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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 6 (JAN.4-JAN.6)

College Bowl season is finally winding down with just three games left to be played before the BCS National Championship on Monday. The Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and Oklahoma is the last big bowl matchup of the season and is a definite must-watch for NFL front offices, scouts and fans as it features more potential draft picks than any other game including the National Championship. There are at least eleven players that are for-sure 2013 NFL Draft picks (should they all the underclassmen choose to declare early) at the moment and a number of others that could find a spot in one of the later rounds. A number of top prospects will be on the field including Luke Joeckel, who could be the first overall pick and Damontre Moore, a likely top ten selection.

AT&T COTTON BOWL, JANUARY 4/2013

Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

In the last great matchup of the college football season before Alabama and Notre Dame meet for the National Championship, the Aggies and Sooners will put on a showcase of top talent for NFL scouts with nine potential top-100 prospects and a boatload of others in action. Texas A&M has the far superior draft class led by LT Luke Joeckel (Jr), DE/OLB Damontre Moore (Jr) and RT Jake Matthews (Jr), who are all projected to be first round picks in April. Joeckel is arguably the top prospect in the entire draft and one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick currently owned by the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s as talented a left prospect as there has ever been to enter the draft. He’s a great athlete with prototype NFL size and possesses elite fundamentals and technique. He has the agility and footwork to match speed-rushers and the strength to out-muscle bull-rushers. He plays with intelligence and poise well past his years, probably because he’s been a starting since he stepped on to campus and will be an immediate starter in the NFL as well on either side of the line. The Chiefs could use a new blindside protector for whoever their signal-caller might be next season and without a consensus elite quarterback in the draft Joeckel could be the first player selected. Damontre Moore might top the list of highest risers among prospects this season. After adequately replacing Von Miller in 2011, Moore exploded this season taking his game to another level leading the Aggies in tackles (80), sacks (12.5), QB hurries (8) and tackles for loss (20) in becoming one of the top pass-rushers and defenders in the country. He’s an explosive pass-rusher that can beat linemen on the outside with his terrific speed or blast right through them using his strength and power. He’s able to quickly close in on the ball-carrier before dragging him to the ground while still displaying the awareness to try and rip the ball loose (8 career forced fumbles). He’s drawing comparisons to Miller as a hybrid defender that can play in any defensive scheme whether standing up or with his hand in the ground. He’s a top ten prospect along with other elite pass-rushers Jarvis Jones and Bjoern Werner. Son of former NFL standout Bruce Matthews, Jake has lived up to the considerable hype that has always surrounded him and combined with Joeckel at Texas A&M to form the best offensive tackle tandem in college football. While he’s not as athletic as Joeckel or the same level of pass-protector, he’s just as skilled in most aspects and is actually the better and more dominant run blocker of the two. He would’ve have had a higher draft grade if he had the chance to play left tackle and wasn’t stuck on the right side, but he has shown enough potential so for in his career that he could be one in the future. He should come off the board in the mid to late first round or early part of Day 2. Texas A&M also has a trio of possible mid-round picks in OLB Sean Porter (Sr), WR Ryan Swope (rSr) and RB Christine Michael (Sr). Porter is another talented, hybrid Aggies defender. He’s a good pass-rusher, but really excels in stopping the run and dropping into pass coverage. He’s fantastic at reading the play and pursuing ball-carriers and should be a highly effective starting NFL linebacker. Swope isn’t an elite athlete, but is a reliable receiver with excellent hands and route-running ability. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level. Michael is a tough, well-built running back with a number of high level skills that scouts look for in a featured ball-carrier, but has major durability issues after constantly battling injuries throughout his collegiate career. Porter could be taken in the third round, while Swope and Michael are more likely to be selected on Day 3 of the draft. Possible late round draft picks for the Aggies include WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (Sr), CB Dustin Harris (Sr) and DT Spencer Nealy (Sr). While the Sooners have a large draft class this year, they don’t possess the kind of elite prospects they usually do with just one possible late first round pick. OT Lane Johnson (Sr) is their top prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the top offensive tackles available. He’s a great athlete that certainly looks the part with prototypical NFL size and length, but is still a slight work in progress after starting just two seasons at tackle, one on the right side in 2011 and then on the left side this past year after playing quarterback, tight end and defensive end in previous years. He is a fantastic pass blocker and could be a late first/early second round pick. Following Johnson is a group of potential mid-round picks in QB Landry Jones (rSr), FS Tony Jefferson (Jr), WR Kenny Stills (Jr) and FB Trey Millard (Jr). Once thought to be the next elite first round quarterback for the Sooners, Landry Jones has been a major disappointment the last few seasons despite breaking multiple school and conference records in his career, although a lot of that has to do with the fact he’s been the starting for four years. He possesses the size and arm strength to be an NFL starter, but still shows very questionable decision-making, erratic accuracy and poor footwork. He has some work to do in his development, but a fresh start somewhere else (not that Oklahoma is a bad environment) with some new eyes on him could do wonders for his future as an NFL quarterback. Jefferson is a tough, versatile safety that can line up in the box to stop the run or rush the passer and drop into coverage and play “centerfield.” Despite playing on a bum ankle this season he still led the Sooners with 113 tackles and is considered one of the top safety prospects available for the draft. Stills is a smaller, playmaking wide receiver with good speed and smooth route-running ability. There are some concerns about his consistency and focus to make the easy catches and a couple of off-the-field red flags. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level, but can contribute with the big, acrobatic play from time to time. Jones and Jefferson are likely third round picks, while Stills probably has to wait until the early portion of Day 3. It’s not often a fullback is considered a possible early entrant into the draft, but Millard is an exceptional talent and the highest rated player at the position even earning consideration as a top-120 prospect. He probably returns to school for another season, but it should be interesting to see if and where he is selected if he does indeed declare early for the 2013 NFL Draft. Late round hopefuls for Oklahoma include CB Damontre Hurst (Sr), DT Stacy McGee (rSr), DT Jamar McFarland (Sr), DT David King (rSr) and WR Justin Brown (Sr).

