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The month of pro days came to an end last week with just a handful of individual workouts remaining. The week featured a number of prominent programs like Notre Dame, LSU, South Carolina and USC. Prospects like Matt Barkley, Manti Te’o, Marcus Lattimore and Tyrann Mathieu were some of the key prospects working out in the final week of pro days. With pro days in the bag, the countdown to the 2013 NFL Draft is on with just under a month to go.


There were no notable teams or prospects working out on Monday.

MARCH 26: Notre Dame, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana

Notre Dame’s much anticipated pro day went down on Tuesday where representatives from 29 NFL teams were on hand. Minnesota Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Bengals TE Coach Jonathan Hayes and Lions RB Coach Curtis Modkins were the most notable decision-makers in attendance. Manti Te’o was actually able to help his stock this time out after an off-season full of hits against him. He was able to slightly improve his 40 time to 4.71s and then looked the best he has in positional drills yet. He probably remains in the late first, early to mid second round mix. TE Tyler Eifert dropped just one pass thrown his way all day and definitely looked the part of a solid first round prospect. OL Mike Golic Jr. and S Zeke Motta also turned in good workouts.

NFL teams came in full force to the North Carolina pro day where highly touted prospects OG Jonathan Cooper and DT Sylvester Williams were in action. Notable NFL team reps included Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and G.M. David Caldwell, Detroit Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew and New York Jets G.M. John Idzhik. Cooper looked excellent in offensive lineman drills, including taking snaps at Center. Williams continued his climb up draft boards into the first round with another great workout running through a variety of defensive lineman drills and even showed off his incredible agility when he took on linebacker drills. A trio of other Tar Heels prospects was also impressive. RB Giovani Bernard looked strong and showed off a great burst in running back drills and drew the most attention from Lewis, who is in the market for a new running back. OT Brennan Williams missed the final four games of the season with a torn labrum, but was able to display his athleticism to scouts and could be a steal later in the draft. Finally WR Jheranie Boyd, who caught just four passes all year, recorded one of the best workouts of any prospect in the draft, including a 42” inch vertical jump where he actually touched the highest level of the measuring device. His impressive performance may have earned him a spot in the seventh round as a developmental receiver.

Thirty NFL teams were represented at the Texas pro day, including the likes of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert, Cincinnati Bengals DC Mike Zimmer and New York Jets DC Dennis Thurman. While FS Kenny Vaccaro wanted to improve his times and scores from the Combine, he was unable to after he suffered a hip flexor injury in a private workout with the Dallas Cowboys the week before. He did go through positional drills led by Mike Zimmer though. He showed terrific quickness and little hesitation while changing direction. WR Marquise Goodwin had a great workout. He stood by his blazing 4.27 40 from the Combine, but recorded an incredible 42” inch vertical jump. He looked fantastic catching the ball as well. DE Alex Okafor, who missed the Combine because of a right hip injury looked awful on Tuesday and could see his stock take a decline.

A pair of prospects were the main attractions at Louisiana Tech’s pro day where reps from 23 teams were in attendance. WR Quinton Patton ran a 4.48s in the 40 and recorded a 9’6” broad jump and 37” inch vertical jump and then looked solid in receiver drills. OT Jordan Mills turned in another good performance, although his footwork needs a lot of work leading scouts to think he’ll be better suited at right tackle instead of on the left side.

There were reps from 18 NFL teams on hand at Southeastern Louisiana’s pro day to watch CB Robert Alford. The talented corner looked smooth and fast in positional drills and is moving up draft boards.

