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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: PRO DAYS WEEK 2 RECAP

Pro Days continued with a number of top schools and prospects showcasing their skills for scouts this past week including Florida, Oregon, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama. Top prospects on display included Eric Fisher, Chance Warmack and Geno Smith.

MARCH 11: Central Michigan

There were representatives from 28 NFL teams at Central Michigan’s pro day, the majority of which were there to see projected top ten pick Eric Fisher. The Left Tackle has put together one of the best pre-draft seasons of any prospect rising from a possible late first-rounder to a potential #1 overall pick. His pre-draft success continued at his pro day where he decided to stand by his excellent Combine numbers and instead focused on running through various offensive lineman drills with Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line coach George Yarno. Teams came away extremely impressed with Fisher yet again.

MARCH 12: Florida, Syracuse, UCLA

Always a routine stop on the pro day tour, the Florida Gators played host to reps from all 32 teams, including a number of noteworthy decision-makers like Pittsbugh Steelers Head Caoch Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert, Jacksonville Jaguars new Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell, along with prominent members of the Colts, Bengals and Rams coaching staffs. Weather conditions were far from ideal with rain coming down and a soaked field to deal with. Potential late first round pick SS Matt Elam focused solely on positional drills where he looked great and the same went for linebacker Jon Bostic. OT Xavier Nixon ran thorugh offensive lineman drills despite a nagging hamstring injury, along with putting up 19 reps on the bench press. RB Mike Gillislee and FS Josh Evans were unable to improve their times in the 40, but that portably had more to do with the rain-soaked turf they had to run on. LB Jelani Jenkins looked excellent and very fluid in linebacker drills and put up solid measurables. WR Frankie Hammond, TE Omarius Hines and DL Earl Okine put up solid numbers in drills. Finally K Caleb Sturgis showed off a terrific leg, including hitting a 58-yard field goal despite the wet turf and might be the best kicker available. Three players chose not to workout on Tuesday including projected top five pick Sharrif Floyd, Lerentee McCray and Jordan Reed. They will run through drills on March 22 instead. There was no real reason for why Floyd chose not to workout aside from being advised by his agent to wait until later in the month, although teams were given notice beforehand. McCray and Reed were nursing minor injuries.

There were reps from 28 NFL teams on hand to watch Syracuse’s pro day featuring a number of Day 2 prospects including QB Ryan Nassib, SS Shamarko Thomas and OG Justin Pugh. Nassib stood by his numbers from the Combine and chose to just throw for scouts. The New York Jets appear to be the most interested in Nassib of any team. Thomas added a 6.84s three-cone drill to his Combine numbers, while Pugh added 22 reps on the bench press to his Combine workout.

Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin were among 16 UCLA prospects that ran though workouts in front of reps from 15 NFL teams. Jones stood by his solid Combine numbers, but looked fantastic running through defensive lineman drills and projects as one of the better 4-3 defensive ends in the draft and a late first round pick. Franklin also stood by his Combine numbers and looked great during drills, particularly in catching the ball out of the back field. There were a couple of other interesting prospects on the field for the Bruins including TE Joseph Fauria and left-footed P Jeff Locke, who may be the best punter in the draft and is considered to be just as good as 2012 third-round pick Bryan Anger. Not that anyone should spend a third round selection on a punter though.

MARCH 13: Alabama, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Washington

As with Florida, Alabama is a routine stop for NFL teams and all 32 were in attendance for the Crimson Tide pro day. New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese and Jets General Manager John Idzik were among those in Tuscaloosa. Australian-born DL Jesse Williams stole the show with an incredible workout including a 4.84s in the 40, 30 reps on the bench press and a 7.69s in the three-cone drill, while weighing-in at 6’3”, 326lbs. His movement and footwork in drills was just fantastic as well. He is probably a first-round pick now. Highly rated OG Chance Warmack and OT D.J. Fluker both looked great while competing against one another. They both showed terrific strength and power. Warmack ran the short shuttle and three-cone dill, while Fluker will go through drills on April 11. They should both be first round selections. RB Eddie Lacy did not work out as expected, but has yet to schedule a his own pro day, while decorated OL Barrett Jones was still in a walking boot, but managed to throw up 27 reps in the bench press, along with weighing-in. CB Dee Milliner was in attendance, despite his shoulder still being in a sling following surgery. He didn’t really need to work out after a great Combine.

