NFL Draft Center

2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 4 (DEC.30)

Written by: Mark Scott

Bowl Mania continues and while the day will start out slowly with just one possible first-round talent in Rutgers WR Mohammed Sanu along with a handful of mid to late round prospects in the early games, the day and number of top prospects will quickly get better when Mississippi State, Oklahoma and Iowa take the field. Prospects like DT Fletcher Cox, OT Riley Reiff and QB Landry Jones will all be first round picks and possibly even Top Ten selections in Reiff’s and Jones’ case.

All rankings attained from, SI’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd McShay.


Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, December 30/2011

Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Brigham Young Cougars

There are just three notable prospects playing in this matchup between Tulsa and BYU, including one who now probably wishes he had entered the draft last year. That prospect is Cougars’ rSr OT Matt Reynolds.  The Left Tackle passed on the 2010 draft to play his final season at school, a decision he likely regrets after he struggled through a very disappointing season that saw his draft stock plummet from a Top 100 selection, even getting some first round buzz, to now falling as low as the fifth round grade he is currently receiving from most sources. Reynolds is a large, thick-bodied athlete that looks more like an NFL Right Tackle or Guard, where he’ll most likely end up playing in the pros, than the Left Tackle position he’s played for the majority of his career. He has been successful for the most part playing on the blind side because of his quickness and a very good set of feet that allows him to handle the faster pass rushers coming at him. He is a very experienced and mature player with the size and skills to play in the pros, he just needs to get his game back on track to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him. BYU’s other top prospect is another extremely large man, but on defense. A former USC-transfer, rSr NT Hebron Fagupo is massive at 6’1, 331lbs. and knows how to use that size to his advantage. Fangupo takes up a ton of room in the middle and is very good at stopping the run and taking on multiple blockers. He is still a bit of project right now, but has a ton of upside and could end up being a lot better than most of the other twenty Defensive Tackles currently rated above him. For Tulsa, only Jr FS Dexter McCoil appears to be draft-worthy, though he could return to school for another year to try to improve his fifth-round rating. McCoil is a big, hard-hitting safety that is exceptional against the run, while also having the ball skills to be effective in pass defense as evidenced by his 4 interceptions and 10 pass breakups. He has a lot of upside and could see his stock move up the board as the draft nears.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, December 30/2011

Iowa State Cyclones vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Like the Bowl game that plays before it the matchup between Rutgers and Iowa State will also feature three notable players that will be in the 2012 NFL Draft. It all starts with Scarlet Knights Jr WR Mohammed Sanu, who obliterated the school and Big East conference single-season record for receptions with 109 catches this year in being named to the 2011 All-Big East First-Team. The big wide receiver has a great set of hands that allows him to make the tough plays over the middle and the highlight-reel catches deep, while being a serious threat in the red-zone. He’s not Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd, but he is quickly moving into late first round discussions along with the likes of Kendall Wright and Alshon Jeffrey and won’t last past the second round.  The Scarlet Knights also have two players in rSr OG Desmond Wynn and rSr OLB Manny Abreu, who could work their way into the seventh round. The other two notable draft eligible prospects in this game come from Iowa State’s side of the field in rSr OG Kelechi Osemele and Sr CB Leonard Johnson. A Day 2 prospect, Osemele is a huge athlete with big-time potential and a ton of experience playing in all 49 of Iowa State’s games over the past four seasons and was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team. He has the strength and talent to play right away and has the ability to destroy oncoming defenders, although he does seem to take plays off from time to time and will need to change that. He’s played at both Left Tackle and Guard during his time in school and is probably best suited to play on the interior of the line in the NFL. Sr CB Leonard Johnson is a complete corner that can cover and tackle with good ball skills that plays with an edge. Scouts love him, though his lack of height will hurt him from going earlier in the draft, but he still should be selected by the late third round.


