2017 East-West Shrine Game Recap (Fantasy Football)

Jan 23, 2017

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts improved his NFL Draft stock with a solid showing this weekend

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The East-West Shrine Game was a real offensive affair…10–3 the final for the West team. The West team drove within the 5-yard line on their first two drives of the game but were stuffed going for it on 4th & goal the first time and settled for a field goal on the second drive. Two-and-a-half quarters later, the West scored the game’s only TD and went on to win the game.

Without a lot of offensive fireworks, it’s hard to get excited about any of the offensive prospects for fantasy based on this effort. However, there were a few moments of interest with prospects for upcoming dynasty rookie drafts and for fantasy 2017. I watched all those moments, and here are some of the things I observed from scouting the 2017 East-West Shrine Game…

Check out an early top 10 draft list for 2017 fantasy drafts >>

— There was some buzz about Utah running back Joe Williams being the game’s most athletic RB prospect and an odds-on favorite to win the game MVP. On his very first carry of the game, he reeled off a 35-yard run. It was all going according to the script, at that point, but then he managed just 13 yards rushing on his final 6 carries.

The numbers were one thing, but I didn’t notice any extraordinary ‘pop’ from Williams at all in this game. On his big carry there was a wide-open hole that he ran through untouched and had one safety to beat for a 40+ yard TD run, and Williams just danced with him, awkwardly, and then meekly scooted out of bounds. I thought he’d be unstoppable in the open field. He wasn’t unstoppable or even a mild standout in his big opportunity in the East-West game.

De’Veon Smith was pushed as the game’s true best RB prospect. All we heard was what a great week of practice he had. I’m not sure Smith had positive yards on any carry in the first half – every run he had was for a loss it seemed. He wound up with 23 yards rushing on 11 carries (2.1 ypc) for the game. He’s got size (225+ pounds) but showed to be more of a 4.6+ 40-time runner…more of an undrafted prospect than one likely to be taken. I’d blame it on the O-Line, but Smith didn’t ‘wow’ anyone with his 2016 performance all season either. Smith’s OK, not a future star NFL running back.

— Toledo tight end Michael Roberts was one of two players that really jumped out at me as a top NFL prospect from this game. Roberts only had two catches (and only two targets), but it’s the minor details of each grab that are important.

His first catch, a simple release route from the tight end spot and a sit-down within the zone about 7–to-8 yards downfield. He caught the pass, but then he spun around and headed up field quicker than many scouts expected he could (including me). In this game of all-stars, the 260+ pound Roberts caught a pass flat-footed and then spun around and raced past NFL prospect defenders who couldn’t move fast enough to stop him at the point of the catch and had to work to grab him downfield.

On Roberts’s second catch, he caught a very short pass flaring out of the backfield on 3rd & long, and was hit by two tacklers immediately – one he ‘shooed’ away with his hand like a mosquito, sending the would-be tackler flying out of bounds, and the other he just ran over/through. He then took off towards the long first down conversion and smashed the defenders trying to stop him short and pushed them back enough to convert the first down. Four defenders took clear shots at Roberts and could not stop him. It was the play of the game from an ‘awe’ perspective.

Here it is on video, be sure to watch the slow motion replay…

Roberts has been invited to go to the Senior Bowl next week, so he’s catching the attention of scouts as a top TE prospect, not just a ‘sleeper’ prospect anymore. Roberts is going to be a 2017 dynasty rookie draft factor depending on his NFL landing spot. He may start pushing among the top three tight end prospects for this draft.

An additional note on Roberts — reportedly measured with 11.5″+ hands, which is massive and a big scouting plus. We’ll see what he measures in at officially at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday.

— The other player who ‘made money’ in this game was Arkansas DE prospect Deatrich Wise Jr. To me, he was the MVP of this game. They don’t publicize the defensive stats in these all-star contests, but Wise had 5–to-7 tackles and at least 2.0 sacks, and just missed out on 2-to–3 more sacks. It seemed every play he was in the game he was breathing down the QB’s neck. He made plays in the backfield rushing the passer and he also chased plays side to side making tackles in the run game.

Wise was possibly the most impressive NFL talent in this game, considering the importance of edge-rushers who can do more than just rush. He’s 6′5″/275, and his NFL Combine speed-agility times could push him as a top 50–to-75 prospect (or banish him to the late rounds). With a good NFL Combine, Wise could become a sleeper IDP prospect for 2017.

— No quarterback helped their NFL prospects in this game. If anything, it just sealed their fates as future undrafted and practice squad bodies (at best). The one QB prospect I thought had a little something and might get a bump with a surprise outing was Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel. Instead, Kiel was in the argument for the worst-looking quarterback in this game (filled with weak QB prospects). He was tentative and didn’t make any signature plays at all.

— Despite the flimsy numbers in this game (2 catches for 11 yards), I still believe Air Force WR prospect Jalen Robinette is the top fantasy WR prospect to watch from the East-West Shrine. He has a lot of Tyrell Williams and Josh Doctson in him. He had two bubble screen opportunities and even in those two simple targets you could see the size and speed-agility-burst. He caught the ball smoothly and showed a nice spring in his step. I can’t blame him for the fact that the QB play in this game was awful.

You can see Robinette next week at the Senior Bowl as well.

— Whatever draft hopes Washington State WR Gabe Marks had for this game – it backfired. Marks dropped two passes in the game and then later butchered a fair catch punt which became a turnover leaving the opposing East team in the red zone with a final chance to tie/win the game (the East team could not punch it in). Marks looked below average (NFL-wise) with his open-field speed and was thinner-framed on top of displaying poor hands. Not good.

— Alabama WR Gehrig Dieter led all receivers with four catches in this game. He displayed a poor man’s Jordy Nelson ability – size (6′3″/210) with good hands and an ability to run routes to get open.

Dieter had 15 catches for 214 yards and four TDs last season for Alabama, but keep in mind the year prior he posted 94 receptions for 1,033 yards and 10 TDs for Bowling Green State. He graduated early and took advantage of an instant transfer to Alabama for his senior year.

— NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah announced a bold prediction on UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau – predicting he would ultimately work his way into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s not a crazy prediction. Recently, the East-West game hasn’t seen first round talents, but Moreau showed evidence of being a shutdown corner at UCLA in 2016, and opponents barely threw his way last year. He looked the part of an NFL corner in this game.

It’s Senior Bowl week! Join us for the top fantasy prospects to watch out for at the 2017 Senior Bowl and a recapping of the game.

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