MARCH 27: USC, LSU, South Carolina, SMU

Matt Barkley drew mixed reviews at the USC pro day on Wednesday after finally getting on to the field since injuring his shoulder during the season. He went through a scripted workout with former NFL QB Chris Weinke where he threw 60 passes, completing 55 of them. The workout consisted of a variety of different passes. The reaction to his workout summed up the entire 2013 quarterback draft class. Some liked what they saw, while others thought he was highly unimpressive, although it seemed like there were more good reviews than bad. Someone who impressed everyone was WR Robert Woods, who looked outstanding running routes and catching the ball from Barkley. C Khaled Holmes also impressed with teams with his size and length, while he put up solid numbers in measurable drills. Every NFL team was represented where some of the more notable names in attendance included Jacksonville Jaguars G.M. David Caldwell, Head Coach Gus Bradley and owner Shad Khan and his son, Chicago Bears G.M. Phil Emery, Oakland Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie, St. Louis Rams G.M. Les Snead and Cleveland Browns OC Norv Turner.

There was an outstanding 26 prospects (20 from this past year’s team and six from the 2011-12 squad) on the field working out for reps from all 32 NFL teams at the LSU pro day. Pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo was the most impressive of all the prospects turning in a fantastic workout. He ran through defensive lineman and linebacker drills for well over an hour and didn’t appear to even break a sweat he was in that great of shape. Eric Reid, Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter, Tyrann Mathieu and Lavar Edwards all looked terrific. DT Bennie Logan decided to hold a private workout for a team right before the LSU pro day and suffered a pulled hamstring. He was then unable to run at the pro day and recorded unimpressive scores in the vertical and broad jumps. Other limited prospects due to injury included OT Chris Faulk, P Brad Wing and RB Spencer Ware. Notable NFL team reps in attendance included New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati Bengals DC Mike Zimmer and Arizona Cardinals Director of player personnel Jason Licht.

The South Carolina pro day was host to reps from all 32 teams where they were witness to a truly special performance. Just five months after suffering a gruesome knee injury that tore multiple ligaments, Marcus Lattimore was back working out for scouts, albeit in limited drills. The beloved Lattimore went through a set of drills approved by his doctors. The workout included drills like jumping from a standing position onto an 18” inch box and then with a 24” inch box, lunges, reverse lunges, balancing and lowering himself on one leg along with stepping in and out of a rope ladder. The drills were designed to show the progress in his knee. When he completed his workout the entire room loudly broke out in applause. It’s unknown where Lattimore will be drafted, but he will most likely be a Day 3 selection. D.J. Swearinger, Devonte Holloman and Devin Taylor all turned in excellent workouts. Swearinger is moving up draft boards, while Taylor could be a big sleeper in the late rounds as a guy with a ton of potential talent, but just has never shown it other than a flash here and there. Ace Sanders ran a very disappointing 40 (4.55, 4.59) and with his small stature he could be dropping quickly down draft boards into the late rounds.

The main event at the SMU pro day was the fast-rising Margus Hunt. The Estonian-born, former track and field star is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft and is starting to look like a potential first round pick. At 6’8”, 282lbs. Hunt is a physical specimen that only started playing football in 2009 after SMU’s track program was dropped. He quickly picked up the sport and is improving at a rapid rate and actually holds the NCAA-record for blocked kicks with 17 (10 field goals, 7 extra points). He stood by his Combine numbers, but put on a show in positional drills where he was worked out by New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan. Of note, Ryan had the massive Hunt go through some linebacker drills as well. Fullback Zach Line also turned in a good workout and will remind some of former Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis. There were reps from 20 teams in attendance.


In the final major pro day of the year, Ezekiel Ansah was on display for representatives from 18 NFL teams. The pass-rusher ran through both defensive lineman and linebacker drills and all reports have him looking impressive. He probably solidified his spot in the top ten of the draft.

MARCH 29: Andre Ellington

After pulling a hamstring at the Combine and being unable to compete at the Clemson pro day, Ellington finally got back on the field at his own pro day on Friday. The running back ran a 4.51 in the 40, a 34” inch vertical jump and a 10’2” broad jump. He looked good in the positional drills as well. There were reps from 20 teams to watch Ellington work out. He should come off the board in the mid-rounds and could be in high demand given how many teams showed up to his work out.

