Now in its 98th edition, the East-West Shrine Bowl has established itself as a proving ground for small-school prospects to elevate their NFL draft stock. The 2023 Shrine Bowl is no different, and this year Jackson State WR Dallas Daniels and Stephen F. Austin OLB BJ Thompson have firmly put themselves on the NFL draft radar with their performances in Las Vegas.
Jackson State WR Dallas Daniels Elevates His NFL Draft Stock at the 2023 Shrine Bowl
Daniels has trodden a winding path to the NFL draft, finding his feet at the JUCO level before transferring to Western Illinois and finally flourishing with Jackson State. His profile has gradually increased with every stop, but it’s his performances on the final leg of his journey — the 2023 Shrine Bowl — that could ensure that the electric receiver makes an NFL roster home.
“Daniels leaves Shrine practices with a higher draft grade than when he arrived in Las Vegas,” wrote Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline in his Monday 2023 Shrine Bowl Risers article.
The Jackson State wide receiver had already impressed Shrine Bowl staff during his standout college football season for Jackson State. Despite working alongside multiple talented wide receivers, Daniels snagged 692 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers this fall.
His performances led Shrine Bowl Director Eric Galko to tell Pro Football Network earlier this cycle that “Daniels has been — in our mind at least — one of, if not the most, impressive receivers in that Jackson State offense…I think he’s a really dynamic, multi-faceted receiver.”
On the practice field this week, Daniels set about to prove exactly that. The Jackson State WR was practically uncoverable in 1-on-1 drills with breathtaking speed, ludicrous explosion, and the ability to cut on a dime to create easy separation.
One of the concerns for Daniels as it pertains to his NFL potential is a pigeon-holing into the slot position. At 5’10 2/8″ and 176 pounds, with under 30″ arms, the age-old debate about size comes into play. The question over alignment versatility was something that Galko had referred to during our in-season discussions.
“I think for Dallas, the question early on in the NFL is how many roles can he play? I know Dallas wants to show NFL teams in this draft process that he can play not just in the slot.”
Seeking to answer those questions in Las Vegas, the Jackson State wide receiver has been lined up in multiple spots during the week of practice at the 2023 Shrine Bowl. Furthermore, he’s shown some toughness in middle-of-the-field situations that could allay some fears about his size at the next level.
Questions answered. Boxes ticked. Job done.
For the final word on Daniels’ NFL draft elevation, I spoke to Draft HBCU Scout Gerald J. Huggins II. As part of their partnership with the Shrine Bowl in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, Draft HBCU has helped promote prospects from Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Jackson State.
“He has had one of the best weeks out of all the players there,” Huggins told Pro Football Network. “His route running, his versatility, his quickness, and change of direction has been impressive. He has been very sure-handed and continues to find holes in zones. I believed he raised his stock.”
Stephen F. Austin OLB BJ Thompson Puts Himself on the NFL Draft Radar
While the spotlight afforded Jackson State under Deion Sanders meant that Daniels headed to the 2023 Shrine Bowl with some NFL draft buzz already, Stephen F. Austin outside linebacker BJ Thompson truly established himself as a force during the week’s practices in Vegas.
He further elevated his stock with an eye-popping display in the game itself, proving a constant thorn in the side of the West Team offensive line and tallying two sacks.
Thompson didn’t have an NFL Combine invite coming into the week, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Indianapolis. His combination of size, length, and elite athletic profile should ensure that he’s an NFL draft prospect on the rise during the rest of the process.
Throughout his CFB career, Thompson has been known for his incredible athletic capability. A three-star recruit out of England High School in Arkansas, he committed to Baylor simply as an athlete, with experience at defensive end, cornerback, and tight end.
Since leaving Baylor in 2018, Thompson has established himself as a dangerous weapon in the Southland Conference for the Lumberjacks. He was named the Newcomer of the Year in 2020 and has been productive for Stephen F. Austin whenever he’s been on the field.
The FCS outside linebacker came into the 2023 Shrine Bowl boasting some solid production, but also some ludicrous testing numbers. Thompson has a reported 4.4-second 40-yard dash time, can jump a 40″ vertical, and has a verified 11’3″ broad jump.
Thompson’s week in Las Vegas started on a high with the verification of his ludicrous measurements. The Stephen F. Austin OLB measured in at 6’5 3/8″ and 238 pounds. He boasts insane length, recording a 34 3/8″ arm measurement and 82 4/8″ wingspan.
However, it’s been his work on the practice field at the 2023 Shrine Bowl that has really set the NFL world on high alert to the FCS prospect. On the first day of practice, Thompson embarrassed Kansas OT Earl Bostick Jr. with a delightful inside spin move that has been replayed over and over again on social media.
Thompson’s showcased a handful of pass-rush moves during the 2023 Shrine Bowl practices, with a club-cross chop combo to defeat Indiana’s Luke Haggard, a particularly well-executed move. Thompson also got the better of Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu with an impressive speed rush.
The latter will really pique the interest of NFL teams. A lot of what we saw on the practice field from Thompson this week qualified the impressive athletic testing numbers bandied around ahead of the 2023 Shrine Bowl.
He’s an explosive athlete with a ludicrous first step and the vertical athleticism to go up and impact the ball in coverage. Meanwhile, he showcased the fluidity of movement you’d expect from a smaller cornerback during drills where he’s been tasked with dropping back into coverage.
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