While there were reps from 30 NFL teams at the Oklahoma pro day, surprisingly none were offensive line coaches despite rising left tackle prospect Lane Johnson in attendance. Because of that, Johnson chose to just get measured and weighed. Quarterback guru George Whitfield ran Landry Jones through passing drills that included 70 throws with a focus on middle to deep passes. Jones complete 66 of the 70 throws and only one was said to have been bad. Jones chose to stand by his good Combine numbers where he was the top performer among quarterbacks in multiple drills. Steelers QB coach Randy Fichtner and Jaguars QB coach Frank Scelfo were in attendance. Jones spoke with seven different teams, most of which are in the market for a new quarterback. WR Kenny Stills improved his times in the short shuttle and three-cone drill and also caught the ball well from Jones all day. FS Tony Jefferson and LB Tom Wort both had to call it a day early after pulling up lame with hamstring injuries.

All 32 teams were represented at the Rutgers pro day and were witnessed to an outstanding performance by LB Khaseem Greene, who added 11 pounds and improved on his numbers from the Combine. He was also fantastic in positional drills, although numerous scouts said his workout didn’t quite do justice to his fantastic game film. He’s moving up and should come off the board in the second round. CB Logan Ryan chose not to attempt to improve his disappointing 40 time form the Combine and probably paid for it as his teammates and fellow cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Brandon Jones put it very good performances. Cooper also measured in at an impressive 6’2”, 190lbs. His size and athleticism could make him one of the better sleeper picks of the draft. RB Jawan Jamison didn’t help his stock by running another slow 40 time. It’s looking more and more like Jamison should have returned to school after forgoing not just one, but two years of eligibility remaining. Although the NFL Advisory Committee did give him a third round grade prior to making that decision.

Washington CB Desmond Trufant continued his rise up draft boards with another phenomenal workout at the Huskies pro day and no one should be surprised if he comes off the board in the first round.

MARCH 14: West Virginia, Oregon, Michigan, California

Perhaps there is a quarterback worth taking in the top ten after West Virginia QB Geno Smith put on a show completing 60 of 64 passes in drills led by former NFL QB Chris Weinke. All seemed to be highly impressed with Smith’s performance. He displayed great touch and zip on the ball and looked throwing it deep. Smith actually worked out earlier in the week in an unrehearsed, full-scale passing workout for the Philadelphia Eagles, although high-ranking reps form the Chiefs, Jags, Raiders, Browns, Cardinals and Bills were allowed to attend. Most notable was Buffalo G.M. Buddy Nix.  Following his pro day performance, Smith met with Jags Head Coach Gus Bradley in a long, private interview. WR Tavon Austin was almost as popular as Smith and also looked excellent in positional drills and received attention from multiple teams. Smith and Austin are both coming off the board and probably earlier than most people seem to think. WR Stedman Bailey also looked good during positional drills, although he did have a pair of drops.

There were reps from 27 NFL teams in Eugene to take in the Oregon pro day, including Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, along with his entire defensive staff and General Manager John Dorsey. The Philadelphia Eagles were also well represented as were linebacker coaches from multiple teams. Top prospect and projected top ten pick Dion Jordan was unable to perform after undergoing shoulder surgery following the Combine. S John Boyett also did not work as he is still recovering from knee surgery on both knees that caused him to miss basically the entire season. RB Kenjon Barner, LB Kiko Alonso and OL Kyle Long all turned in great workouts and improved on a number of their Combine scores.

