Three postseason all-star games down, four more to go! I love that you guys are following me along on this 2023 NFL Draft scouting journey across all of the postseason all-star events.
This week, I was at both the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Hula Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
There were a ton of scouts from across the five professional leagues (NFL, CFL, XFL, USFL and ELF) who were in attendance, and there was a ton of good football being played also.
I'll have detailed scouting reports on every prospect who has attended all-star games this cycle, as well as many others. Last year, the FBGP Scouting Guide featured over 1,000 individual scouting reports, and this year's edition figures to be about the same. (For more information, click here.)
Now, let's take a look at some of my takeaways and notes from both the College Gridiron Showcase and the Hula Bowl.
College Gridiron Showcase
What's unique about the CGS is that it is the only all-star event that doesn't have an actual game after the practices. So, players and scouts get four days of straight practice work, culminating in a full scrimmage.
There are four groups at the CGS: Marshals (small college), Wranglers and Desperados Groups (FBS-FCS players) and Regulators (Specialists).
The Marshals group was the small-college group, with prospects from the FCS-NAIA levels. Some of the players who competed well during this group received an opportunity to move to the Desperados or Wranglers squads.
RB Keaton Dudik (5-7 173), Southwestern Assemblies of God
Dudik reminded me a lot of former USC RB Chad Morton. He's explosively quick and agile, and was able to freeze defenders in their tracks before continuing on his journey downfield. During RB-vs-LB 1-on-1s, his stop-and-start ability made him almost automatic on option routes and versus man coverage.
WR Braxton Westfield (6-2 207), Carson-Newman
Westfield was one of the more consistent route runners in the Marshals group, and because of his play, he was able to earn a spot on the Wranglers roster. You saw him consistently make catches over the shoulder, away from his frame, and within contested-catch situations. I thought he showed tremendous polish and nuance at the position.
WR Cody Chrest, (6-0 196) Sam Houston
Chrest, like Westfield, gave defenders fits all throughout both practices, earning himself a spot on the Wranglers. He had the type of practices where every time you heard the "oohs and ahhs" coming from the scouts and players on the field, it was due to a play that Chrest made.
WR James Letcher Jr. (5-6 172), Washburn
We featured Letcher in our Hunt Report before, and getting to see him live was a treat. Remember, size is not a skill, and despite being 5-foot-6, 172 pounds, his explosiveness, suddenness and run-after-catch ability make him a threat with the ball in his hands. I believe he's this draft class' Kavontae Turpin.
Other offensive standouts:
- RB Toneil Carter, Texas A&M-Kingsville
- QB Kory Curtis, Gannon
- RB Devontae Dean, Arkansas Tech
- TE Jeremie Karngbaye, West Texas A&M
- WR Garett Maag, North Dakota
- OT Nicolas Melsop, Delta State
- TE Nick Poterack, Wayne State (MI)
DE/EDGE Malik Barrow (6-3 235), Davenport University
There were times throughout the defensive practices where you saw Barrow disrupt entire plays. He was easily identifiable because of the protective Guardian Cap on his helmet. He looked extremely comfortable with his hand off the ground and flashed the athleticism you look for at the position.
DE Keiondre Hall (6-2 240), Pittsburg State
Hall has a natural feel for the game that I really like to see from a defender. He's got a variety of ways of getting to the QB, showcasing both active hands and flexibility to bend the edge, accelerating to the QB or ball carrier in the process. This is his second All-Star game appearance, as he was also at the FCS Bowl in December.
S Darrius Nash (6-0 207), Utah Tech
Nash was able to show impressive coverage skills during 1-on-1s against the wide receivers, which helps showcase his potential versatility as a pro. During team periods and 7-on-7s, his football IQ was on display, as he was always where he was supposed to be and needed to be to make a play.
S Kyriq McDonald (5-9 213), Missouri State
It was a joy to watch McDonald compete out there during the practices, as he was always around the ball. Whether it was getting over top of a deep ball or closing in on a receiver to break up the pass, McDonald more often than not made the plays that were there to be made.
S Cyntell Williams (6-0 189), Ferris State
Smooth in and out of his backpedal and not afraid to run up and lay a pop on the ball carrier or receiver, Williams brought the way he played in that Ferris State defense down to Fort Worth. The way he closes on the ball and ball carrier is what stood out most to me.
