NFL Draft Center


2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 6 (JAN.2)

Written By: Mark Scott

This January 2nd is a draft nut’s dream day as elite prospects will be playing all over the place with first round talent on the field in every Bowl game, along with multiple Top 100 prospects as well. Prospects like Justin Blackmon, Devon Still, Alshon Jeffrey, as well as the likely number one pick Andrew Luck and a pair of his Stanford Offensive linemen will be selected through Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft.

All rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, SI’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd McShay.

 

Ticketcity Bowl, January 2/2012

Houston Cougars vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State and Houston kick off the New Year in a clash of defense vs. offense that will feature a potential Top Ten talent in Devon Still and a group of late round prospects. The Nittany Lions’ rSr DT Still flew up draft boards this season after a fantastic year that saw him win the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Lineman of the Year and finish as a Finalist for the 2011 Chuck Bednarik Award as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year in all of college football. He’s a dominant, disruptive force on the interior of the line and against the run game. Always working until the whistle, he can also force his way into the backfield as evidenced by his 4.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss this season. Penn State’s other prospects ,  Sr DE Jack Crawford, Sr CB D’Anton Lynn, rSr WR Derek Moye and rSr FB Joe Suhey will all be fighting for draft position late on Day 3 in the closing rounds. Crawford is an athlete that appears to possess all of the potential talent to become a starter in the NFL, but has been a big disappointment throughout his collegiate career and never really found his game. Some team could take him higher if they think they can be the ones to unleash his talent. For Houston, they have a group of potential seventh round prospects in rSr DE/OLB Sammy Brown, Sr RB Bryce Beall, rSr WR Patrick Edwards and one of the most successful and record-holding Quarterbacks of all-time, rSr QB Case Keenum. Brown is the team’s most interesting prospect and could actually go higher on Day 3 than the final round. A dynamic pass-rusher with a lot of speed, he finished with 12.5 sacks this year and could fit nicely as a 3-4 OLB in the pros.

 

Capital One Bowl, January 2/2012

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

In a battle of the SEC versus the Big Ten, three possibly even up to six players will be first round prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft. South Carolina features four of those potential first-rounders in rSr DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, Jr WR Alshon Jeffrey, Jr CB Stephon Gilmore and rJr DE/OLB Devin Taylor. Ingram is a versatile defender that did a bit of everything this season including 44 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and three touchdowns (2 DEF, 1 ST) while playing multiple positions. His main job however is to rush the passer and he does so with excellent closing speed, quick hands and a number of different moves to get past blockers. His one downfall is that he is a little inconsistent in his effort from play to play, but has the potential to be the top pass-rusher in the draft. Alshon Jeffrey is a massive playmaking wide receiver that stands an enormous 6’4, 230lbs. and dominates defenders with his size. He has the ability to get deep downfield and makes incredible plays every week. He does need to show that he has the speed to be as effective in the pros as he is in the college game and will also need to improve his route-running skills.  Stephon Gilmore is a very good corner with a ton of experience that has solid cover skills, great instincts and playmaking ability. He can also contribute in the return game on special teams. He is good in run support and will fit in best with a team that plays a lot of zone coverage. He could make his way into the late first round, but with a very deep group of corners in this draft he will likely fall into the second round. Devin Taylor is a tall, lanky pass-rusher with great length and is extremely fluid and agile. He plays mostly standing up and projects to be a 3-4 OLB, but could move to end in a 4-3 if he adds more strength and size to his body. He has let it be known that he is probably going to return to school for his final season to improve his game and draft stock after a disappointing year. South Carolina’s rSr SS Antonio Allen is an impact defender that was named to the 2011 All-SEC Second-Team and is among the top safeties in the draft and will probably come off the board in the third round. For Nebraska, Sr CB Alfonzo Dennard leads the charge as one of the top cover corners in the draft. He is a very physical player with the ability to shut down the other team’s top receiver and has the talent to be a number one corner at the next level.  He battled injuries this season, but also made improvements in his footwork and ball skills. He is very similar to his former teammate and Giants’2011 first-round choice Prince Amukamara. Along with Dennard is rSr DT Jared Crick, who was the man who took over for Ndamukong Suh after he went to the pros. Crick was productive as a redshirt Junior in his first year after the departure of Suh, earning All-American honors with 9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 10 Quarterback hurries showing that he could do it by himself and without his former teammate. He came into the year with a first-round rating, but suffered a season-ending pectoral injury midway through the year and will miss this game. He’s a strong, intelligent hardworking player that can rush the passer and defend against the run and probably fits best as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. He probably comes off the board in the second round. The Cornhuskers’ also have a pair of mid-round picks in Sr OLB LaVonte David and OT Marcel Jones. David was named a 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches All-American and the 2011 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year as well as a finalist for the Butkus Award. He has great instincts and toughness with excellent tackling ability, but will fall down draft boards because of his lack of size and could be moved to safety in the pros. He could go as high as the third round.

