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Which NFL Draft prospects looked the best this past weekend

Justin Villarreal

This past weekend was the official start to draft season in the NFL. The East-West Shrine Bowl took place this past Thursday night and the Reese’s Senior Bowl took place this past Saturday afternoon. These two games are the biggest showcase of some of the prospects in the upcoming NFL draft.

11 quarterbacks — 6 in the East-West Shrine Bowl and 5 in the Reese’s Senior Bowl- showcased their skills this weekend, and no quarterback had a better weekend than Fresno State Quarterback Jake Haener. The MVP of the Senior Bowl had a statline of 12 completions on 19 pass attempts for 139 yards and one touchdown. Haener’s National team teammate Louisville's Malik Cunningham also had a nice game. Cunningham showcased his ability to pass and run as he had three completions on five pass attempts for 49 yards and rushed for 22 yards in five runs, despite leaving the game early due to an arm injury he sustained on a tackle attempt after throwing an interception. Tyson Bagent from Shepherd University is attempting to achieve the rare accomplishment of getting drafted as a quarterback from a D2 program. Bagent completed 17 passes on 22 attempts for 138 yards but threw an interception to end the Senior Bowl. The two other quarterbacks to appear in the Senior Bowl were Houston's Clayton Thune and TCU's Max Duggan. Thune threw for 70 yards on nine for 12 pass completions while Duggan completed four passes on nine attempts for 26 yards. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thomas-Robinson arguably was the best of the six quarterbacks in the East-West Shrine Bowl as DTR threw for completed seven of his 17 pass attempts for 95 yards, six yard completion to his college teammate Jake Bobo. The UCLA quarterback also ran for three yards in the game. Purdue's Aidan O’Conell played the best of the East team quarterbacks, completing six of his 16 pass attempts for 61 yards. Other notable quarterback performances from the East-West Shrine Bowl were Minnesota's Tanner Morgan who had three completions on seven pass attempts for 33 yards alongside an 11 yard run and Illinois's Tommy DeVito who went three for seven on pass attempts for 22 yards.

There were plenty of running backs who put their skills on display in both games. The best running back from the weekend was Arizona State's Xazavian Valladay who had 76 yards on 13 rushes and a four yard catch during the East-West Shrine Bowl. The best running back from the Senior Bowl was probably Northwestern Evan Hull who had 74 yards on 10 rushes and two receptions for 11 yards. Hull’s teammate in the Senior Bowl, Illinois's Chase Brown, had a solid game as he rushed for 40 yards in nine runs and had a four yard catch. Fresno State's Jordan Mims had a busy game in the East-West Shrine Bowl as he led the East team in both rushes and catches with 40 yards and 35 receiving yards respectively. Two other notable running back performances in the Senior Bowl were Kentucky's Chris Rodrgiuez Jr., who had 27 yards on six attempts alongside 36 receiving yards via two catches and Oklahoma's Eric Gray who had 17 rushing yards on five runs alongside three catches for 13 yards.

Plenty of wide receivers took their opportunity to showcase their skills throughout the weekend. The receiver who may have had the best game was South Alabama's Jalen Wayne. Playing in the Senior Bowl, Wayne caught eight passes for 50 yards. Another receiver who played well in the Senior Bowl was Stanford's Michael Wilson. Wilson had four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Michigan's Ronnie Bell showcased his elite route running skills in the Senior Bowl with his 20 yard catch where he made a mid-route adjustment to come back to the ball to make the catch and managed get out of bounds. Clemson's Joseph Ngata had an amazing 27-yard jumping catch during the East-West Shrine Bowl. Jackson State's Dallas Daniels was another East-West Shrine Bowl receiver who showcased his skills, showing off his amazing route running ability for two catches and 16 yards.

Plenty of tight ends for the Senior Bowl played well. The best tight end was Purdue's Payne Durham who had two catches for 24 yards. What made Durham standout was his versatility to play both tight end as well as fullback. He lined up at fullback three times — he blocked out of the backfield, got a handoff on a fullback dive, and ran a route from his position at fullback, catching a pass on a successful two point conversion attempt. Other notable tight end performances were Miami's Will Mallory (five catches for 46 yards), Oregon State's Luke Musgrave (two catches for 13 yards), and Alabama's Cameron Latu (three catches for 30 yards).

There were defensive players who played well in both the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Eastern Michigan defensive linemen Jose Ramirez had a strip sack on Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito. Stephen F. Austin's BJ Thompson and Ferris State's Caleb Murphy were the other two defensive linemen that got sacks in the East-West Shrine Bowl. Florida safety Trey Dean III won the East-West Shrine Bowl Defensive Player of the Game. The highlight of Dean’s night was a 16 yard tip drill interception he caught at the goal line. Ball State cornerback Nic Jones and San Jose State cornerback Nehemiah Shelton also caught an interception in the East-West Shrine Bowl. In the Reese’s Senior Bowl two defensive backs stood out the most. Anthony Johnson from Virginia had a 37 yard interception returned for a touchdown, created by Tennessee defensive end Byron Young's pressure on Malik Cunningham. Maryland's Jakorian Bennett from intercepted Tyson Bagent to end the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Finally, the Special teams units shined in both games. Michigan kicker Jake Moody scored all 12 of the West team’s points in the East-West Shrine Bowl with his four field goals and won offensive MVP of the game. Maryland kicker Chad Ryland scored 12 of the National team’s 27 points in the Reese’s Senior Bowl with his four field goals. Rutgers punter Adam Korsak had a good game which started with him pinning the National team back to their own one yard line on his first punt of the Senior Bowl.

Overall, both the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Reese’s Senior Bowl had many draft prospects showcase their skills ahead of the upcoming NFL draft. It will be interesting to see whose stocks rose and fallen based on this weekend games.

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