CB Jacob Williams (6-0 200), Slippery Rock
Williams definitely looked the part of a pro corner, having the requisite size that the scouts covet. The Slippery Rock corner was one of the more technically sound corners there. In 1-on-1s, he showed good patience, hands, hips and spatial awareness, even showing good ball skills as well. He's got a good physical profile, and his game matches up to what you see physically.
Other defensive standouts:
- CB Damon Lynch, Simon Fraser
- S Keyron Kinsler, Alcorn State
- S Brennan Ray, Montclair State
- DE Brayden Thimons, Westminster
- DE Jaren Baltazar, Wayland Baptist
- CB Devious Christmon, Bethel University
- CB Josh Hayes, Eastern Kentucky
- DE PJ Huff, Nevada
QB Cephus Johnson III (6-5 226), Southeastern Louisiana
Johnson might have been the most impressive and intriguing of the group of quarterbacks. A physically imposing player, Johnson showcased a set of tools that left scouts both gasping and salivating. There's not a throw on the field he can't make, and you saw him settle in more with each passing rep. Because he's a tremendous athlete -- who's expected to run in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash -- he got a few reps at WR during the practices, a position he's played before at SLU. If you're looking for a deep sleeper of a QB prospect, you've found him.
OG Phillip Grohovac (6-4 315), Western University
The USports (Canadian college football) product more than held his own against guys from the NCAA. Grohovac has good core strength and was able to anchor rather well against a defender's bull rush. He's one of the top CFL Draft prospects in this class.
WR Danny Kittner (5-8 180), University of Mary
Kittner was the talk of the showcase with how well he performed consistently. At the top of his route, he's able to create both the space and separation to gain an advantage on a defender. He's your ideal slot player who will find a way to stand out wherever he ends up.
WR Avante Cox (5-9 181), Southern Illinois
Nuance is the name of the game when describing how well Cox played this week. You can just tell he played a lot of ball at Southern Illinois. Outside of thriving in the 1-on-1s, he really excelled in the 7-on-7 periods, showing a complete understanding of zone coverage and reading it well on the fly.
WR Dante Hendrix (6-1 206), Indiana State
Hendrix looks like a pro physically, and played like one at every practice. He's got the versatility to play inside or outside and has a dependable pair of hands. There were at least two "how did he catch that" moments during this week of work.
DE Ronnie Thomas (5-10 244), Mississippi Valley State
At Mississippi Valley, Thomas was an EDGE player; this week, I was able to get a really good feel for how athletic he is and can he be a SAM backer or play more off-ball at the pro level. Those questions were answered, and I think he raised some eyebrows this week in Fort Worth. I'll get the chance to see him again at the HBCU Legacy Bowl in late February.
LB Jalen Mackie (6-0 236), UMass
Patience and twitch from an off-ball linebacker perspective was impressive. I thought Mackie performed well during the LB/RB 1-on-1 drills, which are heavily tilted toward the offensive side of the ball. After transferring to UMass from Dartmouth, Mackie was ready for the step up in competition at the CGS and proved it out there on the field.
DB Xavier Bell (6-1 194), Portland State
If you go back and watch the film of Bell against Washington this year, you'll see where his potential lies at the next level, and that's all over the field. A tremendous and versatile athlete with ball skills, Bell can play virtually anywhere across the secondary and showcased some 1-on-1 coverage ability this week.
I was able to catch up with him after practice to chat about the week (watch below).
Other Desperados standouts:
- RB Aidan Borguet, Harvard
- RB Jarek Broussard, Michigan State
- OC Patrick Flynn, New Hampshire
- WR Braxton Burmeister, San Diego State
- WR Clark Barnes, Guelph
- WR MJ Link, UT-Permian Basin
- DE Eric Black, Stony Brook
- LB Marvin Pierre, Kent State
- CB Eric Garror, Louisiana
- CB Ferlando Jordan, Southeastern Louisiana
- S Kedrick Whitehead Jr., Delaware
- S Maxwell Worship, Vanderbilt
QB Matthew McKay (6-3 222), Elon
There's a ton of polish in McKay's game, and I thought he really thrived in the intermediate levels of the field throwing the ball. Everything from his set up to his base and his throwing mechanics were exactly where you'd want it to be. Very impressive showing.
