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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 3 (DEC.31)

College Bowl mania continues on New Year’s Eve Day with four good games to watch for draft-eligible players with a combined fifteen top 100 prospects spread throughout the day. The slate of games will include teams like LSU, USC, Clemson and North Carolina State. In fact LSU and USC could each have up to eight prospects potentially selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Some of the very top prospects playing in these bowls include quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon, wide receivers Robert Woods and DeAndre Hopkins and the LSU pass-rushing duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

North Carolina State Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4)

The Wolf Pack and Commodores will kick of New Year’s Eve Day in a battle of ACC against SEC with three possible Day 2 prospects in action. North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon (rJr) is the top prospect in this game and the one that scouts will have most of their focus on. He’s a big quarterback with good height and excellent arm strength, but he has struggled with his decision-making and still needs a lot of work. He’s a solid prospect with very good upside and could come off the board in the second round. Glennon has an excellent chance to make a move up the quarterback draft class rankings with Geno Smith’s awful New Era Pinstripe Bowl performance, Matt Barkley injured and out of USC’s bowl game and SEC quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray not even involved in a bowl game this season. CB David Amerson (Jr) suffered one of the most dramatic falls down draft board of any player this season after coming into the year as a consensus top five prospect. It all started in the opener against Tennessee when he was lit up and exposed by Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and it’s been downhill from there.  He hasn’t been horrible this year, but he hasn’t been anywhere near the form he showed as a sophomore in 2011 when he amassed 13 interceptions. He has rare height and length for a corner with good cover ability and possesses terrific ball skills and instincts. His speed is the major question surrounding him and he could be viewed as a possible safety prospect despite playing his entire collegiate career as an effective corner.  Whether he’s drafted as a corner or a safety, Amerson is one of the better defensive backs in the draft and has some serious upside. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews (Jr) was outstanding this season establishing a team record 1262 receiving yards on 87 catches in being named to the 2012 All-SEC First-Team.  He has good size and decent speed with a knack for the big play. He’s considered a better football player than an athlete and could be a solid addition to any NFL wide receivers corps. He could come off the board in the late third/early fourth round. All three prospects have the option of returning to school for another season and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see any of them back playing on Saturdays in the fall. Late round hopefuls include North Carolina State SS Earl Wolff (rSr) and FS Brandan Bishop (Sr) and Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers (rSr) and RB Zac Stacy (Sr).

HYUNDAI SUN BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

USC Trojans (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7)

It seems like everything is right in the college football world now that USC is back playing in a bowl game again, even if it’s not the one they had hoped for at beginning of the season. USC’s not just back in a bowl, but they’re back with eight potential draft picks on their roster. It wasn’t the senior season QB Matt Barkley (Sr) had hoped for when he chose to return for his last year of school passing on an opportunity to be a likely top five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Trojans quickly fell out of the National Championship picture, Barkley struggled to maintain an elite level of play and his no.1 prospect ranking before finishing the season with a shoulder injury which will keep him out of this game. Barkley has all the technique and intangibles on and off the field, but lacks the elite athleticism, arm strength and after six multi-interception games this season questions are now being raised about his decision-making ability. He’s still one of the better quarterback prospects available and will probably come off the board late in the first round, but he’s not the top five pick he came into the season as. Barkley isn’t the only Trojan that saw his draft stock fall this season. WR Robert Woods (Jr) came into the year as a mid-first round pick and arguably the top receiver in the draft, only to end up being overshadowed by teammate Marquis Lee. He still had a productive season with 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns despite dealing with a nagging ankle injury for most of the year, but wasn’t anywhere close to putting up the same numbers that he did in 2011. He has fantastic size and athleticism and excels as a route-runner, but still struggles with too many drops and doesn’t always try to catch the ball cleanly with his hands often letting it hit his body first. He’s fallen down draft boards a little bit, but could still sneak into the late first round. While he still has another year of eligibility remaining, he has made it known that he will declare for the 2013 NFL Draft following Monday’s Sun Bowl. CB Nickell Robey (Jr) and DE Morgan Breslin (Jr) are another pair of underclassmen that could declare for the draft early. Robey is a small, but effective corner with good cover skills and can also contribute on special teams returning kicks and punts. His lack of size and strength is going to be a major issue in matching NFL wide receivers and could hurt his stock come April. Breslin is another undersized player for his position and may struggle to find the right position in the NFL. Despite his size, Breslin is still a very talented and productive pass-rusher leading the team with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss this year. He plays with terrific quickness and awareness and possesses an excellent first step off the snap. Of the underclassmen on the team eligible for the draft he seems the most likely to return to school for another year after just one season with Trojans following his transfer from junior college. Both Robey and Breslin could be third round picks should they enter the draft. FS T.J. McDonald (Sr) is another Trojan facing a declining stock as the 2013 NFL Draft nears. He’s a skilled safety with an imposing frame and an excellent combination of size, speed and athleticism. He’s a bone-crunching hitter and physical force on the football field. He struggled this year like a lot of the Trojans and probably saw his stock drop at least a round into the late third round. C Khaled Homes (rSr) is far and away the top center prospect available in the 2013 NFL Draft and the only one worth taking in the first four rounds. DE Wes Horton (rSr) and RB Curtis McNeal (rSr) are late round hopefuls, but likely undrafted free agents. Georgia Tech also has a pair of prospects and potential late round draft picks playing in OG Omoregie Uzzi (rSr) and CB Rod Sweeting (Sr). Uzzi is a tough, physical run blocker with a ton of starting experience and could go as high as the sixth round.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