BBVA COMPASS BOWL, JANUARY 5/2013

Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Mississippi Rebels (6-6)

Not much to watch in terms of NFL prospects between Pittsburgh and Mississippi. The only noteworthy prospect taking part is Panthers RB Ray Graham (Sr). He’s a smaller, elusive running back with terrific quickness and good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Graham successfully returned to action this season from a torn ACL in 2011 and showed that he was healthy, although front offices will have an eye on his medical report at the Scouting Combine. He’s a situational back at the next level and could be a fifth round pick. Likely undrafted free agents for Pittsburgh include OC Ryan Turnley (rSr) and OG Chris Jacobson (rSr). Mississippi does have one potential prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft in FS Charles Sawyer (rJr). He sent in paperwork to the NFL Advisory Committee to find out his draft grade and what round he might be selected in, although there isn’t much buzz surrounding him right now as an underclassman. He’s a versatile defensive back that can contribute in run support and pass coverage, but needs to add more strength and size to hold up in the NFL. If he declares he could be a mid-round pick.

GODADDY.COM BOWL, JANUARY 6/2013

Kent State Golden Flashes (11-2) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3)

The final bowl game before the BCS National Championship will be a matchup between two of the better non-BCS teams in Kent State and Arkansas State. It will feature just one prospect though in Golden Flashes OT Brian Winters (Sr). He’s a dominant run blocker and excellent pass protector. He has NFL-size and strength and plays with a mean streak. While Winters played left tackle for Kent State, he projects out better as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He’s one of the best small school prospects in the draft and could be taken as high as third round. Arkansas State doesn’t have any notable draft-eligible prospects.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 2

The second week of the college football season won’t feature the type of high profile matchup like we saw in Week 1 with David Amerson and Justin Hunter, however there is a pair of intriguing battles happening this weekend when LSU’s Zach Mettenberger has to throw passes into a Washington secondary led by potential first round pick Desmond Trufant while an under the radar matchup on Friday night between one of the draft’s top rated players, Utah’s Star Lotulelei and Utah State’s Tyler Larsen will take place in the trenches. The best game to watch this weekend for your prospect fix will definitely be Texas A&M’s SEC debut against Florida. The Aggies will have three potential first round picks on display in offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews along with pass rusher Sean Porter. On the other side, the Gators will have a myriad of players that should be taken throughout the draft, although a couple of their top prospects like SS Matt Elam and DT Sharrif Floyd may choose to wait until the 2014 NFL Draft.

Best Head to Head Matchups: Washington CB Desmond Trufant vs. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger @ Tiger Stadium and Utah NT Star Lotulelei vs. Utah State C Tyler Larsen @ Romney Stadium

The top head to head matchup to watch this weekend will be between LSU QB Zach Mettenberger and Washington CB Desmond Trufant. Mettenberger is the most physically talented quarterback that LSU has had since former 2007 first overall pick JaMarcus Russell. He has NFL prototype size at 6’5”, 230lbs with a big arm and the talent to lead LSU back to the National Title game. Mettenberger may be a better candidate for the 2014 NFL Draft as he just made his first start for LSU last week and is lacking in high level experience (Started 12 games for Butler Community College in 2010). Getting more experience should lead him to improving his decision-making, especially when facing heavy pressure, which he had problems with vs. North Texas in the season opener. He will face his first real big test on Saturday when he will have to throw passes into a Washington secondary featuring CB Desmond Trufant. A potential first round pick and one of the top corners available for the 2013 NFL Draft, Trufant is the younger brother of Marcus (Seattle Seahawks) and Isaiah Trufant (New York Jets). NFL eyes have been on him since he stepped on to the Campus in Washington and he’s done nothing to disappoint. He’s put together three outstanding seasons after starting as a true freshman with each year better than the last. He’s displayed next level cover ability and the ball skills and instincts to make game changing plays. He continues to make major strides in his game and it won’t be a shock to hear his name on the first day of the draft.

