NFL Draft Center


2012 NFL Draft Watch: BCS National Championship Part 9 (JAN.9)

Written By: Mark Scott

The BCS National Championship Game and rematch of the century is finally here as LSU and Alabama are set to duke it out for the second time this season. Both teams are stacked and possess some of the best prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft, including a potential eight first round draft picks between them. The majority of the elite prospects are on defense with the likes of Claiborne, Kirkpatrick, Upshaw, Hightower and Barron, but Heisman Finalist Trent Richardson will also showcase his talents in this matchup on offense. It should be an incredible game with a group of prospects that could shape the 2012 NFL Draft.

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

 

Allstate BCS National Championship Game (January 9/2012)

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Louisiana State Tigers

ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide will showcase a buffet line of top prospects in this game, including five likely first round selections. It all starts with 2011 Heisman Finalist and Doak Walker Award winner rJr RB Trent Richardson, as complete a running back as you will find. He has the strength of a power back to pound the ball up the middle with the speed and agility to beat defenders on the outside, while also possessing excellent receiving ability out of the backfield. He is a big-time playmaker with great vision, who has been groomed for a NFL career since he arrived at Alabama and is a better prospect than former teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (2011 New Orleans First Round Pick, 28th overall). He could be a Top Ten draft choice this year. On to defense as the rest of Alabama’s top prospects are defensive players beginning with Jr CB Dre Kirkpatrick, a tall, athletic corner that possesses great ball skills and instincts, while he continues to improve and get better in coverage. He is a confident player with a lot of upside and could end being the top corner in this draft. SR OLB Courtney Upshaw is a ferocious, versatile defender that can play multiple positions in multiple schemes. He has fantastic strength and power with a great burst and his best fit is as a pass-rusher whether standing up or with a hand on the ground. It should be interesting to see which team he goes to in the draft because he could land in any number of spots in the first round. Another stud linebacker that will be a first round selection is rJr ILB Don’ta Hightower.  He is a fantastic leader and imposing athlete that could immediately step into a NFL starting defense. He has great size, speed and strength that allows him to stuff the run and is fluid enough to drop into pass coverage. There are some questions about his effort, but battling back from serious knee injury suffered during the 2009 season should silence those questions. Sr SS Mark Barron is a complete player and easily the top safety in the draft. He is a terrific athlete that does it all on the field, whether it is in pass coverage or contributing against the run. He possesses great ball skills and is a devastating hitter with fantastic leadership ability. A very underrated player, he will be a steal for some team in the second half of the first round. After their top five prospects, Alabama has a pair of Day 2 defenders in rSr NT Josh Chapman and Jr FS Robert Lester. Chapman is a big, strong Nose Tackle that is dominant against the run and swallows up ball-carriers in the middle of the field, while taking on multiple blockers. He doesn’t get to the passer very much, but still has a good first step off the snap and possesses some explosiveness. He might not be the top rated Nose Tackle in the draft, but he is definitely the best coached under Nick Saban. He could be a great sleeper pick on Day 2. Hidden amongst all of the elite prospects on his team, Robert Lester is an excellent Free Safety with great cover skills and instincts that can also lay out offensive players with big hits. The Crimson Tide also has some possible late round draft choices in rSr WR Marquis Maze, rSr C William Vlachos, Sr CB DeQuan Menzie and Sr OLB Jerrell Harris.

 

LSU

The Tigers have their own fantastic group of prospects starting with a potential Top Five draft pick in Jr CB Morris Claiborne. An excellent athlete, Claiborne is the top cover corner in the draft and also possesses terrific ball skills and instincts. He is a complete cornerback that is well-coached and should start right away in the NFL. Some have him rated as a better prospect than former teammate and Arizona 2011 first-round pick (5th overall) CB Patrick Peterson, although he doesn’t have the returner skills that Peterson has. Possibly joining Claiborne in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft could be a pair of young defensive linemen in rSo DE Sam Montgomery and rSo DT Michael Brockers. Montgomery has started to gain some first round buzz following the end of the regular season and for obvious reasons after he recorded 9 sacks and 9 tackles for loss on the year. He is a very fast pass-rusher with an explosive burst that allows him to blow past offensive linemen en route to the Quarterback or chasing down ball-carriers on the outside. A little undersized, he currently projects as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Brockers is an imposing interior defensive lineman that is versatile enough to play multiple positions on the line. He is an excellent run-stopper that can also wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage, while occasionally getting to the Quarterback. Both Montgomery and Brockers are still young, developing players that could benefit from another season at LSU and probably will return to school for the 2012 campaign. On offense, LSU rJr OT Alex Hurst is starting to gain some buzz around him. The 6’6, 340lb. Offensive Lineman is a mammoth man that uses his size and strength to dominate defenders. He has very good fundamentals and technique that allow him to use his intelligence on the football field. He has a lot of experience and can play either Right Tackle or inside at Guard. He could be an early Day 2 selection if he chooses to enter the draft this year. Also on offense for the Tigers is Jr WR Reuben Randle. A tall, reliable wide out, Randle has big play ability deep and on third downs. He has a great set of hands and good speed that allow him to make plays downfield. He has made some very good improvements this season and has terrific upside as a potential feature NFL receiver. Randle currently sits as a possible Day 2 selection and he too could return for another season at LSU. Sr SS Brandon Taylor hasn’t gotten the attention that his defensive back mates like Claiborne and Heisman Finalist Tyrann Mathieu have gotten, but he is an outstanding player in his own right. Taylor made big-time improvements in his game this season and showed that he can defend against the pass and run. He has a great work ethic along with good instincts that make up for a lack of size and speed. He currently rates as a Day 3 draft choice. LSU also has a pair of possible late round selections in Sr TE Deangelo Peterson and Sr QB Jordan Jefferson, although it would be a surprise to see Jefferson get drafted, even in the seventh round.



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 CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, 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.

 

GoDaddy.com 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.



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 7 (JAN.3-JAN.4)

Written By: Mark Scott

Bowl season is starting to wind down with just a handful of games remaining, but there are still a ton of prospects left to play in them that are trying to improve their draft stock.  The Sugar and Orange Bowls showcase a number of those prospects, including a few possible first round picks in Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and a trio of Clemson Tigers, Dwayne Allen, Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson.