WR Isaiah Winstead (6-2 216), East Carolina
Winstead is an above-the-rim type receiver and lives rather well in that aspect of the game. He plays a big man's game out on the perimeter, playing well above his listed height and weight. While I was surprised he was here at the showcase, it wouldn't surprise me to see him find his way into another all-star game. This week, he definitely made the most of his opportunity.
CB Larry Brooks III (5-11 204), Tulane
Brooks was awesome during the week. You'd think he was an offensive player with the amount of passes that found their way into his hands. He's excellent both in off-coverage as he is in tight man-to-man. He's another player who got a lot of buzz from the scouts in attendance.
LB Trevor Brohard (6-1 232), New Mexico State
Brohard moves fluidly during individual drills, and I was glad it translated over to 7-on-7s and team periods. He's someone who can be trusted on all three downs. During the 9-on-7 periods, he was able to quickly diagnose and get great run fits, in addition to making the tackle.
DT Jamare Edwards (6-2 284), James Madison
Edwards was the star of OL/DL 1-on-1s, as he got excellent ball get off and heavy hands that were able to walk the OL back into the pocket. During 9-on-7s, he quickly disengaged from blocks and made a bevy of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. There's some versatility inside there from Edwards, as I believe he can play the 3T, 1T and shade if necessary.
CB Dexter Lawson Jr. (5-8 185), Appalachian State
Lawson had one of the best days from a defensive back in Monday's practice. He was providing sticky coverage throughout the day, no matter the period. I was thoroughly impressed with his overall technical skill, though I shouldn't be surprised coming from that program.
CB Coi Miller (5-10 185), Houston Christian
Miller has fantastic click-and-close ability, and he proved he can play well on the outside, as well as on the interior. During 1-on-1s, receivers had a hard time creating separation, and more often than not, they also had trouble holding on to the football, as his hands were very active through the catch.
Other Wranglers standouts:
- OG Lorenz Metz, Cincinnati
- CB Jonathan Sutherland, Penn State
- WR Shocky Jacques-Louis, Akron
- WR Justin Marshall, Buffalo
- WR Quian Williams, Buffalo
- WR Shae Wyatt, Tulane
- LB Chris Ojoh, New Mexico State
- DT Ifeanyi Maijeh, Rutgers
- CB Christian Morgan, Baylor
- CB Kordell Rodgers, Texas State
- S Bralen Trahan, Louisiana
- LB Orien Vance, Iowa State
I flew from Dallas to Orlando on Tuesday night to catch two days of the Hula Bowl practices. What a great time out there, seeing scouts from the NFL, CFL, USFL, XFL and European League of Football. In fact, Rhein Fire coach Jim Tomsula was coaching up the defensive line here and Houston Gamblers coach Kevin Sumlin was coaching up one of the teams.
Here is a look at some of the guys who stood out at both practices. The Hula Bowl game will be played this Saturday (Jan. 14) at 12 p.m. ET at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
QB Tim DeMorat (6-3 224), Fordham
I thought DeMorat threw the ball well and was the most consistent out of all of the quarterbacks. The strength of his arm and the velocity on his passes are what he's known for, but at the practices you gain a newfound appreciation for the placement of his passes and knowing when and where to make certain throws.
QB Adrian Martinez (6-1 220), Kansas State
There's a lot to like about Martinez and the growth he's made from Nebraska to Kansas State. Just from a physical perspective, he looks like Dak Prescott. What stood out to me the most from him this week was the placement of the throws he made during 1-on-1s, giving the receivers every opportunity to make the play, while keeping the defender away from the ball.
RB Jaleel McLaughlin (5-9, 183), Youngstown State
McLaughlin is the type of guy a coach will love. The two days I was there, he was one of the first guys on the field doing a lot of pre-practice work, even working with one of the coaches before practice on some routes vs. air. He was a star at D2 Notre Dame College before transferring to Youngstown State.
I caught up with him post-practice Wednesday to talk shop and Hula Bowl (watch below).
