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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: PRO DAYS WEEK 1 RECAP

The pre-draft process for NFL prospects continues as the pro day portion began this month and will continue into April with individual workouts for those unable to get on the field at their school’s designated pro day. A number of prospects will have the pressure on them, especially those like Jarvis Jones that skipped the drills at the Combine to opt for optimal conditions at their pro day and those that were held out of workouts in Indy because of injury like Star Lotulelei. Of course there are others that didn’t perform the way they wanted to at the Combine and will be looking to improve on their numbers. The make-or-break season for prospects is just heating up as the 2013 NFL Draft nears closer with each passing day.

MARCH 1: Purdue

The Boilermakers Pro Day kicked off the month, but potential first-round pick DT Kawann Short did not take part due to the same hamstring injury that kept him out of drills at the Combine. Scouts will now have to wait until March 25 to see the highly-rated defensive tackle work out at his own personal pro day. Purdue CB Josh Johnson improved on some of his Combine numbers including a drop in his 40 time from 4.65 to 4.55 and raising his vertical jump to 36” and broad jump to 9’11”. He also looked good while running through positional drills. QB Robert Marve put on a good performance particularly showing off a strong arm and posting 22 reps of 225lbs. on the bench press which would have topped all quarterbacks at the Combine had he been invited. Marve’s performance won’t get him drafted, but probably earned him an invite to training camp with hopes of landing on a practice roster.

MARCH 4: Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Northern Iowa

Arkansas Pine-Bluff OT Terron Armstead continued his impressive climb up draft boards with another fantastic workout at his Pro Day. He decided to stand by his excellent Combine numbers that were among the best in the offensive line class and instead ran through an hour-long workout made up of various offensive line drills. Of note, Armstead was led through the drills by new San Diego Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Allesandris. The Chargers have multiple holes across their offensive line and could be highly interested in the athletic tackle. Armstead looks like a sure-fire Day 2 selection. While Armstead had representatives from 12 teams out to watch him, Northern Iowa WR/KR Terrell Sinkfield grabbed the headlines by running a 4.19 40-yard dash. He posted 43 catches for 499 yards and 4 touchdowns this past season, but has a couple off the field red flags including an arrest for disorderly conduct in October. While his 40 time caught some attention, most scouts have said he doesn’t play that fast on film.

MARCH 5: Auburn, Missouri Southern

Auburn DE/OLB Corey Lemonier stood by his Combine numbers with the exception of the vertical jump which he improved to 34”. He ran through positional drills led by Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. The Steelers happen to be in the market for a couple of linebackers. Some scouts apparently came away unimpressed by Lemonier’s workout. RB Onterio McCalebb, who had an impressive Combine performance, took it up a notch by improving his 40 time to 4.33 seconds, his vert jump to 37” and his broad jump to 10’11”. He also improved his times in the short shuffle (4.31s) and the 3-cone drill (7.01s) along with posting 10 reps on the bench press. McCaleb is a Day 3 selection that is probably best suited to be a return specialist, but could earn his way into a third-down back situation. There was disappointment at the Missouri Southern Pro day as unfavorable weather conditions prevented DT Brandon Williams from working out in positional drills, although had the weather cooperated he still would’ve remained on the sidelines due to a slight hamstring pull. He will stand by his Combine performance and should come off the board on Day 2.

