NFL Draft Center


2012 DRAFT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 1 (DEC.17-DEC.21)

Written By: Mark Scott

 

Tis the season to be jolly. Yes, Its Christmas, but it’s also Bowl season as the games get under way this Saturday. While you won’t see a ton of big-time high-round draft eligible prospects in these early games, there are a number of interesting mid to late round prospects to watch who can become valuable contributing members on NFL teams, even stars in some cases. If you need a reason to watch some of these early Bowls, look no further than some of the prospects playing in them. Here’s the lowdown on every team’s prospects eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft.

All rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com

 

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, December 17/2011

Temple Owls vs. Wyoming Cowboys

Of the five early bowls, this involves the most prospects eligible to be drafted. Unfortunately for Wyoming fans, all of those prospects play for Temple with the only exception being Cowboys’ Senior CB Tashaun Gipson, who will have to fight hard to earn seventh round consideration, but will likely go undrafted. As for the Owls, they come into this matchup with five possible draft picks, but only two really worth looking at. The group is led, like they have been all year by Junior RB Bernard Pierce, who sits as a likely Day 2 selection in the third round. The 6’0, 218 pounder put together an outstanding year ranking 13th in the nation with 1381 rushing yards and 3rd with 25 rushing touchdowns, while being named to the 2011 All-MAC First Team. Pierce is a power back, best at blasting his way through the tackles and while he currently ranks just behind the top five RB prospects in this draft, he has the chance to move up if teams prefer a big power back to smaller shifty backs like David Wilson and LaMichael James ranked ahead of him. Aside from Pierce, Temple also boasts an intriguing mid-round OLB/DE in 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the year, Senior Adrian Robinson, a likely fifth round selection. Robinson was named a 2011 All-MAC First Team selection for the third consecutive year after recording 47 tackles, 11 for loss and 6 sacks. He brings a ton of experience playing in every game of his collegiate career and has shown the ability to line up in a multitude of schemes whether it be as a more traditional 4-3 end or standing up as 3-4 OLB. An excellent tackler and pass rusher, he can contribute in all areas. The rest of Temple’s draft eligible prospects are all late round selections at best and could easily go undrafted. They include FB Evan Rodriguez (Sr), OG Derek Dennis (rJr) and OLB Tahir Whitehead (Sr).

 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, December 17/2011

Utah State Aggies vs. Ohio Bobcats

When the Aggies and Bobcats take the field there will be just one draft eligible prospect worth looking at and that is Utah State rJr RB Robert Turbin. The Aggies’ RB racked up 1416 rushing yards, good for tenth nationally, while adding 19 rushing touchdowns to rank sixth in the nation. He also displayed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield recording 16 receptions for 164 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving him 23 total TDs on the year in being named to the 2011 All-WAC First Team. Turbin is currently rated as a fourth round pick and just outside of the top ten RBs available in the draft.  Ohio SR ILB Bobby Wagner could have the chance to sneak into the seventh round with a good post season pre-draft push, but is the only Bobcat with a shot at getting drafted.

 

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, December 17/2011

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns vs. San Diego State Aztecs

Once thought to have a shot at being a possible second round draft choice, the Aztecs’ rSr QB Ryan Lindley has seen his stock fall way down draft boards after struggling through an inconsistent season to a likely Day 3 selection somewhere in the fifth round.  Lindley definitely looks the part with prototypical NFL QB size and strength, but has struggled with his accuracy, footwork and mobility. He does have the arm strength to make all the passes and is more comfortable playing from within the pocket, but his footwork, pressure anticipation and decision-making will need to improve. He needs work, but the skills are there making Lindley a very interesting QB prospect for the future if he can land on the right team with the right QB savvy coach. For the Ragin’ Cajuns, Sr TE Ladarius Green rates out as their top draft eligible prospect. At 6’6, 236lb, Green is perfect example of the new wave of TEs coming into the NFL in the last few years. Tall, slender, athletic with great hands and the ability to get deep down the field, this growing trend among TEs should only help Green move up draft boards from where he currently sits as a fourth rounder. Players like Rob Gronkowski (2nd round, 2010), Jimmy Graham (3rd round, 2010), and Rob Housler (3rd round, 2011) going higher in last few drafts should only help his cause. Green managed to put 90 receptions for 1279 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons and averaged 14.35 yards per catch over his career. He could be sleeper for some team. Also for Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr CB Dwight Bentley could find himself as a late round pick near the end of Day 3.

 

Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl St.Petersburg, December 20/2011

Florida International Golden Panthers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd                                

This bowl features two of the more intriguing mid-round prospects available in this year’s draft in Marshall’s Sr DE Vinny Curry and Florida International’s Sr WR/KR T.Y. Hilton. After gaining the attention of NFL scouts following his Junior season in which he recorded 94 tackles, 18 for loss and 12 sacks, Vinny Curry looked like a top-100 pick in the 2011 draft, but chose to return to school for his final year. While he struggled to get going early on, he eventually found his form and returning to school probably didn’t hurt his stock too much as he currently sits just outside of the top-100 prospects. He was named the 2011 C-USA Defensive Player of the year after another fantastic season that saw him make 72 tackles, an incredible 21.5 for loss, 11 sacks with three blocked extra points. Curry is relentless pass rusher with great speed off the edge and always gives his best effort, although he has shown a tendency to wear down as the game goes on and often finds himself off-balance or out of control. He will need to improve his body control and balance to help keep his stamina and energy up as the game gets deeper into the 4th quarter. He could be a diamond in the rough for some lucky team that drafts him.  A fast and explosive returner and receiver, T.Y. Hilton put together a fantastic career at Florida International compiling 221 receptions for 3443 receiving yards with 24 receiving TDs and 3433 combined return yards (2819 KR, 614 PR) for 6 return TDs (4 KR, 2PR). The need and want for the all-purpose player has grown in the last few years and Hilton may be the best and most dangerous one available this year and he could very well become the highest drafted Golden Panther ever (Antwan Barnes, BAL, 2007, #134 overall). His slight frame may hurt his stock, but he possesses great hands with electric speed and he is as tough as they come and won’t let his size hinder his play. Hilton has the “IT” factor and could quickly become a star in the NFL is he lands on the right team.

 

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, December 21/2011

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. TCU Horned Frogs           

While this game has the makings of an exciting matchup with two solid teams going at it, there isn’t much to talk about in regards to draft eligible prospects. Just one possible late round selection on either team, for TCU, rSr LB Tank Carder has been a leader for this Horned Frogs team for a long time, but he only grades out as a possible sixth round choice right now after being rated much higher among last year’s crop of linebackers and looks to have lost quite a bit of money by returning to college for his Senior season.  It’s interesting to see him drop down the draft boards because he was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, although he wasn’t as impressive as he was in 2010 when he was named to six different All-America teams and the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP. An intelligent, versatile and experienced player, Carder could still move up come draft time. On the Bulldogs side, rSr RB Lennon Creer is their only draft eligible prospect, but will need to have impressive workouts to earn a spot late in the draft as he currently rates just outside the top 20 RBs available. He took a step back this year from his 2010 form that saw him rush for 1181 yards and 10 TDs, as he recorded just 838 rushing yards for 9 TDs this season.

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