Iowa State Cyclones (6-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (10-3)

In what can be considered the dud of the day, at least from a scouting perspective, Iowa State and Tulsa will each have just one potential late round draft pick. Iowa State ILB A.J. Klein (Sr) is a productive, hard-nosed three-down linebacker. He comes into this game with 342 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and a NCAA linebacker record with four interception returns for touchdowns in his career. He can play against the run or the pass. He could be selected as high as the sixth round. Tulsa FS Dexter McCoil (Sr) is a big, powerful safety that is very effective in run support and possesses the ball skills and instincts to create turnovers in the secondary. He will likely go undrafted, but could sneak into the seventh round.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

LSU Tigers (10-2) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-2)

LSU and Clemson wrap up 2012 with the final football game of the year and yet another bowl battle between the SEC and ACC. LSU continues to be a NFL Draft factory continually churning out multiple high-level prospects every year with 2013 being no different as up to eight LSU Tigers could be selected in the draft, nine if you count former defensive back Tyrann Mathieu among their list of prospects. At the top of their draft class is the pass-rushing pair of OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo (rJr) and DE Sam Montgomery (rJr), who both rate among the top 20 draft-eligible prospects. Mingo is an exciting freak of an athlete that is still very raw in his football development (only started playing football as a junior in high school), but has incredible potential. He possesses fantastic speed off the edge as a former track star with an explosive first step and surprising power to overwhelm offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback. He’s also shown an ability to use his freakish long arms to get into passing lanes and knock the ball down. Mingo has the look of a hybrid defender that can be used in multiple spots in the front seven. A bit of disappointing season has him probably somewhere in the mid-first round. Montgomery is your traditional 4-3 defensive end with very good size and athleticism. He uses his superior quickness and all-out effort to get to opposing quarterbacks, but could use a few more moves as he often relies on just his speed to get into the backfield. While he is considered more of a traditional 4-3 defensive end, he has shown the ability to line up as a stand-up pass-rusher. He doesn’t have quite the upside of Mingo, but he also isn’t anywhere near the risk as he is already an established talent. He should end up coming off the board in the mid-first round as well. FS Eric Reid (Jr) will continue to prove that LSU’s moniker of “defensive back university” is true if he declares for the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s a complete safety with the ball skills and instincts to handle “center field” while in pass coverage and is highly effective in run support where he is a feared and violent hitter. He plays with a fierce intensity and non-stop aggressiveness. Reid is the top draft-eligible safety and could come off the board in the late first/early second round. ILB Kevin Minter (rJr) is a tackling-machine with incredible strength that also has shown the ability to get into the backfield and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He could be a Day 2 selection. Potential mid-round selections for LSU include a pair of defensive linemen in DT Bennie Logan (rJr) and DE Lavar Edwards (rSr). Logan is a disruptive, explosive interior lineman that uses his strength to handle double-teams and swallow up ball-carriers. He has some very good upside and could be taken as high as the late second/early third round. Edwards is a solid depth player that could find a fit in a defensive line rotation somewhere. He’s probably a fifth or sixth round pick. All of LSU’s top prospects are juniors with another year of eligibility and could choose to return to school for another season. WR Russell Sheppard (Sr) and DT Josh Downs (Sr) are late round hopefuls. Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (Jr) has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft instead of taking advantage of another year of eligibility in an attempt to rebuild his image while playing at a smaller school. Mathieu was finally kicked off the LSU team before the season after he continued to rack up off the field incidents involving the law. Despite being a game-changing talent in college Mathieu’s scouting report is littered with red flags. Numerous off the field issues plus a major lack of size and a full year away from football have Mathieu lucky to have a team take a late round flyer on him.