MARCH 6: Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Texas Tech

There were reps from 28 teams at the Wisconsin pro day, most of which were there to see RB Montee Ball and offensive linemen Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner. Ball had a great workout improving his times in the 40, short shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Most notable was his time in the 40 which he dropped from 4.66s at the Combine to 4.49s, which just might have secured him a spot as the second running back off the board following Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and a spot on Day 2 of the draft. He also looked very good in positional drills. Frederick and Wagner both stood by their Combine numbers, but worked out in positional drills under Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner. The most notable team rep at the workout was Packers G.M. Ted Thompson, who is in the market for a new running back and a couple of offensive linemen and appeared to have liked what he saw for the most part. Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks was one of the major disappointments at the Combine and saw his stock drop by about a round following a very unimpressive workout. He may have stopped the bleeding with his performance at the Bulldogs Pro day as he improved his numbers in the 40, short shuttle, vertical jump and the broad jump, although is 40 time of 4.58 was just slightly better than his disappointing 4.61 at the Combine. However, he did look a lot better running through positional drills this time out. The Patriots reps were said to be very interested in Banks. Fellow corner Darius Slay, who posted the fastest 40 time among defensive backs at the Combine with a 4.36 was unable to compete in positional drills for scouts after pulling a muscle trying to improve his time in the 60-yard shuttle. DT Josh Boyd looked very good running through defensive lineman drills with New York Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn. 28 teams were represented at the Mississippi State pro day including Denver Broncos DC Jack Del Rio and New Orleans Saints defensive back coach Wesley McGriff. Texas Tech safety Cody Davis put together a fantastic pro day including a 4.41 in the 40 and probably worked his way into the late round mix.

MARCH 7: Arizona, Clemson, Illinois, Mississippi

Under the radar quarterback Matt Scott looked fantastic throwing the ball at the Arizona pro day while reps from 18 NFL teams watched, including the entire Arizona Cardinals offensive coaching staff. He’s a Day 3 selection that could be a perfect fit for a read-option team. The Eagles were also said to be interested in Scott. Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins looked great in wide receiver drills at the Tigers pro day, along with improving his 40 time to 4.51s from 4.57s. He’ll remain in the second round mix. RB Andre Ellington pulled a hamstring at the Combine and will work out again for scouts on March 29. The Ole Miss pro day featured perhaps the largest prospect in the draft in OT Terrell Brown, who measured in at 6’10” and 388lbs with 38” long arms and a 92 3/8” wingspan. Brown put up pretty good numbers in drills for a man of his mammoth size. While Illinois had four mid-round prospects that drew reps from 27 teams to their pro day, it was little-known DE Glenn Foster that was the star of the day recording impressive times in the 40, short shuttle and 3-cone drill, along with numbers in the vertical and broad jumps that would have topped all defensive linemen at the Combine. He was also good in positional drills and his performance has sent scouts scrambling back to the film room. He definitely gets drafted now.

MARCH 8: Texas A&M, Ohio State, Florida International

Texas A&M put on one of the more notable pro days of the year as prospects like Luke Joeckel, Damontre Moore, Sean Porter and Christine Michael among others were on the field for reps from 28 teams on hand including New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan and Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen. Joeckel chose to stand by his Combine numbers and opted to run through positional drills led by new Oakland Raiders offensive line coach Tony Sparano for about an hour. The Chiefs and Raiders both met with Joeckel privately. Moore was another of the big Combine disappointments that dropped his stock from the top of the first round to the bottom of it. He was solid on Friday working out both as a defensive end and linebacker and improved his time in the short shuttle and increased his reps in the bench press from 12 to 19, while he also added another 10lbs. to his frame, however he put an end to his workout early due to a bothersome hamstring and probably didn’t really help himself. LB Sean Porter, LB Jonathan Stewart and WR Ryan Swope put in impressive workouts. There were 27 teams represented at the at the Ohio State pro day, most of which to watch potential first round pick Johnathan Hankins. Unfortunately Hankins chose to take part in a just a few select drills and didn’t really do anything to help or hurt his draft stock and probably remains a late first-rounder. No one else at the Buckeyes pro day stood out. Florida International FS John Cyprien competed in all drills except for the vertical jump and recorded a 4.64s in the 40, 4.44s in the short shuttle and a 7.01s in the 3-cone drill, along with a 9’11” broad jump and 18 reps of 225lbs. on the bench press. He was also very good in defensive backs drills.