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

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl, January 3/2012

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Michigan Wolverines

The Hokies and Wolverines have the stage to themselves January 3, although the game will feature just one, maybe two early round picks, there will also be a bunch of Day 3 prospects to watch on both teams. Both possible early round selections play for Virginia Tech in Jr RB David Wilson and Jr CB Jayron Hosley. Wilson is a dynamic playmaker with great vision and elite speed. He is able squeeze through holes between the tackles or get to the outside and if there is daylight, he will be gone in a flash. He exploded this year as the Hokies’ feature back with 266 carries for 1627 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns, while also displaying good hands out of the backfield with 21 receptions for 126 receiving yards and a score. He has the ability to slip tackles and blow past oncoming defenders. There has been a lot of buzz about him being a first round pick, but running backs typically drop down the draft slightly and with a couple of backs ahead of him, he will likely go on Day 2. Hosley was outstanding in 2010 when he was named an All-American after recording an incredible 9 interceptions, but he battled a hamstring injury throughout this year that saw his number of picks drop to just 3, although he did have a career-high 59 tackles to make up for it. His number of interceptions also dropped this season because teams tended to throw away from his side of the field. He possesses fantastic ball skills, instincts and is solid in man to man coverage. He is a bit a small and lacks the ideal size for a starting NFL corner, but he plays tough and with an edge. Both Wilson and Hosley could return to school for another season. The rest of Virginia Tech’s players are Day 3 prospects in Sr FS Eddie Whitley, rSr OG Jaymes Brooks and Sr WR Jarrett Boykin. For Michigan, rSr C David Molk is their top draft eligible prospect among a group of possible Day 3 selections. He was named the 2011 Rimington Trophy Award winner as the nation’s top Center after leading the Michigan Offensive line through a great season. While he isn’t a dominating player or athlete, he does possess good strength, footwork and knows how to handle the position. He has a ton of experience and has played at a consistently high level throughout his collegiate career with the Wolverines. He is better when in motion and probably best fits a zone-blocking team. Sr DT Mike Martin is a hardworking, competitive player that always gives his all and gets the most out of his talent. He is a blue-collar athlete that has solid skills and technique. Martin has experience playing in multiple defensive schemes and should fit into a rotation in the NFL. Michigan also has a pair of possible late round draft choices in Sr TE Kevin Koger and rSr DE Ryan Van Bergen.

 

Discover Orange Bowl, January 4/2012

Clemson Tigers vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Orange Bowl battle between the Tigers and Mountaineers will involve four note-worthy prospects, who could be drafted on the first two days of the 2012 NFL Draft. Three of those prospects play for Clemson and all three are in first round discussions starting with rSr DE Andre Branch, who is being talked about with the other top pass-rushers available. He is an athletic pass rusher with good quickness and agility that lets him get to opposing passers and even chase down backs coming around the edge. After a strong Junior season, Branch took his game to another level this year with 73 tackles, 14 for loss and 10.5 sacks as he took over for 2010 Tampa Bay first round pick Da’Quan Bowers. He has good size as a natural 4-3 end, but could also get attention from 3-4 teams that want to turn him into a rushing OLB. Sr Brandon Thompson is a disruptive, hardworking interior defensive lineman that has the ability to blow up plays in the middle of the field. He has an explosive first-step that allows him to get pressure on Quarterbacks and penetrate gaps to stop backs behind the line of scrimmage. He is still a little inconsistent from time to time and could stand to get a bit stronger in his upper-body. A finalist for the 2011 John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, rJr TE Dwayne Allen really emerged as a big-time playmaker for the Tigers after recording 48 receptions for 577 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns this season. He can stretch defenses with his speed and create mismatches with his size against opposing defensive backs. A legit red-zone threat, Allen is only improving and has a ton of upside. He will be the top tight end drafted in April. After their top three prospects, Clemson will also field three more players that could be late round selections in Sr OG Antoine McClain, rSr OT Landon Walker and rSr FB Chad Diehl, the top fullback in the draft. For West Virginia, they have just one notable prospect in Sr OLB Bruce Irvin and a group of possible late round draft picks. Irvin is an extremely athletic and fierce pass-rusher with excellent speed and toughness that racked up 22 sacks and 27 tackles for loss in his two years at West Virginia and was named to the 2011 All-Big East First-Team. He lacks a lot of playing experience, but has worked incredibly hard to get where he is after being academically ineligible to play high school football and spending time in a juvenile jail before getting his life back on track and making his way up the college ranks. He is a bit undersized to play defensive end in the NFL and projects out as a rushing 3-4 OLB. He will be drafted on Day 2. After Irvin, the Mountaineers have rSr CB Keith Tandy, rSr DE Julian Miller, rSr OT Don Barclay and Sr TE Tyler Urban all fighting for a spot late in the draft.



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.



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 5 (DEC.31)

Written by: Mark Scott

It’s New Year’s Eve Day and it is jam packed with Bowl games, except it’s not overly packed with top prospects or even that many mid to late round players. Regardless there are still a handful of notable Day 1 and 2 prospects to watch like QB Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller of Texas A&M, Virginia’s CB Chase Minnifield and DE Cam Johnson as well as Illinois’s DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus.

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

 

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, December 31/2011

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Northwestern Wildcats

The early game between the Aggies and Wildcats features the most prospects of any game on New Year’s Eve, although all of the notable players will be playing for Texas A&M as Northwestern has just a trio of prospects fighting to earn a spot very late in the draft and trying to avoid going undrafted. Those three players for Northwestern are rSr FB Drake Dunsmore, rSr CB Jordan Mabin and rSr Brian Peters. Now on to the real reasons to watch this game and that is the Aggies’ top four prospects starting with rSr QB Ryan Tannehill, who is earning late first, early second round buzz. The former Freshman All-American wide receiver burst on to the scene as a Quarterback midway through 2010 after taking over for starter Jerrod Johnson and leading the Aggies on a six-game winning streak and a bowl berth to end the season, while putting up impressive numbers during that time. Tannehill is a great athlete with excellent mobility and good arm strength while possessing the NFL prototype size for a QB at 6’4, 222lbs. He’s made incredible progress in his development as a QB in just a short time, which bodes well for his future development as an NFL starting signal-caller. He still has improvements to make, namely in his accuracy and decision-making, but that will come with more experience and coaching. Sr WR Jeff Fuller is a big, very strong wide out with great hands and has the ability to make plays over the middle and go deep while also being a very good blocker, although he battled injuries and inconsistent play this season and his stock has taken a big hit from being considered a late first-rounder to start the year. He’s now being talked about as a third or fourth round choice, but could move back up draft boards with an excellent combine which is expected for this physical specimen. Next for the Aggies is rSr CB Coryell Judie, a former track star, who is a tough, hard-nosed corner that rarely gets beat due to his exceptional speed. He didn’t start playing football until his senior year in high school and still has some development left to make in his game, but he does have good ball skills and can make tackles by himself in open field. He is also dangerous as a returner and grades out as a late Day 2 selection. Sr RB Cyrus Gray is a productive multi-purpose back, but is still a bit of a tweener as he has yet to figure what type of rusher he exactly is. He has good strength and is a solid blocker, but is not overly big to be an inside the tackles pounding back or exceptionally fast to be a speed-demon on the outside. He still needs to develop the type of running back he is going to be and rates out to be a fourth or fifth round pick.

