NFL Draft Center


2012 Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 2 (Dec.22-Dec.27)

Written By: Mark Scott

Bowl season is just starting to ramp up and so are the number of prospects in them. While the first five Bowls showcased a couple of mid-round prospects like Temple’s Bernard Pierce, Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton and Vinny Curry of Marshall, this next set of games will feature a much larger contingent of prospects with more than a couple Day 1 or 2 draft picks, especially in the Boise State/Arizona State and North Carolina/Missouri matchups.

*Rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, SI.com’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd Mcshay.

 

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, December 22/2011

Boise State Broncos vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

The Broncos/Sun Devils matchup should be the first of many Bowl games from here on out with plenty of draft eligible prospects to watch, with more and more of those prospects being players that will go higher in the draft. While both teams have a couple of Day 2 prospects to check out, it is Arizona State’s Jr ILB Vontaze Burfict, who is the star prospect in this game.  Since Burfict entered college he has been considered a big-time talent destined for life as an NFL star. After starring in his first two seasons in college, Burfict took a step back this year, mainly because of a major lack of discipline in his on-field play committing personal foul penalties one after the other this year to the point where he was finally benched in the second half of the team’s season finale.  Aggressive, physical, and fast with great instincts and tackling ability, Burfict is the complete player physically, but the mental side of his game needs a major change and is the main reason for his fall from a top ten prospect to just hanging on to a first round grade. Burfict has all the makings of a superstar, but will need to be reeled in by a veteran team and strong minded coach, who won’t let him get away with any of his over the top antics on the field. If he can end up with a team like the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, the whole league better watch out.  Another very intriguing player for the Sun Devils is rSr CB Omar Bolden, who is one of the top corners in all of college and won’t play in this game after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring. Bolden has everything a team would want in a number one cornerback and also boasts excellent return skills, but injuries will likely keep him as a Day 3 selection. A very similar situation to that of former Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, who had all the skills of a top corner, but battled injury issues, especially in his final collegiate season. The New England Patriots still took a chance on his talent taking him with the first pick of the second round in 2011, though he eventually ended up on the season-ending IR after just two games. Bolden won’t go as high as Dowling did and will have to use the Combine to show that he is healthy and help improve his mid to late round stock.  For Boise State, they will feature three noteworthy players starting with rSR DE/DT Billy Winn. A likely second round pick, Winn will fit in perfectly with a team looking for a 3-4 defensive end and could even elicit late first round consideration. A powerful and violent pass-rusher, Winn is also exceptional versus the run as he is mobile enough to chase down opposing rushers on the outside. He will need to get stronger as he struggled at times to push around college offensive linemen, but still possesses the strength to hold his own.  The Broncos’ other two top prospects will likely come off the board late on Day 2 in rSr OT Nate Potter and rSr RB Doug Martin.  The leader of Boise’s offensive line that led the nation in sacks allowed is a tall, very athletic lineman, who should be able to line-up at either offensive tackle position, but made his name as a Left Tackle. An excellent run and pass blocker, Potter still has a number of areas to work on mainly in not allowing stronger pass rushers to bull rush through him. He will remind a lot of scouts of Patriots 2011 first round pick Nate Solder and could even work his way up to a similar draft slot with a great Combine workout, which is expected.  A physical and tough runner, Doug Martin is able to pound the ball inside, while still being able to shift his weight to make oncoming tacklers miss. He doesn’t possess homerun hitting speed, but he is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and has shown next-level ability after rushing for over 1000 yards for the second straight season while adding 17 touchdowns this year. Meanwhile both teams have a couple of possible late round draft picks or undrafted free agents to watch for in Arizona State’s Sr WR Gerell Robinson and rSr C Garth Gerhart, while Boise State will field a possible fifth round pick in Sr FS George Iloka as well as rSr DE Shea McClellin, Sr DE Tyrone Crawford and star rSr QB Kellen Moore, who couldn’t have done more to over his collegiate career to get drafted, but unfortunately his size will likely cause one of the greatest college Quarterbacks ever to pass through undrafted.

