Shrine Game, Battle for Florida Mark Start of Draft Season

Lennon Creer was MVP of the Shrine Game.

Last night was a bizarre mixture of college basketball upsets and premature news of Joe Pa’s demise. But lost in the chaos were two college all-star games that marked the unofficial start of the NFL Draft season.

The East-West Shrine Game was last night in Tampa at Tropicana Field, right in the Buccaneers’ own backyard. You can be sure that the Bucs were paying close attention to the game (and one of the coaches, Brad Childress). The Shrine game, in all honesty is kind of a b-list All-Star game, really c-list, because the top tier of players doesn’t want to risk injury playing in next weekend’s Senior Bowl.

But it’s still an excellent opportunity to get a look at mid-to-late round picks, guys who may end up undrafted but are worth a look as a UDFA or even a few gems. Criticize Mark Dominik all you want but he has been excellent working the back-end of the roster and this is the type of game that I’m sure he leaves with more than a few names after scouting. Not to mention with its proximity to the team headquarters, he didn’t even have to leave town.

The West won 24-17, and Louisianna Tech RB Lennon Creer was the MVP after rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries and scoring the game-winning touchdown with 47 seconds left.

Down in Boca Raton the Battle for Florida pitted two teams of Florida draft-eligible seniors coached by Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger against one another. Players had to have been born in Florida, or played high school or college football in the state to be eligible. The game is broken up into North Florida and South Florida and it’s trying to grow into a bigger event (which frankly it has the potential to be).

This year the rosters were not filled with highly sought after prospects, but a few draftable players were littered on either team. This game is a great place to find a few gems because a lot of these guys are incredibly athletic but may not have panned out for various reasons at their schools. If you look at Miami and Florida State over the past six or seven years they have experience a drop-off but continued to produce viable pros that never really produced highly at the college level. A lot of that amounted to players never receiving the coaching or being used right. But these are still players with potential. It’s also a good chance to see some FCS guys compete as well. You can be sure the Bucs were at this one too.

Bowden’s North team hammered the South 51-3. If you wonder why we’re glossing over the results it’s because they’re almost completely irrelevant. These games were about scouting players and we’ll have a breakdown of the guys to watch from both games coming up later today.

So stay tuned.

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