2013 NFL Draft: One Prospect for Miami Dolphins Fans to Watch in Each Bowl Game
With college bowl season underway, this is a perfect time to start taking a sneak peak at the prospects we'll be discussing ad nauseam in the lead up to the 2013 NFL Draft.
Although the slate of bowl games has grown comically long, there's at least one prospect in each game that may pique the interest of the Miami Dolphins.
Hence, they should pique yours as well.
So, there's actually some incentive to watch—or, at least give some attention to—the following 33 games. The future nucleus of the Dolphins organization may be suiting up over this next month, after all.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
BYU v. SDSU: Dec. 20, 8:00 PM ET
If the NFL Draft were tomorrow, then the Dolphins would most likely select a defensive end in the first round. Outside of Cameron Wake, Miami doesn't have anybody capable of generating a pass rush. Plus, Wake turns 31 in January.
Ezekiel Ansah is lurking below the radar now, but expect to hear more about him as the draft nears. He's a ferocious pass rusher who currently projects a late-first, early-second round selection.
ESPN's Mel Kiper believes Ansah could be the first senior defensive off the board in April.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Kemal Ishmael, FS, UCF
UCF vs. Ball State: Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
Unless you're a UCF Golden Knights fan, chances are you've never heard of Kemal Ishmael.
You probably won't hear his name uttered at any point over the next few months either.
Ishmael projects as a late-round or undrafted prospect, but his body of work at UCF should be enough to capture some teams' attention. He led the Golden Knights in tackles for three consecutive seasons and also intercepted three passes in 2012. If anything, he could be a nice special teams asset.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Melvin White, CB, Louisiana Lafayette
East Carolina vs. Louisiana Lafayette: Dec. 22, 12 p.m. ET
Another game highlighted by a late-round defensive back.
When East Carolina and Louisiana Lafayette clash on Saturday, keep your eyes on Ragin' Cajun cornerback Melvin White. He's one of the only NFL-caliber prospects participating in this thrilling matchup. White has prototypical cornerback size (6'1", 191 pounds) and was anointed the leader of LA Lafayette's defense prior to the 2012 season.
MAACO Bowl: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Washington vs. Boise State: Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET
The Dolphins need to address the cornerback position whether or not they re-sign Sean Smith. Nolan Carroll has been pedestrian at best, Jimmy Wilson is still in a positional identity crisis and Richard Marshall was merely mediocre before he went down with a season-ending back injury.
One prospect that will definitely interest the Phins is Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant (the younger brother of NFL corners Marcus and Isaiah Trufant). NFL bloodlines aren't the only thing working in his favor.
He was a stud who discouraged opposing QBs from even throwing to his side of the field. Trufant also won All-Pac-12 first-team honors, the Huskies' defensive MVP award, and the Guy Flaherty Award—given to the team's most inspirational player.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Fresno St v. SMU: Dec. 24, 8:00 PM ET
Even if you didn't watch this game intent on watching SMU defensive end Margus Hunt, you'd notice him anyway. That's because Hunt is 6'7", 280 pounds of pure, godly Estonian muscle. Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports gave Hunt the top spot in his annual "Freak List":
"The native of Estonia sounds like a PlayStation football creation: A 6-foot-8, 280 pounder with an 82-inch wingspan. Yet despite those long arms, he can still bench 225 35 times, and his coach, SMU track coach Dave Wollman, predicts Hunt will rep it 45 times next year at the NFL combine and clock a 4.60 40-yard dash. Hunt has cleaned 384 pounds, snatched 345 and vertical jumped 36 inches. "He's off-the-scale powerful," said Wollman. "On that kind of frame, seeing the cleans and the snatch go that high to the ceiling, it is amazing."
Hunt is a prodigious track talent. He won gold medals in the shot and discus at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing, becoming the first junior athlete to ever achieve such a double. He didn't leave his country and move to Dallas to play college football. He moved to Texas to train with Wollman, but SMU hasn't been able to get back its men's track program. Hunt still wanted to train with Wollman, who had mentored another decorated discus thrower from Estonia. To help cover the cost of tuition, Wollman figured with Hunt's size and athleticism, he might be able to help the Mustangs football team. After Hunt blasted blocking sleds and ran a 4.70 40 during a tryout, June Jones said, "Oh yeah, I'll take him."
