2020 East/West Shrine Bowl Preview: Quarterbacks

Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Shrine Bowl is often viewed as the little brother of the Senior Bowl. It serves as more than just the opening bell of a draft season; it's a breeding ground for some of the NFL's most intriguing and unlikeliest talent. 

The Shrine Bowl brings in some of the fringes of NFL draft talent — the raw, small-school, developmental prospects that very well could be something — and lets NFL teams really test their mettle. Famously, the Shrine Bowl brought in a gunslinging cowboy from Southern Miss named Brett Favre and a razor-sharp surgeon out of Eastern Illinois named Jimmy Garoppolo.

There are good quarterbacks to be had in the Shrine Bowl. You just have to know where to look.

Shrine Week will kick off on Monday, and we're here to get you ramped up for it. Today, we're taking a look at the quarterbacks who will set foot in St. Petersburg, Flordia, this year:

Top Talent: Tyler Huntley, Utah

It’s pretty rare a player who had a legitimate Heisman campaign would make his way to St. Petersburg for the Shrine Bowl, but Tyler Huntley's got the goods. Yes, his career ended on a sour note with two of his worst performances coming in the final two games he played, against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship and against Texas in the Alamo Bowl. But Huntley's body of work across his senior season spoke to his development as a passer from his previous years at Utah and served as a testimony for why he — as many other Utes did — elected to return to school.

In his final season, Huntley's completion percentage jumped nearly 10-percentage points, while his yards per attempt leaped almost three yards from his career average — this, all without his top receiver in Britain Covey, who was lost to the season with an injury. Huntley was also able to put together an entire season, which was a critical aspect of his pro evaluation, in that he's a thinner running quarterback who could have frame questions at the NFL level.

In my scouting report on Huntley, I wrote about his questionable accuracy and processing. In a sterile practice environment, Huntley has an opportunity to show that he has those NFL-caliber traits that will secure him a spot on a roster in the league.

Most Potential: James Morgan, Florida International

Have you ever seen James Morgan sling the rock?

The young man has an arm.

Morgan was a two-year starter at Bowling Green before transferring to Florida International to play for Butch Davis. In his time with the Golden Panthers, he's posted big numbers, though his senior season was a bit of a disappointment relative to the production of his junior campaign. With that said, Morgan is a lab-built QB prospect: He has the requisite size, arm strength and mobility to win at the next level.

Morgan is going to shine during practices because of his physical tools. How he does in interviews and on the chalkboard will define exactly how much draft capital teams are willing to invest in him as a developmental QB3 and a fun preseason option. But in terms of the toolbox, it doesn't get much better in this class than Morgan does, even outside of St. Pete.

Late Round Steal: Mason Fine, North Texas

I've always held a place in my heart for Mason Fine out of North Texas. He’s just a fighter. Fine is regularly put out gritty, banged-up performances for the Mean Green over nearly four seasons of starting (47 games) and has kept them in contention in C-USA as well. His competitiveness and experience make him a desirable young quarterback for the practice squad, as you expect him to prepare with good weekly habits, and be ready to play in a pinch.

With that said, Fine is not lacking for the requisite tools to survive in the NFL. He isn't just all heart. Fine has enough arm strength and good mobility to extend plays and keep the offense humming with his legs. He has some Gardner Minshew-like traits in terms of his ability to lead a huddle, smaller frame and play style.

Most To Prove: Kelly Bryant, Missouri

Kelly Bryant was a good college quarterback at Clemson — he played in a national championship, mind you — and had an NFL draft future with the Tigers. That is, until Trevor Lawrence rolled around. Bryant was ousted by the more talented freshman last season and elected to transfer under the new redshirt rules and start at Missouri this year.

Bryant was by no means bad at Missouri, but he showed nothing that he hadn't already displayed at Clemson while struggling a bit with availability and a poor supporting cast. While Bryant has not had the final seasons you'd hope from a draft-worthy QB; he does have NFL traits and an opportunity at the Shrine Bowl to prove that his competitiveness and elusiveness could translate into a playable quarterback in the league.

Big School Sleeper: Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State

Before you get too far into this: Nom I do not think Tommy Stevens has a great NFL future at quarterback. There were reports out of the Manning Camp this year that he was slinging the pill better than anyone else there, but it simply did not translate into successful on-field play with Joe Moorhead in Mississippi State.

But Stevens is a sleeper because he does have the ability to play the Taysom Hill role if Hill's success with the New Orleans Saints has been enough that teams want to co-opt the idea of a do-it-all gadget player. Stevens is a plus athlete with NFL size and strength and was used as a wildcat quarterback with some success at Penn State before he transferred. Stevens is most likely to make a roster in the NFL if he operates under the paradigm.