Former Michigan QB Denard Robinson continued his transition from quarterback to a new position following his collegiate career choosing to workout at the Wolverines pro day as running back after going through wide receiver drills at the Combine where he struggled for the most part. He looked impressive in running back drills and finally earned himself some good reviews.

California WR Keenan Allen was unable to workout due to a knee injury, but is scheduled to hold his own pro day on April 9.

MARCH 15: Arkansas

There were 28 prospects, 23 of which were representing the Razorbacks on the field for reps from 29 NFL teams to see. The main attraction was QB Tyler Wilson, who looked excellent throwing the ball displaying better than expected arm strength in hitting every throw possible. He should come off the board on Day 2. Reps from the Buffalo Bills met with him.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT: SENIOR BOWL PRIMER

Most of the top senior prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft have been in Mobile, Alabama all week showing off for NFL front offices and scouts at the annual Senior Bowl, the preeminent post-season pre-draft prospect all-star game. There are a number of storylines to follow at the event this week with the culmination happening Saturday as the North squad takes on the South team in an extremely important game for the prospects involved. Futures and draft stocks are on the line and a whole lot of money is there for the making or losing. The Senior Bowl goes down Saturday at 4 pm EST on the NFL Network.

1.  The Quarterback Competition

The biggest storyline of the week has been the ongoing competition between the six quarterbacks at the event. All six came to town as part of the second tier of quarterbacks in the draft class behind West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Matt Barkley of USC, but with both of them not at the event it’s given this group a chance with all eyes watching to elevate their stock and even surpass Smith and Barkley on some draft boards. While none of the quarterbacks blew scouts away this week in practice all six showed off their strengths and weaknesses with Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones emerging as the top guys at the event, although they didn’t impress everyone as scouting reports differ around the league. Glennon showed off the strongest arm of the group and has been described as the most complete of the six by ESPN’s Todd McShay, although he was much taller (6’6 ¾”) than expected and looked stiff and robotic at times. Wilson has also drawn good reviews as the top quarterback at the event and was described by NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang as having the best combination of size, arm talent, toughness and experience. Every year quarterbacks start moving up draft boards around this time and both Glennon and Wilson seem to be doing just that as they are starting to be talked about as real first round possibilities. Landry Jones has also elevated his stock with a good week of practice and looks like he might have potentially secured a spot in the second round. EJ Manuel, Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert didn’t show nearly as well and will probably be mid-round selections.

2.  First Round Left Tackles

Two of the most impressive prospects at the Senior Bowl this week have been a pair of left tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. Fisher has been this year’s unknown small-school prospect being talked about as a first round talent, but after an exceptional performance all week long competing against his North squad teammates (a more talented group of pass-rushers than the South Team) he won’t be an unknown anymore and appears to have locked down a potential spot in the top fifteen of the draft as the second highest-rated left tackle behind Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M. Lane Johnson looks to be a first rounder now after this week, but that could depend on his performance Saturday when he has to face the more talented pass-rushers from the North Team like Datone Jones. Either way he has helped his stock immensely, while other offensive tackles like Oday Aboushi and Justin Pugh struggled and discussions about moving them inside to guard are now being had.

3.  Dominant Nose Tackles

Georgia’s John Jenkins cemented his place as a first rounder this week with an absolutely dominant performance in practice. He blew everyone away with his mammoth size at the weigh-ins and then continued to do so on the field by displaying his rare athleticism. He mauled everyone that stepped in front of him and handled double-teams with ease. He did seem to get winded as the practices wore on, so the scouts will definitely be watching for how we plays late in the game on Saturday. North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams was a bit of a forgotten man with such a talented defensive line class this year, but he too was dominant during the week and showed off impressive athleticism and instincts as did Kawann Short of Purdue. Williams and Short could sneak into the late first round, but appear to be second round locks now.

