2020 East/West Shrine Bowl Preview: Tight Ends

Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Senior Bowl is the more nationally known upperclassman all-star event, but every year there are a handful of players from outside the Senior Bowl who make their NFL marks early. Shrine Week is one of my favorite times of the year because of how up close and personal you can be to the action. At TDN, we are going to get you ready in every way we can, and here it starts by previewing the tight end group:

  • Ben Ellefson, North Dakota State
  • Parker Houston, San Diego State
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan
  • Mitchell Wilcox, USF
  • Eli Wolf, Georgia
  • Dominic Wood-Anderson, Tennessee

Top Talent: Mitchell Wilcox, USF

At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Mitchell Wilcox presents NFL teams with that "big slot" kind of role that every team in the league seems to try and fill. He can play in-line with his hand in the ground next to the offensive tackle, but he also does a lot of receiving work as a slot player on the line of scrimmage and away from the trenches. Wilcox is a straight-line player who is comfortable streaking down the seam in the middle of the field. He has never recorded more than 540 yards in a season, but in 2019 he had a career-high in touchdowns (five).

Most Potential: Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Giovanni Ricci is the most accomplished tight end of the group despite coming from a smaller program. In his final season of action for Western Michigan, Ricci recorded 642 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 51 catches, all top marks for each category among the East-West Shrine TEs. Ricci is a "move" player who plays off the line of scrimmage in the slot. He’s used in pre-snap movement to give away coverages and also force potential mismatches. When blocking, Ricci is often aligned in a wingback position behind the offensive tackle as opposed to straight on the line of scrimmage.

Late Round Steal: Ben Ellefson, North Dakota State

It would be an upperclassmen all-star event with some representation from NDSU, would it?

Ben Ellefson is a blocker at heart. He's a true in-line player — or at least has been from his time at NDSU — and is used to complement the run game more than the passing game. He is utilized on play-action, but most of his route tree is built on the bases of comeback routes to the sticks or five yards out. What I like about Ellefson is how well he can get to the outside as a swing and lead blocker. He can square up defenders in space, and that is a useful tool when it comes to tight end evaluation. Hopefully, he is freed up to show more route diversity at the Shrine Bowl.

Most To Prove: Eli Wolf, Georgia

Eli Wolf seems to have the most to prove among the group. He has played for two SEC schools but his production is still relatively unknown. He's a taller tight end at 6-foot-4; but at 235 pounds, he is light for a player that size at the position. Wolf is mostly used as an in-line tight end and as a blocker. He has good natural flexibility and leverage when blocking and can get fairly good drive on defensive ends and linebackers on the end of the line. At the Shrine Bowl, Wolf will get the chance to prove what kind of a receiver he can be.

Big School Sleeper: Dominic Wood-Anderson

Dominic Wood-Anderson is an interesting prospect. At 6-foot-4, and nearly 260 pounds, he presents any NFL team with a good blocking player as a baseline. He's used close to the line of scrimmage — sometimes with his hand down but other times as a stand-up player — but no matter what his role is based around blocking. He doesn't have much receiving production with just 38 career catches in two seasons, but he moves well for a player his size. There's definitely some intrigue here for him going into Shrine Week.