With another successful year of East-West Shrine practices in the books, the focus now shifts toward what figures to be a whirlwind next few months leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. The intense, three-day showcase at Tropicana Field saw some overlooked talent emerge from the pack, effectively boosting their draft stock as we inch closer to the pre-draft process. Let’s take a look at some of the 2020 Shrine Bowl prospects who caught my eye this week in St. Pete, and may see their stock go up in the coming days.
James Morgan, QB, Florida International
James Morgan entered Shrine week largely overshadowed by more highly-heralded signal callers, but the FIU passer acquitted himself quite nicely in the three practices. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback displayed a big league arm, remarkable poise, and delivered the ball with touch and accuracy. Morgan also impressed from a mental processing standpoint. He may have been the most consistent quarterback on either side this week, and with many evaluators on hand, I thought he really helped himself.
James Robinson, RB, Illinois State
It is a mystery to me why James Robinson won’t be participating in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile next week, as the former Redbirds standout was decidedly the best running back on either team. A compact runner at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Robinson is deadly with a full head of steam. Built low to the ground, he never stops moving his legs and he is nearly impossible to contain. Despite his stocky build, Robinson showed good burst and enough elusiveness find success on outside runs on multiple occasions.
Given the depth at the position this year, Robinson will likely end up as a value pick on Day 3.
Reggie Corbin, RB, Illinois
While Robinson had the most complete week of any of the running backs in St. Pete, Illinois’ Reggie Corbin was easily the most electric. A former high school national champion rugby player, Corbin sports a rocked up physique (5-foot-9, 205 pounds), and showed good vision and elusiveness in the open field. The diminutive runner gets up to top speed in a flash and caught the ball well.
Corbin on his rugby background: “I played rugby for two years in high school; I played on the best team in the country. I traveled all over the country — Italy, Chile, played in Canada, played against the junior Olympic champs. So, I played against some of the best of the best at that level of competition.”
How he got into rugby: “Initially, I made a deal with a kid on the team — who was the number one player at the time — [during] my junior year. He was the kicker, and we needed a kicker for our football team. So, I made a deal with him; if he came to kick, I would go play rugby. They couldn’t win the national championship, they would always come in like third or fourth. I told him I’d help him, then we ended up winning two back-to-back.”
Corbin is someone I have graded as a priority free agent, but a player I believe will ultimately do enough in training camp to win a roster spot. His easiest path to a roster spot will come via special teams. Think Raheem Mostert.
Mason Kinsey, WR, Berry College
If you didn’t know where Berry College was prior to this week, Mason Kinsey’s performance prompted a Google search. The Division III standout had a big week in St. Pete and was virtually uncoverable during 1-on-1 periods. Kinsey (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) is a savvy route runner that is tremendously smooth in and out of breaks, and he does a great job using his leverage to his advantage. Though he was rarely asked to run many vertical routes throughout the week, mostly settling for short and intermediate patterns, Kinsey had a knack for keeping defensive backs guessing. He set them up by making every route look the same.
I spoke to Kinsey after practice on Tuesday. Here are some quotes on the following subjects:
The challenges he faced this week as a small-school prospect: “I just have to stay technically sound. These guys are a lot more disciplined in their technique than what I’m used to, so, I gotta do the same thing. Then, it’s just a battle of who wants it more.”
What makes him such a proficient route runner: “I just feel like I’m disciplined. I try my best to get in and out of breaks with as few steps as possible. I work on it a lot. I still got a lot of work to do.”
Areas of opportunity: “Probably stems. Just figuring out how I want to attack guys’ leverages and things like that. I feel like I’m pretty efficient in and out of breaks, but when it comes to getting in certain places on the guys, I can be a little more disciplined and creative that way. I just feel like it will make it easier for me to get open.”
Isaiah Wright, WR, Temple
Isaiah Wright wasted little time making his presence felt in St. Pete. The versatile offensive weapon displayed strong hands, solid body control, and the ability to pluck-and-tuck the football in traffic. Multiple defensive backs fell victim to his nifty double-move, and he proved to be well adept at tracking the football.
Wright is a tantalizing talent that can take over games in multiple ways. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound pass catcher is also an accomplished return specialist, bringing back 84 kicks for 2,029 yards and two touchdowns and 43 punts for 444 yards and three touchdowns over his decorated four-year career. Wright helped himself this week, and his versatility and untapped potential will be too tempting for a team to pass up on Day 3.
