2020 East-West Shrine Bowl: Practice Notes and Top 5 Fantasy Prospects Preview
R.C. Fischer previews the 2020 East-West Shrine Game for FantasyPros.
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Every year, for the past 7-plus years, I conduct and mini/preview scouting study of all the East-West Shrine Bowl prospects to get a feel for them ahead of the East-West event week, and then I watch them at work in the practice week (and game) to get an early feel them for my NFL (and CFL and now XFL) Draft clients and for Dynasty-Fantasy owners on my scouting site, College Football Metrics.
The East-West Shrine Game has become the strong No.2 All-Star event of the draft season for scouts, but it still runs behind the Senior Bowl in the level of talent and attendance. But the East-West Shrine committee has been chipping away at that gap for the past few years, and I think they’ve got a couple of prospects here in 2020 that deserve Senior Bowl attention…and who might get the late call to got Mobile next week based on their activity in St. Petersburg.
I’m going to share a few practice notes from this East-West week observations, with a Dynasty-Fantasy mindset, and then a ranking of the five best prospects for fantasy, at this stage (pre-Combine/Pro Day data) attending this week.
Army QB, the 2019 AAC Offensive Player of the Year, Malcolm Berry is converting from quarterback to wide receiver for the NFL Draft. In 2019, Berry rushed for 2,017 yards and 21 touchdowns in Army’s run-heavy attack, while he threw only 6.5 passes per game.
Berry is definitely not an NFL quarterback prospect, but scouts here are quite interested in his conversion to wide receiver considering how effective he was running the ball in college. I think he has caught people’s attention this week, a good first step in his conversion — he has the quickness to get open off the snap, the athleticism and toughness to work underneath as a Julian Edelman-type. He’s still very raw in the transition, but he’s definitely on scout’s radars. I’d say he’s 50-50 to be drafted 7th-round or go the undrafted free agent route.
Quarterback prospects Kevin Davidson from Princeton and James Morgan from Florida International are getting the most attention from scouts among the quarterback group — all because of their “big arms.” And they can definitely throw the ball, especially Morgan, but neither has any real NFL polish or control over their throws, and I don’t believe either will be drafted in the NFL.
Morgan, to me, is the football equivalent of the Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughan character from the movie Major League. I don’t think he or anyone in attendance, or even himself, knows where his passes are going to sail to when they leave his hand.
Clemson wide receiver prospect Diondre Overton has generated a little scouting buzz since his arrival, but I think it’s a bit overblown. It just feels like seeing that Clemson helmet out there draws extra attention. He was a non-factor most of his time working in the great Clemson offense in his career. I don’t see him getting drafted in 2020. He’s more a UDFA type prospect.
The most disappointing player I’ve seen at the East-West week, a guy who I thought might be the best tight end prospect of a pretty weak group here, is South Florida tight end prospect Mitchell Wilcox. He showed some nice movement skills on tape, a guy who might have skills to offer the NFL if he added 5-10 pounds of muscle to go with the pep in his step — but he’s looked tentative and not as explosive in this East-West backdrop as he did to me on his college tape.
The best defenders/IDP prospects at the East-West Shrine, in my book…
#3) Shaquille Quarterman (OLB – Miami) 6’1″/238
I did some scouting work on him in the summer of 2019 and thought he was a serious NFL interior linebacker prospect. I still hold that opinion previewing some of his 2019 season tape and watching him in practices here this week. He’s great in pursuit, has nice instincts for reading running plays, and he’s a superior run stopper. That said, he’s a touch suspect in pass coverage.
#2) Rashad Smith (OLB – Florida Atlantic) 6’2″/220
He’s a terrific ball-hawking college ILB that is built to be an OLB or strong safety or S/LB hybrid in the NFL. He gets to the ball and had great feet/reactions to not get juked by ballcarriers — he’s like a cheetah pouncing on a gazelle a lot of times. He just seems to always make the play. He posted 96 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, five fumble recoveries in 12 games in 2019, and he has six career interceptions. He’s arguably the best defensive prospect for the NFL here because of his positional versatility.
#1) Bryce Huff (DE/OLB – Memphis) 6’3″ 255
His movement skills and reading of plays to get past blockers and attacking ballcarriers are the best here, in my opinion. I have him as my top defender at this event because he’s a terrific DE/OLB prospect who can rush the passer — he had 19.5 TFLs/9.5 sacks in the 2018 season (14 games) — but also because I could see with his size and instincts that he could be converted to a highly athletic, multifaceted interior linebacker and be a great “find” there.
And now, for my top five players to watch at the East-West game and to keep an eye on throughout the draft process:
Top Five Fantasy Prospects
#5) Mason Kinsey (WR – Berry) 5’10″/191
The Hunter Renfrow-like prospect dominated DIII opponents. He posted 65 catches, 1,221 yards, 16 touchdowns in his final season at Berry College (11 games). In his final three seasons of college play, he posted consecutive seasons with 16 or more touchdowns.
It’s not just looking at him and jumping to a Renfrow or Julian Edelman easy reference, but he runs terrific routes. He shows signs of a polished pro at the DIII level. You can tell he’s either worked in his game or is just that natural to have compiled such receiver numbers without Olympic speed or freakish size.
Hunter Renfrow’s skillset was undervalued in the draft, and he was well known. Kinsey will fight an uphill battle to get drafted coming from the DIII ranks with a lot of questions. He has the hands and work ethic of a rostered NFL wide receiver. The Combine/Pro Days will show us if he has the athleticism enough. It looks like he might.
When they run the one-on-one drills for the WRs v. DBs during practice week, Kinsey won/got open with moves much more than not. He’s tough for the superior sized/athletic cover guys to keep up with because he’s so sharp in his routes.