 

Hyundai Sun Bowl, December 31/2011

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Utah Utes

The battle between Georgia Tech and Utah will feature a couple of prospects for both teams, although three of the five could return to school for another year. Jr NT Star Lotulelei is the player to really watch in this game as he has top-end first round potential. The huge Nose Tackle is extremely strong and has the ability to take on numerous blockers and control the line of scrimmage, while still being able to make plays in the backfield from time to time as shown by his 6 tackles for loss this season. While he is receiving very high draft grades, the rumors are that he is surprisingly leaning towards returning for his senior year. Utah also has a pair of possible Day 3 Offensive Tackle prospects in SR RT Tony Bergstrom and SR LT John Cullen. Bergstrom is a very intelligent and reliable pass-protector and run blocker, while Cullen is also good in pass protection, but will probably have to move inside to Guard in the pros. Georgia Tech also has a pair of Day 3 prospects in rJr OG Omoregie Uzzi and Jr CB Rod Sweeting.  Uzzi is a great athlete with good footwork that is an excellent blocker and shows improvement every game out. He is developing into a top interior lineman and another year of college football should shoot him up draft boards for the 2013 draft. Sweeting is a good corner and Georgia Tech’s top defender. He has fantastic ball skills as evidenced by his 3 interceptions and 12 pass defenses this season and is a solid tackler. He has NFL size and continues to get better. Like Uzzi, another year of development in the college ranks should do wonders for his draft stock.

 

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, December 31/2011

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

There’s not a whole lot to talk about in this matchup between Cincinnati and Vanderbilt, but both teams do have some mid to late round prospects who should be drafted and make NFL teams as rotational players. Cincinnati features the top prospect in this game in Sr RB Isaiah Pead, who’s back to back 1000+ yard rushing seasons have him rated among the top ten draft eligible running backs and earning a third round draft grade.  Named to the 2011 All-Big East First-Team, Pead rushed for 1110 yards and 11 touchdowns, while he also displayed excellent hands out of the backfield with 36 receptions for 304 receiving yards and 3 scores this season. He has fantastic straight-line speed that allows him to break off big chunks of yardage. Sr DT Derek Wolfe was one of the most productive and effective pass rushers in all of college football this season with 9.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in being named to the 2011 All-Big East First-Team. He is tough, physical and a relentless pass rusher from the inside. His play this year impressed scouts and moved him into an early Day 3 selection. While Vanderbilt doesn’t have any early round prospects they do have a trio of potential Day 3 players who could be solid contributors as backups on NFL defenses. Sr CB Casey Hayward is an aggressive defender that plays with an edge and loves to get involved in making tackles and stopping the run. He is reliable in coverage and has very good ball skills as seen by his 5 picks and 14 pass breakups this year. Sr SS Sean Richardson is a big, intimidating safety that is a powerful hitter and good at stopping the run. A solid linebacker, rSr ILB Chris Marve could earn late seventh round consideration.

 

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, December 31/2011

UCLA Bruins vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Another game where one team has all of the notable prospects as Illinois comes into this matchup with a couple of potential early round selections. Their top prospect is rJr DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, who exploded onto the scene this year with 14.5 sacks and an incredible 9 forced fumbles and may be the top pass-rusher in the draft. Mercilus has an NFL body and all the physical attributes with size, speed and strength to be a star pass-rusher in the pros. He has an explosive first step and can easily shed blockers on his way into the backfield. His size should allow him to be effective as either a natural defensive end in the 4-3 or standing up as a 3-4 OLB. Another early round and very interesting prospect, rSo DT Akeem Spence is young, but has had scouts eyeing him since stepping onto the field for the Fighting Illini and could still very likely return to school for at least another season. Like Mercilus, he is very strong with a great first step that allows him to blow past blockers into the backfield. He already has NFL size and is very similar to former Illini and Chargers’ first-round pick Corey Liuget. If he enters the draft he could get some first round love and won’t last past the second round. Illinois also has a pair of Day 3 prospects in Sr WR A.J. Jenkins and Sr OT Jeff Allen. Jenkins is incredibly fast and could put up a 40 time under 4.4. He has the ability to blow past defensive backs and make plays deep, although his size and strength will need to improve if he is to hold up against stronger defenders on the outside. He will also need to improve his route-running and discipline if he is to become a possession wide receiver at the next level. He could go as high as the fourth round. Allen is a talented, experienced lineman that can play both tackle positions, but probably fits best as a Right Tackle in the NFL. For UCLA, Sr SS Tony Dye and rJr Jonathon Franklin could be looked at late on Day 3, but I expect Franklin to return to school for his final year with such a low draft grade.

 

Chick-Fil-A Bowl, December 31/2011

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Auburn Tigers

The final game of the day and the year will showcase four note-worthy prospects in Virginia’s rSr CB Chase Minnifield, Sr DE Cam Johnson and JR OT Oday Aboushi as well as Auburn’s Sr OT Brandon Mosely. Minnifield is an excellent cover corner and the son of former Browns Pro Bowl defensive back Frank Minnifield. He is intelligent with exceptional ball skills and the ability to eventually become a number one corner in the pros.  A solid second round selection, he may even come off the board in the late first, perhaps to the defensive back-needy New England Patriots, who have two first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Cam Johnson is good, but not an overwhelming pass rusher, who should fit best into a rotation with a traditional 4-3 scheme. He does have the ability to get to opposing Quarterbacks and is decent against the run. He should be a Day 2 prospect, but because he is not exceptional in any one area he may fall to the fourth round. Oday Aboushi could be the next in a long line of Virginia Offensive linemen drafted into the NFL. He has great size and mobility and can handle fast, physical pass rushers. Aboushi could stand to use another year of the college game to gain more experience and continue to fill out his large frame. Auburn’s Brandon Mosley is a raw talent, who continues to improve, largely due to his great work ethic. He has long arms with a good base and is a fast learner. He could eventually become a legitimate NFL starter with some good coaching and more experience. Each team also features a possible late seventh round selection in Virginia’s rSr DT Matt Conrath and Auburn’s Sr FS Neiko Thorpe.



