PFF) — better than some other highly regarded peers such as Josh Sweat, Dorance Armstrong, Davin Bellamy, Jalyn Holmes and Marcell Frazier.
Grade: 2nd Round
#2 – Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech
All of Raider Nation knows that cornerback is a weakness and is a position Reggie McKenzie will need to address this offseason, albeit through the draft or free agency. Greg Stroman is a name to keep an eye on, and he is my 10th ranked CB in this draft class. His weight in at the East-West Shrine was a disappointing 174 pounds, which is a little concerning and that dropped him a grade for me.
On the plus side, Stroman is extremely athletic and fluid in coverage. He allowed only 9 receptions on 41 targets in 2017, and QBs had a passer rating of 20.9 when targeting him. He had as impressive of a year as anyone in coverage this season. A former WR, he has natural hands and instincts for the ball with 4 interceptions and 11 passes defensed. He also provides value on special teams as a dangerous punt returner with 4 career punt return touchdowns.
It’s his strength and run support ability that will concern scouts. I am mostly concerned about his ability to press and jam stronger WRs at the NFL level and I think he will be a liability as a tackler. Nonetheless, the pass coverage skills are good enough that he is going to get considerable day two looks.
Grade: 3rd Round
#3 – Kentavius Street, DL, NC State
Bradley Chubb is the crown jewel from the NC State defensive line, but he is not the only name that will be called in late April. Kentavius Street will likely be the second of that group to be called.
Street is a physical specimen and workout warrior that is sure to impress at the combine and pro days. His production at NC State was somewhat overwhelming, but he flashes raw strength through stout run defending and edge setting. He is versatile and can play on the edge in base and inside on sub packages which will be attractive to defensive coordinators. I don’t think he will ever be an elite pass rusher, but rather a strong rotational player that will make occasional splash plays.
Grade: 5th Round
#4 – Chris Worley, LB, Ohio State
I love me some Chris Worley. I had him at a 2nd/3rd round grade coming into the 2017 season, as his 2016 was as clean and technically sound as you can find in a linebacker. He is incredibly instinctive in diagnosing plays developing in front of him and filling the correct gap. He is a sound tackler and is natural in coverage. He has been banged up in 2017 and you can see that it affected his play a bit, but he still flashed tendencies that I loved from 2016.
Worley is an average athlete at 6’1 3/8″, 232 pounds, but with a 76 3/8″ wingspan, he has the length that coaches are looking for in three-down LBs. If McKenzie is going to spend another middle round pick on a LB, Worley would be quite high on my wish list.
Grade: 5th Round
#5 – Tre Flowers, S, Oklahoma State
Tre Flowers has experience in spades. He has played in 51 games at Oklahoma State as a four-year starter. He is long and lean and cover a lot of ground as a true free safety prospect. He has only 4 career interceptions but 25 career passes defensed, which reflects the above average breaking and timing he shows on tape.
Flowers uses his long arms and aggressiveness as his key ingredients as a sound tackler. He had only 5 missed tackles in 686 snaps in 2017 (per PFF). He reminds me a little bit of Saints safety Marcus Williams (yes, the guy that missed the tackle but also had a really good rookie year).
Honorable Mentions – Defense
Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State: Elite athlete that plays with an edge. At 217 pounds, he will have to be a WLB that can run free and chase the ball at the next level. He has good pass rushing skills and is a violent tackler. But he has some character concerns and some inconsistency issues, which will push him into the day three conversation.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, EDGE, Arkansas State: Undersized at 6’1″/244, but Rolland-Jones has been incredibly productive at Arkansas State as an edge defender with 42 career sacks. He is good, not great, across the board. Above average first step, bend, edge setting and pass rush plan, and he just has a feel for keeping offensive linemen off balance and getting to the QB. Size will limit his role, but he can definitely be an effective pass rush threat at the next level.
Damon Webb, S, Ohio State: He has been the forgotten man in the Ohio State secondary for two years in a row, but he played like a star this past year, accounting for 5 interceptions. He is undersized for a safety at 5’10″/196, which makes me wonder if NFL folks might see if he is fluid enough to play slot corner. I think he might be. The one thing that really stands out to me when I watch Damon is he rarely ever takes a bad angle to the ball both when moving forward at a ball carrier and backwards when the ball is in the air.