Written By: Mark Scott


The second week of bowl mania comes to close with eight games across Friday and Saturday. A number of big name schools with highly ranked 2013 NFL Draft prospects will be on display for front offices, scouts and fans to see. Teams like Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Texas and Michigan State will be in action, while up to twelve prospects playing in these games could be first or second round picks in April. Prospects like Geno Smith, Logan Thomas, Tavon Austin, Alex Okafor and Jordan Poyer are just a few of the names to watch over the next two days.


Ohio Bobcats (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4)

There are no draft-eligible prospects of note on either team in this game.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)

One of the more prospect-packed bowls of the week, Rutgers and Virginia Tech will combine for ten possible NFL draft picks with three being potential Day 2 selections. The Scarlet Knights boast a pair of talented defenders in OLB Khaseem Greene (rSr) and CB Logan Ryan (rJr) that could be second round picks in April. Greene is one of the more notable prospects to make major leaps up draft boards this season as he racked up countless tackles for Rutgers. After beginning his collegiate career as a defensive back, Greene moved to the weakside linebacker position in 2011 and exploded for 141 tackles in being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. A distinction he repeated this season in being just the second player in Big East history to be named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year twice. Greene was a dominant force this season amassing 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions in leading one of the nation’s top defenses. He’s a complete, three-down linebacker that is an impact player. Logan Ryan was also a dominant force for Rutgers this season registering 87 tackles, 4 picks and averaging 1.5 passes defended per game (8th nationally). In his two seasons as a starter Ryan has made major strides in his game in becoming a pretty complete corner with good size, great instincts and fantastic ball skills. He has displayed top corner potential. Both guys are moving up and could go very early in the second round, although Ryan still has a year of eligibility left for the Scarlet Knights and could return to school. Late round hopefuls, but likely undrafted free agents on Rutgers include ILB Steve Beauharnais (Sr), OT R.J. Dill (rSr), WR Mark Harrison (Sr) and TE D.C. Jefferson (rSr). Virginia Tech was a major disappointment this year. The team managed just a .500 regular season record this year and one of the main reasons was the very disappointing performances from their top draft-eligible prospects. At the top of the list is QB Logan Thomas (Jr), who came into the season as a possible top-15 draft pick, but just didn’t makes the major leaps in his game that many thought he would make and ended up plummeting down draft boards into possibly the third round. Thomas is a huge quarterback with a cannon for an arm and possesses the speed and mobility to make plays with his legs (997 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and 2012), specifically using his size and power to plunge through the line on short yardage where he’s almost an automatic first down. Thomas struggled throughout the season though, mainly with his accuracy, decision-making and inability to properly read defenses on a consistent basis. He has all the tools, size and athletic ability to be a star at the next level, but still remains a work in progress that could benefit greatly from another year of seasoning at the collegiate level. He is said to be leaning to returning to Virginia Tech for his senior season and if he can make the right progress in his game he could potentially be a top prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. After Thomas, Virginia Tech has group of potential Day 3 selections in WR Marcus Davis (rSr), ILB Bruce Taylor (rSr), WR Corey Fuller (rSr) and OT Nick Becton (rSr). Davis was a disappointment this season and saw his stock drop out as well. He possesses a combination of tantalizing size and speed, but has been way too inconsistent in his route-running and with his hands to be relied upon and seems to have a little diva in him. He’s a project worth taking a shot with, but he needs to be willing to work and improve his game if he wants to stick in the NFL. Taylor is an incredible leader and has the athleticism and skills to be a very good NFL linebacker, but a bad foot has constantly held him back and teams will be wary of investing in him until he can prove that his foot is completely healthy.


Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6)

The late game Friday night between Texas Tech and Minnesota is lacking in noteworthy prospects, but it will still involve some late round possibilities. Red Raiders prospects include QB Seth Doege (rSr), OT LaAdrian Waddle (Sr) and SS Cody Davis (rSr), while the Golden Gophers feature LB Mike Rallis (rSr) and WR MarQueis Gray (Sr). All of which will most likely go undrafted.