#4) Rico Dowdle (RB – South Carolina) 6’0″/215
Dowdle never had a standout season at South Carolina, and just glancing at his college numbers, I wondered how he got an invite (although he did run well/for 102 yards in a game against Alabama in 2019 to garner more attention). Part of the Dowdle production issue was a split backfield role with college teammate and East-West invite Tavien Feaster.
However, once you turn on the tape, Dowdle’s talent is apparent. He looks (on tape) like an NFL starting running back. He has a very muscular frame with nice speed-burst-movement and runs tough and can be punishing. He has good hands in the passing game, and I saw that again at the practices this week. He’s got work to do to get more noticed for the NFL — he’s a Day 3 draft prospect right now, at best.
Dowdle has looked the part during practice week. He hasn’t been head and shoulders above all the backs here, but it’s hard to see that happen the practices with the running backs with all the rotations and non-contact work. Athletically, physically he looks like he’s one of the top guys here.
#3) Joe Reed (WR – Virginia) 6’1″/215
I think he’s the best traditional wide receiver prospect at the East-West game this year, but he’s not my highest rated receiver overall on this list.
Reed had good-not-great numbers at Virginia, and that’s hurting his draft stock some, but we have to consider he played with a run-first QB who was a good college QB but not a precision passer. Reed is a professional receiver who worked in an offense not suited to enhance his skills. Had he gone to LSU or Oklahoma, etc., he’d have been a recognizable star and a Senior Bowl invite. Very good hands and a “plus” athlete.
How good of an athlete? Reed was ranked No. 3, No. 1, No. 2, and No. 1 in the ACC in kick return average in his four-year college career. He’s second all-time in the ACC in kick return average and No. 10 all-time in the NCAA. Reed is also No. 9 all-time in career kick return touchdowns (5).
Reed hasn’t stood out during practice week…not the way I had hoped. I expected he’d shine at this all-star week, and he’s done fine and looked good, but he hasn’t been an obvious “wow.” Part of the issue is he’s working with flimsier quarterback play here than he did at Virginia.
#2) Isaiah Wright (WR – Temple) 6’2″/220
I have Wright as my top WR prospect coming out of the East-West week, and he was my No. 1 going into it as well. I called Joe Reed the best traditional receiver prospect at the East-West week because Isaiah Wright is a different animal and hard to classify. All I know is, every time I watch him work on game tape or at these practices, he’s the one guy who always elicits a “wow” from my lips…and he does that to me a lot.
Wright is the most interesting offensive player at the East-West week, and it’s not even close.
Wright began his Temple career as a running back and then started to transition to a wide receiver that also took a lot of carries as a runner. I think wide receiver is his best position. When you watch him pop off the snap, he leaves you in awe — he has the best feet, best foot movement to quickly beat coverage at the East-West practice week and will probably be one of the top three receiver prospects in this draft with his quick movement and ability to get open. Wright is turning heads for sure this week.
Wright is just a great football player; he’s one of those guys that just makes things happen. He can run the ball as a tailback. He is terrific at getting open as a receiver with solid hands. But then add to that his after-the-catch ability, or just ‘ball in his hands’ ability. Wright returned two kicks for touchdowns in his college career, plus three punt return touchdowns. He makes people miss, and then he makes them pay for trying to tackle him at solid 6’2″/220.
Wright is like a new age Cordarrelle Patterson. That’s probably the way to describe him. He’s maybe more like a bigger Josh Cribbs, if you remember him. They’re all guys that just make things happen with the ball, and their coaching staffs never seemed to get them the ball enough.
Because he’s not a traditional receiver prospect, Wright will get overlooked and be selected later in the draft and then become invaluable for his new team and leave everyone wondering why he was drafted so late.
#1) LeVante Bellamy (RB – Western Michigan) 5’9″/190
His college tape is terrific. The school claims he was laser-timed in the 4.2s for a 40-time (we’ll see about that at the Combine). He’ll remind you a bit of Phillip Lindsay.
Bellamy rushed for 1,472 yards and 23 TDs in 2019. Lightning-fast north-south, and lightning-quick east-west. If he gets a seam, he’s gone. A little smaller than you want in an NFL RB prospect, but so was Phillip Lindsay.
With Bellamy’s kind of speed, size issues are set aside. He could be a great 7-10 carry, 3-7 target per game type of NFL RB in a nice duo backfield…or possibly he’s more of a main carry guy like Lindsay. The NFL Combine and/or Pro Day numbers will tell the full tale.
Studying some of his game tape, he just looks faster than everyone on the field. At the East-West week, he hasn’t had a lot of moments to really show off. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard for the running backs to get noticed in non-contact type work in all-star practices. The receivers and cover guys and the offensive/defensive linemen all have cool 1-on-1 drills to watch and compare them. The running backs, at these all-star events, don’t have the same ability during the week. Their big chance is in the game, and I bet Bellamy has a 20-50+ yard play or two in this game if he gets 10+ touches.
Enjoy the East-West Shrine Bowl game! Next week, (for like the fifth year now), I will be covering the Senior Bowl practice week for FantasyPros.
I will be doing deeper scouting study on several of these East-West players (and all the top prospects at all positions) as well as running analytic scouting grades on them when we have their NFL Combine and/or Pro Day measurables to match up with their college performance/numbers, and I’ll be doing that all pre-Draft season and in the post-Draft as well. All that leads up to our Dynasty Rookie Draft Top 300+ rankings (including IDPs), which we post the week after the draft, and then we’ll update the rankings weekly right up to opening day at my site College Football Metrics.
Look for more of my team’s NFL Draft scouting reports, measurables, and weekly updated dynasty rookie rankings before and after the NFL Draft, right up to the beginning of the new NFL season at College Football Metrics. See our NFL/fantasy analysis all year ’round at Fantasy Football Metrics.