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



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 6 (JAN.2)

Written By: Mark Scott

This January 2nd is a draft nut’s dream day as elite prospects will be playing all over the place with first round talent on the field in every Bowl game, along with multiple Top 100 prospects as well. Prospects like Justin Blackmon, Devon Still, Alshon Jeffrey, as well as the likely number one pick Andrew Luck and a pair of his Stanford Offensive linemen will be selected through Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft.

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

 

Ticketcity Bowl, January 2/2012

Houston Cougars vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State and Houston kick off the New Year in a clash of defense vs. offense that will feature a potential Top Ten talent in Devon Still and a group of late round prospects. The Nittany Lions’ rSr DT Still flew up draft boards this season after a fantastic year that saw him win the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Lineman of the Year and finish as a Finalist for the 2011 Chuck Bednarik Award as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year in all of college football. He’s a dominant, disruptive force on the interior of the line and against the run game. Always working until the whistle, he can also force his way into the backfield as evidenced by his 4.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss this season. Penn State’s other prospects ,  Sr DE Jack Crawford, Sr CB D’Anton Lynn, rSr WR Derek Moye and rSr FB Joe Suhey will all be fighting for draft position late on Day 3 in the closing rounds. Crawford is an athlete that appears to possess all of the potential talent to become a starter in the NFL, but has been a big disappointment throughout his collegiate career and never really found his game. Some team could take him higher if they think they can be the ones to unleash his talent. For Houston, they have a group of potential seventh round prospects in rSr DE/OLB Sammy Brown, Sr RB Bryce Beall, rSr WR Patrick Edwards and one of the most successful and record-holding Quarterbacks of all-time, rSr QB Case Keenum. Brown is the team’s most interesting prospect and could actually go higher on Day 3 than the final round. A dynamic pass-rusher with a lot of speed, he finished with 12.5 sacks this year and could fit nicely as a 3-4 OLB in the pros.

 

Capital One Bowl, January 2/2012

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

In a battle of the SEC versus the Big Ten, three possibly even up to six players will be first round prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft. South Carolina features four of those potential first-rounders in rSr DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, Jr WR Alshon Jeffrey, Jr CB Stephon Gilmore and rJr DE/OLB Devin Taylor. Ingram is a versatile defender that did a bit of everything this season including 44 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and three touchdowns (2 DEF, 1 ST) while playing multiple positions. His main job however is to rush the passer and he does so with excellent closing speed, quick hands and a number of different moves to get past blockers. His one downfall is that he is a little inconsistent in his effort from play to play, but has the potential to be the top pass-rusher in the draft. Alshon Jeffrey is a massive playmaking wide receiver that stands an enormous 6’4, 230lbs. and dominates defenders with his size. He has the ability to get deep downfield and makes incredible plays every week. He does need to show that he has the speed to be as effective in the pros as he is in the college game and will also need to improve his route-running skills.  Stephon Gilmore is a very good corner with a ton of experience that has solid cover skills, great instincts and playmaking ability. He can also contribute in the return game on special teams. He is good in run support and will fit in best with a team that plays a lot of zone coverage. He could make his way into the late first round, but with a very deep group of corners in this draft he will likely fall into the second round. Devin Taylor is a tall, lanky pass-rusher with great length and is extremely fluid and agile. He plays mostly standing up and projects to be a 3-4 OLB, but could move to end in a 4-3 if he adds more strength and size to his body. He has let it be known that he is probably going to return to school for his final season to improve his game and draft stock after a disappointing year. South Carolina’s rSr SS Antonio Allen is an impact defender that was named to the 2011 All-SEC Second-Team and is among the top safeties in the draft and will probably come off the board in the third round. For Nebraska, Sr CB Alfonzo Dennard leads the charge as one of the top cover corners in the draft. He is a very physical player with the ability to shut down the other team’s top receiver and has the talent to be a number one corner at the next level.  He battled injuries this season, but also made improvements in his footwork and ball skills. He is very similar to his former teammate and Giants’2011 first-round choice Prince Amukamara. Along with Dennard is rSr DT Jared Crick, who was the man who took over for Ndamukong Suh after he went to the pros. Crick was productive as a redshirt Junior in his first year after the departure of Suh, earning All-American honors with 9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 10 Quarterback hurries showing that he could do it by himself and without his former teammate. He came into the year with a first-round rating, but suffered a season-ending pectoral injury midway through the year and will miss this game. He’s a strong, intelligent hardworking player that can rush the passer and defend against the run and probably fits best as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. He probably comes off the board in the second round. The Cornhuskers’ also have a pair of mid-round picks in Sr OLB LaVonte David and OT Marcel Jones. David was named a 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches All-American and the 2011 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year as well as a finalist for the Butkus Award. He has great instincts and toughness with excellent tackling ability, but will fall down draft boards because of his lack of size and could be moved to safety in the pros. He could go as high as the third round.

