Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2019 Shrine Game. The all-star event has hosted some great talent in recent years and this season is no exception. But who is the cream of the crop? Here are the headline names at each position.
Quarterback - Brett Rypien, Boise State
Both Rypien and North Dakota State's Easton Stick were potential Senior Bowl targets, but both were bumped off the roster in favor of early entrants such as Daniel Jones and late addition Tyree Jackson.
Rypien took big strides forward in his senior season. I was impressed with some added velocity on his throws and the accuracy he illustrated under pressure. No, Rypien doesn't show elite physical tools. But he's an experienced passer who shows very good efforts in quick passing concepts and throws well in rhythm.
Rypien is a potential low end to average starter in the NFL.
Running Back - Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
This year's Shrine crop features a lot of big backs. But none of them move as smoothly as Ozigbo. LIke Rypien, Ozigbo is a late bloomer who had his best performance as a senior in 2018. Ozigbo, who rushed for over 1,000 yards, shows good open field speed and smooth lateral cuts.
At a listed 235 pounds, Ozigbo puts defenders in a bind with his combination of size and mobility.
Wide Receiver - DaMarkus Lodge, Mississippi
Lodge is another surprise omission from the Senior Bowl. But one man's trash is another man's treasure and Lodge is a huge addition to the Shrine event. Lodge is potentially one of the best players in attendance regardless of position.
Lodge plays well in a lot of areas. He can separate on the boundary and shows toughness after the catch, too. Lodge will have every chance to establish his footing in a setting where he isn't playing in the shadow of A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.
Tight End - Andrew Beck, Texas
If your expectation is that Beck is a big time TE prospect, you'll be sorely mistaken. But if you're looking for a quality NFL tight end who shows some reliable hands and brings effective play as an in-line blocker, you're in luck!
Beck lacks high end physical tools but he's a pretty sharp technician as a blocker. Beck should be a Day-3 pick in this year's NFL Draft but don't be surprised when he makes a 53-man roster.
Offensive Line - Martez Ivey, Florida
Ivey is a frustrating study in that he hasn't taken advancements in his technique during his time with the Florida program. He's still a promising physical talent and he also offers positional flexibility. Ivey has more positive reps playing the run than he does in space as a pass protector.
With a good showing this week, Ivey could potentially push himself up out of the late rounds.
Interior Defensive Line - Renell Wren, Arizona State
A bull in a china shop, Wren has great first step quickness and offers some physical toughness against down blocks and pass sets. Can Wren show more usage with his hands this week? If he can, Wren has starter upside.
But Wren also hasn't shown any consistency in such areas during his time with the Sun Devils. NFL coaches will have to feel confident in their ability to unlock his physical upside.
EDGE Defender - Kyle Phillips, Tennessee
Speaking of physical upside, Phillips is a former five-star recruit to Tennessee. In his time with the Vols, he's logged just a handful of sacks and hasn't lived up to his potential. But he's got a really well developed lower half, suggesting he can be an effective anchor defender at the LOS. And when Phillips has been given the chance to queue up a snap, he shows some nice spring off the line.
There are some small school prospects in attendance this year that figure to flash throughout the week, but Phillips has notable physical upside.
Linebacker - Khalil Hodge, Buffalo
Hodge is a tackling machine out of Buffalo. Not necessarily the kind of player that is going to thrive in traffic or get off of a lot of blocks, he won't be for everyone. But in space, Hodge has great pursuit skills and is a good finisher at contact (as evidenced by his 419 tackles in 3 seasons).
The all-star event should be a great opportunity for Hodge to show off his athleticism in space.
Cornerback - Michael Jackson, Miami
Jackson won't be for everyone. He's a long, press man corner and is very combative at the line of scrimmage. Jackson didn't necessarily meet his expectations coming into the 2018 season, but he figures to appeal to scheme specific teams hoping to acquire some length on the boundary.
Safety - Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
Wingard is a tackle machine. Add in 10 career interceptions and this kid has a true nose for the football. Having been asked to do a little bit of everything, Wingard projects as a deep half Safety and potential box defender in nickel situations. I'm looking forward to seeing how well Wingard moves in space up close and personal this week.