That move has paid off nicely for the Mustangs on the gridiron. Hunt has blocked 14 kicks in three years and had 7.5 tackles for loss last season, including a breakout three-sack performance in SMU's bowl win over Pitt. Wollman has coached 19 Olympians in his career and Hunt has the athleticism and is hard-wired to become No. 20. "He's the most kinetic aware of any athlete I've ever had," Wollman said, launching into a dissertation about Hunt's wondrous hand-eye coordination and a remarkable acute level of body awareness. As a football player, Hunt is still pretty raw, having only played -- and trained for the sport -- for just a few years. He says this offseason he's working to get his legs bigger and hopes to lower his center of gravity. Hunt has even put his track career on hold for football, which has bothered some folks back home, he said: "I was called a national traitor because I 'started doing some stupid sport.' My mom reads the Internet comments. I had to calm her down. But no matter what, Estonia will always be my home country."
Wollman is optimistic that his protégé won't just make it in the NFL soon, but that Hunt's visibility and what he's done for Mustang football will also help bring the men's track program back to SMU."
Little Caesars Bowl: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan: Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET
Will the Dolphins re-sign Jake Long?
The answer to this question will dictate how much of Miami's offseason plays out. Specifically, it'll dictate whether or not it drafts an offensive tackle early in the 2013 draft. If Long leaves, then you can rest assured the Dolphins will grab an OT in the first or second round.
If this is indeed the case, then CMU's Eric Fisher will be on their draft draft. Fisher is a 6'7", 305-pound anchor to one of the MAC's most dominant offenses. Fisher is the consensus No. 1 senior tackle in this year's draft class, and you should expect a dominant performance when his squad faces Western Kentucky next Wednesday.
Military Bowl: Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
San Jose St vs. Bowling Green: Dec. 27, 3 p.m. ET
Anthony Fasano is a free agent, Charles Clay was a monumental disappointment and Michael Egnew still hasn't cracked the active roster for a single game. The Dolphins need to add another tight end this offseason because they can't rely on Egnew and Clay entering next season.
One option lurking in the shadows is San Jose State's Ryan Otten. The 6'5", 245-pound senior caught the eye of Mel Kiper:
Big tight ends who can stretch the field and haul in passes like wide receivers? Yeah, they seem to have grown in popularity in the NFL. Otten fits the bill as another matchup headache for defensive coordinators. This is a player who at 6-6, 245, can really work vertically. What jumps out to me on tape is the ability to separate in close quarters, meaning off the line he can really shed nickel corners and safeties. After that, he can work down the field, as evidenced by his over 16 yards per catch average.
Otten adjusts to the ball in the air really well, has good hands and could be a poor man's Tyler Eifert in the 2013 draft. I have him with a mid-round grade now, a possible value in the fourth round. But it will be interesting to see how he runs, because these guys play huge roles in offenses across the league. I could see a team falling in love and jumping on him earlier.
Belk Bowl: Conner Vernon, WR, Duke
Cincinnati vs. Duke: Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. ET
Trivia: Who is the ACC's all-time leader in receiving yards?
Answer: Conner Vernon
There's nothing flashy about this 6'1", 200-pound wideout's game, but the same could be said about Brian Hartline and Davone Bess when they entered the league. The Dolphins will draft at least one wide receiver in the first or second round, and they'll probably pick up two or three by draft's end.
Vernon's sure hands and speed make him an interesting mid-round target for Miami.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Baylor vs. UCLA: Dec. 27, 9:45 p.m. ET
One of my personal favorites, Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams will definitely be on Miami's radar come April.
Williams was groomed in Baylor's offense, which incorporates elements of a West Coast offense. This makes him a natural fit for the Phins. But, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Williams is also 6'2", 205 pounds and boasts sub-4.5 speed. He can slice up secondaries with quick, concise routes over the middle, or he can slip behind them and reel in deep balls.
By the time the 2013 draft rolls around, Williams could easily work his way into the middle of the first round.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Matt Weller, K, Ohio
Ohio v. Louisiana Monroe: Dec. 28, 2:00 PM ET
Unless you went to Ohio or Louisiana Monroe, you probably have no interest in watching this game.
NFL scouts don't, either.
Ohio kicker Matt Weller is one of, if not the only potentially NFL-caliber players suiting up for this game. This season, Weller converted on 22 of 30 field goal attempts and hit all 46 of his PAT attempts.