Rice Owls (6-6) vs. Air Force Falcons (6-6)

Rice TE Vance McDonald (rSr) is the only draftable prospect playing in this game. McDonald is a big, athletic tight end that can create mismatches against opposing defensive backs, but also possesses a variety of skills where he can be used in multiple positions on offense similar to former Owl and current Houston Texan James Casey.


West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) vs. Syracuse Orange (7-5)

Former Big East rivals West Virginia and Syracuse renew hostilities in what should be a back and forth offensive shootout. Both squads feature multiple top 100 prospects, including Mountaineers QB Geno Smith (Sr), who ranks among the top 15 and could even be taken with the first overall pick by the quarterback-desperate Kansas City Chiefs. Smith has put together back to back phenomenal seasons for West Virginia compiling 8385 passing yards with 71 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions. He completed 65.8% of his passes in 2011 and raised that number to 71.4% this season. Smith has a big-time arm with very good accuracy, although his deep ball accuracy needs improving and he possesses the NFL size teams covet. He’s a mature leader on and off the field and should do well during the interview process with front offices in the lead up to the draft. He’s the best athlete in the quarterback class and has the mobility to make plays and be dangerous with his legs. One knock against him though is his lack of experience taking snaps under center as he has primarily played only in the shotgun in his career. He is a sure-fire first round pick. Smith’s two main offensive weapons WR Tavon Austin (Sr) and WR Stedman Bailey (rJr) will be joining him the draft. Both are smaller, dynamic playmakers that can hit the home run play from multiple spots on the field and a have nose for the end zone (Bailey 23 TDs in 2012, 12 in 2011/Austin 12 TDs in 2012, 8 in 2011). They both run with exciting speed and quickness, but still play with a running back’s toughness against bigger defenders. They are reliable pass-catchers that could be used as productive slot receivers in the NFL. Austin is currently earning the higher draft grade of the two due to his ability to line up as a running back (598 rushing yards, 3 TDs in 2012) and as a returner on special teams and could go as high as the late first round, while Bailey is primarily a receiver and could be selected in the third round.  Syracuse has a talented signal-caller of their own in QB Ryan Nassib (rSr), who is one of the hottest prospects right now and is moving his way up draft boards into a possible spot in the second round. He’s possesses NFL size with a good arm strength and accuracy. He’s solid in the pocket, but has also shown that he can make the necessary throws while on the run. He plays with intelligence, toughness and has developed into an impressive leader on and off the field. He may never be elite, but he does have the look of a guy who could be a consistent starter for the next ten years. Protecting Nassib’s blind side is one of the top draft-eligible left tackles in the nation in  OT Justin Pugh (rJr). The 6’5”, 300lb. tackle helped lead an Orange offensive line that allowed just 14 sacks this year and was named to the Big-East First-Team for the second straight season and his third consecutive all-conference selection. He’s an effortless blocker in pass protection and the run game.  The ceiling is extremely high for Pugh as he continues to add more size and strength to his frame and while he currently sits as a possible second round pick, he could make a late move into the first round. Along with Nassib and Pugh, the Orange also have a pair of potential Day 3 selections in SS Shamarko Thomas (Sr) and WR Alec Lemon (Sr).


Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4)

The Sun Devils come into this game with a pair of prospects, although one may return to school and the other could go undrafted. DT Will Sutton (Jr) is an impact player and when he was healthy this season he carried the Arizona State defense. Despite battling injuries, Sutton was still able to amass an impressive 10.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. He also displayed an ability to get his arms in passing lanes and knock the ball down and has shown the versatility to play multiple spots on the defensive line. If he chooses to enter the draft Sutton could be a third or fourth round pick. OLB Brandon MaGee (rSr) is a productive linebacker with a well-rounded game, but he looks like a depth player at this point and has a shot to be drafted in the seventh round.


