Get excited football fans, TDN is primed to provide you with unparalleled coverage of the East-West Shrine Game. We have five members of our staff (JC Cornell, Trevor Sikkema, Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino and Jon Ledyard) credentialed for the week to deliver you the most comprehensive analysis possible on the practices and games.
Don't sleep on how important the Shrine Game could prove for interior defensive line prospects. Just last year, P.J. Hall from Sam Houston State parlayed a great Shrine week into a Top-60 selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Deadrin Senat from USF followed quickly at 90th overall. Hall and Senat, along with Delaware's Bilal Nichols (Round 5) and Texas' Poona Ford (UDFA) have all taken starter reps for their teams this season.
It’s time to give this important event the media coverage it deserves. Practices begin on January 14th and the game itself is on January 19th. To get ready for the event, we’re going to spend the next two weeks previewing the rosters on a position-by-position basis. Next up are the defensive tackles.
Read the 2019 Shrine Game EDGE Preview here.
The East boasts of the stronger of the two rosters, both in terms of number -- they have 5 iDL to the West's 4 -- and overall talent. The two headliners here are Virginia Tech's Ricky Walker and Temple's Michael Dogbe. As Joe first wrote back in the preseason, Walker will prove a sleeper DT in this class because of his motor, burst, and lateral agility. He profiles as a one-gap penetrating type, and though his numbers slightly dipped this season, a combined 23 TFLs and 6.5 sacks across two years is not bad for a college defensive tackle.
Dogbe is a player who has caught my eye at multiple times this season, especially when I was writing up his teammate and Senior Bowl attendee CB Rock Ya-Sin. Unlike Walker, Dogbe wins with size, strength, and hand power. He's lacking for agility and thereby does not have a stellar rush profile, but as a potential two-gapper, he can line up anywhere from the 0-tech to the 4-technique.
Beyond Dogbe and Walker, the player that most pricks up my ears here is Cortez Broughton. PFF's a big fan of Broughton's snap-by-snap productivity, especially against the run: but at 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds, you do have to wonder if he has the functional mass to hold up as an interior player. Broughton's penetration and rush numbers exploded this year: 18.5 TFLs (whoo! 3rd in the AAC) and 7.5 sacks -- that's compared to 10.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks across the three seasons previous. Does he have an under tackles quickness and arsenal of rush moves against NFL competition?
Rounding out the East: Rutgers' Kevin Wilkins and Syracuse's Chris Slayton. Both are 315+ pounders who seem to bring over tackle anchoring ability, but not much more. Wilkins won the David Bender award, which is granted by Rutgers to their best lineman, but his last sack came in 2016. Slayton, a little lighter and more versatile across the line, may not have a great fit at the next level.
While the West may not have the depth the East does, they do have the crowning jewel: Terry Beckner Jr., out of Missouri, is probably the best defensive tackle in the building. Coming in the Top-150 of Jon's most recent Big Board, Beckner flashes the quick hands, good lower body power, and rush move array to present a disruptive force on the interior. His measurables likely won't be great -- the Shrine Game has him at an official 6-foot-3, 286 pounds -- and he has some length issues on film. But overall, he has the best upside profile among this crop, and likely the most polished rush as well.
Beyond Beckner, I know that Kansas' Daniel Wise (6-foot-2, 290) has some fans in NFL Draft circles. The brother of Deatrich Wise, who was selected in the fourth round by the Patriots two years ago, Wise is lauded for his hot motor, quick get-off, and flexibility from the 3-tech to the 5-tech. Our Brad Kelly is worried that Wise is maxed out and will never have the function strength to hold up on the inside, which could spell a move outside and expose Wise's average pass-rush ability.
And finally in St. Pete's, it's Arkansas' Armon Watts and Texas' Chris Nelson. Overshadowed by Senior Bowl attendee and teammate Charles Omenihu, Nelson was expected to be a bigger thing following the 2016 season, as he was named a first-team Big-12 defensive tackle. But he's failed to match his statistical output in the two years since, and must prove he has nose tackle ability during Shrine Week. Rather the opposite phenomenon for Watts, a first-year starter who exploded from a production standpoint (8.5 TFLs, 7 sacks) this year. Long and well-built, Watts is the sleeper player to watch in this iDL group.