The East-West Shrine game will be played on Saturday, and statistically speaking many players suiting up this weekend will be playing in the NFL in 2017. Last year over 90 players who played in the Shrine game went on to get drafted or signed as undrafted free agents, four of which were drafted in the top 100 selections of the 2016 NFL Draft: offensive guard Joe Thuney (78th pick, New England Patriots), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (89th pick, Pittsburgh Steelers), offensive lineman Graham Glasgow (95th pick, Detroit Lions), and safety Justin Simmons (98th pick, Denver Broncos). NFL scouts from all 32 teams will be at the Shrine game, including scouts from the Jaguars who will be wasting no time in making preparations for the upcoming draft. Here’s a list of players that could be calling Jacksonville home in 2017.
EJuan Price | DL
Hailing from Pitt Price had 45 tackles, 13 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in 2016. He is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive lineman, weighing in at 6’1” and 255 lbs. but don’t tell him that. Price uses his low center of gravity and quickness off the ball to his advantage. Price could be a steal in the later rounds if the Jaguars look to cash in on a pass rusher late in the draft, and with the success of Yannick Ngakoue and the development of Dante Fowler Jr there would be no pressure for Price to come in and be a force right away. Some time to develop on an NFL roster could turn Price into a real force on any defensive line in a couple years.
Jimmie Gilbert | LB
While the Jaguars linebacker corps seem to be pretty solid already featuring Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack, and Telvin Smith it could use some added depth and you simply can’t leave Colorado linebacker Jimmie Gilbert off a list of players to watch in the East-West Shrine game. Gilbert finished 2016 with 10 sacks, 62 tackles, and 6 forced fumbles. Gilbert stands at 6’5” and weighs 230 lbs. meaning he’d need to bulk up some before entering the NFL, but his predatory play style gives him the intangibles needed to gain attention from the NFL scouts. Gilbert did play a in a 3-4 defense at Colorado and so he would be considered a project player for the Jaguars. However, if Gilbert falls to the later rounds it could be worth the Jaguars’ taking him on as a developmental player and to add depth to a strength position on the Jaguars defense.
Xavier Woods | S
Louisiana Tech’s Xavier Woods should be at the top of everyone’s list of players to keep an eye on at the Shrine game. Woods was extremely productive on the field during his senior year putting up some seriously impressive stats that include 81 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 6 passes defensed, 3 sacks, and 5 interceptions. Woods does have a few things he can work on to clean up his act, such as struggling to get off blocks and over pursuing, but if he keeps up his head-turning production there’s no reason to think that Woods won’t go in the top 100 picks of the NFL draft. If Woods were to wind up on the Jaguars he could be some legitimate competition to Johnathan Cyprien (if he's resigned) for the starting safety position across from Tashaun Gibson.
I’Tavius Mathers | RB
After the almost instant success of Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliot in the NFL there has been some speculation that the Jaguars might take a running back with the fourth overall pick in 2017. I’Tavius Mathers could be a player worth keeping an eye on this weekend because the Jaguars scouts are almost certainly keeping an eye on him as well. Mathers transferred to Middle Tennessee from Ole Miss and in 2016 and with the Blue Raiders he rushed the ball 232 times for 1,561 yards, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns. Additionally, Mathers caught 66 passes for 633 yards and 3 more touchdowns through the air. While he certainly needs to work on his patience and let plays develop he has the ability to accelerate to top speed quickly and turn short plays into long gains. He certainly won't be the pick at number four, but perhaps later in the draft.
Michael Roberts | TE
Marcedes Lewis isn’t getting any younger and there are some whispers that Julius Thomas was a product of Peyton Manning in Denver and so Jacksonville could be looking to add some depth to the tight end position in 2017. In 2016 Roberts caught 45 passes for 533 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns making him a serious red zone threat. Also, Roberts weighs in at 6’5” and 270 lbs. and is not afraid to throw his weight around. Toledo not only used Roberts in the red zone, but also in pass protection. If there’s one knock on Roberts it’s that he doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he does have exceptional hand strength. All tight end needy teams will certainly have their eyes on Roberts.
Evan Goodman | OL
I don’t think that I’m alone in saying that I’d be very surprised if the Jaguars didn’t address the offensive line at all in the 2017 NFL draft. While they’re not as bad as they once were, the offensive line still needs work. Goodman stands at 6’4” and weighs 306 lbs. but still manages to keep his movements quick while controlling his body, firing off the ball and keeping defenders off balance from the beginning of the play is a strength of his. If defenders allow Goodman to play his game it could quickly turn into a long day. However, if defenders can figure Goodman out he can forget his technique and get frustrated. Although he started at tackle throughout his collegiate career, if Goodman was moved to guard and allowed to work in smaller spaces he could develop into a solid player for any pro offensive line.
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