by David Syvertsen
* Here is a full bowl schedule. There are 5 games today.
#88 Vance McDonald – TE – 6’6/260
1st Team All Conference USA. I have not seen Rice play yet, so this will be my first look. McDonald will also be down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Good opportunity for him because this tight end class is tough to figure after the top 2 guys.
#12 Geno Smith – QB – 6’3/220
Still has a shot at being the #1 overall selection in April. Impressive stats, but that will not factor in to the grade too much because of the wide open system he ran. Has a very strong arm. Nice touch on the deep ball, can fit the ball in to tight windows consistently. Can escape pressure in space well, has nice speed. Not very mobile in a crowded pocket though, lack of presence. Struggles to locate multiple progressions. Smith has upside but he enters the league as a RG III type on a much lesser scale. He’ll need fine tuning. He needs a specific system. I’ve read great reviews on who Smith is as a person and his work ethic has never been questioned. That goes further than talent. This will be an interesting next 3-4 months for him.
#1 Tavon Austin – WR – 5’9/171
Arguably the most explosive athlete in the 2013 Draft Class. 1st Team All American. Used mainly as a slot receiver where he caught 110 passes. Can be viewed as a change of pace running back as well. Carried the ball 61 times and averaged nearly 10 yards per rush. Also has elite return skills. What hurts Austin is obvious, the lack of size. As good as he looks to be on tape, some teams will downgrade him severely based on his height. There are not many receivers in the NFL that make a huge impact under 5’10. But Austin is tough, does not mind being in prone positions over the middle in traffic. He is clearly faster and more explosive than everyone around him. And he has legit football skills, he is more than an athlete. Think a smaller Percy Harvin here. 1st round potential, definitely a top 45 guy.
*#3 Stedman Bailey – WR – 5’10/195
Made the right decision and declared for the 2013 Draft. Some view Bailey as a better receiver prospect than Austin. Big time production over the past two seasons, almost unbelievable. 1500+ yards and 23 TDs in 2012, 1200+ yards and 12 TDs in 2011. A product of the system partially, but Bailey has a nice game. Gets the top possible grade for catching ability. Very reliable in traffic, downfield, and when running at full speed. Balanced athlete that can make very difficult catches look routine. Bailey is short, but not small. Strong kid, can be physical. Does not have elite speed or quickness like Austin, but he spent a lot of time behind defenses in college. 2nd or 3rd rounder that will make an impact right away. A safe bet.
#57 Jeff Braun – G – 6’5/316
The top offensive lineman on the Mountaineers in terms of his NFL potential. Huge frame, carries his weight well. Very good knee bend, maintains balance throughout. Very good in pass protection, does a nice job of being aware of both gaps. Can be stood up by a powerful defender but consistently holds his ground. Not a great space athlete, won’t offer much as a pulling guard. Has experience at right tackle and I think he could be a nice 6th or 7th lineman on the depth chart that could backup both interiors and right tackle. 6th-7th rounder.
#74 Ryan Madsen – C – 6’4/305
Over 50 career starts, mostly at center but has seen some action at guard. Would not label him a starting caliber lineman just yet. He has good feet for the interior, rarely makes the mental errors. But he lacks a true power element to his game. Catches a lot of defenders rather than punches. Struggled to hold ground against the tougher competition he faced. Does not make much of an impact at the second level as a run blocker. Late rounder with versatility.
*#67 Justin Pugh – OT – 6’5/297
Has not yet declared for the draft. Entered the 2012 season as one of my darkhorse top 10 picks. Long athlete with big time athletcism. Has a reputation for running with backs step for step downfield. Moves as if he were 250 pounds. Had a shoulder surgery last spring and forced him to miss the first 4 games of the 2012 season. Saw him twice this year and definitely lacked the power/strength element to his game. But seeing how fluid and comfortable he is in pass protection has to catch the attention of scouts and coaches. Pugh has a legit shot at being the top offensive lineman from this class 4-5 years down the road, there is a little Joe Thomas in him. Could be a great value opportunity for a team, as he will be available in round 3 or 4.
#21 Shamarko Thomas – S – 5’10/208
One of my favorite college football players to watch. Reminiscent of Bob Sanders. Has experience as CB, LB, and S but his best role is definitely the Troy Polamlu type. Csan build a secondary and/or middle of a defense around this guy. You won’t find a more aggressive player than Thomas but he has football skills as well. Covered Robert Woods and Maquise Lee from USC in man coverage, did a very nice job. Can deliver the bone-jarring hits in pursuit, enforces the danger of going over the middle to catch a pass. The lack of height/length can turn some off, but this kid is a football player. He can do so many of the little things, it will be impossible to keep him off the field because he simply makes plays. Likely a 3rd-4th rounder but I will likely have him in the top 45 on my board.
