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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 5 (JAN.2-JAN.3)

The final two BCS Bowl games before the National Championship will be played over the next two days and they shouldn’t disappoint for those watching for NFL prospects in this year’s upcoming draft. The Florida Gators lead the way with a very impressive group that could feature up to ten potential draft choices, while Oregon, Kansas State and Louisville will all have multiple entries into the 2013 NFL Draft.

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL, JANUARY 2/2013

Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-2)

The Gators and Cardinals will get the main stage to themselves in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night and there will be more than enough NFL prospects on display. Like fellow SEC powerhouses Alabama, Georgia and LSU, the Gators roster is jam-packed with draft-eligible players for the 2013 NFL Draft. The top of Florida’s draft class is headed by SS Matt Elam (Jr) and DT Sharrif Floyd (Jr). Elam is a powerful, hard-hitting safety that is a high impact player. He possesses the ability to change games whether it be with a ferocious hit that he often delivers multiple times a game or by using his ball skills and instincts to create a turnover and take it the other way. He contributes in a number of areas and has the versatility that NFL teams are demanding in today’s safeties. One of the most impressive things that Elam accomplished this season was his development as an elite leader. He stepped up in a big way and was a driving force in the Gators improvement from a 7-6 squad in 2011 to the no.3 ranked team in the country this season. Floyd is a dominating defensive lineman with the versatility to line up at multiple positions in the front four. He uses a great burst off the snap along with terrific hands and power to take out offensive linemen and get into the backfield. His best spot on the field is as a penetrating defensive tackle. Both Elam and Floyd are rising up prospect lists and expected to declare for this year’s draft where they are projected to be second round picks, but could definitely work their way into the first day of the draft. Florida has multiple potential mid-round selections in RB Mike Gillislee (Sr), TE Jordan Reed (rJr), DL Dominique Easley (Jr), ILB Jon Bostic (Sr) and OLB Jelani Jenkins (rJr). Gillislee had a career year this season and carried the Florida offense on his back from start to finish. He’s a three-down back with the ability to bang inside, take it for big yards on the outside or make plays with his hands as a receiver out of the backfield and is very similar to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin. He has feature back potential. Jordan Reed has developed into a pretty nice pass-catching tight end in his time at Florida. He’s very similar to former Gator Aaron Hernandez as a faster, undersized tight end with the versatility to line up at multiple positions on offense, including quarterback where he took snaps as a freshman. He’s still in a bit of developmental stage and could opt to return to school for another season. Easley is a reliable defender that can be used at multiple spots on the defensive line. He’s best at shutting down the run, but does have a bit of pass-rushing ability that he shows on occasion. He should fit in nicely with a defensive line rotation at the next level. Athletic linebackers Bostic and Jenkins are a pair of talented, versatile defenders. Bostic is a steady presence in the middle against the run with the ability to provide a pass-rush and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also an excellent leader that can be trusted with on-the-field play-calling duties. Jenkins is an extremely aggressive player that reads the action quickly and attacks the ball-carrier. His aggressive play isn’t all good as it has caused him to leave early and miss multiple games with injury. Both have NFL starting potential with the ability to contribute right away and could be steals. Late round prospects for the Gators include OLB/DE Lerentee McCray (rSr), OT Xavier Nixon (Sr), FS Josh Evans (Sr), K Caleb Sturgis (rSr) and DT Omar Hunter (rSr). Louisville has a pair of their own Day 3 prospects in CB Adrian Bushell (rSr) and C Mario Benavides (rSr). Bushell is a solid corner with decent all-around skills that excels on special teams, but has been around the block playing for multiple teams in high school and college and has various off-the-field red flags. Benavides is a tough, reliable interior lineman with good hands and ranks among the top five prospects at the center position.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL, JANUARY 3/2013

Oregon Ducks (11-1) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (11-1)

Oregon and Kansas State will do battle on Thursday night in what should be an offensive shootout. Both squads have multiple pro prospects with each team having a player or two that could be taken in the first three rounds. Oregon DE/OLB Dion Jordan (rSr) is a freak athlete blessed with outstanding physical attributes and incredible potential, but still has some raw aspects to his game after coming to Oregon as a tight end. He is quickly developing into a terrific pass-rusher and hybrid defender that can stay on the field for every down. His rare athleticism and various skills have scouts drooling and should result in a first round selection. OL Kyle Long (Sr) is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and another Oregon player that made a position change during his college career that resulted in him becoming a top-100 prospect. He’s a very good athlete with natural talent and the ability to play offensive tackle or guard, but is still raw in his development as an offensive lineman due to a lack of game-time experience. He could come off the board in the third round. RB Kenjon Barner (rSr) is a gifted, speed back with incredible vision and homerun hitting ability. He dominated the college ranks with a monster year in 2012 racking up 1624 rushing yards for 21 touchdowns including a 321-yard, 5 touchdown performance against USC. He also possesses good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Unfortunately he is an undersized ball-carrier like former teammate and current 49er LaMichael James and will probably only be viewed as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. He’ll be selected somewhere in the mid-rounds. The Ducks also have a pair of possible late round prospects in ILB Kiko Alonso (rSr) and FS John Boyett (rSr). Talented P Jackson Rice (rSr) should catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent. Kansas State LB Arthur Brown (rSr) was an integral part of the Wildcats’ revival under Head Coach Bill Snyder the last few years. He’s been the leader on defense for the Wildcats since transferring from Miami-Florida and was so good this season he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a FWAA First-Team All-American. He’s slightly undersized, but makes up for it with fantastic speed, vision and awareness. He’s able to sniff out what the offense is doing and possesses the ability to defend both the run and pass. He has every down starting linebacker potential and could be a second round pick. Some scouts have compared him to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Potential late round prospects for the Wildcats include WR Chris Harper (rSr), OLB Meshak Williams (Sr), QB Collin Klein (rSr) and CB Nigel Malone (Sr).

 

Written By: Mark Scott



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.