Clemson have their own pair of exciting prospects playing in this matchup in offensive dynamos WR DeAndre Hopkins (Jr) and RB Andre Ellington (rSr). Hopkins is a fast, athletic wide receiver with large, reliable hands and a nose for the end zone. His terrific athleticism allows him to routinely make acrobatic catches down field and cause tacklers to miss when in open space. His stock is rising and he could be selected as high as the second round. Ellington is very similar to former alumni C.J. Spiller. He’s a playmaking, speed back with homerun hitting ability that likes to bank most of his yards on the outside.  He possesses good vision and his high level of toughness makes up for his lack of size. He has a great set of hands for a running back that allows him to be a major factor in the passing game. He should be able to make a living as a change of pace and third down back in the NFL. He could be a third or fourth round selection. Potential mid to late round draft picks include DE Malliciah Goodman (Sr), FS Rashard Hall (rSr) and C Dalton Freeman (rSr). TE Brandon Ford (rSr) and SS Jonathon Meeks (Sr) are likely undrafted free agents.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 4

The college football season is just starting to really get going as the in-conference part of the schedule is now underway and more of the top teams and top prospects will start to get on the field with one another. This week’s head to head matchups won’t feature any prospects directly defending one another, but will instead showcase a pair of battles involving five marquee players that will be in direct competition with each other for early draft position and to be the first selected at their individual position. The first matchup to watch will be LSU’s pair of elite pass-rushers, OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo and DE Sam Montgomery as they’ll put their skills on display while Auburn’s DE/OLB Corey Lemonier will do the same on the other side of the field. In the second matchup, two of the top three wide receivers in the nation will do battle as USC’s Robert Woods and California’s Keenan Allen will try to out do one another with every ball thrown their way. And in the feature game of the week #10 Clemson will head to Tallahassee to take on #4 Florida State in the ACC’s game of the year and one that will include highly ranked prospects like Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes and Andre Ellington.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: LSU OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo and DE Sam Montgomery vs. Auburn DE/OLB Corey Lemonier @ Jordan Hare Stadium, USC WR Robert Woods vs. California WR Keenan Allen @ Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Three of the top pass-rushers in the nation will be on the field together on Saturday. LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery along with Auburn’s Corey Lemonier all rank among the top fifteen draft eligible prospects with Mingo being considered as high as the top three. Mingo might be the most raw of the three given that he didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school, but he’s also the most naturally gifted pass-rusher and probably has the highest ceiling. As a former track star, it’s Mingo’s speed that really sets him apart as he is able to explode off the snap and fly past the offensive lineman he’s lined up against and get to the quarterback. Mingo is a physical freak with good height and exceptionally long arms that allow him to be quite effective at knocking the ball down in what appear to be open passing lanes. In just a short amount of time, he has displayed the awareness and instincts of a kid who has played the game his entire life. Scouts love his combination of size, speed and athleticism which allows him the versatility to play multiple positions among the front seven. Across from Mingo stands Sam Montgomery, LSU’s 6’5, 260lb. sack leader in 2011. After tearing the ACL in his right knee in 2010, Montgomery came back with a fury last year as team’s featured pass-rusher often taking on the opponent’s best blocker. He’s a big-time playmaker with great speed and a good frame to go with his hard-working attitude. Montgomery has the look of a natural 4-3 defensive end at the next level and still has a lot of room to get even better. While Mingo and Montgomery are just two of LSU’s star-studded defense, Corey Lemonier is the lone standout on Auburn’s defense and his play often determines whether they’ll be able to win the game or not. He carries the load of their defense and is often relied upon to come up with big play after big play to keep Auburn in the game. While he plays as a 4-3 defensive end in college, he projects better as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL given his lack of ideal size. He’s an explosive pass-rusher with a bevy of exciting skills that allow him to get into the backfield and make a play on the quarterback or ball-carrier. He doesn’t just live in the opponent’s backfield as he is also able to make some of his best plays chasing ball-carriers further downfield. All three are among the best at their position and should be expected to come off the board early in this pass-rusher filled draft.

While a trio of pass-rushers will be on display on one side of the country, a pair of star wide receivers will be the focus on the other side. USC’s Robert Woods and California’s Keenan Allen will showcase their exceptional talents and do battle for top spot among draft-eligible wide outs. Like the trio of SEC pass-rushers, Woods and Allen both rank among the top fifteen or so prospects on most draft boards along with Tennessee WR Justin Hunter. Both Woods and Allen catch the ball with ease and are as dependable as you can get, but they are different types of receiver from one another. Woods is the smaller of the two and relies more on his quickness and intelligence and is probably the more dynamic playmaker. Woods is able to use his outstanding route running to be effective in the slot, while he also has the speed to stretch the defense deep and has shown the uncanny ability to make extraordinary plays along the sidelines and in the corners of the end zone. Allen on the other hand is a big, strong down the field wide receiver that uses his size advantage, athleticism and strong hands to outmuscle smaller defensive backs and go up and get the football. Allen has the look of a Vincent Jackson-type of receiver should he add a few more pounds of muscle to his frame. As for Saturday night, Allen will have the tougher task of the two to look good as he’ll have to line up against USC CB Nickell Robey, who ranks among the top-100 prospects while also keeping an eye out for one of the top safeties in the nation in FS T.J. McDonald.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #10 Clemson Tigers vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles @ Doak Campbell Stadium

