NFL Draft

2016 East-West Shrine Observations

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Although being invited to the E-W Shrine Game is a great honor for college seniors who are trying to play in the NFL, the vast majority of the players competing will not be in the league.

It’s mostly a collection of players who are a step slow, a few inches short and questions abound about the level of competition for some of the smaller school guys.

With that said, there were a few standouts who put themselves on the radar of the NFL.

Ebuka David Onyemata, DE, Manitoba

Virtually nobody in attendance at the E-W practices knew anything about the 6-foot-4, 300 pound Canadian player (including NFL Scouts), but his play on the field forced everyone to quickly take notice. Onyemata dominated nearly everyone he lined up across from in practice while mostly playing out of position at defensive end.

“I think the better place for me is playing inside, but we had too many defensive tackles here so they moved me to end,” Onyemata told Football Insiders.

For a guy with virtually no tape like Onyemata, the Shrine provides a real chance to get on the radar.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for me,” he said.  “I came over here in 2011, and it’s something that I never could have dreamed of.”

Since he’s so fresh on the NFL radar it’s difficult for anyone to truly project where he could be selected in the draft.  For a guy who has only been playing football for five years, his upside is tremendous.

“If he doesn’t get picked here, he’ll be the No. 1 overall pick in our league,” a prominent CFL executive told us.

Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy

If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s because Reynolds scored more touchdowns than anyone in the history of college football, and was snubbed as a Heisman finalist.

Reynolds is going through a position switch as he makes his bid to play at the next level, and he opened some eyes.  Not only is he a fantastic individual and leader, he showed great open-field burst and an ability to catch the football out of the backfield.

“It’s been interesting, but not that bad,” Reynolds told Football Insiders on making the switch from quarterback to running back.  “There’s definitely some things I have to learn, and maybe put on some weight to help with blocking.  It’s been an awesome experience.”

Many are making the connection between Reynolds and the New England Patriots, as he can be a type of Julian Edelman type of running back.  Any team that talks to him will immediately be impressed as the young man is more mature than most due to his military experience, and he even mentioned the possibility of going to law school when his playing days are finished.

Talent at Safety

There is a major lack of talented safeties on NFL rosters.  Every week we see safeties at the highest level take horrible angles, bite on play-action and run-action, and do a terrible job overall at being the last line of defense.

There were a couple of safety prospects that stood out at the E-W Shrine.

Miami safety Deon Bush has prototypical NFL size at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds.  He was very rangy in the East team practices and certainly looked the part as a guy who will have a chance at the next level.  He’s not Ed Reed, but he could be an eventual starter.

On the West team, Utah safety Tevin Carter stood out in a big way.  The long, 6-foot-1, 215 pound former Ute closed Wednesday’s practice with a pair of interceptions and seemed to always be in position to defend deep passes.  The West squad didn’t do a lot of one-on-one work, so that was a bit disappointing.

Question Marks

Production versus measureables.  That’s one of the toughest balances for NFL teams to figure out when evaluating a prospect.

Stanford tight end Devon Cajuste was a productive collegiate who made big plays when the Cardinal needed them.

Cajuste caught just about every pass thrown his way at the West practices from Monday through Wednesday.

So what’s the problem?

Cajuste stands 6-foot-4, 227 pounds and he runs like a tight end, but is 20 pounds lighter than a tight end.

He’s an interesting prospect, because he doesn’t look the part and not many of these “slower” wide receivers end up making it on the next level.  Still, he runs solid routes and has great hands, is intelligent and played in huge games.

Cajuste will likely be a late Day-3 pick or go undrafted and he’ll have to continue to “just make plays” in someone’s training camp this summer. Don’t be surprised if he does just that and succeeds.

Powerball?

The enormous “Powerball” jackpot was won just over a week ago, but that didn’t stop America from dreaming and NFL teams from asking about it.

I asked UCLA center Jake Brendel, who is a very legitimate prospect, what the strangest question he was asked from scouts and he responded.

“What would you do if you won the lottery?”

Obviously the undisclosed team wanted to test his love for the game of football.

The very intelligent finance major Brendel responded, “I would still play football and I would put he money in the bank and invest it.”

I’m sure that’s the canned answer that NFL teams would like to have, or the answer that we believe they would like to have.

The interview process in most things involves someone saying absolutely anything to sell themselves and make themselves look better.  It’s no different in any job.

Wouldn’t a better response be, “What if you won Powerball?  Would you still be a low-level NFL scout making $40,000 per year?”

I’m not questioning Brendel’s commitment to football and nobody can question the man’s intelligence.  But it would be difficult for me to crash my head into large men repeatedly for millions of dollars when I don’t need millions of dollars.

 

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.