Ladies and gentlemen, if you weren’t on board before, it’s time to get on board the NFL Draft train. That’s right, it’s officially NFL Draft season. Sure, the NFL season isn’t over for some teams, but the carnival is already in full swing. NFL Draft season culminates with the NFL Draft in late April, but there are several stops along the way. The first of those stops, the East-West Shrine Game, has just finished.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to the practices so I can’t speak to who shined in the week leading up to the game. However, there were a bunch of guys who stood out to me in the game itself. Some names (like Terry Godwin II) you should expect to show out in a game like this. Others, like Ka’dar Hollman from Toledo, did a great job to put their name on the map.
As anyone worth their salt will tell you, you should never base your evaluation of a player on one game. Especially not an all-star game. Take everything that follows with the appropriate amount of salt.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the three guys from each squad who really showed out in yesterday’s game.
Terry Godwin II – Georgia
Terry Godwin II is a name everyone expected to show out in St. Petersburg. He may not be as highly-touted as his Bulldog teammate Riley Ridley, but there’s no question Godwin was one of the the top-tier names heading into Shrine Week. It’s one thing to be highly-touted coming into an event like this, it’s another thing to live up to that billing. And live up to it Godwin did.
The Shrine Game Offensive MVP had himself a whale of a game. Though Godwin was only targeted four times all game, he turned all four of his targets into receptions, logging 80 yards. More impressive, he almost single-handedly brought the East team back into contention in this game with two touchdowns. The East squad may have fallen just short of victory, but Godwin was easily the most impressive player on either offense on Saturday.
Numbers are great, but as we all know they only tell part of the story. Godwin’s numbers were impressive, but the traits he showed in the game were even more impressive. Godwin showed that he’s a fluid athlete and was able to gain easy separation against the West cornerbacks. He also flashed some great natural ball skills with an impressive sideline snag. Godwin’s instincts are something you can’t teach. He’s not going to be drafted anywhere near Ridley, but Godwin could prove to be a mid-round steal for a receiver-needy team.
Justin Brailford – Oklahoma State
“No one plays defense in the Big 12” is a popular sentiment these days. With the high-flying offenses in that conference, it’s easy to see why. But Oklahoma State’s Justin Brailford plays defense, and he plays it well. Brailford may not be a household name — likely because of the conference he plays in — but after his performance Saturday, that may start to change.
Brailford was a complete animal out there. The box score may only show three tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble, but believe me when I say his impact went far beyond the stats. It seemed like every play he was in on, he was flashing the skill set to make an impact at the next level. He was a disruptive force that should put teams on notice. This year is a very good year for teams who need help on the interior defensive line, and Brailford’s performance on Saturday just might vault him ahead of some names in the pecking order.
Cole Holcomb – North Carolina
I’ll be completely honest here, Cole Holcomb was not a name I knew coming into the Shrine Game. But he’s definitely a name that I know now. After what I saw from Holcomb in Saturday’s game, I’m excited to get my eyes on his tape and see if the flashes I saw from him on Saturday are apparent on a consistent basis. What I saw on Saturday is a baller. He’s not going to be a guy drafted on day 1 or 2, but I saw a guy who could come in from day one and provide a team with solid depth at the position.
Holcomb had two nice pass breakups in the game. The first coming on a play where Holcomb showed some impressive ups, getting up to get a hand on the ball at the line of scrimmage. The second pass breakup came on a play where Holcomb showed impressive range to make himself a factor in the play. If those skills are evident on a consistent basis in his film, Holcomb could be a nice late-round sleeper for a LB-needy team.
Justin Hollins – Oregon
The defensive most valuable player, and for my money the single best player in the game, Oregon LB Justin Hollins was EVERYWHERE on Saturday. He almost looked like a man amongst boys out there. Hollins finished the Shrine Game with 10 combined tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, and a fumble recovery. Just about every way you can make your way into a stat sheet, Hollins did it.
Hollins has near-prototypical size for the position at just over 6′ tall and over 240 pounds. The most impressive part to me was how Hollins was used in this game. He was the proverbial chess piece for the West defense. Hollins was played as a pass rusher. He was used as an inside linebacker. He was trusted as an outside linebacker to drop back into coverage. He was asked to do it all, and he showed that he can indeed do it all. If anyone made themselves some money on Saturday, it was Hollins.
Ka’dar Hollman – Toledo
Much like Holcomb, Ka’dar Hollman wasn’t a name I was aware of before making the journey to St. Petersburg. But thanks to an impressive performance on Saturday, I’ll be seeking out his tape to see if the things I saw in the Shrine Game are consistent in hist tape. If they are, Hollman could find his way into the back part of day 3 and make his way into an NFL camp.
Hollman was probably the most impressive cornerback for either squad in the game. He showed a nice ability to stick with wide receivers and was consistently in good position to make plays. I didn’t see him get burned all day and flashed good instincts on a pass breakup. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet like some of his teammates, but he flashed some intriguing ability.
Ron’Quavion Tarver – Utah State
With the absence of KeeSean Johnson and Damarkus Lodge, there was a noticeable dearth of talent at the wide receiver position, at least from a name recognition standpoint. Outside of Godwin, there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about at the position. For the most part, I came away from Saturday’s game with the same impression, but if any of the receivers for the West squad stood out, it was Utah State’s Ron’Quavion Tarver. If anyone on the squad was going to stand out, it was always going to be him.
Despite my overall disappointment with the wide receivers in St. Petersburg, I was more impressed with Tarver than I expected to be. Tarver had a game-high 5 receptions in the game, and showed traits I tend to look for in a receiver. Full disclosure, I tend to gravitate towards the proverbial “possession” receiver. The guy who is going to make catches over the middle. The guy who is going to take three or four hits before going down. On Saturday, Tarver was that guy. Tarver exhibited natural pass catching ability, some nice high-point ability, and the toughness I want to see at the position.