Though the Shrine Game doesn't get first dibs on the top upperclassmen in the country like the Senior Bowl, you can be sure that there are a handful of players each year that are alums of the East-West Shrine Game that go on to be successful in the NFL. In 2017, it was quarterback Nick Mullens and defensive end Trey Hendrickson. In 2018, it was running back Phillip Lindsay and defensive back Avonte Maddox. With those guys, you could just tell they were on another level by the time the week was over -- an NFL level, you could say.
This year, there are a few players that come to mind when I try to recall guys I really thought had a chance to make it in the league, but if you asked me who the best player I saw this week was, that title would belong to Fresno State wide receiver KeeSean Johnson.
After back-to-back 1,000 yard season at Fresno State, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior wide out made his way down to St. Pete for the Shrine Game as one of the most touted players at the event.
In terms of how he performed in practice, he certainly didn't disappoint.
Aside from having a legendary wide receiver name -- though spelled differently -- Johnson's calling card in his abilities comes from his feet. He has such quick footwork and he combines that with smooth movements in and out of cuts. This creates both an illusion effect to keep defenders guessing and allows him to move from one spot to another with quickness.
It's not just in and out of routes where Johnson can cook defensive backs, either. When coming out of his stance at the line of scrimmage, Johnson shows a good understanding of how to set defenders up and break press coverage, and also shows good speed to get behind defenders and create vertical separation once he does. He isn't the fastest wide receiver in this draft, but he was plenty fast enough to score more than a few times throughout the week.
Johnson seemed to be one of the favorite targets of quarterbacks Brett Rypien, Easton Stick and of course his former teammate Marcus McMaryion. Being a favorite target for all three guys also shows that his style isn't in a single box. He's a player who can have good chemistry with a variety of different quarterbacks.
Versatility, footwork, smooth athleticism and very reliable hands made Johnson not only one of the best offensive players this week but one of the best prospect in St. Pete overall. He has a chance to go in the Top 100 of this year's draft come April.