#12 Ryan Nassib – QB – 6’2/229
One of the best QBs in Syracuse history. Leaves the school at the top of a lot of career statistical rankings. Never had a big time, banner year but the tape he has from 2011 and 2012 seasons are good enough to label him an NFL prospect. Nothing stands out physically, but he does everything well. I like his poise in the pocket. Tough and smart. Quick reactions. Has nice mobility within the pocket. Nassib will impress during interviews and private workouts which is where a lot of these guys make or break their draft grades. He has a shot at being a 3rd round pick.
#15 Alec Lemon – WR – 6’2/203
Record setting wide receiver at Syracuse. Had arguably the best season a WR has ever had at the school. Smooth and steady, reliable receiver with nice size. Hustler. Does everything the right way and goes all out, all the time. Has a suddenness to him, and it shows as a route runner and after the catch. He won’t wow anyone with speed or agility scores at the combine, but he plays faster than he will time. Very good at the little nuances of the position that go overlooked by the public. Sure handed. His limitations will hurt his draft position but I think there is enough to like here that will make him a 4th-6th round pick.
#5 Marcus Sales – WR – 6’0/183
The most talented receiver on the team Somewhat reminiscent of former Cuse’ receiver Mike Williams, currently of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Capable of taking over games, can make catches all over the field. Has some deceptive speed to him when he runs his routes correctly. Had some off the field issues that forced him to miss the 2011 season, but came back strong and had a consistent 2012. A guy that does a lot of the little things well. Late rounder.
*#90 Will Sutton – DT – 6’1/267
Junior that has not yet declared, but I expect him to. Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Appears to be unblockable at times. His size will limit him to specific schemes at the next level but a guy that can penetrate with the consistency Sutton does won’t be available for long. He is explosive off the snap but he makes his money on what he does once the blocker commits. Does very well with the last second, subtle moves to get the opponent off balance and has the strength in his base and hands to toss them aside. Very explosive, decisive, and strong once he gets in to the backfield. Makes a lot of high impact physical hits to blockers and ball carries. Plays a lot like Geno Atkins. Outside shot at round 1 if the right schematic fit is there, but more likely a 2nd rounder.
#8 Brandon Magee – LB – 6’0/228
Standout baseball player. Was drafted by the Red Sox this past June. May have a better future there. Magee is a physical, blue collar type linebacker. Can really deliver a blow when his weight is behind it. Violent when attacking blockers, often seen knocking them backwards. But when asked to flow towards the action within the tackle box, Magee looks lost. If he does not diagnose right away and get an initial position advantage, a good blocker will own him. Gets locked on to with ease and struggles to free himself, short arms, weak hands. Late rounder with special team potential, but that’s about it.
#4 Kenny Vaccaro – S – 6’1/218
One of my favorite safeties in the 2013 class. 1st round potential for sure. The kind of guy that can take on any role within the secondary and do well. One of the best tackling defensive backs in the nation. I love the combination of technique and physicality he brings to the table when trying to bring down a ball carrier. Very fast on the field, plays at a different speed than most of his opponents. Incredibly instinctive, and very fluid hips. Put those two together and you can see why he appears to be so fast on tape. Does well in zone coverage but I’m most impressed by his ability to shadow receivers. I think he will end up being the first safety selected in April.
#80 Alex Okafor – DE – 6’4/265
Thick, powerfully built defensive lineman that has a good amount of experience on the edge and inside. Versatile. I like Okafor because of how many different ways he can help a defensive front. He’ll be sought after the most by teams looking for linemen back up multiple positions and that can be moved along the front. My issue with him is simple. He doesn’t stand out in any facet of the game. He is really tight in the hips and I don’r see him being a tough edge rusher for tackles in the NFL to handle one on one. He is strong and plays low, but won’t collapse pockets from the interior. Doesn’t make a whole lot of impact in space as a pursuit guy. What some may view as big time versatility, I see a guy that does some little things well but hasn’t mastered any of them. 3rd-4th round talent because of his ability to fill multiple backup positions on the depth chart.
#14 Jordan Poyer – CB – 6’0/190
1st Team All American. 7 interceptions this year. Personally I don’t have him in my top 3 but there are a lot of guys I respect telling me he could be a top 25 pick. Plays hard, plays physical enough. Very good in press coverage at the point of attack. A little too hands on downfield though, so he will have to alter a few elements to his game. Poyer is athletic, quick feet. He is not very assertive though. A lot of recovery steps, balance and efficiency isn’t there very often. Good ball skills, can attack and position himself well. Adds value as a return man. 2nd-3rdrounder.
#2 Markus Wheaton – WR – 6’1/182
There will be some teams around the league that view Wheaton as top 45 overall prospect. Elite speed. May run close to a 4.3 at the combine. Accomplished track athlete. Can fly up the field as fast as any receiver in the nation. Very good ball skills, adjusts well and is aggressive. Strong hands. Wheaton does not move well in and out of breaks though considering the athleticism he has. Not very quick in a short space, more of a straight line guy. Not afraid of contact, but won’t bull his way for extra yards by breaking tackles. Potential big plays every week with his combination of speed and hands similar to Torrey Smith, Devery Henderson. However not an every down threat, has too many limitations to be considered a top tier talent. 2nd-4th rounder.