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, December 30/2011

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

There are two early rounds studs playing in this game for the Bulldogs, while both teams also have a couple of mid to late round prospects each. Mississippi State Jr DT Fletcher Cox is skyrocketing up draft boards all the way up to the middle of the first round ahead of players like Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy and Clemson’s Brandon Thompson after a career year in the SEC. Named to the 2011 All-SEC First-Team after a season is which he recorded 49 tackles, 12.5 for loss (most by any SEC DT) and 4 sacks, Cox staked his claim to being the best Defensive Tackle in the entire SEC. An exceptional athlete with the strength, size and speed to fit into any defensive scheme at a multitude of positions along the defensive line, Cox is still getting better and might have more upside than any other defender in the draft. A for sure first-rounder, teams will be clamoring amongst each other to get him. One of the top corners in the draft, Jr CB Jonathon Banks has scouts salivating at the chance to plug him into their defensive backfield. Along with the size NFL teams want, Banks is a complete corner with elite skills in all areas as evidenced by his fantastic season that saw him record 64 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions (1 INT TD return) and 9 pass breakups, as well as displaying returner skills with 16 punt returns for 166 yards and a score. He may find his way late into the first round, but will definitely come off the board early on Day 2. Along with Cox and Banks, Mississippi State has four other player that should be drafted in the mid to late rounds in Sr RB Vick Ballard, rSr C Quentin Saulsberry, Sr OT James Cameron and Sr SS Charles Mitchell. Ballard a tough, physical runner and could go as early as the fourth round. For Wake Forest, rJr WR Chris Givens and Sr OG Joe Looney could be drafted in the third round or early on Day 3, while rSr OLB Kyle Wilber will get seventh round consideration. Givens really came into his own with a great season this year that saw him make 74 catches for 1276 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He has the size and receiving skills to be a productive third wide out in the pros. Looney is big with great agility that has displayed a solid work ethic while being a very productive lineman for the Demon Deacons throughout his collegiate career. An intelligent, hard-working guy, Looney is a player that teams can play right away and not have to worry about him doing something stupid or being out of position.

Insight Bowl, December 30/2011

Oklahoma Sooners vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

The game of the day, Sooners versus Hawkeyes will feature two of the top prospects in the draft in Landry Jones and Riley Reiff, along with a large contingent of others from these two big time programs. Oklahoma’s rJr QB Landry Jones appears destined for the Top Ten of the draft should he choose to enter it. While his stock has taken a hit over the past two months since his safety net and go-to wide receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt, Jones should still be drafted very early with so many QB-needy teams among the Top 15 of the draft. Remember that in last year’s draft, teams reached for players like Jake Locker and Christian Ponder, who had similar grades to Jones.  The Oklahoma product is a pocket-passer with the NFL prototypical size that teams want, as well as a good enough arm to make all the throws necessary in the pros. He does however struggle with his accuracy at times and still needs to improve his decision-making when facing pressure. He has the strong will and the skills to become an NFL starter, he just needs to polish his game up a bit and become more consistent. The Sooners also feature two outstanding outside linebackers, Jr Ronnell Lewis and rSr Travis Lewis. Although he will sit out this game due to academic issues, Ronnell Lewis is still worth mentioning as he could be taken in the late first round, but will probably come off the board early on Day 2. Lewis is an extremely athletic pass rusher that makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage, but also has the ability to chase down ball-carriers all over the field. He appears to just be finding his form and only stands to get that much better with more experience. Due to his lack of size, he probably fits best as pass-rushing 4-3 weak side linebacker similar to the type of role Denver’s Von Miller plays, he’s just not as explosive. Travis Lewis has had scouts drooling since he stepped on the Oklahoma campus, reminding folks of the legendary Brian Bosworth, minus most of the flash. He does possess the same physical abilities as Bosworth with excellent speed, strength and agility. Lewis may be the definition of a complete linebacker as he can play any and all of the linebacker positions without missing a beat. He is an intelligent player with fantastic instincts and great tackling ability. He can explode through the gaps to stop the run and has no problem dropping into pass coverage and chasing down speedy wide receivers. Lewis won’t last long on Day 2. After both linebackers, Oklahoma has a trio of possible Day 3 selections in rSr CB Jamell Fleming, rSr WR Ryan Broyles and rSr OT Donald Stephenson. While Stephenson will have to work his way into a late spot in the draft, Fleming and Broyles should be selected somewhere in the fifth or sixth rounds. One of the most successful receivers in Sooners history, Broyles appeared to be well on his way to earning a second round grade, but a devastating knee injury has left his future in doubt and if he can’t show that he is healthy or on his way to being healthy in pre-draft medicals, he could unfortunately go undrafted, though some team probably will take the risk on him that he will return to his former self when fully recovered. Just like Oklahoma, the Hawkeyes feature an amazing six draft eligible prospects starting with early first round pick rJr LT Riley Reiff, the next in a long line of star offensive linemen from Iowa. Reiff is excellent in pass protection and continues to get better as a ferocious run blocker. He’s athletic, nasty and agile with solid footwork and a ton of upside as a long-time franchise Left Tackle. After Reiff is a group of Day 3 selections in Sr CB Shaun Prater, rSr OLB Tyler Nielsen, rSr WR Marvin McNutt, rSr OT Markus Zusevics and rSr Mike Daniels. Prater is a speedy corner that is solid in coverage with good ball skills and can make tackles in open space. McNutt is the most interesting prospect among the group  as a big, strong possession wide receiver that can make all the tough catches over the middle, while still being able to beat his man deep from time to time.

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