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Dynasty Rookie E-W Shrine Bowl Winners/Losers (2023 Fantasy Football)

by Bo McBrayer | @Bo_McBigTime | Featured Writer
Feb 6, 2023
Dynasty Rookie East-West Shrine Bowl Winners & Losers

My attendance at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas was initially met with some due skepticism. I was bumping elbows with team scouts performing interviews and members of NFL media looking to unearth their club’s next splash draft selection. The initial feeling was that my work was less important than that of the others wearing the same credential badge. Once I took a deep breath and decided I belonged there, I began connecting with some of the more promising skill players in attendance. Impostor Syndrome be damned, I was going to ask the hard-hitting questions.

There weren’t a lot of prospects who were very involved (or receptive) with the fantasy game, but let their guard down considerably when I broke the ice with questions about their favorite food from back home and their hobbies outside of football. The mention of fantasy football made UCLA WR Jake Bobo laugh, but he was noticeably more interested when I explained the world of dynasty. He measured at 6-foot-4, drawing an immediate parallel to undrafted diamond Adam Thielen. If someone could become a Pro Bowl talent from Minnesota-Mankato, I explained, then Bobo could certainly achieve greatness from UCLA under Chip Kelly (by way of Duke).

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East-West Shrine Bowl Winners & Losers (Dynasty Fantasy Football)

Every player at the Shrine Bowl has the main goal of impressing scouts. Most of my job as a fantasy analyst is scouting, even if I’m doing so on behalf of the readers and not an NFL franchise. There were certain skill players who really impressed me during the game itself, but I also wanted to correlate that with the way they conducted themselves in street clothes. Here are the winners and losers from Shrine Bowl week, as observed through the lens of a dynasty league player.


Xazavian Valladay (RB – Arizona State)

The leading rusher in the Shrine Bowl was also someone who gave a standout interview. It should be noted that Valladay rushed for over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns for three-win Arizona State in 2022. At first, Valladay was all business, saying that his love for football left little time for hobbies. I shared one of my favorite quotes from the Scorcese classic The Departed, where Jack Nicholson turns to his figurative son Matt Damon who just graduated from the police academy and was set to go to work. “School’s out; no more pencils, no more books.”

Valladay had not seen the iconic gangster suspense thriller, but said the quote got him really excited to make the leap from college student athlete to professional football player. He also then admitted that he enjoys watching movies in his free time. I was in. We addressed the discrepancy in his listed height and weight and his measurements in Las Vegas. 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds was a bit slight for an NFL RB, even for one whose main attribute is speed and quickness. Through the eyeball test of standing next to the man, along with his outstanding showing during the game, there is little doubt that the Arizona State RB (by way of Wyoming) plays large and has traits that will translate well to the professional game.

Jordan Mims (RB – Fresno State)

Although the Fresno State RB was one of the only skill players I did not speak to in Vegas, he let his legs do the talking during the game. Mims compiled 65 yards from scrimmage on only eight opportunities, including a 30-yard ramble that might have been the highlight of the game. His speed and lateral agility were a surprise. I had him scouted as an intelligent ball carrier with good vision and instincts, but he earned a closer look in film study with his performance.

Tavion Thomas (RB – Utah)

I certainly did not mean to slight any of the players I talked to during the week, but Tavion Thomas literally asked me to critique him. He was excited to “soak in” as much coaching as possible during Shrine Bowl activities. Apparently, that also means asking the honest opinion of a guy from FantasyPros at Media Day. Here I was standing on the field at Allegiant Stadium, telling Thomas that he could make his beastly frame count for more by having more consistent pad level and lean. His size is similar to Najee Harris, but Thomas actually has a bit more wiggle to his game between the tackles.

Thomas didn’t get on the field much during the Shrine Bowl, but his very first touch was a one-man stampede into the second level of the defense for a 29-yard gain. Even at 246 pounds, the Utah RB nearly reached 18 miles per hour. His pad level and lean were perfect as he made one cut and burst through the line like a terrifying runaway freight train. I have high hopes that Tavion Thomas will take every opportunity to mold himself into a Derrick Henry Lite, where he forces defenders to start making business decisions in the second half of games.

