Wil Masisak is an NFL & NFL Draft curmudgeon, the old half of @osnsfb show, & 15-year host of the SteelerFury Pittsburgh Steelers podcast. He’s also the only person you know who’s been playing football for 50+ years. @accidentalzen
I put together a composite All-Star Team from the 4 main collegiate All-Star bowls (Hula, NFLPA, Shrine, & Senior) of the past few weeks. Sounds easy, right?
I thought my first assignment for this website would be no problem to knock out.
“I’ll create an All-Star Team from all of this year’s college all-star games!” I thought! “It’ll be easy!” I thought. Having seen in-person the week of NFLPA Bowl Practices, watched the Hula Bowl, and watched cut-ups and reports of the Shrine & Senior Bowls, I figured I’d go through my notes and fill out a quick starting 22. Well, that quickly turned into a 2-deep chart, and then 60+, and then a massive undertaking. Oh, well.
I guess my main takeaway is: there were lots of standout prospects the past couple of weeks, and that doesn’t even include the underclassmen nor the top picks who bypassed all-star season. I’ve been expecting for a while– since they announced the free ‘pandemic year’ that this draft class was going to be miles deep, at least at certain positions. My top 2 draft-eligible QBs returned to school, so while that position group is lacking some pizzazz, the group of OTs, DL, EDGE rushers, & especially Off-Ball LB is as good as I can ever recall in 18 years of doing this. But back to the all-star circuit.
These aren’t necessarily the prospects who I expect to have the best NFL careers going forward (although they might), but they are the players who shined in practices and, yes, in the games. I know it’s a knee-jerk take to say the practices are everything and the games themselves don’t matter–to the point of people leaving town after the last padded practice––but I’d argue that point. While the practices can reveal a lot more about individual participants in some drills and game opportunities can be more random, it’s awfully hard to have meaningful takeaways for QBs and RBs and anyone who has to tackle them primarily by watching no-tackling practices and routes on air. Therefore I included impressions from the games… like it or not.
THE ALL-STAR ALL-STAR OFFENSE
QB EJ Perry, Brown (Shrine) The talent selections for the three bowl games had some weird quirks, not the least of which was the QBs selected for the Shrine vs NFLPA. I felt like there were at least 3-4 QBs in Pasadena who were better NFL prospects than the majority of Shrine QBs. And the practice week/games at each locale reinforced my position. The Senior Bowl QBs carried a lot of hype/attention but that is seriously about as flawed a group as there’s been in Mobile for many years. Observers tried to make something out of every positive in practice reps on air or bestow ‘Top 10’ accolades on QBs who had a couple of nice runs in the game but few high-quality throws. In contrast, EJ Perry was the most accurate and best thrower at the Shrine week, then was the only QB in the game who attacked downfield and showed off accuracy and moxie.
QB Cole Kelley, Southeastern Louisiana /Arkansas (Hula, NFLPA) Kelley spent NFLPA practice week with much less buzz than South Dakota State’s substitute starter Chris Oladokun, and almost all the practice time for both teams was spent focused on getting the ball out on time. Kelley did make an array of accurate throws in practice and, come game time, he played the same methodical, relentless football he displayed the past 2+ seasons in Hammond. His ability to read coverages and deliver driving throws in extremely tight windows and with the game on the line was impressive.
QB Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M (NFLPA) Glass hit tight window throws, displayed perfect deep touch that would make several Senior/Shrine Bowl QBs envious, and did nothing but elevate his draft status all week. If you are the NFL scout(s) responsible for the Shrine Game selecting the guy who started the first half for the East Team while pooh-poohing the FCS guys, you might think about re-evaluating your methodology.
- QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
- QB Chris Oladokun, South Dakota State
RB Dameon Pierce, Florida (Senior) Is an angry runner with some juice and ability as a receiver, but he deserves to be on this list for pass-blocking alone. What a show he put on in Mobile:
RB Pierre Strong, SDSU (Shrine) 2 seconds in to his Shrine reception, I said, we’ll here’s the TD the stats guru predicted for Strong. I’d seen that movie before.
- RB Rachaad White, Arizona State (Senior)
- RB Ty Chandler (Shrine)
- RB Charles Williams, UNLV (Hula)
IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College (Senior) Just like Orlando Umana at the NFLPA Bowl, Johnson at the Senior Bowl was just game over for any pass rusher in the OL vs DL 1-on-1s. Only Boye Mafe––rushing from the interior––even came close to a win. Here is Johnson ho-hum wrestling a bear who killed the rest of the guys on the expedition:
IOL Cordell Volson, NDSU (Shrine) Showed up and began winning reps from the get-go, never stopped. Surprisingly polished and comfortable with the step up in competition and the move to guard.
IOL Tyrese Robinson, Oklahoma (Shrine) One of the more dominating Guards, with a streak of nasty that would make Trevor Penning proud.
