2019 East-West Shrine Preview: Quarterbacks

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. To get ready for the event, we’re going to spend the next two weeks previewing the rosters on a position-by-position basis. This Shrine Game positional preview is on the quarterbacks.

The crowning jewel of Shrine Game QBs will always be Jimmy Garappolo, who came out of FCS school Eastern Illinois (as the FCS Player of the Year) and worked his way into a Round 2 selection in large part through his excellent Shrine performance. It's worth noting that Garappolo came out in a 2014 QB class viewed by many as a weak QB crop: Blake Bortles was first off the board (No. 3 overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by Johnny Manziel (No. 22), Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32) and Derek Carr (No. 36). Again in a week quarterback class, perhaps a small-school riser will come out of Shrine once more and worm his way into the early QB selections.

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. All of the published previews are listed below.

Shrine Game Previews

East Roster

I think the East roster really caught the short end of the stick, when it comes to the quarterbacks. They're fielding Jordan Ta'amu out of Ole Miss, Taylor Cornelius from Oklahoma State, and David Blough out of Purdue.

Ta'amu is the most interesting of the three, as TDN has been sharing for a while now. Ledyard, who always claims he doesn't believe in sleeper QBs, named Ta'amu as his "sleeper" for the class because of his arm talent, ability to use both touch and zip, and movement skills.

But in Ole Miss's offense in which Ta'amu was frequently tasked with reading one route's leverage and throwing a choice player open, Ta'amu frequently remained tethered to one target for far longer than NFL teams would like to see. He jammed balls into windows they could never fit in; he missed open opportunities at other areas of the field.

Ta'amu most show the ability to work a pocket at Shrine practices, by adjusting his feet through his progressions and moving with timing through his reads. The natural ability is there for Ta'amu -- whatever is upstairs will dictate how early he's drafted, and what his long-term outlook is as a developmental player.

I kinda like Blough from Purdue, who enjoyed a wide-open, YAC-heavy system under HC Jeff Brohm in West Lafayette. He has nice mechanics when the pocket is clean, can throw a nine ball with good placement to the sideline, and has sufficient zip. He profiles as a backup at the next level, however, and shrinks under the slightest bit of pressure.

Cornelius is a wild-card -- only a one-year starter for Oklahoma State, who introduced a QB run element to Mike Gundy's offense that we haven't really seen in a while. Cornelius has idle size and arm strength, but his accuracy seems generally untrustworthy at the NFL level.

West Roster

Now this is the good stuff. The two names to which viewers will be glued all week: that's Boise State QB Brett Rypien and North Dakota State QB Easton Stick. Oh -- and they've also got Marcus McMaryion, who had a productive season at Fresno and looks to be a nice dual-threat player. I don't mean to gloss you over, Marcus -- I hope you have a great week.

TDN-ites again will recognize Rypien from...well, from this post on his path to QB1 and this post on the various touch throws he has available and this post detailing his improved 2018 play waaay back in October. I've been a fan of Rypien's since I first wrote him up in the preseason for Boise, but I had my concerns about arm strength and downfield risk management -- and while those are still weaker aspects of his game, Rypien parlayed a strong senior season into a Shrine Game berth, and many still hope to see him make it to the Senior Bowl as well.

Rypien wins with ball placement to all three levels of the field. He is a great touch passer who can fit the ball in intermediate windows and zip it outside the numbers. He has a good throw off-platform and on the move as well, though he does his best work in rhythm from the pocket. His play against pressure is still inconsistent: some plays are super swell, and others are mind-numbingly poor.

Rypien illustrates well the tools/tape discussion that always surrounds quarterbacks at this time of year. Rypien is not as physically gifted, in terms of height/weight/hand size/agility, as most of the top QBs in this class -- but his tape can stand with any of them. If Rypien is to grab NFL eyes despite his physical limitations, he needs to dominate Shrine practices. Light up the one-on-one drills with your placement; dissect coverage shells in 7-on-7. Throw down the gauntlet in front of NFL teams.

Rypien's foil, Easton Stick, does not have the same admiration from TDN staff. Despite the name recognition of his university and the tremendous caliber of winning seasons he's put together, Stick remains an unmeasured quantity given his level of competition. The Shrine Game is bigger for no player than Stick, who must prove that his strengths against FCS opponent will remain strong against NFL-caliber players -- and that his weaknesses aren't exacerbated when the heat is turned up to an 11.

Stick struggles when asked to work through his progressions. His accuracy takes a nose dive and he gets jumpy in the pocket. Even when working just his first read, Stick will get tunnel vision and fail to react to the movement of the defense, which creates turnover-worthy throws and limits his offense. Against a slower speed of play, Stick still illustrated see-first issues in terms of poor anticipation and leverage throws. Those problems won't just evaporate in the NFL.

But what Stick does bring in terms of velocity, pre-snap recognition, and movement skills to extend and create, are all NFL-caliber traits. Like Carson Wentz before him, Stick is a better athlete than we typically see of FCS quarterbacks that have NFL futures, and his mechanics and arm talent are advanced as well. Stick simply is a natural thrower of the football, and will make highlight-reel throws accordingly.

Stick lacks the elite athleticism Wentz brought to the table, and he makes more foolish decisions with the football as well. But he has an NFL future, and the Shrine Game is the first step in a long line of opportunities for Stick to answer: how big is that future?

 

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Deputy Editor of Bleeding Green Nation. Undergrad at UChicago.

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