 

Gator Bowl, January 2/2012

Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Surprisingly the game between the Buckeyes and the Gators won’t feature any elite talent with just one possible late first round pick and a couple of mid to late round prospects. Ohio State’s Sr OT Mike Adams is the one player in this matchup that could sneak into Day 1, but probably goes in the second round. He is a fantastic pass-blocker on the blind side and is the prototypical NFL Left Tackle with the perfect mix of size, length and athletic ability. However, he had a ton of off the field issues throughout his collegiate career including being a part of the Tattoo scandal that rocked the Ohio State program and caused him to be suspended for the first five games of the season this year, which could scare off a number of teams. Also on the offensive line, Sr C Mike Brewster is the prototypical NFL Center with strength, athleticism and great size. He is intelligent with a lot of experience and possesses good footwork and agility to make multiple blocks and create huge running lanes for ball-carriers. He’s looking at a mid-round draft grade. Jr DE John Simon is a versatile and promising defensive lineman that plays with power and a great deal of intensity. He is extremely dedicated and hardworking and only stands to continue to get better. He is an effective pass-rusher and is solid against the run and looks like a Day 2 selection if he chooses to enter the draft. Also for the Buckeyes is another pair of players involved with Tattoo-gate that were suspended for multiple games in Sr WR DeVier Posey and rSr RB Dan Herron. Posey has great size and an excellent vertical game, where he can make big plays deep downfield. He still has some developing to do, but has a lot of upside as an eventual number two receiving option.  Herron is a banger inside despite a slight lack of size for the role, but also has the speed and quick feet to make tacklers miss and pick up chucks of yards. Both players will be mid-round selections. Florida features a pair of small, but world-class fast playmakers in Sr RB Jeff Demps and rSr RB Chris Rainey. Both are versatile athletes that can rush the ball or catch it effectively out of the backfield and break off the homerun play at any time. They project as third-down change of pace backs and it should be interesting to see which one scouts and teams prefer. Both are Day 3 selections. The Gators’ rSr DT Jaye Howard should be drafted late in the sixth or seventh round.

 

