NFL Draft News & Analysis

Top East–West Shrine Bowl 2023 draft prospects to watch

Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With just a few days standing between us and the first East-West Shrine Bowl practice of 2023 on Saturday, Jan. 28, we wanted to give you a first look at some of the names to know. With plenty of draft talent on both sides of the ball, these are PFF’s 10 players to watch for in Vegas ahead of the Shrine Bowl.

WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

Flowers is PFF's best bet for the player who will gain the most hype during Shrine Bowl week. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, the All-ACC receiver brings a dynamic element that will surely stand out in both one-on-one drills and scrimmages. He recorded 503 yards after the catch, 23 explosive plays, and a 103.5 passer rating when targeted in 2022. Expect for his name to be a constant on your social media feed with highlight clips all week.

QB Aidan O'Connell, Purdue

The 6-foot-3 Purdue passer didn't have as good of a season in 2022 as he did in 2021, but the highs of his talent were still plenty on display. Over the past two years combined, he recorded an 83.7 passing grade with 55 big-time throws and a 74.9% adjusted completion percentage. He’s a player with good fundamentals and a good baseline for improvement and consistency at the next level. If there’s a big throw to make during Shrine Week, it will likely be O’Connell who makes it. 

EDGE Brenton Cox Jr., Florida

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound edge rusher from Florida will bring a ton of experience into Shrine Week. Despite playing in only eight games this past season before being dismissed from the team, Cox tallied almost 1,000 pass-rush snaps over the past four seasons. He recorded 120 total pressures over that time with a pass-rush win percentage of 15.5%, and he certainly looked like the best pure pass rusher on the Gators' defense when he was out there and healthy. With this being the first time we’ve seen him in action since October, expect him to be chomping at the bit to show off his pass-rush ability.

WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Fresno State

Cropper has been as steadily productive as they come. Over the 1,900 receiving snaps he recorded across four seasons, he never earned a single-season receiving grade below 72.5. This past season, he went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career (1,089). He also had an average wide receiver usage rate of 26.4%, including 25.4% this past season and 29.8% in 2021, showing how much he was emphasized whenever he was on the field. At 6-foot and 175 pounds, he may not be overly imposing physically with strength or speed, but he’s a natural receiver with IQ and shiftiness that make him tough to handle.  

RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

2021 looked like it was going to be a special season for Mo Ibrahim, as he recorded 163 rushing yards on 30 carries in three quarters of Minnesota’s first game of the year. But then he suffered an injury that ended the rest of his campaign. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending, as Ibrahim was able to get back out onto the field in 2022 to the tune of career highs in rushing grade (88.0), rushing yards (1,675), rushing touchdowns (20) and missed tackles forced (71). He comes into Shrine Week as one of the most experienced backs in the draft class.

LB Drake Thomas, N.C. State

Thomas has played an insane amount of football over the past four years — 2,976 snaps, to be exact. The 6-foot, 230-pound middle linebacker has turned into a run-stopping machine, earning an elite 90.5 run-defense grade in 2022. He recorded 33 solo stops last season and 37 the year before. He also tallied 44 total pressures and eight sacks this past season.

CB Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU

One of the biggest risers in this class from this past season is TCU cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. His 90.4 coverage grade in 2022 was a leap from his 67.9 coverage grade the previous season. He allowed just 28 receptions for 365 yards all year. It was also very impressive that a 5-foot-9, 180-pound cornerback forced 21 incompletions. He has a good chance of being the highest-drafted secondary player from the Shrine Bowl group. 

DT Moro Ojomo, Texas

Ojomo is a player to watch during Shrine Week because of how he was used during his time at Texas. At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, he recorded a 91.4 run-defense grade in 2022. But he did so at multiple positions. He played 244 snaps at interior defensive tackle and 114 at edge defender. He’ll likely find a home as an interior player, but how he is aligned during Shrine Week will be telling. 

QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

Thompson-Robinson will bring plenty of notoriety to the Shrine Bowl as a four-year starter for the UCLA Bruins. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, DTR brings dual-threat ability to the position. In 2022, he threw for 3,195 passing yards with an additional 741 yards on the ground. He finished the season with 12 rushing touchdowns and 27 passing touchdowns. Though his 68.6 passing grade and 73.7 rushing grade were lower than they were the previous season, he’ll bring a unique skill set to the quarterback room in Vegas. 

WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

The 2022 season marked back-to-back campaigns in which Perry eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver. He finished this past season with 1,155 receiving yards and an 83.2 receiving grade after recording 1,317 receiving yards with an 83.0 receiving grade in 2021. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he’s a vertical threat receiver who knows how to catch through contact, with 55 contested catches over the past two years. 

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