The Top 2013 NFL Draft Prospect in Each Bowl Game
The college bowl season is an opportunity to get a good look at the next stars of the NFL. It typically gives us a chance to see these prospects go against better competition than they do for most of the regular season.
This article breaks down the best prospect from each of the bowl games. You'll notice that the games listed are the ones that have yet to be played.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Central Florida vs. Ball State
Where to Watch: December 21st, 7:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Quincy McDuffie, wide receiver/kick returner, Central Florida
Quincy McDuffie is raw as a wide receiver and will take time to develop. However, he's ready to immediately make an impact as a kick returner. McDuffie's quick-twitch ability and shiftiness helped him return six kickoffs for touchdowns in his college career.
That quickness also makes it possible for a team to use McDuffie on wide receiver screens. Once he has the ball in his hands, he's capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
McDuffie may not get drafted because of his limited skills as a wide receiver. However, he's someone who should find his way onto a roster as a special-teams contributor.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Where to Watch: December 22nd, 12:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Melvin White, cornerback/safety, Louisiana-Lafayette
Melvin White is an aggressive and smart defender who's constantly making impact plays. He's not afraid to come up and support the run or get physical with a wide receiver. His technique as a tackler is excellent, as he chases the ball-carrier with balance and wraps up. White plays with that same type of tenacity in the passing game.
He does a great job reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball. This allows White to either break up the pass, generate a turnover or make a tackle for a short gain.
White's size and commitment to supporting the run means he could be in line for a move to safety. He also has excellent ball skills and attacks the ball at its highest point. Don't be surprised if White comes off the board somewhere in the third round.
MAACO Bowl: Washington vs. Boise State
Where to Watch: December 22nd, 3:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Desmond Trufant, cornerback, Washington
Desmond Trufant is a highly experienced and savvy defensive back. He does a great job positioning himself to make a play on the football. Trufant loves to play close to the line of scrimmage and employ a bump-and-trail technique.
His physical play allows him to line up against bigger receivers and even tight ends. He doesn't let those bigger targets push him around.
Trufant must work on getting his head around quicker. Too often, he has his back to the quarterback when the ball arrives. In the NFL, this will result in a lot of pass interference calls.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. SMU
Where to Watch: December 24th, 8:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Margus Hunt, defensive line, SMU
Margus Hunt's natural size, strength and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect. He has the potential to develop into a real difference-maker. However, Hunt needs to spend time improving his technique.
He has a tendency to raise his pad level as the play progresses, which limits his push and ability to disengage. Hunt must find a way to consistently fire off the ball low and work to get inside hand placement. Too often, he fires into the line with his shoulders.
Look for Hunt to come off the board somewhere on the second day of the draft. NFL coaches love players with his type of natural ability.
Little Caesars Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
Where to Watch: December 26th, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Prospect: Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher is one of the faster rising prospects in the 2013 draft class. His combination of size, strength and quick feet make him a potential first-round pick. He projects as a left tackle at the next level, but he might need time to clean up his technique.
Look for teams in the middle of the first round like the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams to consider Fisher.
This draft class doesn't feature a ton of first-round talent at the tackle position. As it stands, Fisher sits behind only Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews in my tackle rankings.
Military Bowl: San Jose State vs. Bowling Green
Where to Watch: December 27th, 3:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Bowling Green
Keep an eye on Chris Jones throughout the draft process. He's the type of athlete who could quickly rise up the board. Jones possesses excellent raw athleticism, strength and size. He's an active defender who never quits on the play.
Jones can play either the three- or five-technique. He just needs better coaching and time to develop.
His biggest weakness is his improper use of his hands. He'd be much more effective if he consistently gained inside hand placement. This is something that should improve with coaching and more time spent working on this area.
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Duke
Where to Watch: December 27th, 6:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Dan Giordano, defensive line, Cincinnati
Dan Giordano is a versatile and intriguing defensive prospect. He doesn't have a defined position. He could fit as a 4-3 defensive end, a five-technique and an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. His combination of a strong anchor and quickness is what gives him the potential to fill multiple roles.
