NFL Draft Center

2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 8 (JAN.6-JAN.8)

Written By: Mark Scott

The final weekend of Bowls is finally upon us with just three games remaining before the rematch of the century and BCS National Championship game between LSU and Alabama. There are a number of Day 3 draft eligible prospects in these final Bowls to watch including Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsay and Arkansas’s Jarius Wright.

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


AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 6/2012

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Kansas State Wildcats

The best game of the three remaining Bowls, this matchup probably should’ve have been for a BCS Bowl rather than for the Cotton Bowl. Nevertheless it features two very good teams with a solid group of Day 3 prospects. Arkansas will field the majority of the prospects in this game starting with a pair of fast wide receivers. Sr WR Jarius Wright was always a productive wide out, but really took his game to another level this year in setting Arkansas single-season records for receptions (63), receiving yards (1029) and touchdowns (11), including single-game records for Arkansas with 13 receptions for 281 receiving yards vs. Texas A&M. He will also leave the Razorbacks as their all-time career receptions leader with 165 catches. He lacks size, but is one of the fastest wide receivers in the nation and possesses very good hands and route-running ability. He has a pretty complete game and while he can go deep and stretch defenses, his best fit at the next level will be as a slot receiver. Sr Joe Adams is a very similar receiver to his teammate Wright, but is just slightly slower, which is still faster than most, and doesn’t possess the same level of skills in the receiving game as him. However, he is a very good punt returner with big-play ability in both the return game and as a receiver. He should fit in as a slot receiver in the NFL as well, but will get on the field sooner on special teams as a returner. The Razorbacks’ also have three late round prospects on defense in Sr FS Tramain Thomas, rSr ILB Jerry Franklin and rSr DE Jake Bequette. Thomas is a ball-hawking safety with 12 career interceptions, including five this season. He is excellent in run-support and can lay out and intimidate ball carriers and pass-catchers with big hits. Franklin is a solid inside linebacker that contributes in run-support and in pass-coverage. He swallows up ball-carriers in the middle of the field and has the speed to make tackles from sideline to sideline. He is also adept at getting into opposing backfields to pressure the Quarterback or make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Bequette is a fierce pass rusher that has made a career of sacking the Quarterback. He’s not the best of athletes, but always goes hard and gets the most out of his talent. He should fit in nicely as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. For Kansas State, they have just two prospects worth noting in rJr ILB Arthur Brown and rSr Tysyn Hartman. Brown was a big part of Kansas State’s revival this season as he solidified the defense and middle of the field with his play and leadership. He is an excellent athlete with next-level ability and the speed to make tackles sideline to sideline. He could be drafted earlier than Day 3, although he may very likely return to Kansas State for another year alongside his brother in an attempt to take the Wildcats to another level and win a Big 12 Championship. Hartman is a tough, physical safety that plays with an edge. He still has improvements to make, but should make some team’s roster as a special teams ace and backup safety.


BBVA Compass Bowl, January 7/2012

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. SMU Mustangs

The Panthers will feature two prospects of note in their matchup with the Mustangs, while SMU will field a pair of late round picks. The top prospect remaining to watch among the final Bowls until the BCS National Championship is Pittsburgh’s rSr OLB/DE Brandon Lindsay, a potential third round pick. A very good athlete, Lindsay has shown that he can play in both a 4-3 defense as an end and standing up in the 3-4 as an outside linebacker. His size has him projected to fit best in a 3-4 defense.  He doesn’t have great speed or quickness, but he does have very good upper body strength and violent hands that allow him to push past blockers into the backfield. He has a good first step off the snap and can get to opposing passers as evidenced by his 18.5 sacks the past two seasons. Sr OG Lucas Nix is a strong, mobile run-blocker that can get to the second-level and continue to create holes for his ball-carrier. He began his collegiate career at Right Tackle, but a move inside to Right Guard really allowed his game to excel. He has excellent technique and is a hardworking anchor in pass-protection. He was slowed by a mid-season knee injury, but that shouldn’t hurt his draft stock. What will hurt his stock are the three criminal charges stemming from a drunken fight with a pair of West Virginia players at their house over the holiday break. Nix will still be allowed to play in this game and rates out as fifth round pick. Pittsburgh’s rSr ILB Max Gruder has a chance to be drafted late on Day 3. SMU also has a pair of potential late Day 3 selections in rSr OL Kelvin Beachum and Sr DE Taylor Thompson. Beachum was named to the 2011 All-CUSA First-Team and is an experienced offensive lineman as a 4-year starter at Left Tackle for the Mustangs, but will probably have to transition to Guard in the pros. Thompson is a productive pass-rusher as a defensive end in a 4-3 with 17 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in his collegiate career. Bowl, January 8/2012

Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

The final Bowl of the season will be a showcase for one Day 3 prospect in Northern Illinois rSr QB Chandler Harnish, who will be trying to make a statement against the Red Wolves to show scouts that he should go higher in the draft. Harnish is a fantastic athlete with a NFL body and is one of the top dual-threat Quarterbacks in the nation. He combines good speed and mobility with an accurate arm that can make NFL throws. Certainly the level of competition he played against in the MAC will work against him, but he dominated that competition for four seasons as one of the most prolific players to ever to play in the conference and lead Northern Illinois to their first MAC Conference Championship since 1983 this season. He has very good intelligence and decision-making and should impress a few more scouts with his play this weekend. Right now he has a mid to late round grade, but with a couple QBs returning to school it could create an opening for him to possibly even be drafted on Day 2, although that might be pushing it. Arkansas State has a pair of possible seventh round picks in rSr SS Kelcie McCray and rSr OLB Demario Davis. McCray is a hard-hitting safety that is continuing to improve against the run and pass, while Davis is a great athlete that can make plays all over the field. Both could make an impact on special teams while they work towards a spot on defense.

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