Joseph Ngata (WR – Clemson)

My conversation with Joe Ngata was brief, but mainly centered around the strange silence around the Clemson receiving group this season. The same establishment that produced DeAndre Hopkins and Tee Higgins went through a rough patch in 2022. Ngata, a 6-foot-3 weapon from Northern California who says he feels equally comfortable running routes from the outside or slot, was standing in the back-left corner of the north end zone when he spoke with me about scoring touchdowns at the next level. He nearly had one in the Shrine Bowl, when he successfully executed a speed release into a crisp out route at the goal line of that same north end zone. The throw was errant, but I still applauded Ngata’s impressive rep.

Joe Ngata did still made the highlight reel during the Shrine Bowl. His one reception in the game showcased his ball tracking and body control, along with vice grip hands on a 27-yard gain down the right sideline in tight coverage. Ngata might not have produced amazing numbers under Dabo Swinney at Clemson, but his development there (and at powerhouse Folsom High School) should not be discounted.

Jadakis Bonds (WR – Hampton)

Some of the best-kept secrets in the pre-draft process are the talented athletes from HBCUs. Very often, the only real exposure to serious scouting and national attention for those players comes from their involvement in all-star game festivities like the Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl. One of the cleanest offensive plays in the Shrine Bowl game (there weren’t many) was a well-timed deep crossing route from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Hampton WR Jadakis Bonds for a 20-yard gain.

Bonds measured a hair under 6-foot-3 at the Shrine Bowl and a hearty 205 pounds. The question will be his athletic metrics at the Combine and Pro Day, but I believe Bonds will continue to gain popularity among this very deep group of WRs in the 2023 class. He scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 17.4 yards per reception for Hampton, who only won one conference game in the CAA this season. I believe Bonds has a chance to be the next HBCU prospect to prove to be a diamond in the rough in dynasty.


Dorian Thompson-Robinson (QB – UCLA)

The man they call DTR had a wonderful college career at UCLA. The five-year starter really came into his own under Chip Kelly, whom he considers a member of his own family. DTR was also easily the nicest person I spoke to during the week. He was pleasant and engaging, even in a whirlwind of buildup for his showing at the Shrine Bowl. Thompson-Robinson’s face was on all the billboards in town, letting Sin City know that their native son was here to put on a show for his hometown. DTR was a standout at Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas and many of his family and friend were in attendance.

Unfortunately, the Shrine Bowl was not a good showing for DTR. His first pass was a hesitant attempt to the flat against cover-2, which saw the corner jump the route and drop an easy pick six. The West team then went run-heavy, but DTR did not once keep the ball on the many zone read options to showcase his outstanding athleticism and penchant for big plays. His pocket presence was not great, nor did he have many accurate tosses outside the pocket on the many times he was flushed by the furious East pass rush. I still believe in DTR’s talent, but he definitely will need the right coaching fit to become a dynasty asset worth holding.

Aidan O’Connell (QB – Purdue)

It was comedic relief for a lot of the guys at the Media Day in Allegiant Stadium when they were first given their game jerseys. Aidan O’Connell’s jersey was skin tight and he looked like Ralphie’s little brother in The Christmas Story when he couldn’t put his arms down. I can’t say for certain the jersey was to blame in the Shrine Bowl, but O’Connell was not in sync with his receivers and only completed 6/16 passes on the day. His timing and accuracy were both suspect, which was somewhat surprising after his strong senior season.

Kazmeir Allen (RB/WR – UCLA)

Kazmeir Allen was a very intriguing player at the Shrine Bowl. He was the second-leading receiver for the Bruins in 2022 (behind Jake Bobo), but was also used quite often as a gadget player and kick returner. At 5-foot-8 and only 176 pounds, his road to NFL playing time is certainly uphill. He certainly has plenty of speed and agility, but his size severely hampers his prospects as a trustworthy dynasty asset.

He was primarily deployed out of the backfield during the Shrine Bowl and it was apparent that his RB chops were not one of his strengths. Allen was the only West RB who struggled to get chunks of yardage on the ground, limited to 11 yards on six attempts. He did not garner a single target through the air, nor did he necessarily pop on either of his two kick returns. Considering the other RBs on the West team were quite impressive on a per-carry basis, it was disappointing that Allen was not a part of the receiving corps to better show his all-around talents.

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