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East-West Shrine Game Preview

The Denver Broncos will have scouts and team representatives on hand for the East-West Shrine festivities. The game will take place on Saturday, January 21 (3:00 PM, EST) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Listed below is a preview of the game, as well as some of the top prospects in attendance to keep an eye out for.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While the Senior Bowl gets most of the headlines and attention during the offseason leading up to the NFL Draft, the East-West Shrine game is the nation's oldest and most historic collegiate all-star game.

Since 1925, some of the college football's best talent make their way to St. Petersburg, Florida to show off their talents in hopes of reaching their dreams of NFL stardom, but the true message of the East-West Shrine Game is much more than that. The participants help raise awareness and support for the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which seeks to help children in need of medical care.

Over three hundred scouts, team personnel and agents will make their way to St. Petersburg, Florida this week to engage in the East-West Shrine festivities. Have no doubts that the Broncos will be present, as they were last year, to get a first hand look at some of college football's best players. Last year, Denver was able to discover more about Justin Simmons, who eventually became a third-round draft selection for the team.

To view the entire schedule events for the week, feel free to click here.

While most of the prospects participating in the East-West Shrine game are usually Day 3 selections, there have been a number of big time players who have showcased their talents during the historic event over the years.  Brett Favre,Tom Brady, Allan Page, Walter Payton and even the Broncos' very own John Elway played in the East-West Shrine game and went on to have marvelous NFL Careers.

Moreover, it is estimated that nearly 265 players in the league are previous participants of the game, and since its inception over ninety years ago, 72 former participants have earned the honor of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It should be a great week of events and a fun game to watch this coming Saturday.  Here is a list of some of my favorite eligible prospects who will be on display over the week and should make an impact early on in their NFL careers.

Hart's Top Prospects to Watch

Fish Smithson, Safety - Kansas

The safety crop in the 2017 NFL Draft is considered the best in recent memory, but one player who is swimming under the radar is Anthony "Fish" Smithson out of the University of Kansas.

After spending 2013 at Hartnell College, Smithson transfered to the Jayhawks as a sophomore in 2014 and never looked back.  After spending that year largely in a reserve capacity, he became a starter at the free safety position and had a tremendous impact for their defense.  Over the past two years, he has racked up six interceptions, three forced fumbles and 204 tackles which helped him earn first-team Big 12 honors in 2016 and second-team Big 12 honors in 2015.

At 5'11 and 200 pounds, Smithson doesn't have the elite size teams covet, but his, presence on the field, tremendous production, high football IQ and leadership qualities will earn him a selection early on the third day of the NFL Draft.

Tedric Thompson, Safety - Colorado

There aren't many safeties in college football who had the type of production Tedric Thompson did in his stellar career with the Colorado Buffs.  A three-year starter at strong safety, Thompson finished his time in Boulder with 13 career interceptions, 34 pass deflections and 246 tackles.

His 63 tackles, 16 passes defended and 7 interceptions as a senior earned him first-team Pac-12 honors and was also presented with the Colorado's Dave Jones Award which is given to the team's most outstanding defensive player. Thompson was also Pro Football Focus' 2016 college football coverage man of the year, allowing only one touchdown and holding opposing quarterbacks to a 22.3 rating when throwing his way.

Not many people are paying attention to Thompson yet, but a great week of practices and a solid performance in the East-West Shrine game could catapult him up draft boards, where he could see consideration for selection as early as the late second day of the NFL Draft.

Even though the Broncos have a good stable of defensive backs, Thompson should garner consideration from Denver, as 2017 is starting safety T.J. Ward's contract year.  Even with Justin Simmons and Will Parks in the fold, it would be nice for the Broncos to have another quality safety in their backfield.

Marquel Lee, LB - Wake Forest

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons don't pump out a whole lot of NFL caliber players, but this year that will change when senior inside linebacker Marquel Lee gets drafted.  As a three-year starter, Lee terrorized opposing offenses and racked up 291 tackles, 41 of them for loss, 14.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles over he course of his career.

At 6'3 and 240 pounds, Lee has the size and athleticism to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL.  He was often ranked as one of the top players for the Demon Deacons' defense in regard to total snaps played and rarely left the field in his career at Wake Forest. The Broncos have a long-term option in Brandon Marshall at inside linebacker, but could certainly use a running mate to pair with him.

Lee might not be in the same class as Reuben Foster, Jarrad Davis or Raekwon McMillan — but he is a good prospect who should see himself selected on late Day 2 or early Day 3 of the NFL Draft.  I would be absolutely thrilled if Lee became a Bronco in April.

Elijah McGuire, RB - Louisiana-Lafayette

The running back class for the 2017 NFL Draft is probably the deepest I've ever witnessed in over a decade of evaluating players making their way to the NFL.  Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara are often in the headlines (and deserving of it), but one of the most underrated and overlooked prospects at running back this year is Elijah McGuire out out Louisiana-Lafayette.

McGuire was the premier running back in the Sun Belt conference and in his four-year career with the Ragin' Cajuns, amassed 4,301 yards rushing on 710 carries (good enough for a 6.1 yard per carry average) and 42 touchdowns.  But McGuire is much more than a rusher, he is a premier receiver out of the backfield and caught 130 passes for 1394 yards and ten scores in his record-breaking career.

I do believe the Broncos need to address the running back position in the 2017 NFL Draft, With the depth in this class, I'd like them to wait until the third round or later to do so.  McGuire merits consideration that early and reminds me a lot of Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon.

Recently hired Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy likes to involve his backs in the passing game and McGuire would be a perfect player to fill that role in his game plans on Sunday.

Other prospects to consider: Avery Gennesy, OL - Texas A&M, Hardy Nickerson, Jr., ILB - Illinois, Treston DeCoud, CB - Oregon State, Cooper Rush, QB - Central Michigan, Stacey Coley, WR - Miami, Rodney Adams, WR - South Florida (Injured), Dan Skipper, OT - Arkansas

For a complete breakdown of the rosters for the 92nd annual East-West Shrine game, click here.

As always, feel free to talk about the game and your favorite prospects participating in this weeks' events in the comments section.