4.  Impressive Pass-Rushers

UCLA’s Datone Jones appears to have made some money this week. He was awesome in practice often taking on the top offensive tackle at the event in Eric Fisher and looks to have completely shed the tweener label he came to Mobile with by showing he can be an effective 4-3 edge rusher. He displayed a non-stop motor and overwhelmed offensive linemen with his strength and power. Texas pass-rusher Alex Okafor was also good this week and most likely secured his spot in the second round. He doesn’t appear to be a star, but does look like he could be a solid, productive starter for years to come.

5.  Raw Athletes Struggle

BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and Margus Hunt of SMU came to the Senior Bowl as two of the guys scouts were most looking forward to watching. Both are exceptional athletes with rare athletic abilities, but are still raw football players after only playing the sport for a few years. They were both two of the biggest disappointments so far this week as they struggled in drills and failed to flash the potential scouts wanted to see often enough. They all love Hunt’s size and length, but his lack of a burst off the snap has really stood out. Saturday is the most important day for these two if they want to hold on to their lofty draft stocks, especially Ansah.

6.  Emerging Cornerbacks

Washington’s Desmond Trufant may have made as much money as any prospect this week with his performance in practice. The younger brother of pros Marcus and Isaiah showed off tremendous skills as a potential shut-down corner and was clearly the best at the event at his position. He was excellent in matching the wide receivers in Mobile stride for stride and is now being talked about as a possible first round pick. Having Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks out of the event with an injury has only helped Trufant with more eyes on him. California’s Marc Anthony and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden have also helped their stock this week as did a pair of FCS prospects in William & Mary’s B.W. Webb and SE Louisiana’s Robert Alford.

7.  Big Play Wide Receivers

A number of wide receivers stood out this week and improved their draft stock with good performances. Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton and Terrance Williams of Baylor were the best of the bunch. Wheaton displayed fantastic speed and quickness often separating from defensive backs. He also showed off some strong hands and an ability to make catches in traffic and tight windows. He shown great all-around skills and has moved himself into the top group with the likes of Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Terrance Williams. Speaking of Williams, he displayed better than expected speed and quickness to go with his terrific hands and showed scouts that he is a legit big-time downfield threat. Wheaton and Williams weren’t the only wide outs who looked good this week as Marquise Goodwin (Texas), Quinton Patton (LaTech) and Tavarres King (Georgia) put in great performances.

8.  Denard Robinson’s Transition to WR

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s transition to wide receiver has been one of the main ongoing storylines during this year’s draft process and it hasn’t gone well. Robinson’s playmaking ability as a quarterback has been slow to translate to the wide receiver position. He still looks good in the open field, but has struggled to run routes and catch the ball even with lowered expectations from scouts. A right elbow injury has not helped his case. He came to the event as a potential mid-round selection, but unless he plays well on Saturday he appears to have fallen into the last couple rounds and may even go undrafted. It has not been a good week for him.

9.  Those Who Aren’t Here

Every year a certain number of prospects decide to skip the event for one reason or another and unless it’s due to injury it ticks front offices and scouts off to no end. This year’s group has been especially annoying as seven of the eight notable prospects not at the event could be first round picks. Geno Smith has received the most heat for not showing up. As the top rated quarterback, but one with a lot still to prove, scouts wanted to see him here this week, especially after a dreadful performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. While his stock hasn’t suffered that much, it was a fantastic opportunity for him to show he’s worthy of a high draft pick, even the first overall spot to the QB-needy Chiefs. Instead other quarterbacks like Mike Glennon and Tyler Wilson have gained on him and the pressure to perform at the Combine next month will be extremely high. Others that have not pleased scouts with the absence include Star Lotulelei, Manti Te’o, Kenny Vaccaro, Jonathon Cooper, Chance Warmack and Tavon Austin, who really ticked scouts off by pulling out within 72 hours of the event. Montee Ball also skipped the event, but hasn’t received the wrath of scouts as he has very little to prove after over 1000 touches in his four year career at Wisconsin. As a non-first round prospect there was no need for him to take any more hits. Notable injury absences include Matt Barkley, Johnthan Banks, Tyler Eifert, Dion Jordan and Jesse Williams.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 4 (JAN.1)

Bowl Mania continues on New Year’s Day as six games involving a boatload of draft-eligible prospects will keep scouts, front offices and fans busy all day long. The day starts out slow for prospects, but quickly picks up as the bowls grow more important and involve higher profile prospect-stocked teams. A number of highly ranked players like Bjoern Werner, Taylor Lewan, Jarvis Jones and most of the rest of the Georgia draft class will be in action. Nothing like some college football to cure a hangover.