Texas Longhorns (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (9-3)

The Longhorns and Beavers will showcase one of the more impressive groups of prospects in a bowl game this season with three draft-eligible players on each team, all of which rank among the top 100 prospects. The Longhorns boast two very talented pass-rushers in DE Alex Okafor (Sr) and DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Jr), along with one of the top safeties in the country FS Kenny Vaccaro (Sr). Okafor is a good, but not great athlete that relies on his strength, power and good hand technique that he developed as sophomore playing defensive tackle to bull rush offensive linemen from the outside on his way to the quarterback. He’s relentless in his attack and gives all-out effort on every play to make up for his lack of elite athletic ability. Okafor remained a steadying force for the Longhorns this season despite receiving added attention after fellow pass-rusher Jackson Jeffcoat went down with a season-ending injury mid-year. He’s a possible late first round pick, but could see his stock take a hit into the mid-rounds if he struggles to put up good measurables at the Combine. While Okafor gets by using superior technique, Jackson Jeffcoat relies on his impressive athleticism and explosiveness to get the job done rushing the passer. Jeffcoat is a natural pass-rusher with the pure athletic prowess to play standing up or with his hand in the ground. Despite rupturing his pectoral muscle mid-season he was still able to register 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and six quarterback pressures. The son of former NFL standout Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson has a much higher upside than Okafor, but because the injury has kept him off the field he has slipped down draft boards into Day 2 and could still choose to return to school for another season in order to get completely healthy and display his full potential to scouts. He won’t play Saturday. Kenny Vaccaro is a complete safety with the ball skills and cover ability to be steady in pass coverage and the physicality and toughness to stop the run. He is a sure tackler with the versatility and size/speed combination to man either safety position and is a special-teams ace. There’s no doubt he should come off the board on Day 2. CB Carrington Byndom (Jr) could be a mid-round pick if he chooses to enter the draft a year early. For Oregon State, CB Jordan Poyer (Sr) and WR Markus Wheaton (Sr) are their top two prospects and both could be second round picks in April. Poyer put together his second straight fantastic season this year in helping lead a turnaround of the Oregon State program. He recorded seven interceptions this season including one for a score and had 6 passes defended despite teams often throwing away from him.  He’s a good athlete with the strength and toughness to battle bigger receivers and possesses the ball skills and instincts to create turnovers and go from defense to offense in a split second. He should be able to step in as a nickel corner right away with potential to eventually develop into a NFL starter. Markus Wheaton is a dynamic receiver with incredible speed that finally took his game to another level and came into his own as a big-time playmaker this year. He amassed an impressive 88 catches for 1207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding a pair of rushing scores. He’s a versatile athlete that can line up at multiple spots on offense and create nothing into something with very little space to work with and fill up the stat sheet. He possesses reliable hands and should find a home as a slot receiver with the ability to develop into a very good no.2 wide out down the road. DE Scott Crichton (rSo) is just a sophomore, but because he’s been at Oregon State for three seasons (one as a redshirt) he can enter the draft should he choose to. He was unstoppable in the first half of the season recording eight of his nine sacks before opposing teams started focusing solely on stopping him.  He also racked up 17 tackles for loss on the year. He has an explosive first step and creates havoc in opposing backfields all game long. I expect he’ll return to the Beavers for his junior year before entering the 2014 NFL Draft with still another year of eligibility remaining. While he probably won’t be in the 2013 NFL Draft he is still a guy worth watching this Saturday night.


Michigan State Spartans (6-6) vs. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (7-5)