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 CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, 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.



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 3 (DEC.28-DEC.29)

Written by: Mark Scott

The Bowls continue to get better and so do the prospects playing in them.  This set of games showcase a couple of guaranteed first round prospects in Heisman Trophy winner and likely Top 5 pick, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III as well as his teammate WR Kendall Wright and Notre Dame’s wide out Michael Floyd. There are also a number of players that are earning first round buzz as well in Florida State’s QB E.J. Manuel and OT Zebrie Sanders, along with Washington’s NT Alameda Ta’amu and RB Chris Polk. These games also include a huge number of mid to late round prospects to watch.

 

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

 

Military Bowl – Presented by Northrop Grumman, December 28/2011

Toledo Rockets vs. Air Force Falcons

There’s not a whole lot to talk about in this game as there is just one prospect worth mentioning here and he’s good candidate to return to school for his Senior year. Toledo’s Jr WR/KR Eric Page is the star of the Rockets’ team and proved that with another sensational season after catching a school-record 112 receptions for 1123 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns while also adding another 899(703 KR, 196 PR) return yards with 1 punt return touchdown. He is also Toledo’s all-time leading receiver with 293 career receptions and that number will only grow should he decide to stay for another season. He’s not very big (just 5’10, 192lb) and is not overly fast, but he is still one of the nation’s top multi-purpose weapons and should be able to eventually find a home in the NFL, whether it be this year or next. SI’s Tony Pauline has him as a possible third round pick, but that could be a bit high for a guy who may only end up as a returner at the next level, although he does have good receiving skills. Should he enter the draft this year, I expect he will be an early Day 3 selection.

 

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, December 28/2011

Texas Longhorns vs. California Golden Bears

The Longhorns and Golden Bears almost always contribute a number of prospects to the draft every season and this year is no different, although this year’s crop consists of a number of mid and late round prospects and is void of any elite first round talent. For Texas, the heart of their defense is featured with four early Day 3 selections starting with rSr OLB Keenan Robinson, who ranks just outside the top 100 draft eligible players. Named to the 2011 All-Big 12 Second-Team, Robinson gives great effort on the field and can play against both the run and the pass, but is an average player at best right now and will need to make a number of improvements to become an NFL starter, mainly with his speed and strength. A versatile defender, Sr DT Kheeston Randle can play in a number of different schemes, which should help his stock come draft time. Another 2011 All-Big 12 Second-Team selection, he’s more of a space-eater that takes up the middle of the field allowing others to make plays on the ball than a playmaker or pass-rusher and could fit in nicely with a 3-4 defense like Houston that requires a smaller NT. He possesses good strength and leverage to overpower blockers and demands more than just one to stop him. A very good pass-rusher, Jr DE Alex Okafor put together a great season that saw him named to the 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team after recording 51 tackles, 14 for loss, 17 QB pressures and 7 sacks. After getting a ton of hype as a top recruit, Okafor finally came into his own this season and displayed the ability to be an elite rush end or 3-4 OLB. While he currently sits as a possible fourth round pick, he could benefit greatly from another year in school under Mack Brown to improve his stock and move into Day 1 or 2 consideration. Like Okafor, Sr ILB Emmanuel Acho was also named to the 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team after racking up 102 tackles and 3 sacks. Acho is a complete linebacker, with great character and work ethic that can defend against the run and the pass. He does lack some size, but his effort and football I.Q. more than make up for it. All four could go higher than currently expected. The Longhorns rSr FB Cody Johnson could give Texas a fifth player selected should he fight his way into the late seventh round.  The Cal Bears come into this game with three notable mid-round prospects and a host of others that could be late picks or sign as undrafted free agents. The Golden Bears’ top prospect is Sr DE Trevor Guyton, a fourth or fifth round choice, the defensive lineman can play multiple positions along the line displaying a good blend of strength and quickness. He’s not an elite pass-rusher, but is still effective at getting pressure on the passer and is also very good at stopping the run. He does need to improve in a number of areas and probably fits best as a 4-3 DT, but should be able to fit into a rotation pretty quickly. Next for California is rSr OT Mitchell Schwartz, who has been a main stay on the Golden Bears’ offensive line since getting on the field as a red-shirt freshman playing both the right (16 games) and left tackle (34 games) positions.  A very intelligent and experienced player, Schwartz was named to the 2011 All-Pac 12 First-Team on and off the field, while being the only Cal Bear to start every game (50) for the team over the past four years.  He will be able to play right away. Sr Mychal Kendricks has also been a main stay for the Cal Bears over the past four years, but on defense, where he played in all 50 of their games, starting in 28 of them. This season he was named the 2011 Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, along with being recognized as a Second and Third-Team All-American by a couple of different outlets after registering a career high 96 tackles, 13 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions. An undersized linebacker at just 5’11, Kendricks would probably go much higher in the draft, but makes up for his lack of size with his speed and a great all-out effort on every play. After the Golden Bears’ top three prospects are Sr WR Marvin Jones, Sr SS Sean Cattouse, rSr P Bryan Anger, rSr ILB D.J. Holt, rSr DE Ernest Owusu and Sr TE Anthony Miller. Jones and Cattouse are most likely the only ones to get drafted among this group, while the others will be looking to sign somewhere following the draft.