TAXSLAYER.COM GATOR BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)

New Year’s Day starts out pretty slow for prospects in the Gator Bowl with just one highly rated player. Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks (Sr) is an experienced corner with very good height and length that possesses the ability to play man coverage and in zone. His ball skills and instincts are among the best at the position and allow him to contribute in a number of areas and make game-changing plays. His lack of elite speed is the biggest question surrounding him right now and could keep him out of the first round, but won’t cause him to fall any further than the second. He was fantastic this season in winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and enters the 2013 NFL Draft as the top senior cornerback available. After Banks the Bulldogs have a group of mid to late round prospects that includes OG Gabe Jackson (rJr), CB Darius Slay (Sr), DT Josh Boyd (Sr) and OLB Cameron Lawrence (Sr). Jackson is a mammoth offensive lineman that moves incredibly well for a man his size and absolutely mauls defenders in pass protection and especially when run blocking. He has starting potential in the NFL and could be drafted as high as the third round. He still has a year of eligibility remaining and could return to Mississippi State for another season. CB Corey Broomfield (rSr) and WR Chad Bumphis (Sr) are likely undrafted free agents. Northwestern doesn’t have any noteworthy draft-eligible prospects this season.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

There are even fewer prospects in the other game at noon between the Boilermakers and Cowboys, but at least each team has a noteworthy draft-eligible player in this one. Purdue DT Kawann Short (rSr) is a huge athlete with the ability to dominate a game. While he’s able to handle double-teams and clog up the middle he’s not just the typical space-eating defensive tackle, but is actually a very talented pass-rusher from the interior as evidenced by the 18.5 sacks and 48 tackles for loss he amassed over his collegiate career. He is also able to use his huge wingspan to knock down passes and block kicks on special teams. He would probably be rated as a first round pick, but major questions exist about his lack of effort game in and game out and thought that he plays too passive at times. He probably comes off the board in the second round and could end up being a steal if he can change his bad habits. Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle (Jr) is a very talented running back with explosive speed and the ability to break off big runs when he gets just a bit of open space. He also has terrific hands out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. While he showed for the second straight season that he can handle a full workload as a feature ball-carrier, he will probably be best suited as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. Randle has the choice to return to school for his final year of eligibility, but should he declare early he could be selected as high as the third or fourth round. Purdue CB Josh Johnson (Sr) is an underrated corner and has a chance to be a seventh round pick in April.

OUTBACK BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Michigan Wolverines (8-4) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2)

