With the recent announcement that the regularly scheduled NFL Combine would not take place as scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be more of an emphasis placed on the all-star game circuit unlike any season ever before. One of the most important elements to factor into the draft process is obtaining verified measurables, which prospects will rely upon this year by either being invited to participate in an actual live, on-site event or through one of the proposed regional combines that the NFL is working on orchestrating.
The most prominent game amongst the all-star circuit is the Senior Bowl, followed by the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which consist of the ‘Big 3’ on the circuit. Due to the current climate of the pandemic, the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl opted to conduct a ‘virtual event,’ which consisted of a series of educational seminars and online interviews. As a result, some of the lower-tier all-star games have taken on a greater significance of importance in front offices stacking their big board for the upcoming NFL Draft.
The 2021 Tropical Bowl was held on January 15th-through-17th, featuring two days of practice and finishing up with a game on the third day. Over 350 Tropical Bowl alumni have gone on to the NFL since its inception in 2016, including players such as Danny Etling, Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, Scotty Miller and JoJo Natson. This year, the 2021 Tropical Bowl had pro scouts from 30 NFL and CFL teams in attendance. Let’s take a look at some of the players who boosted their draft stock based on what we’ve seen and heard.
GREG MCCRAE | UCF | RB | 5094 | 179 | 0900 | 2978 | 7258
One of the more exciting players in this year’s draft class, McCrae opened the game with a 99- yard kickoff return and would finish with 185 total yards on the day, including 65 rushing yards, while adding five catches out of the backfield. The all-purpose back has experience returning both kicks and punts, while also proving to have a dependable set of hands during his time with the Black Knights. While he will need to bulk up some, that type of versatility and usage could earn McCrae a chance in the league where they play for pay.
TRE HARBISON | Charlotte/Northern Illinois | RB | 5105 | 216 | 0948 | 3178 | 7468
A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher at Northern Illinois, Harbison fell victim to an abbreviated season during his one year at Charlotte, with multiple game cancellations and limited film evaluation for NFL teams at the FBS level. Harbison showed off his multi-faceted skill-set as a runner, pass-catcher and pass protector. In addition, he added special teams to his resume this past season during his time with the 49ers. The downhill runner demonstrated his ability to break tackles and pick up the tough yards after contact, while adding one rushing score during the game. Expect to see Harbison in a camp come August, competing for a backup role.
D’ANTNE DEMERY | FIU/Georgia | OL | 6054 | 292 | 0968 | 3278 | 8228
A big-time recruit, Demery brings SEC pedigree, transferring from Georgia to FIU. His great length and size was on display throughout the week, as he flashed exceptional strength. He handled Vanderbilt Andre Mintze mightily, who was one of the defensive standouts in attendance, a testament to the type of skill-set Demery possesses. While he may need to polish up some of his footwork, in order to remain at tackle at the next level, Demery appears ready to contribute on the interior in the short-term as he continues to develop. Depending on how teams view his off-field concerns, he projects as a Day 3/priority free agent type prospect.
KOBE JONES | Mississippi State | DE/OLB | 6027 | 248 | 0938 | 3400 | 8248
Arguably the top player in attendance, Jones was dominant throughout the week of practice and left scouts abuzz after capping it off with an impressive game performance. Jones constantly applied pressure in the backfield, demonstrating a high motor and the arm length necessary to make his mark as a premier situational edge rush prospect in this year’s draft class. He registered a sack in the first quarter, where you could hear the hit from three states away. Under the radar no more, Jones departed Orlando as the biggest ‘winner’ from this event.
ANDRE MINTZE | Vanderbilt | DE/OLB | 6022 | 252 | 0914 | 3218 | 7838
There are some in the scouting community who felt that Mintze was viewed as a ‘draftable’ prospect entering Tropical Bowl week and the Commodores product backed that up with an impressive showing in front of NFL scouts. Necks were turning during one-on-one drills, as Mintze consistently won the leverage battle and showed off his impressive bend on the edge. His quick get-off and ability to stay low, allowed him to get the better of his opponents. With few players in this year’s class owning the ability to get after the quarterback, there could be a demand for Mintze on Day 3 of the draft.
ELIJAH SULLIVAN | Kansas State | LB/SS | 5114 | 212 | 0818 | 3128 | 7538
Keep an eye on Sullivan, who is oozing with potential and could emerge as a late-riser, as we get closer to the draft. Not the most impressive player physically, or on film for that matter, however, Sullivan constantly shows up on film with a true nose for the football. He tends to play bigger than his size, sticking his nose in the mix against the run and demonstrating adequate coverage skills. His versatility to play safety or linebacker, plus special teams fits thee position-less football philosophy, which could create a home for Sullivan at the next level.
ARJAY SHELLEY | Manitoba | DB | 6043 | 187 | 0948 | 3368 | 8100
One prospect who benefitted from the week in Orlando was Shelley, who played his collegiate ball north of the border in Manitoba (Canada). The long defensive back checked into the weigh in with impressive measurables and then went on to showcase his fluid movement skills in practice sessions, elevating his draft profile amongst NFL scouts in attendance. Viewed as a safety prospect, Shelley owns some experience playing cornerback and shows great range, with the ability to cover plenty of ground. If the foreign import doesn’t hear his name called during draft weekend, he stands a very good chance to latch on as a priority free agent.
Thank you for tuning in to the NFL Draft Bible for our exclusive coverage of the 2021 all-star game circuit. Be sure to check back for our on-location coverage of the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama all week long! Balls to the wall coverage kicks off on Monday, January 25th, only on NFLDraftBible.com.