 

Champs Sports Bowl, December 29/2011

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Florida State Seminoles

A classic matchup between Notre Dame and Florida State should only be helped out by a very good group of draft eligible prospects. Topping the list is Notre Dame’s stud Sr WR Michael Floyd, who may be the best wide out in the draft. Floyd is a big target at 6’3, 224lbs. with exceptional hands, down the field speed and incredible leaping ability. He knows how to use his considerable size and strength to his advantage and if the ball is thrown up in his area, he is definitely going to be the one to come down with it. Floyd is a complete player that could be a top ten selection and has star no.1 wide receiver written all over him, but will fall slightly down the draft board because of several off the field issues, mainly dealing with alcohol. Jr ILB Manti Te’o was also projected to be a first round choice, but has made it known that he will return to school for his Senior season, despite his high draft stock. Another Fighting Irish prospect that will likely return to school for another year is rSo TE Tyler Eifert. He is an outstanding talent with great receiving ability, who had scouts buzzing more and more as the season progressed and should move into first round consideration for the 2013 draft as he continues to get better with more experience. If he does enter the 2012 draft, he will come off the board on Day 2. After Floyd and possibly Eifert are a pair of Irish defensive backs in rSr SS Harrison Smith and Sr CB Robert Blanton, who should be selected early on Day 3. Smith possesses great size and speed, along with excellent tackling skills and great ball instincts. He is one of the most successful defenders ever to wear a Notre Dame uniform as he is the only player in program history to record more than 300 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass break-ups and ranks among the top five strong safeties available. Blanton ranks outside the top 20 Cornerbacks, but is a solid player with decent cover skills and good tackling ability. Fighting Irish Sr OLB Darius Fleming should also find a spot late in the draft. Florida State has their own set of high round draft choices, although their top two could very well be back playing for the Seminoles next year rather than enter the draft. While he is the most likely to return for another year in school, rJr E.J. Manuel has the prototypical NFL QB size at 6’4, 245lbs. with a big arm that scouts love and could find his way late into the first round should a QB-needy team trade up to get him, otherwise he currently sits as a second-rounder. Manuel’s play was hindered this year because of injuries and he was only able to pass for 2417 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Another year of polishing his game at the college level would greatly improve his draft stock and he could be one of the top prospects in the 2013 draft. In a similar situation to his teammate Manuel, Jr DE Brandon Jenkins could return to school or enter the 2012 draft as a likely second round draft pick. Jenkins, like Manuel could definitely use another year in college to improve his game and draft grade. Jenkins is a dangerous pass-rusher with great speed and agility, which should help him to transition from a 4-3 end, where he is a bit undersized for the NFL to a 3-4 OLB. He has long arms and an explosive first step that many teams desire and could be one of the top pass-rushers in the 2013 draft should he return to school for his Senior campaign. The Seminoles also have a pair of impressive Offensive Tackles in Sr Zebrie Sanders and Sr Andrew Datko that could be Day 2 selections. Sanders, in fact has started to generate a lot of buzz over the past month and is starting to hear his name mentioned as a late first round pick namely by ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has him rated among his top 32 prospects, although SI’s Tony Pauline has him as low as a fourth round pick and a developmental Right Tackle. Sanders is not an elite prospect, but is a very good one that has the height and size to play Left Tackle in the NFL and is exceptional in pass protection and solid in the run game. He does however need to improve his hands and footwork if he is going to be able to handle NFL pass-rushers on a regular basis. A big and mobile Tackle, Datko started the season as a first round prospect, but serious injuries to his shoulders that knocked him out for the season have dropped him down a few rounds or perhaps even later. The combine and pre-draft workouts will be crucial to his draft stock. Finally, Sr OLB Nigel Bradham came to Tallahassee as a very highly touted recruit and certainly lived up to the hype his first three seasons on campus, but his play slowed this year and really didn’t have the same impact until late in the season versus Miami (FL) and Virginia. He covers the field well and has very good tackling skills, along with the size and strength to be an NFL linebacker, it is just whether he wants to apply himself or not that is holding him back. An elite talent, but a mid-round draft grade.

 

Valero Alamo Bowl, December 29/2011

Baylor Bears vs. Washington Huskies

The Bears and Huskies will feature four of the best and most intriguing prospects among these four Bowl games and in the entire draft, including 2011 Heisman trophy winner rJr QB Robert Griffin III of Baylor, who is likely to be drafted in the Top 5. Griffin has always been an incredible athlete with world-class speed, but finally showed that he is a complete Quarterback this year in leading Baylor to one of its best seasons ever. A true dual-threat, Griffin III showed that his arm might be even better than his legs as he threw for 3998 passing yards and 36 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions and at one point well into the season had more touchdown passes than incompletions as he finished with a 72.4% completion rate. He also rushed for 644 yards with 9 rushing touchdowns. He is without a doubt a franchise changer. Along with Griffin III, 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team selection Sr WR Kendall Wright is also flying up draft boards into the first round after a fantastic season. Baylor’s Wright was always a good wide out, but he took his game to another level this year with 101 receptions for 1572 yards and 13 touchdowns, while displaying exceptional hands, speed and receiving ability. He can play in the slot or go deep, it doesn’t matter as Wright will make the play. He could give South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffey a run to be the third wide receiver selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Baylor draft picks don’t end there as Sr C Phillip Blake and rSr RB Terrance Ganaway also had great years and should be drafted on Day 3. For Washington, they could have two first round picks in Sr NT Alameda Ta’amu and rJr RB Chris Polk, although both will likely headline the players available on Day 2 and should go early in the second round.  Ta’amu is the top true Nose Tackle in the draft, though he did struggle at times this season and wasn’t quite the dominant force scouts expected him to be, which is the main reason he probably won’t go in the first round. An absolute massive man at 6’3, 337lbs. Ta’amu clogs up the middle of the field unlike any other player in the draft and seems almost impossible to move, while displaying an unreal amount of athleticism for a man his size. He’s not going to get after the opposing Quarterback very much or chase down ball carriers, nor will he be asked too.  Despite his struggles, Ta’amu is NFL ready and should be able to be plugged into a starting line-up immediately. Huskies’ rJr RB Chris Polk is an extremely physical back that loves to pound his opponents with a violent running style and is very difficult to bring down with just one tackler. He also possesses a great burst of speed on the outside that allows him to break off big chunks of yards as well as a decent pair of hands that help him contribute in the receiving game. He has had two shoulder surgeries in the past that forced him to medical redshirt for a year and that could drop his stock a bit, although he has proved that he is completely healthy with three straight seasons of 1000+ rushing yards and back to back years with over 250 carries. After Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Polk is about as complete a back as there is in the 2012 draft. Washington also has a pair of notable mid to late round selections that could be drafted early on Day 3 in Sr OL Senio Kelmate and Sr WR Jermaine Kearse. Kelmate is a versatile Offensive lineman that has shown he can play multiple positions on the line, but is best suited to play Guard in the NFL after starting his college career as a Defensive Tackle. Kearse possesses the size and speed that NFL teams love, but needs to improve his receiving ability as he has way too many drops as well as his route-running. He is a bit of a project at this point and probably gets drafted in the sixth round.



