Typically, Shrine Week is designated for small school players to emerge from amidst the toils of anonymity they've been trapped in during their college careers, but this year things have been a bit different.
Sure, you still have guys like Mathieu Betts, Keesean Johnson, Oli Udoh, Cody Thompson and others who have clearly stood out, but they've had to compete with several Power 5 players who are also garnering plenty of deserved attention. Three of those players play wide receiver for the East team, and they have not disappointed this week. Auburn's Ryan Davis, Ole Miss' DaMarkus Lodge and Georgia's Terry Godwin have been three of the best players in attendance at the game, all moving the needle up on their stock so far.
Davis was mostly a screen game, run-after-catch guy at Auburn, padding Jarrett Stidham's stats with his open field ability and breakaway speed. In St. Pete, Davis has showed a much more versatile skill set, torching Michael Jackson with a double move on Monday that left the sidelines humming. Today it was this explosive corner route against Jimmy Moreland that caused everyone to perk up.
Davis has shown far better route-running ability than I would have expected for a player that was often used in a gadget role for Auburn, a tool that will bode very well for his projection to the slot at the next level.
Godwin is another player that might need to move inside, but he's been arguably the best wide receiver in St. Pete. I think he can play outside or inside, as he's polished enough to get off press and diverse enough as a route runner to kick into the slot. His ability to get out of breaks at full speed and catch the ball away from his frame has been eye-popping this week.
Godwin is also an excellent blocker with enough speed to win deep. I liked him over the summer, and these practices have only enhanced by desire to see him in Mobile next week. His small frame won't excite NFL teams, but he's got the traits needed to win as a pro.
Speaking of players you'd like to see at the Senior Bowl, Lodge has been very impressive this week as well, showing outstanding ball skills and strong hands. That's huge for him given the number of passes he dropped at Ole Miss. He's also won vertically throughout the first two days, showing the speed to run by most of the corners here.
Now, Lodge has struggled with his footwork out of the break at times, taking extra steps to gear down and separate. That isn't something I saw on tape from him, but the lack of diversity in his route tree is something to note when projecting him to more in-breaking routes. I also think he's been grabbed several times mid-route, but needs to keep his hands active to maintain space, something he showed the ability to do vertically at Ole Miss, but will now need to do over the middle of the field.
Shrine is still the stage for small school guys to capture our attention and analysis, even if just for a week, but they aren't the only ones impressive in Florida. Lodge, Godwin and Davis were all arguably underutilized in different ways during their college careers, and are now making the most of their opportunity to show NFL teams all that they are capable of.