With the NFL draft approaching sooner rather than later, there are still plenty of players looking to climb up those draft boards. While some guys are already set to be early picks others are doing whatever they can to make a name for themselves.
The East/West Shrine Bowl is one of a few games where players get the opportunity to impress the scouts. After checking in, players are placed in a camp and practice like setting in front of plenty of NFL scouts. Every single rep matters and on Thursday night, we will get the chance to see what these guys look like against one another in a game.
Of course, the Big 12 is well represented in this game but I wanted to highlight six players who have a big chance to rise up those draft boards and make a significant impact.
Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson
If you follow the Big 12, you know who Skylar Thompson is. The guy spent the last six years at Kansas State and left as the winningest quarterback in school history. He has had some injury issues the last two seasons but when he is healthy, he is a great player to watch and has the leadership skills you want to see in a quarterback. Some will question his arm strength, but Skylar is capable of making great decisions with the football and has improved his accuracy over the last few years. Another plus is that he doesn’t turn the football very often. While he may not be the flashiest quarterback in the game, he is very efficient which can go a long way for his future.
Iowa State DL Eyioma Uwazurike
Eyioma has been a player who has shown flashes over the years and finally put it all together this past season for the Cyclones. He ended the 2021 season with a whopping nine sacks which was second on the team behind only Will McDonald IV. Whether it is stopping the run or rushing the passer, Eyioma has the tools to become a solid player in the NFL. In Iowa State’s three-man front, he can play inside or outside and still be a playmaker. Plus his size (6’6 320 pounds) makes him a very intriguing prospect.
Oklahoma OL Tyrese Robinson
While he played tackle this past season at Oklahoma, Tyrese is back to playing on the interior offensive line where he is a better fit. He certainly has had his up and down moments throughout his career but when he is on, watch out because he plays with a mean streak you love to see in an offensive lineman. Practice reports have raved about his performance throughout the week and after speaking with Keegan Reneau who was in Las Vegas watching practice, he told me that it was the best he has seen him in four years. I know Tyrese is a talented player and if he can keep it up, he should be a fantastic addition to any NFL roster.
Baylor OL Xavier Newman Johnson
Over the last few seasons, Xavier Newman-Johnson has been a key part of the Baylor offensive line. He started over 30 games in his career and earned a few honors during his time in Waco. While his size is concerning for some NFL teams, Xavier has been able to make up for it with his play on the field. He is an athletic guy who can pull and can get up to those second levels with ease. Plus, he has kind of been a jack of all trades due to the fact that he has played multiple positions up front. Everything I have seen and read has stated that he definitely belongs with the rest of them and if that is the case then someone is going to get a good player up front.
Oklahoma State WR Tay Martin
When we talk about Big 12 wide receivers, it can be easy to forget about Tay Martin. He was the best wide receiver on Oklahoma State’s roster last season and put together a great year as he had over 1,000 yards receiving. When the Cowboys needed a play to be made in the passing game, Tay Martin was the go-to man. There are some consistency issues in his game, and he has had moments where he falls short, but it looks like he has done a nice job in practice and has made the most of his reps in Las Vegas. If he can put together a good game on Thursday, then I am sure someone will be willing to give him an opportunity. Tay isn’t a complete player just yet but should be someone who turns into a solid contributor right away.
Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton
Ever since Tyquan stepped foot on Baylor’s campus, I have always been excited to see what he can do. He certainly isn’t the biggest wide receiver out there, but he has explosiveness that not a lot of players have. He got playing time as a freshman and then had a breakout sophomore season. Unfortunately, his 2020 season was cut short due to injury, but he managed to have a big bounce-back senior season with 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. While he still needs to add some more weight, it is hard to ignore his skills between his ability to separate from defenders and his ball skills. Much like Tay Martin, people have been impressed with Tyquan’s work in Vegas and I genuinely believe he could be one of the biggest steals in the entire draft if he is still there on day three.