#66 Blaize Foltz – G – 6’4/310
Well known for some insane strength numbers in the weight room. Someone that works in the fitness industry, it is almost unbelievable to see the weight he can put up with the bench, squat, and cleans. While it won’t necessarily make him a great NFL lineman, it is a testament to work ethic and shows a glimpse of his upside. Foltz has tools that can be worked with. He is very long, very thick. Can completely engulf a defender and control him if his technique and balance are there. He has heavy steps. Not a great pass protector but upside is there. Has the tendency to plant his feet in to ground and win battle with his hands too often. His issues are correctable I think. Potential starter here that can be had in the round 5-7 region.
#11 Skye Dawson – WR – 5’9/183
Top tier speed. May be a guy that can time sub 4.3 in the forty. Well respected and awarded track athlete. Has football skills. Fluid and easy mover when making cuts, not just a straight line athlete. Has some toughness to him. Wants to be a complete player. I Think Dawson can contribute right away as a return specialist and work his way in to a wide receiver rotation. These kind of guys usually go in the 5th-7th round region. Top tier speed with some football ability is always worth looking in to.
*#24 Le’Veon Bell – RB – 6’2/244
Underclassman that has yet to declare. Did not have the huge 2012 that many were calling for, but he did carry the ball 350 times. How much could he gain by going back for his senior year? Not much. He is what he is and running backs get huert too easily to risk another 300+ carry season. Bell is more than a power back. He has more agility and fluidity in his lower half than you think. He can make the last second, subtle movements to avoid the meat of a tackle and spring free. Very good balance, stays upright after contact. Some backs at this size struggle on 3rd and short because they aren’t quick enough to the line. When Bell is decisive, he can get there as fast as anyone. He does run high though, which will need to change at the next level. Underachieved in 2012 but I don’t think it was on him. He is a capable, starting caliber back that could likely be had in round 3.
*#2 William Gholston – DE – 6’7/278
Junior that has not yet declared. Could get drafted on his tool set alone, but you need to be careful with these guys. He’ll test out well athletically. He has all the size in the world. But he has under-produced two years in a row now. Gholston is a load to move. He fires out of his stance with all his weight behind him and can deliver a blow to the blocker. Strong hands, uses them well to shed blocks. Quick reaction inside the box, can really factor in to the run game. Does not have the pass rush skills that elite defensive ends possess. He lacks the secondary explosion to beat blockers to the edge. Too much of a bull rusher. I think Gholston could be a Calais Campbell type if he finds the right scheme. Only a few defenses could maximize his value if he is a top 45 selection. Otherwise, he is more of a 3rd round kind of guy. High ceiling.
*#80 Dion Sims – TE – 6’5/285
Junior that has not yet declared. Huge frame. Carries his weight well and can act as an extra lineman in the running game. One of the best run blockers at the position. Great extension and knee bend. Controls the engagement and does a nice job of consistently getting his hips in the hole. Michigan State likes to run behind Sims, even more so than their linemen. Can trick defenses with his ability in space. Sneaky fast with good acceleration. Powerful runner, puts his weight behind his pads and falls forward. Smart and savvy player. Alge Crumpler type that could be a top 100 pick.
#5 Johnny Adams – CB – 5’11/187
Incredibly aggressive and physical. Likes to take a lot of chances in coverage and while it has led to him being burned a few times, I like the way he plays. In the right scheme, I can see Adams being an early and steady contributor. I’ve seen him play a lot of catch up defense where he makes a guess, ends up being wrong, and is fighting to get back in proper position. There are couple timing and technique issues that need to be ironed out in press coverage, but I see him doing better in the NFL than he did in college. 5th-6th rounder, good value opportunity.
#10 Chris Norman – LB – 6’1/233
Very fast, aggressive, borderline reckless linebacker. Plays so hard, some minor injuries have been a result of how violent he attacks the offense. Great in pursuit. Has true sideline to sideline range. Will be a scheme specific linebacker. Does well in coverage. Does not fill the inside lanes well at all though. Gets lost in the action, struggles to locate running lanes. Won’t break away from NFL blockers. I see him as a solid pass defender and special teamer. 5th-7th rounder.
#98 Anthony Rashad White – DT – 6’2/330
Won’t pop up on a lot of radars, but there is some potential here. Huge body, I’d be shocked if he weighed less than 340. Moves surprisingly well, can really get after it in pursuit. Problem with him is that he doesn’t rush the passer well and he gets pushed around too much in the running game. If he was a good run stuffer that could control double teams, some would view him as a 2nd rounder. Big guys that move as well as he do deserve a shot though. 6th-7th rounder.