Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch relied upon his legs, vision and toughness to rack up staggering numbers as a runner in earning a spot to New York City as a Heisman finalist but scouts attending the East-West Shrine Game practices in St. Petersburg this week are instead focusing on his arm.
While Lynch's gaudy rushing totals (1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns) are certain to pique the interest of an NFL increasingly gravitating towards dual-threat passers, one shouldn't look past his production as a passer. Lynch completed 62.6% of his passes in 2013 for 2,892 yards and three times as many touchdowns (24) as interceptions (eight).
Lynch doesn't possess the height scouts prefer at 6-foot but his solid 216-pound frame makes him tough to bring down, whether in the pocket or in the open field. Further, he possesses enough arm strength and touch to make every NFL throw. A concern, however, is that too many of Lynch's passes wobble, negating some of his velocity and forcing receivers to make difficult grabs.
While Lynch may have work to do this week to convince scouts he can remain at quarterback, no one questions his toughness or athleticism, which is why some view his best position in the NFL at either running back or safety.
Lynch's fame makes him the headliner but as Dane Brugler points out, there are other quarterbacks who have been more impressive thus far through the East-West Shrine Game practices. Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garappolo and Cornell's Jeff Mathews are already likely assured of earning a draft selection. Lynch, on the other hand, could need a strong week just to get picked at all.
While the quarterbacks generate the hype, there are several other prospects to keep an eye on in this contest, including Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir, arguably the elite "small school" prospect in the country and Tennessee running back Rajion Neal, who is attempting to prove in St. Petersburg that his breakout 2013 campaign was a result of his own talent and re-dedication to football rather than playing behind one of the better offensive lines in all of college football.
The 89th East-West Shrine Game will be played on Saturday, January 18 at Tropicana Field at 4 pm Eastern. The game will be televised by The NFL Network.