Outback Bowl, January 2/2012

Michigan State Spartans vs. Georgia Bulldogs

The third Big Ten/SEC battle of the day, Michigan State versus Georgia features a large group of prospects with more than a few Day 1 or 2 players. The Spartans have two note-worthy prospects in rJr DT Jerel Worthy and rSR QB Kirk Cousins. Worthy is a run-stopping machine that clogs up the middle of the field and is often a disruptive force in the backfield. Named a 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American, Worthy has all the tools to become an elite defender at the next level, although his fundamentals need some improving and his effort needs to become more consistent. He has a ton of upside and is a likely first round choice. Cousins has the ability to become a serviceable starter in the NFL and will be a part of that second group of QBs taken in the draft with the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden. He is a tough, intelligent signal-caller with above average arm strength and accuracy, but needs to improve his footwork and decision-making. A decent athlete with great character, he could be drafted late in round three. The Spartans also possess four Day 3 prospects in Sr FS Trenton Robinson, rSr TE Brian Linthicum, rSr WR B.J. Cunningham and Sr WR Keshawn Martin. Georgia has a couple of elite prospects of their own beginning with former USC-transfer, rSo OLB Jarvis Jones, who exploded on to the college football scene this year as one of the top 3-4 OLB prospects in the country and a finalist for the Butkus Award. He was named to the 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American Team and All-SEC First-Team after recording 69 tackles, a SEC-leading 19.5 for loss and 13.5 sacks.  He has incredible talent and unlimited upside. Already a dynamic four-quarter pass-rusher, Jones could go early in the 2012 NFL Draft if he chooses to enter and will have 3-4 teams drooling at the chance to put him on their defense. A for-sure Day 2 prospect, Sr OL Cordy Glenn is a versatile, experienced offensive lineman that will enter first round discussions. The ability to play inside at Guard or on the outside at either Tackle position, Glenn’s massive size has him projected better as an interior lineman in the pros. He is big, strong and surprisingly quick and athletic. He contributes in pass-protection and can annihilate defenders in the run game. Jr TE Orson Charles really came on this year as an athletic, play-making tight end with great hands that can create mismatches against opposing defensive backs. He finished as a finalist for the 2011 John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and is getting even better as more balls come his way. If he chooses to enter the draft he should come off the board in the third round. Georgia’s Sr C Ben Jones and Sr CB Brandon Boykin will be drafted on Day 3, while rSr P Drew Butler, Sr K Blair Walsh and Sr DT DeAngelo Tyson will likely go undrafted, although Butler is the top punter available.

 

Rose Bowl, January 2/2012

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Oregon Ducks

The Rose Bowl features more prospects between Wisconsin and Oregon than any other game on the day. The Badgers come into this matchup with a ton of Top 100 talent that will fill the first three rounds of the draft. Wisconsin’s Offensive Linemen, rJr C Peter Konz, rJr Ricky Wagner and Sr OG Kevin Zeitler are all Day 2 prospects and will even get some late first round love. Konz is a big, athletic Center that is a dominating blocker with excellent footwork and mobility that can blow defenders away in the run game. He is getting great reviews from scouts and will be the top Center drafted. Wagner is a fantastic pass-blocker and is solid in the run game. He has good size and quickness with next-level skills, but has a number of improvements still to make. Unlike a couple of his underclass teammates like Konz and Montee Ball, he didn’t put in his paperwork to get a draft evaluation and told Badgers’ Coach Bielman that he was coming back barring something crazy happening. Konz could also return, but likely won’t with such a high draft evaluation. Zeitler is anchor in the middle of the offensive line that has a lot of experience and was named a 2011 AFCA Coaches All-American. He is big with good mobility and a solid low center of gravity that allows him to handle multiple defenders. He is a tenacious, aggressive pass-protector and run blocker. Zeitler and Konz should both be able to start immediately. The Badgers also have a pair of playmakers on offense that will be drafted on Day 2. Heisman Trophy Finalist Jr RB Montee Ball is a complete running back that can plow his way between the tackles with power, but is also fast and elusive enough to run for big gains in open field. He also has very good hands that make him a potent receiver out of the backfield. He was absolutely incredible this season and was a touchdown machine. He could return for his Senior campaign, but his draft stock will never be higher than it is now. The Badgers’ rSr WR Nick Toon is a dependable deep threat that is the son of former NFL first round choice, Al Toon. He is smooth, but physical and can make tough grabs all over the field. He still needs to improve his speed however. Wisconsin also has Day 3 prospects in rSr FS Aaron Henry, Sr CB Antonio Fenelus and rSr QB Russell Wilson. Badgers’ rSr K Philip Welch will probably sign somewhere as an undrafted free agent. While Oregon doesn’t have any first round or possibly even second round talent, they do have a large group of draft eligible prospects starting with rJr RB LaMichael James, although he could still return for another year at Oregon. He is a dynamic, explosive playmaker with fantastic acceleration that can contribute in the passing game with a great set of hands out of the backfield. He has battled the “too-small” label his entire career, but is a homerun hitter whenever the ball is in his hands and projects as a third-down change of pace back in the pros that could go in the third round. The rest of Oregon’s prospects will be Day 3 prospects or undrafted free agents in Sr OLB Josh Kaddu, rSr SS Eddie Pleasant, rSr TE David Paulson, Jr OG Carson York and rSo Dion Jordan. York and Jordan are candidates to return to school for another year. Jr CB Cliff Harris came into the season as an intriguing cornerback prospect that was getting early round buzz, but repeated off the field issues this year and last caused him to be kicked off the Oregon team and have his draft stock unknown and up in the air, but sources have stated that Harris will enter the draft rather than find another school.