The game of the year in the ACC between Clemson and Florida State will go down Saturday night in prime time with a national television audience. The stage couldn’t be much bigger for a regular season game for the draft eligible prospects competing as the majority of NFL scouts will be watching. There are quite a few notable prospects between these two schools with probably at least five players that could go in the first few rounds of the draft. Florida State features perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the draft in DE Bjoern Werner. The German-born pass-rusher has quickly made a name for himself over the past season and a bit putting up some fantastic numbers including 6.5 sacks already through the first three games of this season. Werner is a strong, powerful pass-rusher, but also uses his strength just as well when facing the run. He possesses an endless motor and an incredible passion for the sport. He’s currently being rated all over the place by different scouts from as high as the top ten to further down draft boards, but it seems that the majority of scouts view him as a first round talent. All eyes will be firmly on him now that his teammate and FSU’s leading sack artist from 2011, DE Brandon Jenkins is out for the season with a foot injury. He will now be the main focus of opposing offensive lines and defensive coordinators and is likely to face more and more double teams from here on out. How he handles himself without Jenkins, who would’ve likely been a second round pick before his season-ending injury, will have a major effect on where he might land in the draft. The injury to Jenkins has not only affected Werner, but also senior DE Cornellius Carradine, who’s moved into the starting lineup and has quickly generated buzz and consideration among the top-100 prospects. He’s a talented, versatile pass-rusher from either side of the line that has shown an ability to repeatedly get to the quarterback. After Werner, CB Xavier Rhodes is FSU’s next top prospect and a potential second round selection. An imposing, physical corner, Rhodes is about the last guy receivers want to face. He likes to get aggressive and rough up opposing wide outs immediately off the line of scrimmage and is a more than willing tackler and big hitter. The best thing is he’s a great cover corner too. He’ll definitely be tested Saturday night, especially with his speed as Clemson features two blazing fast receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.  DT Everett Dawkins is also a player to watch for the Seminoles and could be a potential late third round pick.

For Clemson, they have a pair of talented playmakers to watch in WR Hopkins and RB Andre Ellington for the 2013 NFL Draft. They would have a third, if the team’s best player, WR Sammy Watkins was draft-eligible, but the super sophomore will have to wait until at least the 2014 draft. Hopkins is an extremely fast wide receiver that is devastating with the ball in open space. He has fantastic footwork and body control that allow him to make defenders miss and extend plays for more yards after the catch. That body control along with his large hands allow him to go up and make the difficult catches look easy. He’s not completely polished just yet and still needs to improve his route-running, but Hopkins is sure to intrigue some teams selecting in the second or third round. One of the top running backs available for the 2013 draft, Andre Ellington finally has his chance to shine as the featured back in a high scoring offense after battling for playing time with former teammates C.J. Spiller and Jamie Harper over the past three years. Speaking of Spiller, Ellington is very much the same player, although not quite as talented, but the success that his former teammate is having this year in the NFL should only help give a little boost to his draft stock. A speed back with the ability to make oncoming tacklers miss and hit the homerun play, Ellington is a dynamic playmaker whether running the ball or catching passes out of the backfield. He too should be a Day 2 draft pick.

These two teams also feature interesting quarterback prospects in FSU’s EJ Manuel and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. Manuel appears to possess all the raw physical abilities that one would want in a quarterback including NFL prototype size and arm strength, but he has yet to live up to his immense potential despite quite a bit of playing time over the his collegiate career. In his final year of eligibility, he really has to show scouts that he finally understands what it takes to be a potential NFL quarterback. Leading Florida State to a National Title this season could do just that. For now, he sits as a possible Day 2 selection. But that’s also predicated on him showing improvement in multiple areas this season.  Tajh Boyd might have been the best player through the first eight games of last year before struggling the rest of the way specifically with his decision-making. He possesses an intriguing combination of skills including the arm strength and mobility to play at the next level, but also lacks the size most NFL teams want in their quarterback. The opportunity is there for Boyd to thrust his name into the same discussions as higher rated quarterbacks with one of the best supporting casts of offensive weapons and one of the top offensive coordinators in the sport. I expect Boyd to make the improvements necessary in his game, but I also expect to see him back at Clemson for another year of seasoning. If he does in fact enter the draft, I see him as probably a third round prospect right now.

Written By: Mark Scott

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