2019 East-West Shrine Game: Top 5 Fantasy Prospects Preview

Jan 17, 2019

Jamal Custis has immense talent and could rocket up draft boards in the coming months

R.C. Fischer previews the 2019 East-West Shrine Game for FantasyPros.

This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from R.C. head to Fantasy Football Metrics.

I’ve been scouting the East-West Shrine game for about seven years now, and I feel like they are really coming on in their scouting/with the prospects they are bringing in. The Senior Bowl has been poaching a few players from them the past few years as the East-West game continues to improve their scouting ways. The East-West game used to be a mini-vacation in Florida in January for scouts and spending more time prepping for Senior Bowl the following week…now, the East-West game is becoming a place to be for scouts (and agents).

Last year, the East-West game had Phillip Lindsay, Tre Flowers (Seattle starting CB all season), DaeSean Hamilton (and then he went to the Senior Bowl the following week) among other rookies in this game who would go on to play a decent role in the 2018 season for their respective teams. This year, I think the East-West committee has outdone themselves with their group of invites. As a scout, I’m more interested in the East-West game than ever. I’m getting more calls and emails from clients and subscribers on the players in Florida this week than ever before.

I’ve watched 20-60 minutes of preview scouting tape of every prospect (except the O-Line) at the East-West week/game this year and looked over their output/stats from their college career over the past month or so. I scout college prospects for a living in the offseason for CollegeFootballMetrics.com, and I will ultimately produce statistical scouting grades on all these prospects when the measurables start coming in from the NFL Combine and Pro Days to complete my computer scouting models/grades on these players for NFL and CFL clients and high-stakes fantasy/dynasty players. However, this is my first impression scouting of the East-West top prospects (subject to change when the measurables hit and computer models run). FantasyPros asked me to cover the East-West game for them again this season, and in keeping with the fantasy theme – I will offer up my top five prospects of interest (based on initial scouting) to watch for from this game…ranked as if I’m drafting them for dynasty/fantasy purposes.

#5) Shawn Poindexter (WR – Arizona) 6’4″/200
Poindexter is a former college volleyball player turned WR…6’4″+ with ‘hops.’ It took him a few years to figure things out, barely making noise his first two seasons, but in 2018 he caught 11 TD passes in 12 games. What’s more impressive is that he had nine TDs in his final five college games, with a four-game stretch with two TDs in each game.

Poindexter is a raw talent, but is still learning. He has a higher ceiling than the more polished East-West WR prospects Cody Thompson (Toledo) and Terry Godwin (Georgia) because Poindexter is just coming into his own. I currently rank Poindexter ahead of Godwin/Thompson based on the higher ceiling/upside.

Poindexter shows a lot of potential – great size, athleticism, hands improving. If he adds 10-15 pounds of muscle with base line athleticism, he might shock the NFL in short order as a late-round draft pick who is a game-changer at the next-level.

#4) B.J. Blount (LB – McNeese State) 6’0″/215
102 tackles, 20.0 TFLs, and 11.0 sacks in 10 games in 2018, helped him warn the title of Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The more tape I watch, the more I love what I see. Tremendous closing speed and a fantastic hitter. He tackles with authority. Clearly the best linebacker prospect here this week.

His basic tape shows signs of something special, but we need to see more of him against elevated competition. This might be a Darius Johnson/Telvin Smith-type story in the making – looks like a safety-hybrid linebacker, but plays (and stars) at inside linebacker in the new NFL needing fast interior linebackers. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got called to the Senior Bowl next week.

#3) Ty Johnson (RB – Maryland) 5’10″/205
A real NFL talent at running back for this game…the only RB prospect here, to me, with legit NFL aspirations. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry his entire four-year career at Maryland…and misused/suppressed by how bad Maryland’s program was. Johnson was capable of bigger numbers.

Johnson did rush for 100+ yards in a game 11 times in his college career, but spent too many games splitting carries to really show off his skills or rack bigger numbers/output. He might not be the three-down thumper that NFL teams crave, but he’d make a great part of an RB-duo or as a third-down/change of pace guy.

13 times in his college career, Johnson saw 11 or more carries and averaged 12.8 carries for 92.4 rushing yards (7.2 ypc) per game and rushed for seven TDs. Johnson finished #1 in all the NCAA with 9.1 yards per carry in 2016. He’s seventh all-time in yards per carry among eligible RBs (since 1956). He was also the #4 kick return average (24.3) return man in the Big Ten in 2017 and was #2 (27.2) in 2018.

He has NFL burst and second-level speed to go along with a nice toughness for his 205-pound frame. He plays bigger and tougher than he looks at a glance, shows good hands in the passing game, and made some terrific cuts as a runner with his NFL-level shift ability. I’m very impressed. He’ll be a sleeper RB from this draft.

#2) Jonathan Duhart (WR – Old Dominion) 6’2″/220
As I watched his preview scouting tape in prep for this week, I was like…”Wow!” Duhart is a terrific prospect at first glance — 74 catches for 1,045 yards and nine TDs in 2018, which was a nice ‘share’ of the passing game for Old Dominion in 2018 (37% of the teams catches, 30% of their yards, and 43% of the receiving TDs).

ODU upset Virginia Tech this season and Duhart went off for nine catches, 142 yards, and three TDs in that game…and his final TD catch in that game was with a CB literally pulling his jersey off in front of the referee (no call) on an end zone heave. I’m very excited to scout Duhart’s work deeper after his measurables come in. In my first preview study, I see the size, hands, and athleticism of a legit NFL starter.

#1) Jamal Custis (WR – Syracuse) 6’4″+/220
So far, one of my favorite players of my early 2019 scouting previews (all the East-West and Senior Bowl prospect invites). That includes bigger name receivers like Kevin Harmon or any of the RBs/QBs. I need to see more and study deeper on Custis, but I felt like I was watching a young Calvin Johnson-ish prospect here, at times.

He has legit size — a wiry frame and muscular strength — with a bounce in his step and a confidence in his catching ability — he makes spectacular catches with ease. He’s got great pop in his legs after the catch. How he’s not at the Senior Bowl is a mystery. Straight-line speed looking like 4.55+ is one thing that makes me pause from shouting ‘superstar.’

I need to really dig in here because I see that he’s a bit ‘raw’ as a WR, but in a good way…like there is nice upside with more work. So many raw physical tools but doesn’t know how to harness them all…but I also need to watch all the tape/games to see if there might be some issue catching the ball consistently. He’s had some drops noted, but people love to scream ‘drop’ anytime a guy gets his hands on the ball – Custis was working wide, deep, bubble screens, over the middle. He isn’t playing it safe and he sees a lot of targets all over the field, so he’ll have a drop occasionally in traffic/in the danger zone. I see way more ‘wow’ catches than I do any concerns.

I was impressed from the first snap I watched. How Custis is barely listed as a top WR prospect early on and D.K. Metcalf is a top three-to-five guy for early draft prospect rankers is shocking to me. I’ll take Custis over Metcalf based on preview tape before we get the NFL Combine/Pro Day numbers.

If you watch this highlight reel tape, you’ll fall in love — yet you never see him anywhere near the early top 10-20 WRs for this draft. I don’t understand. Consider it my gift to you. I’ll do a full scouting report on Custis at College Football Metrics with computer model grading after his measurables are reported.

*Note that there are some great CB prospects at this game, but the fantasy/IDP impact of corners is shaky, so apologies to Jamal Peters (Miss State), Michael Jackson (Miami, Fla), Blace Brown (Troy), who look like legit NFL corners for sure…but they didn’t make the fantasy top five.

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