Giordano reminds me a lot of Courtney Upshaw in that he does a good job holding at the point of attack and has pass-rushing skills. However, Giordano appears to have a slightly quicker first step and better change-of-direction ability.
Finding a defined position for him will be a key to where he comes off the board. However, teams will love his high motor and ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs. UCLA
Where to Watch: December 27th, 9:45 p.m., ESPN
Prospect: Johnathan Franklin, running back, UCLA
Johnathan Franklin's production this season helped UCLA find success as well as increase his draft stock. His ability to quickly find the hole and accelerate gives Franklin a chance to come off the board somewhere in the second round.
Teams will instantly love his tough running style, as he's always fighting for extra yardage. He doesn't possess top-end power, but his low center of gravity and leg drive helps him pick up yards after contact.
Franklin boasts deceptive explosiveness that gives him the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Look for him to break off a few long runs against Baylor.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. UL-Monroe
Where to Watch: December 28th, 2:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Keavon Milton, tight end, UL-Monroe
Keavon Milton isn't the type of prospect who's going to turn a lot of heads. However, that doesn't mean he doesn't have a future in the NFL. Because of his 6'4", 290-pound frame, he has a chance to be converted to an offensive lineman.
Throughout his career, Milton has shown a willingness to help protect the quarterback and open running lanes. There have been several college tight ends who were successfully transitioned to offensive tackle, including Jason Peters of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Even if Milton can't cut it as an offensive tackle, he brings value as a blocking tight end.
Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech
Where to Watch: December 28th, 5:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Khaseem Greene, linebacker, Rutgers
Don't be surprised if Khaseem Greene finds his way into the top 15 of the 2013 draft. He's an explosive athlete who's always around the football. Greene isn't just content making a tackle, as he always looks to strip the ball or deliver a powerful hit.
His ability to play either inside or outside only increases his attractiveness. That type of versatility means that he's an option for any team looking for an explosive athlete at the linebacker position.
Greene's stock will continue to rise through the draft process. He's the type of athlete who will stand out at events like the combine.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Where to Watch: December 28th, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
Prospect: Cody Davis, safety, Texas Tech
Cody Davis possesses good size and length for the safety position. He also shows solid instincts and ability to read the quarterback. This allows him to jump routes and break on the ball. His three interceptions this past season show he has some ball skills.
The issue facing Davis is that he lacks top-end athleticism. His length is also a bit of an issue, as he can become too leggy and struggle making clean cuts.
At this point, Davis looks like a sixth- or seventh-round prospect with some upside. His draft stock will depend on how he tests during the combine and other workouts.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Rice vs. Air Force
Where to Watch: December 29th, 11:45 a.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Vance McDonald, tight end, Rice
Vance McDonald is a big-bodied tight end who does most of his damage in the passing game. Rice typically uses him in the slot or split out wide. He offers the quarterback a big target with reliable hands. It's unlikely he gets drafted, but he has a shot to make a roster as a free agent.
McDonald does a great job attacking the ball at its highest point and plucking it out of the air. He shows the body control needed to adjust and the feel to find open holes in the zone.
This game doesn't offer much else in the way of NFL prospects.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Where to Watch: December 29th, 3:15 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
Geno Smith will be one of the more interesting stories this draft season. He's my top-rated quarterback, but it's a stretch to say he's worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. However, the importance of the quarterback position means Smith will get some consideration at that spot.
What I love about Smith is his sound technique, leadership ability and excellent poise. He's not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit. Smith also does a good job remaining patient as he goes through his progressions.
Throughout his college career, he showed that he has the arm strength and willingness to attack the deep part of the field.
However, Smith needs to work on his anticipation and ability to read defenses. Too often he locks onto his No. 1 target.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Navy vs. Arizona State
Where to Watch: December 29th, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2
Prospect: Will Sutton, defensive tackle, Arizona State
Will Sutton is one of the more explosive defensive tackles in the 2013 draft class. His quick initial step allows him to generate a good jolt on the offensive line and shoot the gap. Sutton combines that quickness with excellent size that helps him to hold at the point of attack.
Offenses struggle to keep him out of the backfield because of his quickness and excellent hand usage. His quick and violent hands help him gain position and disrupt the timing of the offense.
