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This week is Senior Bowl week, which signifies a great opportunity for draft prospects to boost their stock. This year's event will be even more closely scrutinized than usual with top quarterback prospects Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield due to participate.
However, for many prospects, the past weekend represented a good early opportunity to impress the scouts, and make a name for themselves at the two most important non-Senior Bowl all-star games.
The East-West Shrine Game took place in Florida on Saturday, with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl kicking off just an hour later in California. The Shrine Game has been considered the second biggest college all-star game for some time now, but the Collegiate Bowl has been growing in influence in recent years, with 23 players who participated in 2017 being drafted, including Tarik Cohen and Shaquill Griffin.
In recent years, the Jets have targeted players from each of these games, including last season's draft class, which featured Dylan Donahue from the Collegiate Bowl, and Elijah McGuire, who played in the Shrine Game. So, who raised their stock this weekend that might represent good potential targets for the Jets?
Both games were dominated by the defenses, especially up-front. There were several good pass rushers on show, but perhaps the best performance was from North Carolina State's Kentavius Street, who had 1.5 sacks and generated pressure several times off the edge.
Often with these all-star games, practice during the week is just as important as the game itself -- sometimes moreso. One name who drew plenty of positive attention during Shrine Game practices was Texas defensive tackle Poona Ford, and he backed that up in the game with a sack and some good penetration.
Ford wasn't the only interior defensive lineman to impress. UConn's impressive Folorunso Fatukasi was arguably even more impressive than Ford with his dominance in the trenches. In the Collegiate Bowl, USF's Bruce Hector also recorded a sack as he wrapped up an impressive year with a good performance.
One of the best performances by a linebacker came in the Collegiate Bowl where Virginia Tech's Andrew Motuapuaka showcased his all-round skills. Motuapuaka stopped a couple of runs, blew up a short pass for a loss and batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
The MVP of the game, however, was a defensive back: Penn State safety Troy Apke. Apke intercepted a pass, returning it 56 yards, and added seven tackles, including two on special teams, and a forced fumble.
With defenses dominant, the offenses combined to generate just 33 points over the two games. None of the quarterbacks excelled, but Austin Allen from Arkansas probably had the best performance with six completions in nine attempts for 75 yards. However, he was sacked four times. Colorado's Philip Lindsay had some success running the ball, as he racked up 51 yards on 12 carries.
There were some good performances from pass catchers though. UNI's Daurice Fountain was named as the offensive MVP of the Shrine Game after making three catches for 61 yards, including the longest play of the game as he raced for 38 yards on a quick slant. He also had an impressive 30-yard punt return, although his late drop on fourth down effectively ended the game.
The winning touchdown in that game came from Houston's Stephen Dunbar. At 6-foot-3, Dunbar showed an ability to go up and make a catch over a defender on his 34-yard touchdown catch at the pylon. Another 6-foot-3 receiver, Temple's Adonis Jennings exhibited similar abilities in the Collegiate Bowl, with his two catches going for 61 yards.
Finally, with the defenses dominating in the trenches, there weren't many offensive linemen who stood out, but Cody O'Connell from Washington State had a solid performance at left guard. The 6-foot-9 O'Connell, who is nicknamed "The Continent", showcased surprising mobility for such a big man, making some good blocks on the move, and staying in front of his man well in pass protection.
Most of the players who participated in these games will be selected in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, if at all, at which point positional need is less of a concern. However, the offensive line and pass rush are two areas where the Jets may need to bolster their depth, so O'Connell and Street could be considerations.
The Jets also need depth on the defensive line, especially if Muhammad Wilkerson departs as widely anticipated. So, some of the prospects named there could be good additions too.
Attention now turns to the Senior Bowl, where the importance of practice during the week is magnified due to the level of competition, and the fact that some top prospects might opt to sit out the game itself.