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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 6 (JAN.4-JAN.6)

College Bowl season is finally winding down with just three games left to be played before the BCS National Championship on Monday. The Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and Oklahoma is the last big bowl matchup of the season and is a definite must-watch for NFL front offices, scouts and fans as it features more potential draft picks than any other game including the National Championship. There are at least eleven players that are for-sure 2013 NFL Draft picks (should they all the underclassmen choose to declare early) at the moment and a number of others that could find a spot in one of the later rounds. A number of top prospects will be on the field including Luke Joeckel, who could be the first overall pick and Damontre Moore, a likely top ten selection.

AT&T COTTON BOWL, JANUARY 4/2013

Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

In the last great matchup of the college football season before Alabama and Notre Dame meet for the National Championship, the Aggies and Sooners will put on a showcase of top talent for NFL scouts with nine potential top-100 prospects and a boatload of others in action. Texas A&M has the far superior draft class led by LT Luke Joeckel (Jr), DE/OLB Damontre Moore (Jr) and RT Jake Matthews (Jr), who are all projected to be first round picks in April. Joeckel is arguably the top prospect in the entire draft and one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick currently owned by the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s as talented a left prospect as there has ever been to enter the draft. He’s a great athlete with prototype NFL size and possesses elite fundamentals and technique. He has the agility and footwork to match speed-rushers and the strength to out-muscle bull-rushers. He plays with intelligence and poise well past his years, probably because he’s been a starting since he stepped on to campus and will be an immediate starter in the NFL as well on either side of the line. The Chiefs could use a new blindside protector for whoever their signal-caller might be next season and without a consensus elite quarterback in the draft Joeckel could be the first player selected. Damontre Moore might top the list of highest risers among prospects this season. After adequately replacing Von Miller in 2011, Moore exploded this season taking his game to another level leading the Aggies in tackles (80), sacks (12.5), QB hurries (8) and tackles for loss (20) in becoming one of the top pass-rushers and defenders in the country. He’s an explosive pass-rusher that can beat linemen on the outside with his terrific speed or blast right through them using his strength and power. He’s able to quickly close in on the ball-carrier before dragging him to the ground while still displaying the awareness to try and rip the ball loose (8 career forced fumbles). He’s drawing comparisons to Miller as a hybrid defender that can play in any defensive scheme whether standing up or with his hand in the ground. He’s a top ten prospect along with other elite pass-rushers Jarvis Jones and Bjoern Werner. Son of former NFL standout Bruce Matthews, Jake has lived up to the considerable hype that has always surrounded him and combined with Joeckel at Texas A&M to form the best offensive tackle tandem in college football. While he’s not as athletic as Joeckel or the same level of pass-protector, he’s just as skilled in most aspects and is actually the better and more dominant run blocker of the two. He would’ve have had a higher draft grade if he had the chance to play left tackle and wasn’t stuck on the right side, but he has shown enough potential so for in his career that he could be one in the future. He should come off the board in the mid to late first round or early part of Day 2. Texas A&M also has a trio of possible mid-round picks in OLB Sean Porter (Sr), WR Ryan Swope (rSr) and RB Christine Michael (Sr). Porter is another talented, hybrid Aggies defender. He’s a good pass-rusher, but really excels in stopping the run and dropping into pass coverage. He’s fantastic at reading the play and pursuing ball-carriers and should be a highly effective starting NFL linebacker. Swope isn’t an elite athlete, but is a reliable receiver with excellent hands and route-running ability. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level. Michael is a tough, well-built running back with a number of high level skills that scouts look for in a featured ball-carrier, but has major durability issues after constantly battling injuries throughout his collegiate career. Porter could be taken in the third round, while Swope and Michael are more likely to be selected on Day 3 of the draft. Possible late round draft picks for the Aggies include WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (Sr), CB Dustin Harris (Sr) and DT Spencer Nealy (Sr). While the Sooners have a large draft class this year, they don’t possess the kind of elite prospects they usually do with just one possible late first round pick. OT Lane Johnson (Sr) is their top prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the top offensive tackles available. He’s a great athlete that certainly looks the part with prototypical NFL size and length, but is still a slight work in progress after starting just two seasons at tackle, one on the right side in 2011 and then on the left side this past year after playing quarterback, tight end and defensive end in previous years. He is a fantastic pass blocker and could be a late first/early second round pick. Following Johnson is a group of potential mid-round picks in QB Landry Jones (rSr), FS Tony Jefferson (Jr), WR Kenny Stills (Jr) and FB Trey Millard (Jr). Once thought to be the next elite first round quarterback for the Sooners, Landry Jones has been a major disappointment the last few seasons despite breaking multiple school and conference records in his career, although a lot of that has to do with the fact he’s been the starting for four years. He possesses the size and arm strength to be an NFL starter, but still shows very questionable decision-making, erratic accuracy and poor footwork. He has some work to do in his development, but a fresh start somewhere else (not that Oklahoma is a bad environment) with some new eyes on him could do wonders for his future as an NFL quarterback. Jefferson is a tough, versatile safety that can line up in the box to stop the run or rush the passer and drop into coverage and play “centerfield.” Despite playing on a bum ankle this season he still led the Sooners with 113 tackles and is considered one of the top safety prospects available for the draft. Stills is a smaller, playmaking wide receiver with good speed and smooth route-running ability. There are some concerns about his consistency and focus to make the easy catches and a couple of off-the-field red flags. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level, but can contribute with the big, acrobatic play from time to time. Jones and Jefferson are likely third round picks, while Stills probably has to wait until the early portion of Day 3. It’s not often a fullback is considered a possible early entrant into the draft, but Millard is an exceptional talent and the highest rated player at the position even earning consideration as a top-120 prospect. He probably returns to school for another season, but it should be interesting to see if and where he is selected if he does indeed declare early for the 2013 NFL Draft. Late round hopefuls for Oklahoma include CB Damontre Hurst (Sr), DT Stacy McGee (rSr), DT Jamar McFarland (Sr), DT David King (rSr) and WR Justin Brown (Sr).

BBVA COMPASS BOWL, JANUARY 5/2013

Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Mississippi Rebels (6-6)

Not much to watch in terms of NFL prospects between Pittsburgh and Mississippi. The only noteworthy prospect taking part is Panthers RB Ray Graham (Sr). He’s a smaller, elusive running back with terrific quickness and good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Graham successfully returned to action this season from a torn ACL in 2011 and showed that he was healthy, although front offices will have an eye on his medical report at the Scouting Combine. He’s a situational back at the next level and could be a fifth round pick. Likely undrafted free agents for Pittsburgh include OC Ryan Turnley (rSr) and OG Chris Jacobson (rSr). Mississippi does have one potential prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft in FS Charles Sawyer (rJr). He sent in paperwork to the NFL Advisory Committee to find out his draft grade and what round he might be selected in, although there isn’t much buzz surrounding him right now as an underclassman. He’s a versatile defensive back that can contribute in run support and pass coverage, but needs to add more strength and size to hold up in the NFL. If he declares he could be a mid-round pick.

GODADDY.COM BOWL, JANUARY 6/2013

Kent State Golden Flashes (11-2) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3)

The final bowl game before the BCS National Championship will be a matchup between two of the better non-BCS teams in Kent State and Arkansas State. It will feature just one prospect though in Golden Flashes OT Brian Winters (Sr). He’s a dominant run blocker and excellent pass protector. He has NFL-size and strength and plays with a mean streak. While Winters played left tackle for Kent State, he projects out better as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He’s one of the best small school prospects in the draft and could be taken as high as third round. Arkansas State doesn’t have any notable draft-eligible prospects.

Written By: Mark Scott

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