Russell Athletic Bowl: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech: Dec. 28, 5:30 PM ET
Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan is the most-heralded prospect playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but he's yet to declare himself eligible for the 2013 draft.
If he does, then he should be a target for the Dolphins in the second round.
The 6'0", 190-pound junior enjoyed a tremendous 2012 season. Ryan played well enough to earn a spot on the All-Big East First Team. And, according to NFLDraftScout.com, "[He] currently ranks first in the conference and tied for eighth nationally in passes defended, averaging 1.50 per game. He additionally ranks second on the team with 87 tackles."
Others to Watch: Khaseem Greene (OLB, Rutgers), Corey Fuller (WR, Virginia Tech), Nick Becton (OT, Virginia Tech), Marcus Davis (WR, Virginia Tech)
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech
Minnesota vs. Texas Tech: Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET
The Meineke Car Care Bowl doesn't feature any notable NFL prospects; however, Texas Tech safety Cody Davis is one worth watching.
Davis is a durable tackling machine who led the Red Raiders with 91 tackles and three interceptions in 2012. His measurables—6'2", 204 pounds, 4.47 speed—could boost him into the back end of the draft, perhaps the sixth or seventh round.
Further helping Davis' cause is his experience. He leads all current Texas Tech players with 48 career starts. At the very least, he should draw some intrigue as a special-teams ace, whether as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Vance McDonald, H-Back, Rice
Rice vs. Air Force: Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m. ET
Another game lacking NFL Draft intrigue with the exception of one player.
When Air Force and Rice face off in the Armed Forces Bowl, keep your eye on Rice tight end/H-back Vance McDonald. The 6'4", 260-pound senior has been a versatile asset for the Owls, moving around from tight end to wide receiver.
McDonald earned an invite to the Senior Bowl for his outstanding play this season, during which he caught 35 passes for 433 yards and two touchdowns despite missing three games.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
West Virginia vs. Syracuse: Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. ET
One game with no shortage of NFL Draft prospects is the Pinstripe Bowl, which pits two Big East rivals against each other in Yankee Stadium.
While much of the country will be watching WVU quarterback Geno Smith, Dolphins fans should keep their eyes on his favorite target: Tavon Austin. What Austin lacks in size (5'9", 172 pounds), he makes up for in athleticism. He once clocked a scorching 4.28 40, according to NFLDraftScout.com, and he backed that up with 110 receptions for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
The Dolphins need playmakers, and they need not look any farther than Austin.
Others to Watch: Stedman Bailey (WR, WVU), Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Brandon Magee, LB, Arizona State
Navy vs. Arizona State: Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET
Arizona State linebacker Brandon Magee follows Vontaze Burfict as the latest Arizona State Sun Devil linebacker to emerge as an NFL prospect.
But don't be mistaken, Magee is no Burfict.
While Burfict's draft stock was devastated by personal issues, Magee just isn't the same caliber. That being said, he's still bound to be a late-round or undrafted target for a few teams. After all, he did earn second-team All-Pac-12 honors this season thanks to his nose for the football.
Magee was also drafted in the 23rd round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. He'll have to convince NFL teams that football is his foremost priority.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Texas vs. Oregon St: Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET
Although Texas is capping off another mildly disappointing season, this team has some highly impressive individuals who will be selected early in the 2013 NFL Draft.
One of those players is Alex Okafor, a 6'5", 265-pound defensive end who registered eight sacks and 60 tackles in 2012. His earned a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team and CBS Sports crowned him its Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Okafor's combination of production and size makes him an ideal prospect. Although he may fly under the radar given the volume of elite defensive ends in this year's draft class, don't be surprised if the Dolphins call his name in April.
Others to Watch: Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas), Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas), Jordan Poyner (CB, Oregon State), Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
TCU vs. Michigan St: Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET
The final game from a jam-packed day of college football features TCU and Michigan State.
Spartans tight end Dion Sims is not only one of the few NFL prospects playing in this game, but he's also a very viable target for the Miami Dolphins. As stated earlier, this team still needs to add an athletic tight end, and Sims fits the bill.