 

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, December 24/2011

Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Not the early Christmas present we were all hoping for as this game has just two players that will likely be drafted on Day 3 in Nevada’s rSr ILB James-Michael Johnson and Sr DT Brett Roy. Johnson is a solid linebacker that is mobile and fast enough to make plays sideline to sideline and has the ability to drop into coverage on passing downs, while still being stout against running backs on the inside and can get into the backfield when called upon. He sits as a fourth round prospect at the moment, but he is a guy to watch when the Combine comes around and could work himself into one of the first three rounds with a head-turning performance. DT Brett Roy is a blue-collar athlete, who always works until the whistle and plays above his skill level.  A pain to play against, he has demonstrated an ability to get into the backfield after a great season that saw him rack up 60 tackles, 18.5 for loss and 10 sacks in being named a First-Team All-American by Sports Illustrated, although he rates as just a sixth round pick right now. The Wolf Pack’s Sr WR Rishard Matthews earned Honorable Mention from Sports Illustrated as well and could have a chance to get drafted late in the seventh round. On the Southern Mississippi side of the field, there isn’t much to see in terms of prospects, although SI’s Tony Pauline recognizes the Golden Eagles’ Jr OLB Jamie Collins as a possible third round selection, the only draft outlet at the moment who has him even getting drafted. A converted defensive back, Collins has come into his own as an OLB piling up 94 tackles, 19.5 for loss with 6 sacks and 9 passes defended this year. He’s an elite athlete with a high ceiling on his talent. Sr DE/OLB Cordarro Law could be considered in the seventh round, while star rSr QB Austin Davis probably won’t get drafted as he ranks outside the top 300 prospects and top 20 QBs despite shattering most of the legendary Brett Favre’s school records.

 

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, December 26/2011

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Missouri Tigers

This game is jam-packed with next level talent, most of which play for North Carolina, where former Head Coach Butch Davis did an excellent job of recruiting elite players to the program. It all starts with Sr DE Quinton Coples, who has been rated as a Top 10 prospect for the past two seasons and is the clear cut top ranked defensive end in the draft. Coples did have his struggles this year after being moved back to the edge from defensive tackle where he played most of last season and became a star. Despite his struggles, Coples still was able to register 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss proving that his talent is undeniable as he is a ferocious pass rusher that has very few problems getting to the Quarterback. Though it is likely that he only fits into a team using a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme, but can play on the interior of the line as well as off the edge.  Following Coples is Sr OLB Zach Brown, who may just be the best athlete in the entire draft and could shoot up draft boards into the mid first round if he shows off that incredible athleticism at the Combine.  Brown has tremendous, almost unbelievable speed and playmaking ability shown by his 91 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles with 2 interceptions this season, his first as a full-time starter. He is very similar to his former teammate Bruce Carter, who went in the second round last year to the Dallas Cowboys, despite major injury concerns, which should only solidify Brown’s status as a for sure early second round selection, if not somewhere in the first. Brown does need to add more bulk and size to his frame, which should help improve his physicality and ability to shed blockers, but his upside and speed is through the roof. Next to Brown on the Tar Heels’ linebacker corps is Jr LB Kevin Reddick, who is often overshadowed by his more athletic teammate, but is actually rated higher at the moment by ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has Reddick among his Top 32 draft eligible prospects and if he enters the draft, he’s likely to be drafted on Day 2. He possesses excellent instincts and tackling ability and is versatile enough to line up at any of the traditional linebacker positions. Jr NT Sylvester Williams is massive at 6’3, 320lbs. but is still very raw after transferring to UNC from the Junior College ranks. Williams eats up a lot of space along the line, while taking on multiple blockers and is very effective at stopping the run.  He’s not a guy who’s going to get after the Quarterback much, but still can if facing just one blocker. His size provides him with options as he can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and should be selected on Day 2. Another massive prospect in Sr WR Dwight Jones, the 6’4, 225lb. wide out is sure to intrigue a number of teams with his size, strength and play-making ability. A much more polished receiver and pass catcher than former teammate and Browns’ 2011 second round pick Greg Little, Jones should have no problem in being taken on Day 2 of the draft if not higher.  While their top five prospects are going to get all the love, the Tar Heels still boast a solid, experienced group of late round players that scouts will have their eyes on in rSR CB Charles Brown, rSr DT Tydreke Powell, rSr RB Ryan Houston and rSr FB Devon Ramsey. For Missouri, they also have a couple of prospects worth watching in this game in Sr TE Michael Egnew and SR DE/OLB Jacquies Smith.  Egnew is another among the group of new style tight ends that more and more teams are starting to look for, lean, athletic with great hands and the ability to get down the field to make plays. Named a First-Team All-American and Missouri’s MVP in 2010 as a Junior after catching 90 passes for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns, Egnew’s play regressed this season and so did his production as he had a little over half of the numbers he put up last season, but that probably had more to do with a change in Quarterback from 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to the more mobile and inexperienced James Franklin and yet was still named to the Coaches All-Big 12 First-Team.  He rates as a fourth round prospect and probably comes off the board early in Day 3. As for Smith, he is an undersized defensive end, who will likely find his spot in the NFL as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. He is very similar to 49ers’ 2011 first-round pick Aldon Smith, but is not as strong or explosive as his former teammate, although he does possess a lot of the same qualities and Aldon Smith’s success as a rookie should help him improve his draft position where he currently sits as a Day 3 prospect.