While Mettenberger and Trufant will take center stage, an under the radar matchup to check out will happen Friday night when Utah NT Star Lotulelei and Utah State C Tyler Larsen go head to head in the trenches of one of the longest standing rivalries in college football. Lotulelei came into this season with a ton of hype as one of top rated draft eligible prospects and for good reason. He may not put up eye-catching numbers, but his play certainly catches the eye of everyone watching as he blows up play after play despite facing double and triple-teams on every down. His combination of athleticism and massive size has scouts drawing favorable comparisons to Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata, a player every team in the NFL wants. Tyler Larsen won’t be a first round pick or anything close to one, but he is one of the top centers in the nation and finds himself on the 2012 Rimington Award Watch List (Top center in the Nation). He’s a rock in the middle for the Aggies with a ton of starting experience and possesses great technique and footwork. This should be one heck of a battle between these two on Friday night.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #24 Florida vs. Texas A&M @ Kyle Field

The best game to watch for draft eligible prospects this weekend will be the debut of Texas A&M in the SEC when they welcome the Florida Gators to town. The Aggies boast a trio of potential first round draft choices in offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews as well as pass rushing outside linebacker Sean Porter. Joeckel and Matthews make up the best offensive tackle tandem in the nation. Joeckel mans the all important left tackle position and is the top offensive lineman in the draft. He isn’t quite a finished product, but he’s pretty darn close. He possesses the size and athleticism to play the blind side at the next level along with the experience after starting immediately as a true freshman and ever since. If there’s an offensive tackle that can ascend into the top five of the draft, it’ll be Joeckel. Matthews is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and is the top right tackle prospect in the country. He is a strong, physical run blocker that plays with a mean streak that he puts on display every time he throws a defensive lineman to the ground and opens up a huge running lane. He has first round talent, but because he plays the less heralded right tackle position he could fall into the early second round. He too is experienced after winning the starting right tackle job midway through his true freshman season. Sean Porter is the leader of the Aggies’ defense and has drawn comparisons to his former teammate and 2011 second overall pick Von Miller. He’s very similar in size, speed and athleticism to Miller and plays the same type of hybrid pass rusher role from a 4-3 outside linebacker position. He’s not quite the natural pass rusher that Miller is, but he makes up for it with his ability to better pursue ball-carriers from sideline to sideline and drop into coverage on passing downs. It will be very interesting to see how high teams value Porter in comparison to Miller. After their top three prospects Texas A&M also has a pair of offensive playmakers in RB Christine Michael and WR Ryan Swope. Both look like mid round selections.

The 2012 NFL Draft was one to forget for the Florida Gators as they had just two players selected, neither among the top-100 picks. The 2013 draft might not be much different if Florida’s top prospects choose to return to school for another season. However, if they do choose to forgo another season in Gainesville then the Gators’ should be well represented at the 2013 draft. Currently rated as the top strong safety prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft, Matt Elam lived up his considerable hype as a high school recruit following a stand out season last year. Athletic and versatile, he has the ability to make all the plays required for the position whether dropping into coverage or moving up near the line of scrimmage to defend the run or rush the quarterback. Should he decide to enter the draft, he’ll be in a battle with the likes of Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and Robert Lester (Alabama) for a spot as the top strong safety available, likely somewhere on Day Two. Sharrif Floyd is Florida’s next best prospect behind Elam and like Elam, he could be better off waiting for the 2014 draft. Floyd is a traditional defensive tackle, although he did start for the Gators at defensive end last season due to a lack at depth on the outside, but will be back on the inside this year. He possesses a great burst off the line and uses his raw power and talented hands to get into opposing backfields. Due to his ability to play inside and outside in a 4-3 defense, he will draw interest as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.  Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic are talented and fast attacking linebackers that should receive attention from traditional 4-3 defenses. Jenkins is the more talented and experienced of the two and will draw comparisons to the group of smaller 4-3 linebackers that went in the 2012 NFL draft in second round selections, Mychal Kendricks (Philadelphia) and LaVonte David (Tampa Bay). The team’s top Senior prospect is offensive tackle Xavier Nixon. He has the size of the NFL prototype left tackle with a naturally large frame and long arms. As a true freshman he looked like a potential star, but injuries and inconsistencies in the last couple of seasons have seen his stock decline. Nixon has shown he has the potential, but will need to show that he can stay healthy and play with more consistency this year if he wants to improve his draft stock among a very impressive group of draft eligible offensive tackles. Center/Guard Jonothan Harrison is also a prospect to keep any eye on, but I expect he’ll be back next season for another year in school.

Written By: Mark Scott