Aaron Parker, WR, Rhode Island
Aaron Parker rebounded from a rough first practice, following it up with two practices that reminded those in attendance that he has the talent to become a late-round sleeper. Parker (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) is a receiver that plays ‘above the rim’, contorting his body in the air and aggressively high-pointing the football. He has a tendency to make everything he does look effortless, and gave cornerbacks fits in 1-on-1 drills. He has enough speed to separate at the next level, and I’m told he is expected to run between a 4.48 and a 4.5-flat in the 40-yard dash.
I spoke to Parker after practice on Thursday:
On his strengths: “When the ball is in the air, I’m aggressive — basketball helped with that; I played in high school. What a lot of receivers don’t have, which is an edge that I think I have, is that when the ball is not in my hands — I’m out there blocking downfield and doing whatever it takes to spring that play.”
His approach to route running: “I like to study the cornerbacks’ techniques. While we’re warming up, I’m down there watching the DBs, just to see — ‘Oh, he’s a hands-on type of guy, he’s a patient type of guy, he’s a little bit aggressive.’ So, you know, I like to watch and see where I can beat ’em to get open.”
Josh Hammond, WR, Florida
Josh Hammond caught my attention from the very first practice for a specific reason: He led every drill. He didn’t just lead every drill, in fact; he perfected it and set the tone.
The former Gators pass catcher is sleekly built (6-foot-0, 192 pounds) and doesn’t win his matchups based purely on speed. What he excels at, however, is find creative ways to get open and manufacture yards on his own, with 55 percent of his 2019 receiving yards coming after the catch. His ability to create space and attack leverage made him a tough cover throughout the week. Hammond is also as sure-handed as it gets — he finished his Florida career with 20 straight games without a drop.
Hammond on his leadership style: “I think I lead by example a little more than vocally. I’ll be the first one in the building, the last one out; the first one in drills, the first one in lines. Not missing meetings, not missing meals — being on time to everything — I don’t think I’ve ever missed a lift or missed a meeting in Florida in four years. That was kind of what my role was. I think a lot of guys knew I was doing the right thing, so if you did what I did, you were doing the right thing. So, a lot of guys kind of followed suit, and you know, that’s how we kind of win at Florida.”
Calvin Throckmorton, OG, Oregon
Calvin Throckmorton played guard and center this week, and played them both at a high level. I was admittingly shocked that the versatile Oregon lineman didn’t receive a Senior Bowl invite, but nevertheless, he has represented the Pac-12 well in St. Pete. He moves well, doesn’t panic, and trusts his technique. He’s a very intelligent player that can fit any scheme, but would particularly thrive in a zone blocking scheme.
A player who has started 51 straight games for a big-time program — and essentially played all five positions at one time or another — should entice teams, which is why I gave Throckmorton a fourth-round grade.
Cordel Iwuagwu, OG, TCU
Like Throckmorton, Cordel Iwuagwu also played guard and center this week. Iwuagwu has a strong base and moves well in space, but he will likely need to add some size to his frame over the next few months. That said, he managed to stymie some of the smaller, quicker defensive tackles for the West team that typically win on leverage. Given his versatility, experience, and projected upside, I have Iwuagwu as draftable player that will have staying power due to versatility and shrewdness.
Kevin Dotson, OG, Louisiana-Lafayette
AP first-team All American Kevin Dotson had a strong showing this week, operating as a technician along the interior for the West team. The 6-foot-4, 324-pound guard plays with tremendous power and exceptional hand placement and held his own against the formidable West team defensive line. Dotson’s athleticism is a criminally understated aspect of his game, and he has shown the ability to alter his approach based on the vast array of interior defenders he faced. I have a third-round grade on Dotson, a player I firmly believe is one of the top interior linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Parker Houston, TE, San Diego State
Parker Houston does not run particularly well, but he is technically sound as a blocker and has caught the ball well this week. The former Aztec looks most comfortable as an in-line blocker, but Houston, along with North Dakota State’s Ben Ellefson, emerged as a security blankets for the West quarterbacks. Built in the mold of an H-back, Houston resembles last year’s Shrine standout Andrew Beck, who has found a role with the Denver Broncos.
Houston projects as a priority free agent, but the unsung tight end does a lot of the dirty work reserved for guys on the back end of a 53-man roster.