Don't be surprised if Sutton works his way into the first round. NFL teams are always looking for interior defensive linemen capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon St
Where to Watch: December 29th, 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Prospect: Alex Okafor, defensive end, Texas
Alex Okafor isn't getting as much attention as the other pass-rushers in this draft. However, he possesses the skill set needed to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback. His numbers are a little down this year, but that falls on the way Texas used him.
Okafor is much more effective out of a three-point stance where he can better see the football and gain leverage. Standing up forces Okafor to play a little high and doesn't give him a proper view of the snap.
Players who possess Okafor's athleticism, high motor, use of leverage and a commitment to gaining inside hands typically find their way into the first round.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU vs. Michigan State
Where to Watch: December 29th, 10:15 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: William Gholston, defensive line, Michigan State
Neither TCU nor Michigan State boasts a ton of NFL-ready players. William Gholston offers the most upside of any player on either roster. However, he'll have a tough time coming off the board before the fourth round.
Gholston is typically pegged as a defensive end in a 4-3 system. However, he doesn't possess the explosiveness or athleticism to consistently generate pressure off the edge. His best fit in the NFL might be as a five-technique.
This is because he does a much better job setting the edge against the run and holding at the point of attack. Gholston may never develop into an elite playmaker, but he could be a solid rotational player.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: N.C. State vs. Vanderbilt
Where to Watch: December 31st, 12:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Jordan Matthews, wide receiver, Vanderbilt
The NFL places a high value on a player's quickness and speed. Jordan Matthews is a quick-twitch athlete who can quickly get up to full speed. That explosiveness makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
However, Matthews isn't just an athlete. He also does a good job catching the football with his hands. He's committed to attacking the ball at its highest point and plucking with his hands. Matthews is developing as a route-runner but shows potential in this area.
Matthews' elite quickness and speed gives him a chance to come off the board in the second round.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC vs. Georgia Tech
Where to Watch: December 31st, 2:00 p.m., on CBS
Prospect: Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC
Matt Barkley's decision to return to USC for his senior season has backfired. His draft stock is at an all-time low, with a chance he falls out of the first round. However, the overwhelming need for quarterbacks in the NFL means that someone is likely to make a trade if Barkley falls too far.
The concerns facing Barkley are his limited athleticism, questionable arm strength and less than ideal height. He also struggled this season with his decision-making. Barkley is too experienced to make some of the poor throws he did throughout the year.
He still has value because of his savvy, high football IQ and experience in a pro-style offense. Barkley is the type of prospect who doesn't bring a ton of upside, but he's NFL ready and will have a much higher floor than other quarterback prospects.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Where to Watch: December 31st, 3:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: A.J. Klein, linebacker, Iowa State
A.J. Klein uses his high football IQ and tenacity to put himself in position to make a play on the ball. He's also responsible for helping his teammates get into proper alignment. Klein isn't just a savvy player, he also possesses good athleticism.
However, it's his instincts and nose for the ball that allows him to make an impact. This is someone who won't wow scouts at the combine or workouts, but the film will tell the tale of his ability.
It's possible that Klein drops a little on draft day. However, he should be able to stick on a roster as a middle linebacker with upside and special teams contributor.
Chick-Fil-a Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson
Where to Watch: December 31st, 7:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Barkevious Mingo, defensive end, LSU
The NFL's obsession over the ability to rush the passer will help Barkevious Mingo come off the board early in the first round. However, he's anything but a finished product and needs more time to develop. Mingo's value comes from his upside and excellent raw athleticism.
His initial burst off the line and chance-of-direction ability allows him to generate pressure off the edge. He also possesses the balance to dip his shoulder and turn the corner. However, he needs to work on developing a better feel for his rush moves.
Too often, Mingo relies on his speed to create pressure. He must learn to feel the development of the play and counter off his speed move. Mingo also needs to get stronger at the point of attack, as his run defense is a bit of a problem.
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
Where to Watch: January 1st, 12:00 p.m., on ESPN2
Prospect: Johnthan Banks, cornerback, Mississippi State
Johnthan Banks might be my favorite prospect in the entire 2013 draft class. He's just a excellent all-around football player. This is a player who possesses a great feel for the game, always plays with maximum effort and knows how to get the most out of his ability.
