The longest running college football All-Star game took place over the weekend in southern Florida and in case you missed it, well you didn’t miss much in terms of excitement. Since 1925 the East-West Shrine Game has not only been a staple to celebrate college football All-Stars, it has also been an opportunity for NFL teams to get an additional look at college talent before the draft at the end of April.
In the 2017 version that took place on Saturday, the West came out on top 10-3 in a defensive slugfest. While the Denver Broncos biggest need is unquestionably along the offensive line, a game featuring 13 total points didn’t have anything to write home about the Broncos’ biggest positional need.
However, the defense, specifically the defensive line, shined; which is great news for John Elway and Company as that very well could be Denver’s second biggest need.
Although the East-West Shrine Game is just the tip of the iceberg in the pre-draft process, it is the first time where college players really have a chance to stick out to teams after the college season is over. Even in a slow-moving game, there were most likely players that caught the Broncos attention. Here is a look at six players that could or should have stood out for the Broncos.
RB Elijah McGuire – Louisiana-Lafayette
With a lack of offensive production in the game, not many players on the offensive side stood out, except for McGuire who had seven of the 13 total points in the game. McGuire—who accounted for over 4,000 rushing yards and 50 total touchdowns in his four years at Louisiana-Lafayette—was awarded the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player award after accounting for 42 yards on the ground, including an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The 5-foot-9, 212-pound running back wouldn’t necessarily fill a need on the Broncos with C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs on the roster, but Denver found out last year that you can’t have enough running backs. Even though he’s very talented, McGuire will likely be drafted between the fourth and sixth round. In terms of talent, McGuire could be one of the best value picks in a very deep running back class.
WR Kermit Whitfield – Florida State
It wasn’t Whitfield’s three catches for 31-yards that stood out in the game on Saturday; it was the way he looked on the field that will certainly catch NFL teams attention. At 5-foot-8, 178 pounds, Whitfield is not the typical wide receiver, and he displayed that during the All-Star game, taking a dump-off pass in the backfield up the sideline for 19-yards in the blink of an eye.
On the field, Whitfield looks very much like a Tyreek Hill type of player as he is the fastest player on the field, elusive and a weapon in multiple different aspects. Whitfield, like Hill, can like up out wide, in the slot or even as a running back and no matter where he is on the field, the defense has to pay special attention to him because of his big-play ability.
This past season, Denver found out the hard way how dangerous a type of player like this can be, and that’s exactly why they may add one of their own in the offseason. If they do, Whitfield certainly will be close to the top of that list.
DT DeAngelo Brown – Louisville
On the defensive side of the ball, there was no shortage of playmakers, specifically up front, including 6-foot-0, 310-pound Brown. Not only was Brown a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the line all game long, he had one of the biggest plays of the game: stuffing the line on a fourth and goal run to stop Utah’s Joe Williams from getting into the end zone.
With one of the worst run defenses in the league last season, Denver could use a run stuffer, like Brown, in the middle of the defensive line. While Brown is talented, he projects to be a fifth-round pick as he is more of a rotational player and not a player that will be able to play on every snap. However, a fifth-rounder may be very worth it for Denver as he was also a standout all week during the practices leading up to the game.
DT Josh Tupou – Colorado
With three CSU Rams on the roster last season compared to zero Colorado Buffaloes, Tupou could be the Buffs best shot at trying to even out that number, and he significantly helped his cause on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 345-pound defensive tackle will be on of the biggest defensive players taken in this year’s draft and Saturday he proved he can use that size effectively on the field. While his stat sheet rarely will look impressive, it’s his ability to take on multiple blockers without being moved that makes him such a commodity.
It is widely expected that Denver will continue to play a 3-4 defensive scheme under new coordinator Joe Woods and if that holds true, Tupou could be a great fit in the middle of the line.
DE/OLB Trey Hendrickson – Florida Atlantic
Even in a losing effort, nobody had a better game than Hendrickson. No. 99 was all over the field all game for the East, earning himself the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, most notably for his strip sack in the first half. The 6-4, 265 pound Hendrickson is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, and while that is one of Denver’s strongest position groups, last year Elway said that you can’t have enough pass rushers.
However, what makes Hendrickson jump out to the Broncos even more is his ability to stop the run, as well as rush the passer. Even with a bigger body frame, Hendrickson is very athletic as he tied the NCAA for the most blocked kicks in 2016 with four. If DeMarcus Ware is not back with the Broncos in 2017, Hendrickson could be added to the roster. Projected as a third to fourth-round pick, Hendrickson could be gone by the time Denver wants to add another pass rusher, but his ability to stop the run may be enough for the Broncos to take him.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr. – Arkansas
At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds Wise is a true defensive end in any defensive scheme. After having their depth heavily tested at this position last year, Denver could realistically be in the market to add another defensive end in the draft this year, and if so, Wise makes sense.
As an every-down lineman, Wise is able to successfully play against both the run and the pass effectively. While he will need to continue to put on weight and transition to the NFL, his frame and skill set provide a major upside for a player that is not projected to be drafted until the fifth to seventh round. If Wise is available late, the Broncos may look to add a high-upside player to their defensive line.