The 2018 East-West Shrine Game will be played tomorrow (Saturday, January 20th) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Shrine Game is college football’s longest-lasting all-star feature, and one of the New Orleans Saints’ favorite wells to draw from: they’ve picked up a dozen players from the last three Shrine Game rosters, including last year’s Defensive MVP, Trey Hendrickson.
You can find the complete East-West Shrine Game rosters by following this link. It will be broadcast nationally on NFL Network at 2:00 PM CT/3:00 PM ET.
The Shrine Game is a great opportunity for NFL scouts to meet with prospects who they have not had time to see when touring campuses during the college football season. They have a window after every day’s practice to exchange contact information and ask a few questions, and the Saints’ scouts have been no exception.
It’s worth noting that eventually, every team meets every prospect in the months-long predraft process. So this may ultimately mean nothing. But it’s encouraging that the Saints have a pattern of targeting defensive linemen they met with at the Shrine Game like Hendrickson, David Onyemata, and Tyeler Davison. So don’t buy into this too much.
Per Trevor Sikkema of Pewter Report, New Orleans has contacted the following players:
Another source of player interviews is Charlie Campbell of Walter Football, a site that posts garbage opinions but is generally reliable when sticking to facts.
East TE #82 Ethan Wolf, Tennessee Vols East WR #25 Justin Watson, Penn Quakers East WR #10 Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa
Alright, let’s whittle it down to some of the most-intriguing names:
West DT #95 Poona Ford, Texas Longhorns. Ford has had a great week in St. Petersburg and earned an invite to next week’s Senior Bowl. He’s a shorter interior lineman (measured in at 5-foot-11) who didn’t make many sacks at Texas despite starting nearly four years. Instead, he understands how to use his natural leverage to get under opponents’ pads and drive them off the line. He might be an ideal second-unit nose tackle to back up the Saints’ Davison. East LB #45 Chris Worley, Ohio State Buckeyes. The Saints haven’t been reported as meeting with Worley yet, but it’s safe to assume he’s on their radar given their love of Buckeyes. He’s a quality middle linebacker who can do it all, per Sikkema: “Hell of a day yesterday, making an impact again today. Making the call outs from the middle. Good in coverage and just put a RB on his ass because it’s in his blood. Give me that guy.” I’m not sure how Worley is still so badly underrated, but he outplayed his more-hyped teammates last year like Jerome Baker. West S #17 Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern Wildcats. Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency this spring, so the Saints will probably be in the market for a third safety to go with Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. Igwebuike is as instinctive and aggressive as they come, regularly breaking on the ball and sifting through traffic in the backfield. We’ll have to wait and see which athletic thresholds Igwebuike meets (or doesn’t meet) at the NFL Scouting Combine, but I’m a fan of his game. East TE #82 Ethan Wolf, Tennessee Vols. Like Alvin Kamara, Wolf was a victim of Butch Jones’ limited imagination. He’s a natural hands-catcher who won’t drop the ball when it’s thrown to him. Pro Football Focus has also graded him highly as a blocker on the edge, but I’ll defer to Joe Marino of NDT Scouting for a more in-depth look. I want to see if Wolf can consistently split zone coverage to find opportunities to run after the catch, something that took Josh Hill a few years to nail down and that Coby Fleener has been able to do only sparingly.