In the final bowl of the week a solid group of mid to late round prospects will be on display between Michigan State and TCU. The Spartans boast the majority of the prospects in this game with DE William Gholston (Jr) leading the way. After an outstanding sophomore campaign Gholston came into the year viewed as a potential late first round pick, but a disappointing season this year has caused his stock to drop into the mid-rounds and raised red flags about his commitment and effort to playing hard every game. Despite not living up to expectations this year, Gholston still possesses the NFL size and strength to dominate blockers and the quickness to get into the backfield from time to time. He’s a better run-stopper than pass-rusher. His best performance of the season in an overtime victory against Wisconsin showed just how dominate he can be.  Gholston could choose to return to school for his final year of eligibility in an attempt to redeem his image and improve his stock. The Spartans also have a pair of solid weapons on offense in RB Le’Veon Bell (Jr) and TE Dion Sims (rJr) that will most likely come off the board early on Day 3. Bell is the definition of a power back and he’s a giant one at 6’2”, 244lbs. His 1648 rushing yards led the Big Ten, while his 824 yards after contact was a nation-high.  He runs over defenders using his superior power and strength, but also has the foot work and speed to break off big runs on the outside. He’s a reliable receiver out of the backfield as well tallying 65 catches over the past two seasons. He could crack the late third round for a running back-needy team. Sims is a powerful tight end with near offensive lineman size that allows him to destroy defenders when blocking, but still has soft enough hands and feet to contribute in the receiving game. He’s nowhere near the pass-catching tight end that a number of the other prospects in his position class are, but he is a more complete prospect than most of those other tight ends. Like Gholston, Bell and Sims have the option to return to Michigan State for a final year of eligibility. Bell has nothing left to prove and would benefit from not having to put another 300 plus carries on his body (350 carries this season), while Sims would probably be better off with another year at the collegiate level to further improve as a receiving threat. Potential late round prospects for Michigan State include CB Johnny Adams (rSr), DT Anthony Rashad White (Sr) and OG Chris McDonald (rSr).  The Horned Frogs have just one prospect of note in CB Jason Verrett (Jr). The 2012 Third-Team All-American was fantastic this season in recording 6 interceptions and 20 passes defended as the only player in the nation to rank in the top ten in both categories. He has good all-around skills, but doesn’t have ideal size to be a starting NFL corner and could find a spot as a nickel back. He probably comes off the board early on Day 3, but still could return to school for his senior year.


Written By: Mark Scott

2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 6

It seems like Georgia prospects keep finding their way into this column, but that’s just how impressive their team is. The interior of the Bulldogs defense is the focus in the best head to head matchup of the week as DT John Jenkins and ILB Alec Ogletree will have the task of shutting down top ranked running back South Carolina Marcus Lattimore. All three are potential first round picks. The best game to watch this week for prospects is the first Big Twelve matchup between #8 West Virginia and #11 Texas in a game that will include six top 60 ranked prospects. The Mountaineers feature the current Heisman favorite and the fastest rising prospect in QB Geno Smith, who is playing at just an incredible level right now along with his top weapon WR Tavon Austin. They’ll be in for a tough test as the Longhorns boast four defensive studs in pass-rushers Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor and defensive backs Kenny Vacarro and Carrington Byndom.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: Georgia DT John Jenkins/ILB Alec Ogletree vs. South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore @ Williams-Brice Stadium

Through five games this season Marcus Lattimore has proved to the doubters that not only is his left knee completely healthy after tearing his ACL last year, but that he is also back to where he’s supposed to be as one of the best running backs in the country and a potential first round pick. In those five games Lattimore has racked up 440 rushing yards on 92 attempts for 8 touchdowns, while adding 16 receptions for 109 receiving yards displaying that he is also a threat as a receiver out of the back field. This week will be arguably his toughest test of the season (although he’ll have to face LSU’s daunting defense next week)as he’ll have to line up and run at two of Georgia’s many highly ranked prospects in DT John Jenkins and ILB Alec Ogletree, who both rate as potential first round selections as well. Jenkins is the rock in the middle of a very talented Georgia defense. He’s a sponge on the interior soaking up double and triple teams throughout the game that allow his teammates to attack the quarterback and make plays on opposing ball-carriers. His mammoth size and strength should fit in immediately with an NFL defense. Ogletree finally returned to action last week after serving a 4-game suspension to start the season and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact as he led Georgia with a career and team-high 14 tackles and three pass break ups. It’s pretty easy to see why Ogletree is so highly regarded among scouts as he jumps off the screen with his athleticism, speed and power. He is the preeminent 3-4 inside linebacker available for the 2013 NFL Draft and should draw interest from a number of teams, namely the Baltimore Ravens who have been looking for Ray Lewis’ heir apparent for the last few years. Ogletree has great vision and is able to see the whole field and make plays sideline to sideline. An excellent run stopper, he also possesses the long arms and pass-rush skills that will lead to some teams looking at him as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. If he chooses to declare for the draft there is no doubt he will be a first round pick.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #8 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #11 Texas Longhorns@ Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