 

Gator Bowl, January 2/2012

Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Surprisingly the game between the Buckeyes and the Gators won’t feature any elite talent with just one possible late first round pick and a couple of mid to late round prospects. Ohio State’s Sr OT Mike Adams is the one player in this matchup that could sneak into Day 1, but probably goes in the second round. He is a fantastic pass-blocker on the blind side and is the prototypical NFL Left Tackle with the perfect mix of size, length and athletic ability. However, he had a ton of off the field issues throughout his collegiate career including being a part of the Tattoo scandal that rocked the Ohio State program and caused him to be suspended for the first five games of the season this year, which could scare off a number of teams. Also on the offensive line, Sr C Mike Brewster is the prototypical NFL Center with strength, athleticism and great size. He is intelligent with a lot of experience and possesses good footwork and agility to make multiple blocks and create huge running lanes for ball-carriers. He’s looking at a mid-round draft grade. Jr DE John Simon is a versatile and promising defensive lineman that plays with power and a great deal of intensity. He is extremely dedicated and hardworking and only stands to continue to get better. He is an effective pass-rusher and is solid against the run and looks like a Day 2 selection if he chooses to enter the draft. Also for the Buckeyes is another pair of players involved with Tattoo-gate that were suspended for multiple games in Sr WR DeVier Posey and rSr RB Dan Herron. Posey has great size and an excellent vertical game, where he can make big plays deep downfield. He still has some developing to do, but has a lot of upside as an eventual number two receiving option.  Herron is a banger inside despite a slight lack of size for the role, but also has the speed and quick feet to make tacklers miss and pick up chucks of yards. Both players will be mid-round selections. Florida features a pair of small, but world-class fast playmakers in Sr RB Jeff Demps and rSr RB Chris Rainey. Both are versatile athletes that can rush the ball or catch it effectively out of the backfield and break off the homerun play at any time. They project as third-down change of pace backs and it should be interesting to see which one scouts and teams prefer. Both are Day 3 selections. The Gators’ rSr DT Jaye Howard should be drafted late in the sixth or seventh round.

 