IOL Hayden Howerton, SMU (Shrine) Hard to imagine how he could have done better in his Shrine week. He shined in every type of drill, both in run-blocking and pass protection.
IOL Luke Wattenberg, Washington (Shrine) Explosive run blocker with mobility and great footwork who also stoned a bunch of DL in practice & the game in Las Vegas.
- IOL Orlando Umana , Ole MIss/Utah (NFLPA)
- IOL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (Senior)
- IOL Ja’Tyre Carter, Southern (Senior)
- IOL Brock Hoffman, Virginia Tech/Coastal Carolina
OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (Senior) His bullying was maybe a bit over the top––like he’s a walking personal foul/unsportsmanlike waiting to happen––and it came close to injuring his QB on a practice rep where he threw the defender so hard that the guy tumbled through the QBs lower legs. But. From the first rep of the week to the last, he had a point to prove and became that guy you hate if he’s on the other side and that you love if he’s on yours.
OT Abraham Lucas (Washington State) They say you did well as an OL if no one is talking about you. Lucas had one of the quietest great weeks in Mobile you’ll ever see, and then followed it up by being one of the few OTs who was able to protect against this year’s outlier slate of Senior Bowl pass rushers.
OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (Senior) He is an example of why you shouldn’t base all your All-Star impressions on Day 1. Faalele had to learn a new stance (at Minnesota he was using a 45 degree set up his coaches there preferred) and had some early struggles. However, as the week went on, he displayed improvement and began dominating defenders he struggled with early. All in all, I’d rather see ascending players with room to grow, so his visit to Mobile was, pardon the pun, HUGE.
OT Bamidele Olaseni, Utah (Shrine) It seems like every giant in the world has heard that coming to America and learning to play Offensive Line is worth a shot. This British mountain has developed a signature move, which is a lockout with one long arm. It helps to have 36 1/2 inch arms. Yes, you read that right.
OT Ryan Van Demark, UConn (NFLPA/Shrine) I’m not sure how it was possible, but UConn had TWO great NFL prospects and still managed to be one of the 3 or 4 worst CFB teams I watched play in 2022. They lost to FCS Holy Cross, to 2-10 Vanderbilt, and to perhaps the worst FBS team in the land, 1-11 UMass. But I digress. RVD quietly held his ground against some good edge rushers in Pasadena and then went to Vegas and did the same.
- OT Austin Deculus, LSU (Shrine)
- OT Jalen McKenzie, USC (NFLPA & Shrine)
- OT Obinna Eze, TCU (Shrine)
- OT Caleb Jones, Indiana (NFLPA)
TE Jelani Woods, Virginia/Oklahoma State I don’t understand Japanese, but I’m guessing this tweet says something like “Wow! Look at this footwork from an enormous TE known for his blocking. TE Ichiban”:
TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin (Senior) For a prospect who was kind of lost in the shuffle of a deep TE class, Ferguson appeared to be everywhere in Mobile. He’s all over the practice tape, he ran past and over LBs & Safeties, he’s a solid blocker. He seems the prototype for a 2-way NFL TE.
- TE Austin Allen, Nebraska (NFLPA)
WR Christian Watson, NDSU (Senior) I was amazed how many draft analysts were unfamiliar with Christian Watson, who plays for the most-well known and currently FCS Champion North Dakota State Bison (that’s spelled b-i-Z-o-n). I mean, he’s 6’4″ 211lbs, runs roughly 4.35 in the 40, and has footwork like this:
WR Dai’Jean Dixon, Nicholls St. (NFLPA) Speaking of FCS receivers sneaking up on the draft world, Dixon was a top WR prospect for last year’s draft, but decided at rather the last minute to go back for another season. He made an impression this All-Stara season, with an array of uncoverable routes, high-pointing balls, getting behind the defense, and catching an NFL-type Red Zone TD, where he got absolutely popped and hung on.
WR Samori Touré, Nebraska/Montana (Shrine) Another FCS talent who decided to forego the draft in 2021, went to the FBS level as a grad transfer. He has that something special in terms of not only getting open and catching the ball in traffic, but with a nose for the end zone.
WR/KR Kalil Pimpelton, Central Michigan/Virginia Tech (NFLPA) Pimpelton came in renowned as one of the best deep-ball (highest % of throws at least 20 yards downfield) and acrobatic WRs in the draft, but he left Pasadena having displayed excellent footwork and ballet-like body control.
WR Velus Jones, Tennessee (Senior) Jones absolutely tortured top CB prospect Derion Kendrick all week, as he used a mixture of quick feet and head fakes that seemed to buy him space on every route.
- WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada
- WR/KR Jequez Ezzard, Sam Houston State/Howard (NFLPA/Senior)
- WR Emeka Emezie, NC State (Shrine)
This year’s draft has a WR class that is––as it now seems to be every year––very deep and varied in talents. The TE class is deep. There are some nice pieces at RB. The QB class may not be ‘all that’, but this incredible OL group is going to go down in history.