The number of prospects starts to pick up with the Outback Bowl matchup pitting Big Ten against SEC when the Wolverines and Gamecocks take the field. Michigan LT Taylor Lewan (rJr) is the highest rated prospect in this game and the only one that will be drafted in the first round in April. He’s a massive blindside protector with elite athleticism and may just be the most physically imposing prospect in the draft. His technique still needs some work, but he’s extremely competitive and plays with a mean streak. He’s soared up draft boards as the season’s gone on and looks to be the clear no.2 offensive tackle prospect behind Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel could sneak into the top ten of the draft. While he played basically his entire career at Michigan as a quarterback, WR Denard Robinson (Sr) will enter the draft as a receiver, although some think he could even be moved to cornerback. It is unlikely he’ll take too many snaps at quarterback in this game if at all. Instead he will likely line up as a receiver or running back throughout the game. While the position he’ll eventually play in the NFL is still unknown at this point, what is known about him is that he is an extremely fast and dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could come off the board in the first half of Day 3. Late round hopefuls for the Wolverines include DE Craig Roh (Sr) and SS Jordan Kovacs (rSr), while ILB Kenny Demens (rSr), CB J.T. Floyd (rSr) and DT William Campbell (Sr) will most likely go undrafted. Hearts are still broken for South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (Jr) and what he’s had to go through after suffering his second brutal season-ending knee injury. In 2011 he went down with a torn ACL that he fought and rehabbed tooth and nail to come back from and did so successfully in regaining most of the form that had him rated as the top running back coming into the season. He was just starting to look completely like himself again when he went down with one of the most gruesome-looking injuries seen in sports in a while. Despite the injuries, the fact that he won’t be able to work out for anyone and another year of eligibility remaining, Lattimore has still chosen to declare early for the draft and hope for the best. His plan is to land on an NFL team and rehabilitate his knee with the best possible training staff. Is future at this point is a complete unknown. Aside from Lattimore whose draft stock is up in the air at this point, the Gamecocks feature a group of mid to late round prospects that will be playing in this game including FS D.J. Swearinger (Sr), OLB DeVonte Holloman (Sr), DE Devin Taylor (rSr) and C T.J. Johnson (rSr).

CAPITAL ONE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Georgia Bulldogs (11-2) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3)

Perhaps more so than any other team this season the Georgia Bulldogs are a legit showcase of NFL talent with up to twelve possible 2013 draft picks, six of which that could be taken among the first four rounds. OLB Jarvis Jones (rJr) is a freak athlete that is arguably the top pass-rusher and may even be the top prospect in the entire draft. He is an explosive pass-rusher with elite speed and strength and is constantly wreaking havoc in opposing backfields and taking out the quarterback. He rounded out his game very nicely this season displaying the ability to be more effective in stopping the run and holding his own when asked to drop into pass coverage. NFL front offices and scouts have all been eagerly waiting for Jones to enter the draft to have their shot at adding him to their squad, but if teams want him they’ll have to make a move as it’s not likely he makes it out of the top five selections. He is a big-time playmaker that should be able to start and dominate right away. NT John Jenkins (Sr) is a mammoth athlete and the best pure run-stopper in the draft. He’s basically impossible to move at the point of attack and is a dominating force in the middle. He handles double-teams without a problem and is able to make a play on the ball-carrier when he gets into the backfield. He’s not the most glamorous draft pick, but he is an immediate starter that can be plugged into the starting line up right away and will instantly upgrade anyone’s run defense. Outside of Jones, ILB Alex Ogletree (Jr) was Georgia’s best defender this year. Despite missing the first four weeks of the season he still managed to lead the team with 98 tackles in just nine games and was their most consistent and reliable player. He’s an outstanding athlete with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline whether chasing ball-carriers or dropping into pass coverage.  He possesses an excellent combination of size, length and speed and has the versatility to play multiple linebacker positions. His length especially has some scouts thinking that he could be a highly effective pass-rushing outside linebacker in the NFL. While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is the top ranked inside linebacker, Ogletree and his incredible athleticism is not far behind and may even be a more dynamic player than Te’o at the next level. He is a likely first round pick should he decide to declare a year early for the draft. QB Aaron Murray (rJr) is a tough, athletic quarterback with very good arm strength and clean mechanics, but he has struggles with his decision-making at times and lack ideal NFL size. He’s a confident kid with talent and could make for a nice developmental quarterback behind an established starter. A number of the quarterback prospects are closely jockeying for position with Murray likely a third or fourth round pick. Jones, Ogletree and Murray could all elect to return to school for their senior year, but only Murray is a real candidate to do that with Jones and Ogletree considered first round locks. The Bulldogs secondary is well represented with FS Bacarri Rambo (rSr) and SS Shawn Williams (Sr). Rambo is a playmaking safety that can lay the wood when delivering big hits and create turnovers in the secondary using his terrific instincts and ball skills. He’s constantly in the middle of the play making something happen. Williams is a smart, productive player that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a guy that coaches don’t have to worry about where is head is at and rarely makes mental errors. He’s a reliable safety that teams will know what they’re getting with him. Both safeties have the potential to be starters in the NFL and could be selected as high as the third round. A number of Georgia’s possible draft picks will be potential Day 3 selections including DT Abry Jones (Sr), WR Tavarres King (rSr), CB Sanders Commings (rSr), OLB Cornelius Washington (rSr) and CB Branden Smith (Sr). ILB Christian Robinson (rSr) will probably end up an undrafted free agent. The Cornhuskers have a pair of their own possible late Day 3 draft picks in RB Rex Burkhead (Sr) and FS Damion Stafford (Sr). Burkhead is a thick, power back with the ability to plow his way through the line for the hard yards inside or use his speed to make big plays on the outside with his feet or hands. He showed in 2011 that he can be a feature back, but this season he was constantly battling injuries causing him to miss six games and saw his production take a major dip. He’s probably a sixth round pick. Stafford will most likely join Burkhead in the last couple rounds of the draft. He is an underrated consistent defender that is at his best in run support and is decent in pass coverage, but could stand to make improvements in that area. He’s not going to blow any scouts away with his athleticism, but could be a solid special-teams and depth player that might come off the board late in the draft. Behind them is group of players that will likely go undrafted, but could sneak into the late portion of the draft including DE Eric Martin (Sr), K Brett Maher (Sr), ILB Will Compton (rSr) and DT Baker Steinkuhler (rSr).