WR Matt Landers (6-4 199), Arkansas
Landers was the star of practice Tuesday ... and the only reason I know this is because I had to go and watch Tuesday's practice on film, as he wasn't out there the rest of the week. It wouldn't surprise me to see the 6-foot-4 Razorback in another upcoming all-star game. That's how good that Tuesday practice was.
WR Ryan Miller (6-1 209), Furman
Miller was a "tight end" at Furman, but has been playing in the slot here at the Hula Bowl and gives off Coby Fleener vibes. He's been a nightmare for defenders to cover because he's such a physical player at the apex of his route and at the catch point. He's one of the more consistent players here.
WR Ed Lee (5-8 178), Rhode Island
If you told me that Ed Lee was 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, I'd believe you. Because that's how the diminutive receiver played all throughout the practices. During 1-on-1s, you saw Lee consistently snatch the ball off of the top of a defender's head for the reception.
WR Duece Watts (6-1 193), Tulane
Don't let Watts get inside position, because it's over. Also, don't let Watts win off the line of scrimmage, because it's over. The reason why both statements are what they are is due to his tremendous ability to accelerate out of a break or cut, making him next to impossible to defend.
DL Caleb Sampson (6-3 305), Kansas
Strong, violent hands are what Sampson has, and it showed during OL/DL 1-on-1s, as he won multiple reps with a bull rush, before switching it up and whipping offensive linemen with quick, active hands and a nice swim move.
EDGE Andrew Farmer (6-3 250), Lane
Farmer has the "off-the-bus" look, as he's a well put together 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender. And he was able to show that the jump from D2 to competing against FBS offensive linemen and tight ends wasn't a problem. He was able to consistently hold the edge vs. the run while also showing an impressive power rush during 1-on-1s. He's already got another all-star invite to the HBCU Legacy Bowl.
EDGE Jordan Ferguson (6-0 266), Middle Tennessee State
Ferguson was the most disruptive point-of-attack player here at the Hula Bowl. It didn't matter the drill or period; he was in the backfield and giving offensive linemen fits. He showed he could win with power, speed, quickness and finesse. He definitely made himself some money this week.
LB Ryan Greenhagen (6-0 243), Fordham
How well Greenhagen performed in pass coverage was most impressive to me. But it shouldn't have surprised me, considering how much Fordham throws the football. I already knew he was a great run defender, but I came away impressed with how athletic he was in pass coverage. I thought he definitely answered a lot of questions down here in Orlando.
CB Steven Gilmore (5-9 162), Marshall
Give me the feisty corners every day of the week, and that's what Gilmore is. He's a very lean defensive back, but as I always say, size is not a skill, and you never saw him get outmuscled on a route throughout all of the practices. His man-to-man coverage skills were top-notch.
Other Hula Bowl standouts
- QB Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
- RB Christopher Brooks, BYU
- RB Khalan Laborn, Marshall
- WR Keytaon Thompson, Virginia
- TE Lachlan Pitts, William & Mary
- OT Chris Toth, Aurora (IL)
- OT Noah Henderson, East Carolina
- OG Dillan Gibbons, Florida State
- CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse, LSU
- CB Art Green, Houston
- CB Jordan Jones, Rhode Island
- CB Nehemiah Shelton, San Jose State
- CB Tyler Richardson, Tiffin
- CB Jeremy Lucien, Vanderbilt
- S Avery Young, Rutgers
- S Latavious Brini, Arkansas
Podyum All-Star Bowl
The Podyum All-Star Bowl took place during the same time as the College Gridiron Showcase, so while I wasn't able to attend live, I was able to take a gander at the roster. Here are two of the players who attended who you should definitely get to know.
TE Cole Hissong (6-1 220), Wooster
Hissong is similar to that of Ryan Miller of Furman. He's a TE in position only, as he's essentially a big slot receiver or at worst, a flex TE. The way he's able to manipulate defenders within his route running was impressive to see. He's going to garner a lot more buzz as this process rolls along.
RB Morian Walker Jr. (6-0 210), Texas A&M-Kingsville
Walker is a back who showcases a lot of athleticism and eagerness as a runner. He runs with the same sense of urgency as Cardinals RB James Conner. He's a good downfield threat in the passing game and has good acceleration on both ends of offense.
Next Up: 2023 Tropical Bowl (Jan. 17-21)