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East-West Shrine Bowl features NFL prospects


The East-West Shrine Bowl, which kicks off at 2 p.m. (CT) Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla., has long been a chance for NFL teams to get a closer look at some of the under-the-radar players in the upcoming draft. 

The past two years have seen 18 participants drafted, though the most celebrated participant, running back Phillip Lindsey, went undrafted before putting up consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Denver Broncos. In 2016 and 2017, 67 participants played their way into the draft.

Last year, then-wide receiver Jesper Horsted caught two passes for 42 yards in the Shrine Bowl, starting a year-long process going from undrafted free agent to contributing as a Bears tight end.

Over the past decade, the Bears have drafted several players off the East-West rosters, including safety Deon Bush and tackle Charles Leno Jr..

Here are some of the top prospects in Saturday's game:

Jordan Fuller, S, Ohio State
Fuller's season ended on a frustrating note: his fumble recovery returned for a touchdown in the Peach Bowl was overturned on review. Only adding to that frustration was the fact that Ohio State ended up losing the game by six points, and the review was widely criticized, including a statement by the Big Ten supervisor of officials.

Fuller did not get the chance to play for the National Championship, but he will be one of the more intriguing prospects in the Shrine Bowl. He has excellent size for his position (6-2, 205), and has proved adequate in both stopping the run and defending the pass. The lack of a truly elite skill will push him into the later rounds, but his consistency will likely give him plenty of opportunities to catch on.

Dele Harding, LB, Illinois
Harding was a member of Lovie Smith's first recruiting class in Champaign. Four years later, he helped lead the Illini to their first bowl game in five years. As a senior, Harding recorded 154 total tackles and three interceptions. 

Harding's size (6-1, 230) has led to questions about whether his ideal position is on the inside and outside at the professional. However, his production during his senior year and his praiseworthy performance at Shrine Bowl practices should earn him a ticket to a training camp somewhere. 

Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah
Huntley was a three-year starter at Utah after unseating a senior incumbent in his sophomore year. Huntley put up the best numbers of his career in 2019, throwing for 3,092 yards and 19 touchdowns against four interceptions, all while completing 73.1 percent of his passes.

At 6-1, 205 pounds, Huntley is smaller than most of the draft's top quarterback prospects. He also missed large chunks of 2017 and 2018 due to injuries. He's currently projected to be a late-round draft pick and could exceed expectations in the right circumstances.

Calvin Throckmorton, G, Oregon
Possibly the highest-rated player in the game, Throckmorton is currently ranked as the ninth best guard in the draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. 

Throckmorton started 52 games in his time at Oregon, including stints at four different positions (right tackle, left tackle, right guard and center). Although he has the length to stay outside (6-5, 310), Oregon kept him on the inside as a senior and the scouting consensus is that is where he belongs. While there are still questions about his mechanics, it's hard to dismiss a player who allowed only one sack in the last three years and played on one of the nation's most effective offensive lines in 2019. 

Nick Westbrook, WR, Indiana
Westbrook isn't the most athletic receiver at the Shrine Bowl, but his ability to leverage his size (6-3, 216), run crisp routes and reliably catch the ball have turned heads this week. Westbrook is the type of prospect who might benefit most from a strong performance in an all-star game, since he's unlikely to put up impressive numbers at Pro Day.

Westbrook had his best season as sophomore in 2016, when he caught 54 passes for 995 yards and six touchdowns. But he tore his ACL in the 2017 season opener and returned in 2018 and 2019 as less of a downfield threat. However, there's plenty of demand in the NFL for big, smart receivers with good hands.