2012 Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 2 (Dec.22-Dec.27)

Written By: Mark Scott

Bowl season is just starting to ramp up and so are the number of prospects in them. While the first five Bowls showcased a couple of mid-round prospects like Temple’s Bernard Pierce, Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton and Vinny Curry of Marshall, this next set of games will feature a much larger contingent of prospects with more than a couple Day 1 or 2 draft picks, especially in the Boise State/Arizona State and North Carolina/Missouri matchups.

*Rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, SI.com’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd Mcshay.

 

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, December 22/2011

Boise State Broncos vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

The Broncos/Sun Devils matchup should be the first of many Bowl games from here on out with plenty of draft eligible prospects to watch, with more and more of those prospects being players that will go higher in the draft. While both teams have a couple of Day 2 prospects to check out, it is Arizona State’s Jr ILB Vontaze Burfict, who is the star prospect in this game.  Since Burfict entered college he has been considered a big-time talent destined for life as an NFL star. After starring in his first two seasons in college, Burfict took a step back this year, mainly because of a major lack of discipline in his on-field play committing personal foul penalties one after the other this year to the point where he was finally benched in the second half of the team’s season finale.  Aggressive, physical, and fast with great instincts and tackling ability, Burfict is the complete player physically, but the mental side of his game needs a major change and is the main reason for his fall from a top ten prospect to just hanging on to a first round grade. Burfict has all the makings of a superstar, but will need to be reeled in by a veteran team and strong minded coach, who won’t let him get away with any of his over the top antics on the field. If he can end up with a team like the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, the whole league better watch out.  Another very intriguing player for the Sun Devils is rSr CB Omar Bolden, who is one of the top corners in all of college and won’t play in this game after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring. Bolden has everything a team would want in a number one cornerback and also boasts excellent return skills, but injuries will likely keep him as a Day 3 selection. A very similar situation to that of former Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, who had all the skills of a top corner, but battled injury issues, especially in his final collegiate season. The New England Patriots still took a chance on his talent taking him with the first pick of the second round in 2011, though he eventually ended up on the season-ending IR after just two games. Bolden won’t go as high as Dowling did and will have to use the Combine to show that he is healthy and help improve his mid to late round stock.  For Boise State, they will feature three noteworthy players starting with rSR DE/DT Billy Winn. A likely second round pick, Winn will fit in perfectly with a team looking for a 3-4 defensive end and could even elicit late first round consideration. A powerful and violent pass-rusher, Winn is also exceptional versus the run as he is mobile enough to chase down opposing rushers on the outside. He will need to get stronger as he struggled at times to push around college offensive linemen, but still possesses the strength to hold his own.  The Broncos’ other two top prospects will likely come off the board late on Day 2 in rSr OT Nate Potter and rSr RB Doug Martin.  The leader of Boise’s offensive line that led the nation in sacks allowed is a tall, very athletic lineman, who should be able to line-up at either offensive tackle position, but made his name as a Left Tackle. An excellent run and pass blocker, Potter still has a number of areas to work on mainly in not allowing stronger pass rushers to bull rush through him. He will remind a lot of scouts of Patriots 2011 first round pick Nate Solder and could even work his way up to a similar draft slot with a great Combine workout, which is expected.  A physical and tough runner, Doug Martin is able to pound the ball inside, while still being able to shift his weight to make oncoming tacklers miss. He doesn’t possess homerun hitting speed, but he is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and has shown next-level ability after rushing for over 1000 yards for the second straight season while adding 17 touchdowns this year. Meanwhile both teams have a couple of possible late round draft picks or undrafted free agents to watch for in Arizona State’s Sr WR Gerell Robinson and rSr C Garth Gerhart, while Boise State will field a possible fifth round pick in Sr FS George Iloka as well as rSr DE Shea McClellin, Sr DE Tyrone Crawford and star rSr QB Kellen Moore, who couldn’t have done more to over his collegiate career to get drafted, but unfortunately his size will likely cause one of the greatest college Quarterbacks ever to pass through undrafted.

 

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, December 24/2011

Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Not the early Christmas present we were all hoping for as this game has just two players that will likely be drafted on Day 3 in Nevada’s rSr ILB James-Michael Johnson and Sr DT Brett Roy. Johnson is a solid linebacker that is mobile and fast enough to make plays sideline to sideline and has the ability to drop into coverage on passing downs, while still being stout against running backs on the inside and can get into the backfield when called upon. He sits as a fourth round prospect at the moment, but he is a guy to watch when the Combine comes around and could work himself into one of the first three rounds with a head-turning performance. DT Brett Roy is a blue-collar athlete, who always works until the whistle and plays above his skill level.  A pain to play against, he has demonstrated an ability to get into the backfield after a great season that saw him rack up 60 tackles, 18.5 for loss and 10 sacks in being named a First-Team All-American by Sports Illustrated, although he rates as just a sixth round pick right now. The Wolf Pack’s Sr WR Rishard Matthews earned Honorable Mention from Sports Illustrated as well and could have a chance to get drafted late in the seventh round. On the Southern Mississippi side of the field, there isn’t much to see in terms of prospects, although SI’s Tony Pauline recognizes the Golden Eagles’ Jr OLB Jamie Collins as a possible third round selection, the only draft outlet at the moment who has him even getting drafted. A converted defensive back, Collins has come into his own as an OLB piling up 94 tackles, 19.5 for loss with 6 sacks and 9 passes defended this year. He’s an elite athlete with a high ceiling on his talent. Sr DE/OLB Cordarro Law could be considered in the seventh round, while star rSr QB Austin Davis probably won’t get drafted as he ranks outside the top 300 prospects and top 20 QBs despite shattering most of the legendary Brett Favre’s school records.

