NFL Draft Center


2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 1

This is a new feature on NFL Draft Center where every week of the college football season I will take a closer look at the best game to watch for potential prospects and the best head to head matchup in a game between draft eligible players. This season gets started with a bang Friday night when one of the best head to head battles we’ll see all season long takes place as two of the top prospects in the draft, CB David Amerson and WR Justin Hunter face off with one another, while a Crimson Tide showcase in prime time follows on Saturday night.

Best Head to Head Matchup: North Carolina State CB David Amerson vs. Tennessee WR Justin Hunter and North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon vs. Tennessee QB Tyler Bray @ the Georgia Dome, Friday/7:30 PM

While the Boise State/Michigan State game will get all the national attention on Friday night, the game all the NFL scouts will be glued to is the matchup between North Carolina State and Tennessee as it features a showdown between the consensus top cornerback in the draft in the Wolf Pack’s All-American David Amerson and one of the top receivers available in Volunteers’ wide out Justin Hunter. Both rate among the 15 best prospects to potentially enter the 2013 NFL Draft with Amerson ranked among the top five on most boards. The reigning Jack Tatum Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back, Amerson put together a season for the history books in 2011 as he set a new ACC and NC State record for interceptions in a season with 13, falling just short of tying the FBS record of 14. Amerson is a big corner at 6’3”, 195lbs. with good length and large hands. He can man up one on one in coverage with anyone and possesses the instincts and ball skills to switch his mindset from defense to offense mid-play with the ball in air. He is also exceptional versus the run and has shown the ability to improve his skills and technique at a rapid progression. He will be in tough though Friday when he has the task of covering Justin Hunter. The Tennessee product is a tall, lean receiver with good speed. He’s an excellent route runner, but it’s his elite leaping ability and great hands that have scouts comparing him to Cincinnati Bengals standout A.J Green. There is a big question surrounding Hunter though and that’s whether or not he can return to the same player he had shown before tearing his ACL in the third game of the season last year. This is a huge test for both players and one that could go a long way in determining where both of them could be selected come the draft and whether they can maintain the lofty status among prospects that they currently have.

Amerson versus Hunter may be the main attraction in their game Friday night, but it’s not the only head to head battle worth watching as this game will be the first this season to feature two of the top ten quarterbacks available for the draft. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray is that gun-slinger type quarterback and will remind a lot of people of Chicago’s Jay Cutler. He possesses a cannon for an arm and might just throw the best deep ball of any of this year’s quarterback prospects. He can be lazy at times in his technique and often chooses to try and make the much more difficult throw than using one of his safer, more open options. He will also need to show he can stay healthy after missing five games with a hand injury in 2011. After having to stand in the shadow of Russell Wilson for a few years, Mike Glennon finally got his shot last season after Wilson chose to transfer to Wisconsin. Glennon possesses the NFL prototypical size and arm strength for the next level, but because of his lack of game experience he still has work to do in improving his technique, footwork and decision making. He’s probably a third or fourth round pick right now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shoot up draft boards with an even stronger season than last year.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #8 Michigan vs. #2 Alabama @ Cowboys Stadium, Saturday/8 PM

The top game of the week is undoubtedly the first matchup of the season between two top ten teams in the Crimson Tide and Wolverines. It’s also the best game of the week to watch for prospects even if it is predominantly an Alabama showcase. The Tide will again enter a new season with a whole slew of potential Day 1 and 2 draft picks. Their offensive line is the crown jewel of their roster as it features three possible first round selections in OL Barrett Jones, OG Chance Warmack and RT D.J. Fluker. All three are big, physical and experienced. They’re well coached under Nick Saban and have the versatility to play multiple positions on the line. Jones in particular has displayed the ability to play both tackle and guard positions and will begin this season at Center after starring last year at left tackle.  As usual Bama is stocked on the defensive side of the ball, although they don’t appear to have that elite first round prospect this time around. Their top defensive prospect is Nose Tackle Jesse Williams, who could make his way up draft boards from his second round rating with another good season. He’s still a bit of project after growing up in Australia and only starting to play football at 15 years old. He eventually made his way to Western Arizona Community College where he quickly displayed high level talent and gained the attention of Saban. In his first year at Alabama, he started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end, but will make the move inside to Nose Tackle this season. Williams possesses amazing strength (600lb. bench press) and great all-around physical tools. Behind Williams is a pair of linebackers in C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson and a pair of defensive backs in FS Robert Lester and CB Dee Milliner, who could all come off the board in the third or fourth round. Finally Alabama’s most interesting prospect to watch will be running back Eddie Lacy, who will attempt to make it three straight Tide running backs to be taken in the first round. He has some work to do as he is currently rated as a late second/early third round pick by many publications.

While Alabama’s starting lineup is full of potential early round draft choices, Michigan features just one notable potential early round draft choice in OT Taylor Lewan, who might just end up being the first player taken playing in this game. A massive left tackle that plays mean and nasty, Lewan has the ability to battle one on one with the opposing team’s top pass rushers. He’s not a perfect prospect by any means and still has a lot of work to do in improving his footwork and blocking techniques, while also cutting down on the number of penalties he gets. The progress he displays this year will go a long way in determining if Lewan is that early first round selection some scouts think he might be or if he will be taken later in the first or even as low as the second or third rounds. The Wolverines next two best prospects look like Day Three picks. Defensive End Craig Roh probably should be taken a bit higher than he will go, but in a year that could be special for pass rushers he could find himself still available heading into the mid to late rounds. He has great instincts and is a tireless worker on and off the field. He’s got good speed and plays with an edge and is the type of player every coach wants on his team. He probably just isn’t going to stand out among the talent in this year’s crop. Quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the most electrifying athletes in college football today, but given his lack of size and an elite arm, he will have to make the ever so tough transition to wide receiver or running back that so many of his type of quarterback has had to make when attempting to move to the next level. Robinson is likely to be available in late on Day Three, unless there is a team out there that really likes him.

Written By: Mark Scott