The East West Shrine game kicks off the post season All Star games, now that the College Football season in the books. The NFL is also winding down and will soon be over, which means its time to enter draft season. Draft season allows those that love the draft evaluate players to see what kind of impact they could have at the next level. Some live for this time of year.
The All Star games provide draft eligible players to compete with the best of the best in the ultimate job interview. This week is the first of the All Star games, the East West Shrine game. For those interested in getting coverage of the game, it will be televised this Saturday at 5pm EST on the NFL Network. During this game, I will paying extra attention to five players.
Devin Gardner, WR, Michigan
Devin Gardner spent his time at the University of Michigan as the team’s quarterback and not at wide receiver. However, Gardner will spend the All Star game season working at wide receiver. He will attempt to make the transition to the next level at a different position, much like another former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Gardner is a tremendous athlete and has shown the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He will need to prove he can attack the ball in the air as well as show an ability to make plays in traffic. He will need to prove he can understand route combinations, if he wants to get a real shot at the next level. These All Star games gives players like Gardner, a chance to impress at another position as they look to transition to the next level.
Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
If you follow the NFL Draft, especially through Draft Twitter, odds are good you have heard the name Kasen Williams. At 6’3” and 217 pounds, WIlliams has the size to be an elite receiver at the next level. Williams should be able to use his size to create separation at the catch point but too often the defender beats him to the ball.
Williams suffered a broken leg and foot injury that ended his junior season early, as he was looking to improve on his impressive sophomore campaign. Williams needs to prove that he can be the player he was during his sophomore season and not the player he was during his final season and a half. Inconsistent quarterback play didn’t help Williams be at his best. He did have a strong bowl game with 5 catches for 73 yards, a good sign that he may be getting back to the prospect some thought he could be. The East West Shrine game will be his first chance to impress.
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Taylor Kelly had an inconsistent career at Arizona State. He was a dual threat quarterback that often utilizes his legs, maybe more than he should have. Kelly battled injuries during his senior season. Kelly also had the benefit of wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who will likely be a day one pick.
The All Star games will be huge for Kelly, who likely will be undrafted at this point. Kelly has some work to do, but will have the opportunity to show his skills as a passer. He will need to play well from the pocket and prove he can make the right reads. The quarterback group at the Shrine game is less than spectacular and there is an opportunity for a quarterback to shine. An impressive Shrine Game could lead to an invite to the Senior Bowl.
Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
Jake Ryan finished his Michigan career as the teams captain and was voted the team’s most valuable player. He is a do it all linebacker that can call plays and leads his team by example. He finished the season with 112 tackles including 14 for loss. He had two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Jake Ryan comes into all star season as a early to mid round pick. Currently Walter Football has Ryan as 3rd or 4th round pick. An impressive Shrine Game performance could help lock Ryan into a day two pick.
Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa
Chances are you have know very little about Xavier Williams defensive tackle from Northern Iowa. At 6’3” and 309 pounds, Williams in prototypical size for a NFL defensive tackle. in 2014, Williams had 66 tackles, including 12 for a loss. He also had eight sacks this season. He does play against weaker competition. All Star games give players like Williams to prove they can play against elite competition.
Williams has some flexibility as a prospect. Teams employing a 3-4 defense, could see Williams as option at nose tackle. He would likely need to put on 10-15 pounds, but his frame would likely be able to take on the extra weight without issue. It likely wouldn’t hurt his athleticism either. He could potentially 3-4 defensive end, much like Red Bryant. 4-3 defenses would use Williams would likely be a 1 technique defensive tackle.
Williams is likely a undrafted free agent at this point but has the ability to make a name for himself. An impressive pre-draft process could assure Williams of being drafted.