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO, JANUARY 1/2013

Stanford Cardinal (11-2) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (8-5)

The 99th Rose Bowl will showcase two tough, smash mouth-types of teams in Stanford and Wisconsin and the seven prospects involved are perfect examples of that type of player. Stanford will feature one potential late first round pick to go with three others that could be mid-round selections. After taking over for Cody Fleener (Indy Colts), TE Zach Ertz (rJr) proved this season that he was an even better and more complete player than his former teammate. He showed off his big, soft hands and route-running ability in leading all FBS tight ends with 66 catches for 837 receiving yards, both school records, while adding six touchdowns. He’s not just another pass-catching tight end either after elevating himself into a dominant blocker this year. Ertz will be in close competition with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert for the top spot among tight ends and could sneak into the late first round. Stanford’s linebacker combination of OLB Chase Thomas (rSr) and ILB Shayne Skov (Sr) are a pair of hard-nosed, intelligent defenders. Thomas constantly causes chaos at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. He’s not an elite athlete, but makes up for that with high-energy all-out effort on every down. He’s the type of football player every team would want and could go as high as the late second round. Skov is a notch or two below Thomas, but is still a very good football player. He is solid in run support and can provide a pass-rush from the middle when called upon. Skov has a red flag or two off the field and should be taken in the first half of Day 3. RB Stepfan Taylor (Sr) is a workhorse back that has proven over the last three seasons that he can handle full-time duties at the position with three straight seasons of at least 1100 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He’s also a running back that doesn’t need to come off the field on third down as he has proven to be a talented pass-catcher out of the back field with 91 receptions for 718 yards and five scores. He’s a tough athlete with a thick, powerful frame built to handle the rigors of the NFL. He could be selected in the late third/early fourth round. Late round hopefuls for Stanford include WR Drew Terrell (Sr) and C Sam Schwartzstein (rSr). The Badgers will feature three mid-round draft choices in RB Montee Ball (Sr), OT Ricky Wagner (rSr) and OC/OG Travis Frederick (Jr). In the end it seems like Ball’s highly publicized decision to return to school for his senior season didn’t hurt him much after all as he earned a similar third round draft grade to the one he received last year. Like Taylor, Ball is a workhorse back that can handle 30+ carries a game, while often contributing with his hands on third down. Ball compiled an amazing 5040 career rushing yards with an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns with 76 and most total touchdowns with 82, including 39 total scores in 2011 to tie Barry Sanders’ single season NCAA record. While Ball is a highly talented running back with the potential to be feature ball-carrier in the NFL, he has already put 900 carries on his body heading into the Rose Bowl. His collegiate workload could have an effect on his draft position, but will definitely have an effect on his career long-term. He’s a third or fourth round pick. Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick will continue the Wisconsin tradition of sending talented, rugged offensive linemen to the NFL. These two are absolute maulers at the line of scrimmage and have the ability to just destroy oncoming defenders when run blocking. They are big, strong and as mean as it gets with the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Frederick has slightly more upside than Wagner, but both players should come off the board somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