Outback Bowl, January 2/2012

Michigan State Spartans vs. Georgia Bulldogs

The third Big Ten/SEC battle of the day, Michigan State versus Georgia features a large group of prospects with more than a few Day 1 or 2 players. The Spartans have two note-worthy prospects in rJr DT Jerel Worthy and rSR QB Kirk Cousins. Worthy is a run-stopping machine that clogs up the middle of the field and is often a disruptive force in the backfield. Named a 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American, Worthy has all the tools to become an elite defender at the next level, although his fundamentals need some improving and his effort needs to become more consistent. He has a ton of upside and is a likely first round choice. Cousins has the ability to become a serviceable starter in the NFL and will be a part of that second group of QBs taken in the draft with the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden. He is a tough, intelligent signal-caller with above average arm strength and accuracy, but needs to improve his footwork and decision-making. A decent athlete with great character, he could be drafted late in round three. The Spartans also possess four Day 3 prospects in Sr FS Trenton Robinson, rSr TE Brian Linthicum, rSr WR B.J. Cunningham and Sr WR Keshawn Martin. Georgia has a couple of elite prospects of their own beginning with former USC-transfer, rSo OLB Jarvis Jones, who exploded on to the college football scene this year as one of the top 3-4 OLB prospects in the country and a finalist for the Butkus Award. He was named to the 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American Team and All-SEC First-Team after recording 69 tackles, a SEC-leading 19.5 for loss and 13.5 sacks.  He has incredible talent and unlimited upside. Already a dynamic four-quarter pass-rusher, Jones could go early in the 2012 NFL Draft if he chooses to enter and will have 3-4 teams drooling at the chance to put him on their defense. A for-sure Day 2 prospect, Sr OL Cordy Glenn is a versatile, experienced offensive lineman that will enter first round discussions. The ability to play inside at Guard or on the outside at either Tackle position, Glenn’s massive size has him projected better as an interior lineman in the pros. He is big, strong and surprisingly quick and athletic. He contributes in pass-protection and can annihilate defenders in the run game. Jr TE Orson Charles really came on this year as an athletic, play-making tight end with great hands that can create mismatches against opposing defensive backs. He finished as a finalist for the 2011 John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and is getting even better as more balls come his way. If he chooses to enter the draft he should come off the board in the third round. Georgia’s Sr C Ben Jones and Sr CB Brandon Boykin will be drafted on Day 3, while rSr P Drew Butler, Sr K Blair Walsh and Sr DT DeAngelo Tyson will likely go undrafted, although Butler is the top punter available.

 

Rose Bowl, January 2/2012

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Oregon Ducks

The Rose Bowl features more prospects between Wisconsin and Oregon than any other game on the day. The Badgers come into this matchup with a ton of Top 100 talent that will fill the first three rounds of the draft. Wisconsin’s Offensive Linemen, rJr C Peter Konz, rJr Ricky Wagner and Sr OG Kevin Zeitler are all Day 2 prospects and will even get some late first round love. Konz is a big, athletic Center that is a dominating blocker with excellent footwork and mobility that can blow defenders away in the run game. He is getting great reviews from scouts and will be the top Center drafted. Wagner is a fantastic pass-blocker and is solid in the run game. He has good size and quickness with next-level skills, but has a number of improvements still to make. Unlike a couple of his underclass teammates like Konz and Montee Ball, he didn’t put in his paperwork to get a draft evaluation and told Badgers’ Coach Bielman that he was coming back barring something crazy happening. Konz could also return, but likely won’t with such a high draft evaluation. Zeitler is anchor in the middle of the offensive line that has a lot of experience and was named a 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American. He is big with good mobility and a solid low center of gravity that allows him to handle multiple defenders. He is a tenacious, aggressive pass-protector and run blocker. Zeitler and Konz should both be able to start immediately. The Badgers also have a pair of playmakers on offense that will be drafted on Day 2. Heisman Trophy Finalist Jr RB Montee Ball is a complete running back that can plow his way between the tackles with power, but is also fast and elusive enough to run for big gains in open field. He also has very good hands that make him a potent receiver out of the backfield. He was absolutely incredible this season and was a touchdown machine. He could return for his Senior campaign, but his draft stock will never be higher than it is now. The Badgers’ rSr WR Nick Toon is a dependable deep threat that is the son of former NFL first round choice, Al Toon. He is smooth, but physical and can make tough grabs all over the field. He still needs to improve his speed however. Wisconsin also has Day 3 prospects in rSr FS Aaron Henry, Sr CB Antonio Fenelus and rSr QB Russell Wilson. Badgers’ rSr K Philip Welch will probably sign somewhere as an undrafted free agent. While Oregon doesn’t have any first round or possibly even second round talent, they do have a large group of draft eligible prospects starting with rJr RB LaMichael James, although he could still return for another year at Oregon. He is a dynamic, explosive playmaker with fantastic acceleration that can contribute in the passing game with a great set of hands out of the backfield. He has battled the “too-small” label his entire career, but is a homerun hitter whenever the ball is in his hands and projects as a third-down change of pace back in the pros that could go in the third round. The rest of Oregon’s prospects will be Day 3 prospects or undrafted free agents in Sr OLB Josh Kaddu, rSr SS Eddie Pleasant, rSr TE David Paulson, Jr OG Carson York and rSo Dion Jordan. York and Jordan are candidates to return to school for another year. Jr CB Cliff Harris came into the season as an intriguing cornerback prospect that was getting early round buzz, but repeated off the field issues this year and last caused him to be kicked off the Oregon team and have his draft stock unknown and up in the air, but sources have stated that Harris will enter the draft rather than find another school.

