East-West Shrine Game Preview

This coming Saturday marks one of my favorite parts of the draft process. It’s the East-West Shrine game in St Petersburg, Florida. Not only do you get some national exposure to some less heralded prospects, the Shrine game is in the name of a fantastic cause. If you’re not aware of the work that the Shriners Hospital for Children do, I’d implore you to take a look.

I want to take a quick look at a few players on each team to keep an eye out for on Saturday.

West Roster:

Adam Shead – Guard – Oklahoma

Shead (6’ 3”, 339 lbs) is a 3 year starter at left guard for the Sooners. Shead was named 2nd team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches in his senior season. Was a part of a great season for freshman running back Samaje Perine and saw his team run for 40 touchdowns. Shead is primarily a run blocker with the size and strength to be a physically imposing player.

Jordan Taylor – Wide Receiver – Rice

Taylor is a big target at 6’ 5” and has put together some nice production in the past 3 years despite being in a run-heavy offense. Taylor has 176 catches, 2588 yards and 20 touchdowns to his name. With the Bills making a conscious effort to add size at the position in the recent past (may we never forget you, Mike Williams), Taylor could draw some interest.

John Crockett – Running Back – North Dakota State

Crockett stepped up as the lead back in Fargo this year after splitting carries with Sam Ojuri for a couple of years and put together a fantastic season and helped the Bison to a 4th straight FCS title in the process. Crockett gained 1994 yards on the ground and another 394 receiving combining for 22 touchdowns in 2014.

Crockett has great speed and acceleration and runs with decisiveness. He has the lateral agility to make defenders miss at the 2nd level but has enough power to gain yards after contact. If the Bills want to add versatility to the backfield, Crockett would be an intriguing option.

Chucky Hunter – Defensive Tackle – TCU

With Kyle Williams not getting any younger, it would be wise to keep an eye on some explosive 3-technique candidates. Hunter is a similar size to Williams at 6’ 1”, 310 lbs.

Hunter has drawn some high praise during the Shrine practices for showing off great penetration and was a key cog in the TCU defense that only allowed 109 yards per game on the ground and 2.78 yards per carry. Individually, Chucky had 3 sacks this season and registered 9.5 tackles for loss.

James Vaughters – Outside Linebacker – Stanford

Vaughters put together a great senior season at Stanford. He managed to account for 51 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Standing at 6’ 3”, 258 lbs, he brings some physical stature to his speed as a pass rusher.

With Rex Ryan in total control of the defense and the likelihood of multiple schemes, a player like Vaughters might intrigue him as a situational rusher.

East Roster:

John Miller – Guard – Louisville

One of the players that has come out of the week of practice with glowing reviews is Louisville’s John Miller. Miller was a 4 year starter at Louisville playing left guard. Miller won’t blow you away with one particular attribute but he’s strong as an ox and shows decent athletic ability and technique. Probably a player with a Day 3 consideration but would fit the blueprint for the new Buffalo Roman empire.

Wes Saxton – Tight End – South Alabama

Saxton had something of a disappointing senior year with the Jaguars. He battled injuries and saw a drop-off in his production but in a TE class that doesn’t offer a great deal of top-end quality, he’s an intriguing option.

Saxton measured in at just under 6’ 4”, 242 lbs. His game is based more off using his athletic prowess to create mismatches in the passing game. He’s not a good blocker but could be used creatively as an option in a passing attack.

Za’Darius Smith – Defensive End – Kentucky

Smith was a 2 year starter at Kentucky after transferring from the JUCO ranks. He has shown great strength at the point of attack and uses his hands well. Smith has racked up 10.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss at the FBS level.

Smith is the lesser heralded prospect of the Kentucky defenders behind teammate Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree but he’s certainly draftable and at 6′ 6″, 265 lbs he would fit well as a 4-3 defensive end.

Josh Shaw – Corner – USC

Shaw made headlines for all the wrong reasons during the season. He was suspended after lying about the nature of his sprained ankles, claiming that he jumped from a balcony to save his drowning nephew. In reality, he jumped after an argument with his girlfriend.

On the field, there’s a lot to like about him. He’s got the sort of stature that teams will like (6’ 1”, 200 lbs) and plays with a physicality that will appeal. Has 6 career interceptions including one for a touchdown vs Hawaii in 2013. Possesses versatility having played corner and safety in his career.

After impressing at practice, he’s going the right way to rebuild his tarnished reputation. A good game on Saturday will do wonders for him.

The East-West Shrine game is being screened on NFL Network on Saturday at 4pm EST.