2014 Shrine Game: Garoppolo puts exclamation point on strong week
The East squad, led by MVP Jimmy Garoppolo, defeated the West in the 89th East-West Shrine Game
Gah-ropp-ah-low. If you don’t know already, that’s the correct pronunciation of Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who led the East squad past the West, 23-13, in the 89th East-West Shrine Game. Garoppolo earned MVP honors for his performance and it’s important to learn his name because his NFL Draft arrow is pointing up.
Entering the week, Garoppolo was my top NFL prospect participating in the Florida-based all-star game. And he’ll leave St. Petersburg with that same distinction after a very positive week. He finished Saturday’s game 9-for-14 for 100 yards and a second quarter touchdown pass to Coastal Carolina WR Matt Hazel and put an exclamation point on a productive week. Garoppolo was the most impressive quarterback during practice, showing off his quick eyes, snap delivery and live arm to get the ball out and complete passes down the field. He scans the field well and his timing and overall intellectual process are above average as a passer. According to reports, Garoppolo will replace Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Although he’s not the tallest (6-foot-2) and lacks elite arm strength, Garoppolo is extremely quick and efficient through his delivery and process. He entered the Shrine Game week as a projected 2nd-3rd round pick and only helped himself in the eyes of NFL scouts. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Garoppolo sneak into the top-50 picks on draft weekend.
While Garoppolo was the headliner as the No. 1 prospect, here’s a look at nine prospects who aren’t too far behind in the rankings and helped themselves at the Shrine Game:
2. DL Will Clarke, West Virginia (6-6, 273, 4.83, #98)
Last weekend, I listed Clarke as my top defensive prospect in the game and a week later, that hasn’t changed. He is a tall, flexible athlete with the long arms and natural bend to get around blockers and disrupt the pocket. Clarke got himself in trouble a few times when he popped up off the snap and lost initial leverage, but he has the explosive first step and length to be productive at the next level.
3. CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood (6-1, 205, 4.56, #3)
It was an up-and-down week for Desir, who impressed in a few drills, but also struggled in others. He looks the part with a tall, long frame for a cornerback, but also showed the flexibility and balance you want for the position. Desir struggled at times to flip his hips or recover after false steps, but if he runs well at the Combine, look for Desir to be a hot commodity on day two of the NFL Draft.
4. DE Cassius Marsh, UCLA (6-4, 260, 4.92, #99)
When the flip is switched, Marsh is an active, disruptive force who can penetrate the pocket or string plays outside before making the stop. And his fiery attitude was on display in practice as he made several impressive stops in drills, fighting through blocks and tracking the ball. Marsh needs to stay motivated to allow that competitive streak show, but he’s a force rushing the passer and stopping the run.
5. DT Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 357, 5.34, #70)
Although he looks like a wide, stout nose tackle, Ellis is much more than that and showed it during practices. He has a quick first step and generates a lot of power from his initial surge to overwhelm blockers and bully his way into the pocket. Ellis also displayed active hands and even a spin move to maneuver his way past blocks, projecting him to either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
6. WR Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina (6-1, 196, 4.53, #84)
With Notre Dame’s T.J. Jones pulling out of this week due to an injury, Hazel stepped up and separated himself as the top wide receiver in attendance. He displayed smooth routes, long strides and caught everything thrown his way throughout practice. Hazel, who also scored a touchdown in the game, was very productive throughout his college career and his skill-set translates well to the NFL level despite lacking elite size/speed for the position.
7. OL Dakota Dozier, Furman (6-4, 312, 5.20, #78)
A college left tackle, Dozier arrived in St. Petersburg and was moved to guard, but the transition went smooth as if he’s been playing inside for years. He looked quick, balanced and controlled in his movements with the base strength and awareness to hold his ground and pick up extra blitzers. Dozier surfaced as the top offensive line prospect this week and is a darkhorse top-100 prospect.
8. QB Jeff Mathews, Cornell (6-4, 225, 4.93, #9)
If it weren’t for Garoppolo, the quarterback talk would be all about Mathews and the week he had in St. Petersburg. He showed off his arm strength, passing vision and touch to all levels of the field and with his size, he fits what the NFL wants at the position. Mathews will hold the ball too long at times and needs to be more assertive, but he’s a quality developmental quarterback who projects as a day three pick.
9. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (6-3, 298, 5.17, #64)
As expect, Ikard struggled with power at times this week, especially when lined up across from DT Justin Ellis. But he also showed his strengths: flexibility to mirror and the quickness and smarts to quickly get into correct position and win with angles. Ikard won’t be a fit for every offense, but will be a good fit in a mobile, zone-blocking system and will have a chance to further help himself at the Senior Bowl.
10. WR Chandler Jones, San Jose State (5-9, 180, 4.52, #89)
David Fales’ favorite target this past season at San Jose State, Jones routinely stood out as the best pass-catcher on the West team. He showed excellent quickness in his breaks, running sharp, crisp routes and finding separation in space. Jones had a few drops, but his natural body control and coordination was impressive as he produced a game-best seven catches for 73 yards on Saturday.
Just missed: ILB Tyler Starr (South Dakota), OT Charles Leno (Boise State), DT Jay Bromley (Syracuse), CB Nevin Lawson (Utah State), DE/TE Larry Webster (Bloomsburg), WR Jeremy Gallon (Michigan), QB Keith Wenning (Ball State), CB Phillip Gaines (Rice), OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (McGill), DE Kerry Wynn (Richmond), CB Ricardo Allen (Purdue), ILB DeDe Lattimore (South Florida), WR Bernard Reedy (Toledo), DE Ethan Westbrooks (West Texas A&M), TE Jordan Najvar (Baylor), DE Devon Kennard (USC)
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