BRONCOS

At the Shrine Bowl, a small-school running back could be worth a big Broncos look

Jan 28, 2024, 9:11 PM | Updated: 9:12 pm

FRISCO, Texas — As Shrine Bowl practice rolled on Sunday, several players showed they could be be potential great values in the draft for the Denver Broncos and myriad other NFL teams.

SHRINE BOWL WEST TEAM STANDOUTS

CB MYLES HARDEN, SOUTH DAKOTA

I like watching the way defenders move on the practice field. With no live tackling, it’s going to come down to how they perform in terms of read-and-react skills. That’s why Myles Harden has been a standout player from the moment I got here.

I want to find the players that want to be here. That comes from effort when nobody else is watching. Harden has been money on the field, and during team drills he’s the type of player who has always been around the ball. However, when he’s been warming up, running through non-football drills, and merely running on and off the field Harden puts forth full effort.

RB BLAKE WATSON, MEMPHIS

Yes, I wrote about Watson on Saturday. However, Day 1 stars need to sustain that level on Day 2. I think Watson might have looked even better than his debut. He popped even more on Sunday’s practice, and that’s mainly because of his “pop” as a runner.

Watson is instant offense. I like the way he gets to top speed in a hurry, and he can get to-and-through seemingly faster than any other back at this game. He continues to impress when asked to catch passes out of the backfield, and when talking to Watson he further emphasizes how important his improvement in pass-protection is. As he says, you’ve got to protect the most important player on the field – the quarterback. A young back won’t play if a team can’t trust him to pass block.

I won’t belabor it here, but day 1 stars like Watson, David White, Anim Dankwah, and Easton Gibbs continued the progress they showed by having great days on Sunday’s practice.

OT GARRETT GREENFIELD, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

There are quite a few Jackrabbits here in Frisco. South Dakota State has been known to send a few players to the NFL, and this year is no exception. Greenfield showed well during my favorite drill — “The Pit” — as he was calm while also having a mean streak.

He went up against defender time and time again, but Greenfield did not lose on a single rep. Not only that, but Greenfield also did a good job of being ready for counter moves. Some defenders have pro moves ready when the first move doesn’t work. Many times, college offensive linemen can stop one move but struggle when a second move is set up. On Sunday, Greenfield did not fall for those tricks as pass-rushers could not set him up.

EAST TEAM STANDOUTS

INTERIOR D-LINEMAN FABIAN LOVETT, FLORIDA STATE

One of the best players in “The Pit” had to be Lovett. He was not only great in one-on-one situations, but he was arguably the most disruptive player on the defense. The East practice could not get much going because Lovett was constantly in the backfield.

He’s a huge prospect who can envelop running backs. Because of his size, there’s not much room to move around him — and you’re certainly not going to move through him. That type of anchor is a must for teams who need to improve their rush defense (like the Broncos).

TE McCALLAN CASTLES, TENNESSEE

Castles almost made my report yesterday, but just missing the cut and backing it up with another strong day means I must write about a standout player over two days of practice. Tight end is a weapon in today’s NFL, and Castles can help move the chains.

I like his reach as a receiver, and he shows an intent for going to get a pass that may be too far in front or too far behind him. At an all-star game, many players won’t show that “my ball” mentality if a pass is not right on the money. Castles can catch passes in traffic, showing good concentration when defenders are closing in from both sides. I also like the way he tucks the ball and prepares for contact when he’s securing the ball in the middle of the field.

RB JADEN SHIRDEN, MONMOUTH

Small-school players are always fun to watch at these All-Star games. Eric Galko is the director of football ops and player personnel for the East-West Shrine Bowl, and I’ve known him for over a decade. I can say assuredly that Galko has one of the best eyes for talent in the scouting community. That’s why the talent here has been so good for the last few years. So, any small-school player is going to be a legit baller which is what Shirden is.

I like the way Shirden gets to the second level of the defense. Every motion he has is with intent, and he’s got tremendous body control when it comes to changing direction. Never surprised by what’s in front of him, Shirden seems prepared for the unexpected and can start-and-stop on a dime. Add in what he can do as a receiver, and Shirden is a name evaluators are writing down in their notebooks time and time again.

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At the Shrine Bowl, a small-school running back could be worth a big Broncos look