Zay Flowers is the best NFL Draft prospect at the Shrine Bowl. Should the Raiders target him?

Four Shrine Bowl Prospects the Raiders Should Target in the 2023 NFL Draft

The Shrine Bowl is one of the first stops during the pre-draft process. It’ll be hosted at the Las Vegas Raiders’ home, Allegiant Stadium. Over recent years, this all-star game has elevated the stock of several prospects. In 2022, impact rookies such as Brock Purdy (SF), Jack Jones (NE), and Isiah Pacheco (KC) made a name for themselves in the league.

As far as the Raiders go, the new front office selected one player from the 2022 Shrine Bowl. Matthew Butler, a former Tennessee defensive lineman, came off the board at No. 175 in the 2022 NFL Draft. Butler failed to see consistent playing time, but he will have a chance to earn more reps in Year 2.

Four Shrine Bowl Prospects the Raiders Should Target in the 2023 NFL Draft

Peeling things back a little more reveals another trend. The New England Patriots drafted three players from last year’s Shrine Bowl rosters. General manager Dave Ziegler spent nearly a decade in the Pats front office, so expect the regime to keep a close eye on this week’s activities.

The talent in this year’s game is arguably the best it has ever been. A handful of potential day-one prospects are in attendance, alongside dozens of players hoping to hear their names on day two. Who makes the most sense for the Raiders? Who should you monitor as practices commence? 

Prospect No. 1: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

•Strengths: Route Running, YAC Ability, Strong Hands, Work Ethic, Elite Body Control

•Weaknesses: Size, Catch Radius

The most popular name at the 2023 Shrine Bowl is Zay Flowers. Flowers excels as a route runner, using a quick first step and otherworldly body control to shake off defenders downfield. He tracks the ball better than any receiver in this class and consistently snatches it out of the air rather than letting it travel to his chest.

The red flags in his NFL Draft profile all center around Flowers’ size. The Boston College superstar measured 5-foot-9 and weighed 182 pounds upon arriving at the Shrine Bowl. The height is shorter than expected, but the extra 10 pounds make up for it. Flowers may never have an elite catch radius, and he could be a ‘slot-only’ player in the NFL.

All this said, the way Flowers continually gets open on tape should transfer to the league. The concerns could potentially push him out of the first round, but that would be foolish. For a player in contention as my WR1 in the class, Flowers would be the steal of all steals for Vegas in the second round.

Prospect No. 2: Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU

•Strengths: Ideal Size/Length, Elite Production, Zone Prowess, Intensity

•Weaknesses: Top-End Speed, Grabby Nature, Inconsistent Tackling Form

Mekhi Garner fits the mold at cornerback that Patrick Graham covets. Garner is a physically imposing defender who is best suited in zone coverage. The LSU standout loves to use the hit stick to bring ball carriers down, and his prowess in the red zone makes it nearly impossible for opposing quarterbacks to target him.

Garner covers a ton of space with his long arms. He is a work-in-progress when it comes to press coverage, but all the traits are there to be an above-average contributor at the next level. 

Garner is not a perfect prospect by any means. His physicality can result in flags and missed tackles. Garner goes out of his way to pursue tackles but fails to use proper wrap-up technique, allowing opponents to bounce off him. Due to his fit in the scheme, and immense physical traits, the Raiders should target Garner on day two of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Prospect No. 3: Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan

•Strengths: Elite Blocker, Strong Hands, Chain Mover, High Motor

•Weaknesses: Top-End Speed, YAC Ability

It is no secret: Josh McDaniels loves some tight ends. With the future of Darren Waller in question, the Raiders could be in the market for a starter this off-season. If long-time Raider Foster Moreau walks in free agency, it amplifies the need at tight end even more.

Luke Schoonmaker is the prototypical McDaniels tight end. The Michigan alum is an elite blocker, exhibiting above-average hand usage and overall technique when engaged with his assignment. On top of this, Schoonmaker boasts considerable potential as a route runner and pass catcher.

Schoonmaker caught 35 passes for 418 yards in 2022, regularly serving as the go-to third-down target for quarterback JJ McCarthy. He will never be a vertical field stretcher, and his production in the red zone leaves much to be desired as a receiver. Still, Schoonmaker is the best tight end at the Shrine Bowl and will be on the mind of the Raiders brass.  

Prospect No. 4: Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah

•Strengths: Frame, Athleticism, Versatility, Infectious Energy, Leadership, Untapped Pass Rush Potential

•Weaknesses: Inconsistent Tackling Form, Pre-Snap Diagnosis, Block Shedding

The Raiders need to add athleticism and energy to the defensive unit. Utah’s Mohamoud Diabate brings both in spades. The Utes linebacker assumed the MIKE role vacated by 2022 first-round pick Devin Lloyd and produced some spectacular numbers in his lone season in Salt Lake City.

Diabate is rawer than his former teammate, but they share the same versatility. He possesses freaky sideline-to-sideline mobility, constantly chasing down tackles on the complete opposite side of the field. Additionally, Diabate brings added juice to the pass-rushing corps. His first step is impressive; the natural bend around the edge cannot be taught.

So why is he a fringe day-two prospect? The simple answer: he lacks polish in several areas. The aggressiveness as a tackler is inspiring, but Diabate often gets too reckless in pursuit. His ability to diagnose the play pre-snap is still lacking, but these shortcomings are an easy fix with proper NFL coaching. Keep an eye out for Diabate this week.

*Top Photo: Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

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