The East-West Shrine Game is longest-running college football all-star game and it has unearthed a few gems over the years. Certainly it is bound to find a few more in 2018.
Notable participants who are currently active in the NFL include 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Lions running back Theo Riddick, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, Seahawks Safety Kam Chancellor, and Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein.
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is among the handful of Bears who have played in the college all-star showcase. Others include fellow linemen Bradley Sowell and Tom Compton, as well as defensive back Cre’von LeBlanc.
The 93rd East-West Shrine Game will kick off at 2 p.m. central at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be aired on NFL Network.
Prospects To Watch
WR Jake Wieneke, 6-4, 215 pounds, South Dakota State
The Bears offense was missing a big-bodied receiver with a large catch radius, someone with the ability to stretch the field, and a playmaker who can come down with his share of 50-50 balls. What if I told you the Bears could find all of those things in one sleeper candidate? That player could be Wieneke, who has been thrashing the competition at the FCS level for the Jackrabbits.
Wieneke was 35 yards short of posting his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season at SDSU, but still finished his four-year career with 288 catches, 5,157 receiving yards, and 59 touchdowns. NFLDraftScout.com projects him as a fifth-round pick, which could make him the kind of late-round steal that has been the highlight of Pace’s drafts thus far.
DE/EDGE Chad Thomas, 6-5, 265 pounds, Miami
While Miami’s Turnover Chain got a ton of pub, none of it would have been possible if not for some strong play from the defensive line. Thomas was often a menace in the backfield for an improved Hurricanes defense. He finished with 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2017 and started 33 games in his final three years at Miami.
The Bears don’t have much behind Leonard Floyd on their edge rusher depth chart, but Thomas could be a mid-round value pick who could contribute in sub packages right away.
CB Greg Stroman, 6-0, 181 pounds, Virginia Tech
Stroman has the look of a contributor in two facets of the game with punt and kick return experience to go along with 50 games (29 starts) in the Hokies’ defensive secondary. In addition to the nine career interceptions he was able to come away with at Virginia Tech, Stroman has four punt return touchdowns – including two that game in 2017. Considering the injuries the Bears have battled in recent years, Stroman’s versatility would be welcome.
While the Bears have an explosive return specialist in Tarik Cohen, the team could stand to add Stroman’s body to a defensive backfield that might need some fresh blood depending on what happens in free agency.
TE Cam Serigne, 6-3, 240 pounds, Wake Forest
Serigne is one of the well-rounded tight end prospects. He is a sure-handed potential red zone target (44 catches, 556 yards, nine touchdowns in 2017) and a willing blocker in the run game. His size (6-3, 240) might limit him, but he has shown to be physical and a reliable route runner.
What will Adam Shaheen’s future look like under the direction of Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich? Is Dion Sims a viable two-way tight end or just a block-first player at the position? Will Zach Miller attempt another comeback or call it a career? The Bears had four tight ends who played at least 200 snaps in 2017 and left the position with more questions than answers heading into 2018.
OLB/EDGE Joe Ostman, 6-3, 259 pounds, Central Michigan
Ostman has racked up 21 sacks and 33 tackles for loss in 22 games over the last two seasons. Those are eye-popping numbers, but his size and competition level (I love MACtion, but…) allow for questions to be asked about his future projection. But there is no questioning his production. And in the right system, perhaps there is a fit with a defense that picks its spots with certain players.
Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and Isaiah Irving ended the season on injured reserve and the Bears ended 2017 with Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston as their starting outside linebackers. So while Ostman doesn’t project to be a Day 1 starter, he has the look of a contributor as a special teams ace and occasional pass rusher. A strong effort in the Shrine Game could boost Ostman’s draft stock.
OG Cody O’Connell, 6-8, 354 pounds, Washington State
Two of the three offensive linemen drafted by Bears GM Ryan Pace have been in the later rounds, so perhaps we have a trend we should keep an eye on. If so, O’Connell might be someone worth highlighting on Saturday. O’Connell is a two-year starter in Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense which means there is a large body of work to judge his performance from going into the Shrine Game.
In August, O’Connell was one of Pro Football Focus’ five highest-graded draft-eligible guards and posted the second best pass blocking efficiency in his draft class. His size is a plus, but his struggles against the run will be held against him and keep him from being drafted earlier.