The Big Twelve headliner this week will showcase the offense of West Virginia against the Texas defense in one of the conference’s biggest games of the season. NFL scouts will have their eyes on this game as it will feature six players ranked among the top 60 prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. Mountaineers QB Geno Smith is the hottest player in the country right now and is putting up video game type stats to lead the nation with a 20-0 TD to INT ratio which includes last weekend’s mind blowing performance where he threw for 656 yards and 8 touchdowns versus Baylor in a 70-63 victory. Smith is an athletic quarterback with NFL arm strength, prototype size and a high football I.Q. His pocket presence might be the best in the country. He’s become far and away the Heisman frontrunner this season and has skyrocketed up draft boards into discussions with USC’s Matt Barkley as the top quarterback available and potential first overall pick. His main weapons are a pair of smaller, quick receivers in Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey. Austin is the go-to target for Smith. As a former high school running back, Austin shows zero fear in trying to make plays against much bigger and stronger defenders. He uses his elite speed and quickness to seperate and has a great set of mitts that allow him to be a reliable receiver. He has a playmaker’s vision and has the ability to break off the home run play at any time whether on offense or special teams. His outstanding play this year has moved Austin up boards into the top 60 draft-eligible prospects and is even earning him some late first round buzz. Bailey is not as explosive as Austin, but is the more polished route runner and is just as reliable a receiver if not more so. He’s also a bit bigger than Austin, but is still a smaller wide out. Bailey doesn’t have the upside of his teammate, but because of his route-running ability he could fit in quicker with NFL offenses than Austin. At the moment he’s probably a mid-round selection. Saturday night will be perhaps their toughest test of the season when they play Texas and their star-studded defense. The Texas defense features four prospects that could very well be selected in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft. They’re led by a pair of fantastic pass-rushers in Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, both of which might be first round picks come April. Jeffcoat is the more athletic of the two and the son of former NFL standout defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. Due to his athleticism and speed, scouts will look at him as both a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. He uses an explosive first step off the snap to blow by opposing offensive linemen, but will need to add some strength and muscle to his lanky frame if he wants to be an every down player or just a situational pass-rusher. He possesses a higher upside and more versatility than Okafor and that’s why he is the more likely of the two to come off the board in the first round. Okafor is no slouch though. He is the stronger, bigger and more powerful of the two pass-rushers and has the body to better hold up against the rigors of playing in the NFL. He’s also the better run defender too and has shown the ability to play inside after suiting up as a defensive tackle in his sophomore year. Okafor should be a real nice fit as a traditional pass-rusher for a 4-3 defensive team and will get looks from teams in the late first round. Texas doesn’t just rely upon their two pass-rushers, but also boast a pair of outstanding defensive backs in SS Kenny Vacarro and CB Carrington Byndom. Vacarro is the top rated strong safety prospect this year and one of the top safeties available. He possesses the NFL prototype size and athleticism to play either safety position and is a highly productive player. He’s got great ball skills and instincts, but really excels against the run and in the open field making a tackle. He plays very physical and is an excellent tackler. Next to him is shutdown corner Carrington Byndom. Head Coach Mack Brown describes him as one of the best defensive backs that they’ve had at Texas, which says a lot considering twelve Texas defensive backs have been taken in the past eleven NFL drafts. Byndom is a well-rounded corner that can cover, make plays on the ball and get physical when he has too, although he will need to add some strength and muscle to his lean frame if he’s going to be able to cover the giant wide receivers at the next level. He’s played his way up draft boards into the top five cornerbacks and should be a second round pick. This is not only a crucial game in the Big 12 title hunt, but also one for the draft-eligible prospects involved that could make or break their stock with a good or bad performance against such highly rated opposition.

Written By: Mark Scott

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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, 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.