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20 Best 2013 NFL Draft Prospects Not Going to a Bowl Game

Dan HopeContributor IIIDecember 8, 2014

20 Best 2013 NFL Draft Prospects Not Going to a Bowl Game

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    As college football’s bowl season begins Saturday, the spotlight will be on many talented prospects playing the last game of their college football careers before taking the next step to the National Football League.

    There are also many talented NFL draft prospects, however, on teams that are not among the 70 participating in this year’s bowl games.

    Before we shine the spotlight on the prospects playing in bowl games, we take a look at the 20 best players whose college football seasons have already ended. While these players miss out on the marquee opportunity of a bowl game to impress NFL scouts and a national audience, all of these 20 have already built a strong resume for the 2013 NFL draft.

    This slideshow includes both seniors and underclassmen, including underclassmen who are draft-eligible but have not yet declared their intent to enter the 2013 draft.

20. Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois

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    Michael Buchanan’s production dropped off in his senior season, but he remains a promising NFL prospect.

    With an impressive combination of athleticism and length, Buchanan is an intriguing pass-rushing prospect with the scheme versatility to play defensive end in a four-man front and outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

    Buchanan is probably best suited to make the transition to the 3-4 defense, because he would need to add bulk and become stronger to hold up as a run defender against NFL offensive linemen.

    His abilities to track down runners in space and get into the backfield, however, make him a player who should be able to spring to spark to the field as a rotational player in either defensive scheme.

19. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee (Jr.)

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    Tyler Bray continued to struggle with turning the ball over and missing targets in his junior season, so his best move would be to return to Tennessee for one more year of development. If he does declare for the 2013 NFL draft, he remains worthy of a mid-round selection as a quarterback with very promising physical tools.

    At 6’5’’ with a cannon arm and good mobility, Bray has the physical tools of a first-round pick. He did not show significant improvement, however, in his decision-making and accuracy from his sophomore to junior season, completing just over 59 percent of his passes for the second consecutive year.

    Bray’s physical ability and a demand at the quarterback position could make him a player who is overdrafted should he declare and test well at the NFL Scouting Combine. But while Bray has huge potential as a quarterback, he is a developmental project with whom NFL teams should proceed with caution.

18. Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

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    Virginia’s Oday Aboushi is one of the most physically-gifted offensive linemen in the 2013 draft class. He is 6’6” with long arms and good feet, and is a sound all-around blocker with the potential to grow into an NFL left tackle.

    Aboushi is not an overpowering run blocker, but he is a well-rounded tackle who rarely gives up sacks and has the upside to get much better.

    While he is unlikely to be an immediate starter at left tackle, he is a solid Day 2 draft choice as a developmental prospect who may be able to step in early at right tackle or guard.

17. Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

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    North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick is one of the top run-stopping middle linebackers in the 2013 draft class. He is an athletic linebacker with great tackling range, and consistently gets in the backfield to make plays, as evidenced by his 18.5 tackles for loss this season.

    Reddick will need to improve as a pass defender to be a three-down linebacker at the next level, for he is not a great pass-rusher and is not yet fluid in pass coverage. He has the skill set, however, to be a very solid all-around linebacker, especially as a run-stopper, in the middle of a 4-3 defense or as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

16. Dallas Thomas, OG/OT, Tennessee

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    Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas was a very solid left tackle during his sophomore and junior seasons, but kicking inside to left guard as a senior was probably a good move for his NFL future, as he will likely play guard at the next level.

    While Thomas’ feet are subpar for an NFL left tackle, he moves very well for a guard, where his length and strength also serve him well.

    Thomas is a very effective pass-blocking guard, and also a powerful lead run blocker. His offensive tackle experience makes him nimble enough to handle inside rushes, while he has the physical power to match up against gap-filling defensive tackles.

    Thomas’ versatility is one of his biggest strengths, as he can go to an NFL team with the potential to play either guard spot, right tackle or even left tackle in a pinch. He should be a solid Day 2 selection who can fill a hole or provide depth to an offensive line in need.

15. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

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    With a 9-3 record and an offense that scored 51.5 points per game this season, Louisiana Tech should be playing in a bowl game this postseason, but ended up failing to secure a bowl bid. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t do much to slow the NFL draft campaign of that prolific offense’s best playmaker, wide receiver Quinton Patton.

    Patton put up massive numbers in his senior season with 104 receptions and 1,392 receiving yards, and those numbers were no fluke. He is an athletic wideout with terrific hands and good route-running ability.