Banks is a versatile defender who's capable of excelling in either man or zone coverage. His length and change-of-direction ability is what makes him solid in man coverage, and his nose for the ball and knack for reading the quarterback help him excel in zone.
This isn't just a solid cover man, as Banks also aggressively plays the run and can rush the quarterback from his cornerback spot. He might not wow during the combine or workouts, but he's a much better football player than the other cornerbacks in this draft.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Purdue vs. Oklahoma State
Where to Watch: January 1st, 12:00 p.m., ESNPU
Prospect: Kawann Short, defensive tackle, Purdue
Kawann Short possesses the skill set to be a first-round pick next April. However, his inconsistent motor and sloppy technique hurt his overall production. The NFL isn't looking for players who take plays off or lack the drive to meet their full potential.
There's a possibility that Short's motor problems are tied to overuse and stamina issues. He's the top playmaker on Purdue's defense and constantly faces double-teams. It's possible he just wears down throughout the course of the game.
Short's flashes of dominance should ensure that he still comes off the board somewhere on Day 2. His strengths include the ability to anchor at the point of attack and gain some penetration on the pocket. Short is extremely powerful and capable of getting inside hands and pressing the blocker.
This is a player with upside, but he needs to land in the right situation.
Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska
Where to Watch: January 1st, 1:00 p.m., on ABC
Prospect: Jarvis Jones, linebacker, Georgia
The only thing that could keep Jarvis Jones from becoming at top-five pick in April is his injury history. Jones has dealt with a string of nagging injuries and a serious neck injury. At this point, the neck problem is in the past. However, that doesn't mean some teams won't be concerned about his long-term health.
Outside of the injury concerns, Jones possesses the pass-rushing ability NFL teams covet. His experience in a pro-style 3-4 defense only increases his value. Jones boasts an advanced collection of pass-rush moves, including a speed attack and bull rush.
He needs to work on his ability to set the edge against the run, but he possesses the thickness and leverage to quickly improve.
Jones is a fit for any team looking for a pass-rusher. He has the Denver Broncos and Von Miller to thank for that. John Fox and company found ways to use Miller's pass-rush ability from a 4-3 alignment.
Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan
Where to Watch: January 1st, 1:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Michigan
Many have Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel as the top-rated offensive tackle eligible for the 2013 draft. However, Taylor Lewan boasts a better all-around skill set. He combines good athleticism, strong base and a nasty streak.
It's that nastiness as a run blocker that separates Lewan from Joeckel. Who comes off the board first will likely depend on the philosophy of the selecting team.
Lewan does a good job in pass protection, but at times his feet will become stationary and he'll overextend his arms.
Still, he is a top-notch talent. We're splitting hairs at this point.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Where to Watch: January 1st, 5:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Zach Ertz, tight end, Stanford
The tight end in the NFL continues to evolve into more of a receiving threat. Zach Ertz is basically just a big-bodied wide receiver who creates matchup problems. He's quick off the ball, runs crisp routes and attacks the ball at its highest point.
However, Ertz brings little as a blocker. He doesn't have the anchor to protect the quarterback and lacks the strength to open running lanes.
I have a hard time handing out a great grade for a player who's basically just a bigger/slower wide receiver. Ertz will create some mismatches, but needs to improve as a blocker. He'd be a good value early in the third round.
Discover Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State
Where to Watch: January 1st, 8:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
I've recently dropped Bjoern Werner a little in my rankings. His limited size, bulk and strength have the potential to make him a one-dimensional player. He still projects as an excellent pass-rusher who boasts the quickness to attack the edge.
It's that burst and closing speed that should keep him in the top-15 discussion. Teams need to spend time figuring out if he's a better fit at outside linebacker or defensive end. This determination will have a major impact on his draft stock.
While I have concerns about his ability to play the run, Werner shows the willingness to play with leverage and gain inside hand placement. It's this that gives him the potential to improve his anchor and ability to stuff the run.