 

Little Caesars Bowl, December 27/2011

Western Michigan Broncos vs. Purdue Boilermakers

A battle between the Broncos and Boilermakers will feature just one prospect of note, Purdue’s rJr DT Kawann Short. The 6’3, 310lb. defensive tackle is a strong run defender that can control the line of scrimmage and take on multiple blocks, while still being able to shed those blockers and make a play on the ball carrier. There’s not a lot of flash in his game, but he gets the job done and he does possess enough of a burst to get into the backfield as evidenced by his 14.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks this season. He’s a guy that a team can probably plug and play right away as a rookie and should come off the board in the third round. Perhaps the best wide out ever for Western Michigan (Packers’ Greg Jennings being the other), rSr WR Jordan White holds the majority of the school’s records for his position and put up another outstanding year with an incredible 127 receptions for 1646 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns while earning a spot on the AFCA Coaches’ All-America Team, only the second player in school history to do that.  Despite all of that, White isn’t a great route runner and his multiple serious injuries suffered throughout his career, including season ending injuries on both of his knees in different seasons will turn off teams, although he has been healthy for the most part the past two seasons. White should earn late round consideration from someone.

 

Belk Bowl, December 27/2011

Louisville Cardinals vs. North Carolina State Wolf Pack

The Belk Bowl will feature a mid-round inside linebacker and a pair of possible seventh round tight ends. North Carolina State’s rSr ILB Audie Cole is the main prospect to watch here and might be the only player in this game to hear his name called in the draft. Cole has good instincts and great anticipation, but sometimes becomes sloppy in his play, especially in his tackling and angle taking. At this point, he’s a great athlete, but will need to make big improvements in his game to stick at the NFL level. He could become a star linebacker if the right coach gets a hold of him and takes him under his wing. At 6’7, 240lb. Louisville’s rSr TE Josh Chichester is a fascinating prospect that is still a major work in progress, but could become a devastating playmaker with the right team, could you imagine if Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints get a hold of this guy. He’s a seventh round pick at best and could very likely go undrafted. North Carolina State’s rSr TE George Bryan is your NFL proto-type tight end at 6’5, 265lb. and is a tremendous athlete, who can block, run and catch. He’ll come off the board late on Day 3.

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