 

Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl, January 2/2012

Stanford Cardinal vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The final game of the day showcases a fantastic group of elite talent, including four definite first round choices. Stanford has three of those first round prospects starting with the all but guaranteed first overall pick, rJr QB Andrew Luck, the most talked about and best prospect since John Elway in 1983. Luck possesses all of the physical and mental skills possible with basically no holes in his game at all. He has a phenomenal arm with great strength and accuracy, an incredible football I.Q. and outstanding leadership ability. He has played in a pro-style offense his entire career, knows how to read defenses and can call his own plays. He is on a completely different level than any other player in this draft. He is ready to play right away, although he may have to sit for a year or more if the Colts decide to select and keep him and Peyton Manning rather than trade Manning or the #1 pick used to draft him. Two of the reasons, Luck has been able to develop and stay healthy throughout his collegiate career are rJr OT Jonathon Martin and rJr OG David DeCastro. Martin protected Luck’s blind side for the past three seasons and is a fantastic pass protector. He is a solid athlete with good quickness and great footwork. He is very strong and can handle all kinds of different rushers, while playing with an impressive mean streak. He will be battling Iowa’s Riley Reiff to be the second tackle selected in April. DeCastro is the top interior Offensive lineman available and an extremely nasty player. He’s not an elite athlete, but is a powerful, tough run blocker that annihilates oncoming defenders. A finalist for the 2011 Outland Trophy Award as the nation’s top interior lineman, DeCastro also possesses sound technique, excellent mobility and good intelligence. Both players have terrific upside and futures as franchise Offensive linemen in the NFL. Stanford’s final draft eligible prospect is rSr TE Coby Fleener, who stock is starting to really pickup and is one of the top tight ends available. Fleener is a pure receiving tight end as he doesn’t have very good blocking skills, but does have excellent speed, great hands and is a big-time mismatch versus opposing defensive backfields. A reliable target across the middle and deep down the field, Fleener is sure to attract multiple teams that want their own Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham and will be a Day 2 selection. Oklahoma State has their own group of outstanding prospects beginning with the top-rated wide out in the draft, rJr WR Justin Blackmon. He is an exceptional playmaker and extremely productive putting up an absolutely ridiculous 224 receptions for 3118 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns the past two years. He doesn’t have the best speed, but is very strong and physical with extraordinary hands. He’s a great route runner whether it’s in the slot or going deep. He should be a top ten selection and has fantastic potential. Sr OT Levy Adcock made waves this season among Offensive Tackle prospects as he improved with every game to the point where he was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team. He is a decent athlete that has good size and strength with the ability to pick up and block oncoming rushers. He lacks quickness and needs to improve his footwork, but possesses good balance. He will fit in best with a zone blocking team and should be drafted late in the third round or early on Day 3. Another 2011 All-Big 12 First-Team player, rSr FS Markelle Martin is one of the top Safeties available and a third or fourth round draft choice. He is a big hitter with excellent closing speed and good ball skills. He also has good vision and intelligence. A former minor league baseball player, rSr QB Brandon Weeden put together a great couple of seasons the past two years with the Cowboys. He has terrific arm strength with good accuracy and a great touch from the pocket. He struggles with throws off his back foot, but is a tough player that will hang in the pocket and take the big hit to make a play. His age (28 years old) will be the biggest knock on him and will cause him to drop further than he should. Still he could be selected before Day 3.