 

Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl, January 2/2012

Stanford Cardinal vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The final game of the day showcases a fantastic group of elite talent, including four definite first round choices. Stanford has three of those first round prospects starting with the all but guaranteed first overall pick, rJr QB Andrew Luck, the most talked about and best prospect since John Elway in 1983. Luck possesses all of the physical and mental skills possible with basically no holes in his game at all. He has a phenomenal arm with great strength and accuracy, an incredible football I.Q. and outstanding leadership ability. He has played in a pro-style offense his entire career, knows how to read defenses and can call his own plays. He is on a completely different level than any other player in this draft. He is ready to play right away, although he may have to sit for a year or more if the Colts decide to select and keep him and Peyton Manning rather than trade Manning or the #1 pick used to draft him. Two of the reasons, Luck has been able to develop and stay healthy throughout his collegiate career are rJr OT Jonathon Martin and rJr OG David DeCastro. Martin protected Luck’s blind side for the past three seasons and is a fantastic pass protector. He is a solid athlete with good quickness and great footwork. He is very strong and can handle all kinds of different rushers, while playing with an impressive mean streak. He will be battling Iowa’s Riley Reiff to be the second tackle selected in April. DeCastro is the top interior Offensive lineman available and an extremely nasty player. He’s not an elite athlete, but is a powerful, tough run blocker that annihilates oncoming defenders. A finalist for the 2011 Outland Trophy Award as the nation’s top interior lineman, DeCastro also possesses sound technique, excellent mobility and good intelligence. Both players have terrific upside and futures as franchise Offensive linemen in the NFL. Stanford’s final draft eligible prospect is rSr TE Coby Fleener, who stock is starting to really pickup and is one of the top tight ends available. Fleener is a pure receiving tight end as he doesn’t have very good blocking skills, but does have excellent speed, great hands and is a big-time mismatch versus opposing defensive backfields. A reliable target across the middle and deep down the field, Fleener is sure to attract multiple teams that want their own Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham and will be a Day 2 selection. Oklahoma State has their own group of outstanding prospects beginning with the top-rated wide out in the draft, rJr WR Justin Blackmon. He is an exceptional playmaker and extremely productive putting up an absolutely ridiculous 224 receptions for 3118 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns the past two years. He doesn’t have the best speed, but is very strong and physical with extraordinary hands. He’s a great route runner whether it’s in the slot or going deep. He should be a top ten selection and has fantastic potential. Sr OT Levy Adcock made waves this season among Offensive Tackle prospects as he improved with every game to the point where he was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team. He is a decent athlete that has good size and strength with the ability to pick up and block oncoming rushers. He lacks quickness and needs to improve his footwork, but possesses good balance. He will fit in best with a zone blocking team and should be drafted late in the third round or early on Day 3. Another 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team player, rSr FS Markelle Martin is one of the top Safeties available and a third or fourth round draft choice. He is a big hitter with excellent closing speed and good ball skills. He also has good vision and intelligence. A former minor league baseball player, rSr QB Brandon Weeden put together a great couple of seasons the past two years with the Cowboys. He has terrific arm strength with good accuracy and a great touch from the pocket. He struggles with throws off his back foot, but is a tough player that will hang in the pocket and take the big hit to make a play. His age (28 years old) will be the biggest knock on him and will cause him to drop further than he should. Still he could be selected before Day 3.

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