    Patton is both a downfield weapon and very good as a short and intermediate receiver, and can make plays in the open field. He projects well as a second or third receiver at the next level, and is a likely third-round draft pick.

14. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

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    It was a disappointing year for Arkansas as a whole, but wide receiver Cobi Hamilton proceeded to be one of the nation’s biggest playmakers at wide receiver.

    A wideout with great speed and ability to make spectacular catches, Hamilton was a big-play threat who caught 90 passes for 1,335 yards as a senior. Hamilton has some issues with concentration and drops, but he is a dynamic playmaker who can beat coverage with his speed and make plays in the open field.

    He needs to improve as a route-runner, but his potential as a playmaker in a passing offense makes him an intriguing Day 2 draft choice.

13. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (R-So.)

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    Giovani Bernard is only a redshirt sophomore, but he very well might be the first running back taken in a weak class of backs should he declare for the 2013 NFL draft.

    Bernard is a very well-rounded back, led by his great speed but also combined with good size, the ability to run through tackles and great hands out of the backfield.

    Bernard may not quite have the moves to make NFL defensive backs miss in space, but he has very good vision to find holes. With his speed, he will be able to break off big runs as well as get open downfield as a receiver for big plays in the passing game.

    In a class that lacks a definitive first-round running back, Bernard is a likely second-round pick who would likely be the first or second back selected, and is expected to declare for the 2013 draft according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.

12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (Jr.)

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    A junior college transfer, Cordarrelle Patterson has only played one season at Tennessee, but he made a name for himself immediately. Although he isn’t even the best wide receiver on his team (more to come on that later in the slideshow), he is a tremendous playmaker with the ability to make a big impact at the next level.

    Patterson has very good size and speed for a wideout, and while he can beat coverage in top gear, he can also make defenders miss in the open field.

    Patterson still needs to improve as a route-runner and become a more consistent performer, but he has huge upside. Even after just one season at Tennessee, he should be a second-round pick should he declare for the 2013 NFL draft.

11. Corey Lemonier, DE/OLB, Auburn (Jr.)

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    Corey Lemonier’s production dipped in a senior season where a lot went wrong for Auburn, but he remains one of the top pass-rushing prospects should he declare for the 2013 NFL draft.

    Lemonier is a tremendous athlete with an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage, which should enable him to contribute immediately at the next level as a pass-rusher.

    He played defensive end at Auburn and with his speed and ability to move in space he is best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level. Should Lemonier remain at defensive end, he needs to become stronger and improve against the run, but his ability to bring pressure into the backfield makes him a player with huge upside.

    While Lemonier has yet to declare his intentions for next season, it seems likely that he would declare early considering the turnover at Auburn. If he does, he should be a solid second-round choice.

10. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

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    Sylvester Williams is an outstanding athlete for a 320-pound defensive tackle, and at a school that has consistently produced first-round defensive linemen in recent years, he has the chance to be North Carolina’s next.

    Williams is an explosive lineman who is very good at penetrating the line to get into the backfield and make stops. He is a good interior pass-rusher, and a very active defensive lineman who moves around the field well.

    Williams needs to improve his technique—he is too reliant on the swim move—and become more physically strong, but he has big potential as a defensive tackle in a four-man front. He should be a solid second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

9. John Simon, DE, Ohio State

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    At only 6’2” and without exceptional athleticism, it is unclear where Ohio State’s John Simon fits in an NFL defense. But with an outstanding motor, work ethic and nose for the football, Simon should find a way to succeed.

    Simon has great strength for his size, and can bring pressure against the quarterback from both outside and inside. He is both a solid pass-rusher and stout run-stopper, and he has good quickness off the snap.

    Simon is best suited to play defensive end in a four-man front, where he may be able to slide inside as an interior pass-rusher as well. His productivity and developed skill set should make him a second-round pick.

8. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

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    A first-team AP All-American this season, North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper established himself as one of the nation’s elite guards in his senior season.

    Cooper has the power to bowl over defensive linemen he is matched up against, while he also has tremendous feet which enable him to move with the play and pick up defenders. He is a consistent pass-protector with the ability to pull outside and pick up edge-rushers, and he is also a very good lead-blocker in the run game.

    Cooper is a solid second-round pick who could sneak up into the first round with a high demand on offensive linemen.

7. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (Jr.)

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    Even with a breakout season from Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter bounced back strong from a torn ACL to be the star playmaker of Tennessee’s offense as a junior.

    With an outstanding combination of length, speed and leaping ability, Hunter has a wide catch radius and has the most upside of any wide receiver in the 2013 NFL draft class.