It will be big school versus small school in this season’s Orange Bowl as legendary powerhouse Florida State welcomes upstart Northern Illinois to the big show. The big school/small school angle is quite evident in terms of NFL prospects as the Seminoles have eight or nine players that could be draft picks in April. At the top of the Florida State draft class are potential first round picks DE Bjoern Werner (Jr) and CB Xavier Rhodes (rJr). The rise of German-born Bjoern Werner has been pretty remarkable. In just five short years he’s gone from a high-school exchange student with zero football experience to a First-Team All-American and one of the very top draft-eligible prospects. He is a powerhouse pass-rusher with the strength and power to flatten offensive linemen and the speed and explosive burst to beat them around the edge. He made a name for himself as junior, but became a star and elite prospect this season when he stepped up as the Seminoles feature pass-rusher following Brandon Jenkins’ season-ending injury. Despite having to often face the opponents’ best pass protector Werner was dominant registering 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He looks like a sure-fire top ten pick and could come off the board in the first three selections. Rhodes is a tough, very physical corner with imposing size and strength. He excels in the physical part of playing defense using his superior strength to get in the face of opposing wide receivers and knock them off of their routes. He also has pretty good speed and has shown he possesses the ability to cover receivers anywhere on the field. He’s projected to be a late first, early second round pick. Following Werner and Rhodes are four projected mid-round picks in OLB Brandon Jenkins (Sr), QB EJ Manuel (rSr), DE Cornellius Carradine (Sr) and DT Everett Dawkins (rSr). Jenkins is an explosive pass-rusher with first-round talent, but a Lisfranc injury in his left foot ended his season and dropped him down draft boards leaving his stock a bit up in the air. It won’t be until February or March before he’s able to show he’s fully healthy and worthy of a spot in the first half of the draft. Manuel is a big, athletic quarterback with a very strong arm and the mobility to make plays with his legs, but is still a project at this time. He makes too many bad decisions, holds on to the ball too long and seems to get rattled pretty quickly by pressure. He came into the season as a Heisman candidate and potential first round pick, but struggled despite Florida State’s impressive record and will now need a good showing at the Senior Bowl to sneak into the late third round, but could fall into Day 3. Carradine came into the season as the little known third man behind starters Werner and Jenkins, but like Werner he raised his game to another level with Jenkins’ injury and was flying up draft boards into the first round before going down with a torn right ACL in the season finale. He amassed 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss through twelve games, but like Jenkins his draft stock is really an unknown until he can show scouts he’s healthy again. Dawkins is a very athletic interior defensive lineman who is best at creating havoc in the middle and putting pressure on the passer even if it doesn’t translate to the stat sheet. His agility and athleticism allow him to move easily around the field and pursue ball-carriers. He should be an early Day 3 selection. Possible late round draft choices for the Seminoles include FB Lonnie Pryor (Sr), WR Rodney Smith (Sr), K Dustin Hopkins (Sr) and DT Anthony McCloud (rSr). Northern Illinois has just one late round hopeful in DE Sean Progar (rSr) for the 2013 NFL Draft. S Dechance Durante (rSo) is still just a sophomore, but is definitely a guy to watch for next year as he looks to have some star potential despite missing half the season with an injury.

 

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written By: Mark Scott