 

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, December 26/2011

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Missouri Tigers

This game is jam-packed with next level talent, most of which play for North Carolina, where former Head Coach Butch Davis did an excellent job of recruiting elite players to the program. It all starts with Sr DE Quinton Coples, who has been rated as a Top 10 prospect for the past two seasons and is the clear cut top ranked defensive end in the draft. Coples did have his struggles this year after being moved back to the edge from defensive tackle where he played most of last season and became a star. Despite his struggles, Coples still was able to register 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss proving that his talent is undeniable as he is a ferocious pass rusher that has very few problems getting to the Quarterback. Though it is likely that he only fits into a team using a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme, but can play on the interior of the line as well as off the edge.  Following Coples is Sr OLB Zach Brown, who may just be the best athlete in the entire draft and could shoot up draft boards into the mid first round if he shows off that incredible athleticism at the Combine.  Brown has tremendous, almost unbelievable speed and playmaking ability shown by his 91 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles with 2 interceptions this season, his first as a full-time starter. He is very similar to his former teammate Bruce Carter, who went in the second round last year to the Dallas Cowboys, despite major injury concerns, which should only solidify Brown’s status as a for sure early second round selection, if not somewhere in the first. Brown does need to add more bulk and size to his frame, which should help improve his physicality and ability to shed blockers, but his upside and speed is through the roof. Next to Brown on the Tar Heels’ linebacker corps is Jr LB Kevin Reddick, who is often overshadowed by his more athletic teammate, but is actually rated higher at the moment by ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has Reddick among his Top 32 draft eligible prospects and if he enters the draft, he’s likely to be drafted on Day 2. He possesses excellent instincts and tackling ability and is versatile enough to line up at any of the traditional linebacker positions. Jr NT Sylvester Williams is massive at 6’3, 320lbs. but is still very raw after transferring to UNC from the Junior College ranks. Williams eats up a lot of space along the line, while taking on multiple blockers and is very effective at stopping the run.  He’s not a guy who’s going to get after the Quarterback much, but still can if facing just one blocker. His size provides him with options as he can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and should be selected on Day 2. Another massive prospect in Sr WR Dwight Jones, the 6’4, 225lb. wide out is sure to intrigue a number of teams with his size, strength and play-making ability. A much more polished receiver and pass catcher than former teammate and Browns’ 2011 second round pick Greg Little, Jones should have no problem in being taken on Day 2 of the draft if not higher.  While their top five prospects are going to get all the love, the Tar Heels still boast a solid, experienced group of late round players that scouts will have their eyes on in rSR CB Charles Brown, rSr DT Tydreke Powell, rSr RB Ryan Houston and rSr FB Devon Ramsey. For Missouri, they also have a couple of prospects worth watching in this game in Sr TE Michael Egnew and SR DE/OLB Jacquies Smith.  Egnew is another among the group of new style tight ends that more and more teams are starting to look for, lean, athletic with great hands and the ability to get down the field to make plays. Named a First-Team All-American and Missouri’s MVP in 2010 as a Junior after catching 90 passes for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns, Egnew’s play regressed this season and so did his production as he had a little over half of the numbers he put up last season, but that probably had more to do with a change in Quarterback from 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to the more mobile and inexperienced James Franklin and yet was still named to the Coaches All-Big 12 First-Team.  He rates as a fourth round prospect and probably comes off the board early in Day 3. As for Smith, he is an undersized defensive end, who will likely find his spot in the NFL as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. He is very similar to 49ers’ 2011 first-round pick Aldon Smith, but is not as strong or explosive as his former teammate, although he does possess a lot of the same qualities and Aldon Smith’s success as a rookie should help him improve his draft position where he currently sits as a Day 3 prospect.

 

Little Caesars Bowl, December 27/2011

Western Michigan Broncos vs. Purdue Boilermakers

A battle between the Broncos and Boilermakers will feature just one prospect of note, Purdue’s rJr DT Kawann Short. The 6’3, 310lb. defensive tackle is a strong run defender that can control the line of scrimmage and take on multiple blocks, while still being able to shed those blockers and make a play on the ball carrier. There’s not a lot of flash in his game, but he gets the job done and he does possess enough of a burst to get into the backfield as evidenced by his 14.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks this season. He’s a guy that a team can probably plug and play right away as a rookie and should come off the board in the third round. Perhaps the best wide out ever for Western Michigan (Packers’ Greg Jennings being the other), rSr WR Jordan White holds the majority of the school’s records for his position and put up another outstanding year with an incredible 127 receptions for 1646 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns while earning a spot on the AFCA Coaches’ All-America Team, only the second player in school history to do that.  Despite all of that, White isn’t a great route runner and his multiple serious injuries suffered throughout his career, including season ending injuries on both of his knees in different seasons will turn off teams, although he has been healthy for the most part the past two seasons. White should earn late round consideration from someone.

 

Belk Bowl, December 27/2011

Louisville Cardinals vs. North Carolina State Wolf Pack

The Belk Bowl will feature a mid-round inside linebacker and a pair of possible seventh round tight ends. North Carolina State’s rSr ILB Audie Cole is the main prospect to watch here and might be the only player in this game to hear his name called in the draft. Cole has good instincts and great anticipation, but sometimes becomes sloppy in his play, especially in his tackling and angle taking. At this point, he’s a great athlete, but will need to make big improvements in his game to stick at the NFL level. He could become a star linebacker if the right coach gets a hold of him and takes him under his wing. At 6’7, 240lb. Louisville’s rSr TE Josh Chichester is a fascinating prospect that is still a major work in progress, but could become a devastating playmaker with the right team, could you imagine if Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints get a hold of this guy. He’s a seventh round pick at best and could very likely go undrafted. North Carolina State’s rSr TE George Bryan is your NFL proto-type tight end at 6’5, 265lb. and is a tremendous athlete, who can block, run and catch. He’ll come off the board late on Day 3.



2012 DRAFT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 1 (DEC.17-DEC.21)

Written By: Mark Scott

 

Tis the season to be jolly. Yes, Its Christmas, but it’s also Bowl season as the games get under way this Saturday. While you won’t see a ton of big-time high-round draft eligible prospects in these early games, there are a number of interesting mid to late round prospects to watch who can become valuable contributing members on NFL teams, even stars in some cases. If you need a reason to watch some of these early Bowls, look no further than some of the prospects playing in them. Here’s the lowdown on every team’s prospects eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft.

All rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com

 

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, December 17/2011

Temple Owls vs. Wyoming Cowboys

Of the five early bowls, this involves the most prospects eligible to be drafted. Unfortunately for Wyoming fans, all of those prospects play for Temple with the only exception being Cowboys’ Senior CB Tashaun Gipson, who will have to fight hard to earn seventh round consideration, but will likely go undrafted. As for the Owls, they come into this matchup with five possible draft picks, but only two really worth looking at. The group is led, like they have been all year by Junior RB Bernard Pierce, who sits as a likely Day 2 selection in the third round. The 6’0, 218 pounder put together an outstanding year ranking 13th in the nation with 1381 rushing yards and 3rd with 25 rushing touchdowns, while being named to the 2011 All-MAC First Team. Pierce is a power back, best at blasting his way through the tackles and while he currently ranks just behind the top five RB prospects in this draft, he has the chance to move up if teams prefer a big power back to smaller shifty backs like David Wilson and LaMichael James ranked ahead of him. Aside from Pierce, Temple also boasts an intriguing mid-round OLB/DE in 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the year, Senior Adrian Robinson, a likely fifth round selection. Robinson was named a 2011 All-MAC First Team selection for the third consecutive year after recording 47 tackles, 11 for loss and 6 sacks. He brings a ton of experience playing in every game of his collegiate career and has shown the ability to line up in a multitude of schemes whether it be as a more traditional 4-3 end or standing up as 3-4 OLB. An excellent tackler and pass rusher, he can contribute in all areas. The rest of Temple’s draft eligible prospects are all late round selections at best and could easily go undrafted. They include FB Evan Rodriguez (Sr), OG Derek Dennis (rJr) and OLB Tahir Whitehead (Sr).

 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, December 17/2011

Utah State Aggies vs. Ohio Bobcats

When the Aggies and Bobcats take the field there will be just one draft eligible prospect worth looking at and that is Utah State rJr RB Robert Turbin. The Aggies’ RB racked up 1416 rushing yards, good for tenth nationally, while adding 19 rushing touchdowns to rank sixth in the nation. He also displayed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield recording 16 receptions for 164 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving him 23 total TDs on the year in being named to the 2011 All-WAC First Team. Turbin is currently rated as a fourth round pick and just outside of the top ten RBs available in the draft.  Ohio SR ILB Bobby Wagner could have the chance to sneak into the seventh round with a good post season pre-draft push, but is the only Bobcat with a shot at getting drafted.

 

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, December 17/2011

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns vs. San Diego State Aztecs

Once thought to have a shot at being a possible second round draft choice, the Aztecs’ rSr QB Ryan Lindley has seen his stock fall way down draft boards after struggling through an inconsistent season to a likely Day 3 selection somewhere in the fifth round.  Lindley definitely looks the part with prototypical NFL QB size and strength, but has struggled with his accuracy, footwork and mobility. He does have the arm strength to make all the passes and is more comfortable playing from within the pocket, but his footwork, pressure anticipation and decision-making will need to improve. He needs work, but the skills are there making Lindley a very interesting QB prospect for the future if he can land on the right team with the right QB savvy coach. For the Ragin’ Cajuns, Sr TE Ladarius Green rates out as their top draft eligible prospect. At 6’6, 236lb, Green is perfect example of the new wave of TEs coming into the NFL in the last few years. Tall, slender, athletic with great hands and the ability to get deep down the field, this growing trend among TEs should only help Green move up draft boards from where he currently sits as a fourth rounder. Players like Rob Gronkowski (2nd round, 2010), Jimmy Graham (3rd round, 2010), and Rob Housler (3rd round, 2011) going higher in last few drafts should only help his cause. Green managed to put 90 receptions for 1279 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons and averaged 14.35 yards per catch over his career. He could be sleeper for some team. Also for Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr CB Dwight Bentley could find himself as a late round pick near the end of Day 3.

 

Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl St.Petersburg, December 20/2011

Florida International Golden Panthers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd                                

This bowl features two of the more intriguing mid-round prospects available in this year’s draft in Marshall’s Sr DE Vinny Curry and Florida International’s Sr WR/KR T.Y. Hilton. After gaining the attention of NFL scouts following his Junior season in which he recorded 94 tackles, 18 for loss and 12 sacks, Vinny Curry looked like a top-100 pick in the 2011 draft, but chose to return to school for his final year. While he struggled to get going early on, he eventually found his form and returning to school probably didn’t hurt his stock too much as he currently sits just outside of the top-100 prospects. He was named the 2011 C-USA Defensive Player of the year after another fantastic season that saw him make 72 tackles, an incredible 21.5 for loss, 11 sacks with three blocked extra points. Curry is relentless pass rusher with great speed off the edge and always gives his best effort, although he has shown a tendency to wear down as the game goes on and often finds himself off-balance or out of control. He will need to improve his body control and balance to help keep his stamina and energy up as the game gets deeper into the 4th quarter. He could be a diamond in the rough for some lucky team that drafts him.  A fast and explosive returner and receiver, T.Y. Hilton put together a fantastic career at Florida International compiling 221 receptions for 3443 receiving yards with 24 receiving TDs and 3433 combined return yards (2819 KR, 614 PR) for 6 return TDs (4 KR, 2PR). The need and want for the all-purpose player has grown in the last few years and Hilton may be the best and most dangerous one available this year and he could very well become the highest drafted Golden Panther ever (Antwan Barnes, BAL, 2007, #134 overall). His slight frame may hurt his stock, but he possesses great hands with electric speed and he is as tough as they come and won’t let his size hinder his play. Hilton has the “IT” factor and could quickly become a star in the NFL is he lands on the right team.

 

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, December 21/2011

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. TCU Horned Frogs           

While this game has the makings of an exciting matchup with two solid teams going at it, there isn’t much to talk about in regards to draft eligible prospects. Just one possible late round selection on either team, for TCU, rSr LB Tank Carder has been a leader for this Horned Frogs team for a long time, but he only grades out as a possible sixth round choice right now after being rated much higher among last year’s crop of linebackers and looks to have lost quite a bit of money by returning to college for his Senior season.  It’s interesting to see him drop down the draft boards because he was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, although he wasn’t as impressive as he was in 2010 when he was named to six different All-America teams and the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP. An intelligent, versatile and experienced player, Carder could still move up come draft time. On the Bulldogs side, rSr RB Lennon Creer is their only draft eligible prospect, but will need to have impressive workouts to earn a spot late in the draft as he currently rates just outside the top 20 RBs available. He took a step back this year from his 2010 form that saw him rush for 1181 yards and 10 TDs, as he recorded just 838 rushing yards for 9 TDs this season.