    Hunter is the top deep threat among draft-eligible receivers, and is a consistent big-play threat who forces opposing defenses to keep him covered at all times or risk being burned. He has some issues with drops and is raw as a route-runner, but has the potential to be a star.

    Hunter is reportedly searching for an agent and is therefore expected to declare for the draft, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net. Should he declare, Hunter is a fringe first-round pick.

6. Keenan Allen, WR, California (Jr.)

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    California wideout Keenan Allen may be the most well-rounded of any wide receiver prospect in the 2013 draft class. He is a big wideout with great hands and good athletic ability, as well as being a crisp route-runner and consistently productive at California.

    Allen does not have elite speed, limiting his big-play potential at the next level, and he is coming off a knee injury that ended his junior season early. What he has are the speed and skills to get open consistently, and with great hands, size and strength, he should be a very good possession receiver at the next level.

    Allen announced Dec. 5 that he would declare for the 2013 NFL draft, in which he should be a late first-round or early second-round pick.

5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

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    Much like his Arkansas team as a whole, Tyler Wilson had a disappointing senior season, marred by a rise in interceptions thrown and inconsistent accuracy. But while Wilson still needs to develop to be a successful NFL quarterback, he has the tools to be a very good starter at the next level.

    Wilson has a strong arm, sound mechanics, good pocket presence and the ability to make any throw on the field. His decision-making needs to improve to avoid costly mistakes, but he is a skilled pocket passer that could end up being a first-round pick, and at the very least should be an early second-round choice.

4. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (Jr.)

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    Sheldon Richardson had a breakout junior year, and did so against the best competition in the nation in Missouri’s first season in the SEC. For a defensive tackle, Richardson is an outstanding athlete who is not only an explosive penetrator at the line of scrimmage, but can get all around the field to make plays.

    Richardson is a good interior pass-rusher, and while he does not have the size and strength of many of the draft class’ other top defensive tackles, his ability to get into the backfield makes him a very good run-stopper. He still needs to get more powerful, but his length and athleticism gives him the potential to be a real difference-maker at the next level.

    Richardson should draw interest from teams with all defensive schemes, as he has the potential to excel as either an under tackle in a 4-3 front or as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

    He announced his intent to declare for the draft Nov. 30, and should be selected in the second half of the first round.

3. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (R-So.)

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    With tremendous athleticism and outstanding ball skills, Bradley Roby emerged as one of college football’s elite cornerbacks in his sophomore season. Roby was a shutdown cornerback all season for Ohio State, and emerged as a first-round draft pick should he declare for the 2013 NFL draft.

    Roby is an aggressive pass defender, but he rarely gets beat, and when he does his recovery speed often enables him to still make a play on the football. He is also a very good tackling cornerback who does a good job providing run support and blitzing off the edge.

    Roby does not have great size for an NFL cornerback, but he has the overall skill set to be a No. 1 cornerback at the next level. With two years of eligibility remaining, chances are good that Roby will return to make a championship run with the Buckeyes next season, but he is a likely top-20 selection if he declares.

2. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (Jr.)

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    Of all the future NFL players from the Ohio State defense this season, the best prospect among them is defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

    A 320-pound defensive tackle with explosive quickness, Hankins has a rare combination of size, power and athleticism that give him upside to be a potential standout as an NFL defensive tackle.

    Hankins isn’t a great pass-rusher, but he consistently draws double teams to free up lanes for his teammates to make plays. He is very good at blowing up run plays with his massive body and ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage, and although stamina seems to be an issue for him at times, he can be dominant when at his best.

    Hankins announced he would declare for the draft on Monday, which came as no surprise as he currently ranks as the class’ No. 4 overall prospect. He should be a top-15 draft pick.

1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

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    Defensive tackle may very well be the draft class’ best position, and the best among them is Utah’s Star Lotulelei. At 6’3’’ and 320 pounds, Lotulelei has the size, strength and power of an anchoring nose tackle, but combines that with outstanding athleticism, interior pass-rush ability and activity level for a player of his size.

    Lotulelei is a game-changer on the defensive front, who is not only a dominant run-stopper by filling gaps, but is also terrific at splitting blockers and bringing pressure. He could be a standout either as a nose tackle in the middle of a three-man front or as one of two defensive tackles in a four-man front.

    Lotulelei makes a case for being the best overall prospect in the 2013 NFL draft, and should certainly be a top-10 draft pick.

    Dan Hope is an NFL draft Featured Columnist and the New England Patriots game day correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.

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