Still, his value comes from his pass-rushing skills. He uses his quickness off the ball to gain position, and then dips his shoulder to get the edge. Werner has a chance to quickly develop into a double-digit sack man.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Louisville vs. Florida
Where to Watch: January 2nd, 8:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Sharrif Floyd, defensive line, Florida
Sharrif Floyd had the opportunity this season to make a run at potentially becoming a top-10 pick. However, his inconsistent play and lack of production kept him in the "prospect" category. This means that Floyd has a ton of talent, but just hasn't been able to put it all together.
He flashes the talent to penetrate the pocket, generate pressure off the edge and anchor versus the run. It's this versatility that makes Floyd such an attractive player and gives him a high ceiling. Floyd possesses the upside to become a disruptive force in the NFL.
However, someone with his talent level needs to make his presence felt more.
Too often, Floyd disappears and struggles to make an impact on the game. These bouts of average play give Floyd some potential to become a bust.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State
Where to Watch: January 3rd, 8:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Dion Jordan, defensive end, Oregon
Dion Jordan is the complete package as a pass-rusher. He possesses the length, quickness, motor and hand usage to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. The only concern about him is his lack of bulk.
However, he boasts a long frame that gives him a chance to add more size and muscle. His use of leverage and tenacity also help him overcome the weight concerns.
Jordan isn't just a pass-rusher. He's also able to drop back in coverage. Oregon often uses him split out on a tight end or wide receiver. This just shows the type of athleticism he possesses.
His stock will depend on what position teams project will be his best fit. The bulk concerns could lead some teams to feel he doesn't have the ability to play defensive end. However, he shows enough that he could quickly develop into that type of player.
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Where to Watch: January 4th, 8:00 p.m., on FOX
Prospect: Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is the top pass-protecting offensive lineman eligible for the 2013 draft. He possesses good balance, a natural bend and a quick shuffle. His ability to quickly get into his kick slide helps him reach the edge and stymie speed rushers.
However, Joeckel needs to spend time in the weight room increasing his power. He doesn't do a great job generating a push in the running game. Joeckel is more of a finesse blocker who might be a better fit in a zone-blocking scheme.
Still, he boasts the natural talents to develop into an elite NFL left tackle. He's more than capable of getting stronger and improving as a run-blocker. His protection skills will help teams forget about his issues in the running game.
BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss
Where to Watch: January 5th, 1:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Ray Graham, running back, Pittsburgh
Ray Graham is a small but compact running back. His low center of gravity allows him to hide behind his blockers, make quick cuts and pick up yards after the initial contact. Graham had a slow start to the season, but really picked it up as the year progressed.
His slow start can be blamed on the fact that he was recovering from a knee injury.
Graham is also a contributor in the passing game, where his good hands and shiftiness make him dangerous in space. This is the type of player an offense can target and feel strongly that he'll be able to break off a big gainer.
Godaddy.com Bowl: Kent State vs. Arkansas St
Where to Watch: January 6th, 9:00 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Brian Winters, offensive line, Kent State
Brian Winter lines up at right tackle for Kent State, but his future is at guard in the NFL. His good size, strength and power give him the potential to develop into an above-average starter at the next level. That he also possesses some athleticism and experience at right tackle means he could serve multiple roles along the offensive line.
Don't be surprised if someone takes a chance on Winters somewhere in the second round. He'll need time to fully develop, but his raw power and nastiness should immediately pay dividends in the running game.
Keep an eye on Dri Archer, as he's another Kent State prospect with upside. However, Winters possesses a slight edge on Archer because of Archer's lack of size. He is a Chris Rainey-type who will need a specific game plan to be effective.
Discover BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Notre Dame
Where to Watch: January 7th, 8:30 p.m., on ESPN
Prospect: Manti Te'o, linebacker, Notre Dame
Notre Dame leaned on its defense to make this run to the BCS National Championship Game, and the leader of that defense is Mani Te'o. He's the type of player who makes those around him better and helps his teammates get into proper position.
His leadership is something that will instantly help an NFL team improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Te'o also possesses the talent to back up that leadership ability. He boasts an excellent closing burst and the instincts to make plays from sideline to sideline. His ability to drop into coverage and make plays on the ball only increases his value.
There's a chance Te'o works his way into the top five of the draft.