The 6'5", 285-pound junior is yet to declare himself eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, but after reeling in 33 passes for 451 yards this might not be a bad time to cash in and enter it. Mel Kiper believes that if Sims enters the draft, then he could be selected as high as the second round:
Huge kid. Obviously had the injury this year. Has had some injury issues during his career. But gifted receiver, can get down the field, has a ton of talent. I'd say he's a guy, with the tight ends being in vogue in the NFL like they are, would have to be in that second-round discussion.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: David Amerson, CB, NC State
NC State vs. Vanderbilt: Dec. 31, 12 p.m. ET
Prior to the 2012 college football season, David Amerson was heralded as one of the finest players in the nation. After intercepting 13 passes as a sophomore, he projected as a sure-fire first-round pick.
However, his play dipped this year, perhaps enough to knock him into the second round. It's hard to believe Amerson will slip out of the first round when it's all said and done. Although he may have declined in 2012, he still intercepted five passes and earned a spot on the All-ACC Second Team.
But, let's not jump the gun quite yet.
Amerson still has to declare himself eligible for the 2013 draft. One thing is for sure, though: The defensive back-needy Dolphins hope he'll enter. At 6'2", Amerson may be able to play safety in the NFL. Given its needs at both cornerback and safety, he'd be a nice addition for Miami.
Others to Watch: Mike Glennon (QB, NC State), Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
Hyundai Sun Bowl: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
USC vs. Georgia Tech: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET
The Trojans were hugely disappointing in 2012, but, like Texas, they're still loaded with NFL talent.
Safety T.J. McDonald could've been a first or second-round pick had he entered the draft last year, but he opted to stay in pursuit of a national title. That's a very admirable decision that reflects solid character, and his captaincy further amplifies his leadership qualities.
At 6'2", 205 pounds, he also has prototypical size.
While Reshad Jones is emerging as a top-flight NFL safety, his counterpart Chris Clemons has been merely serviceable. The Dolphins are in the market for a safety entering this offseason, and snagging McDonald in, say, the second round would be a great move.
Others to Watch: Robert Woods (WR, USC), Nickell Robey (CB, USC), Morgan Breslin (DE, USC), Omoregie Uzzi (OG, Georgia Tech)
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State
Iowa St vs. Tulsa: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET
With Karlos Dansby in the fold, middle linebacker might not strike you as a position the Dolphins need to address in the 2013 draft.
But here's a question to ponder: What if Dansby went down with a serious injury? Is Austin Spitler capable of ably filling in? Although Spitler has looked fine in preseason games, he's yet to show that he's anything more than a run-of-the-mill backup.
This is an ideal time for the Phins to add legitimate depth in their linebacker corps, and taking a mid-round flier on Iowa State's A.J. Klein would be a good start. Klein anchored the Cyclones defense with 98 tackles. He'll likely be selected between the third and fifth rounds.
Chick-Fil-a Bowl: Barkevious Mingo & Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
LSU vs. Clemson: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
The best game on New Year's Eve is also the one Dolphins fans should make an effort to watch.
LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery both project as potential top-10 picks, and there's no doubt they'll be on Miami's radar throughout the next few months.
While Montgomery is more of a polished product who relies on power, Mingo is a raw player with immense upside who boasts top-end athleticism. Montgomery may make a greater immediate impact, but Mingo could develop into a superstar down the road.
If the Dolphins can get their hands on either of these players, then their front seven will see an immediate boost.
Others to Watch: Eric Reid (S, LSU), Kevin Minter (ILB, LSU), Lavar Edwards (DE, LSU), DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson), Andre Ellington (RB, Clemson),
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Mississippi St v. Northwestern: Jan. 1, 12:00 PM ET
The first game of the new year features one very noteworthy NFL prospect: Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.
Banks is the recipient of this year's Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive back. He was also voted onto a whopping nine All-American and All-SEC lists. He was one of only seven players to be unanimously voted onto the All-SEC first-team.
Because the Dolphins are in the market for a cornerback, Banks will be an obvious target.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State: Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET
Though these two programs have historically spewed out NFL prospects, both are in a drought this year.
There is one player who NFL scouts will be watching during the Heart of Dallas Bowl, however: Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle.
With Reggie Bush likely on the outs, the Dolphins will have an open spot at running back. While they could give Marcus Thigpen an expanded role on offense or turn to incumbent Jonas Gray, there's also a chance Miami will spend a mid-round pick on a running back.
If the Dolphins indeed draft a running back, then it'll be an explosive one. Randle is just that, having rushed for 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns on 257 carries. With a 6'1", 200-pound frame and 4.5 speed, he could land in the second round, which is likely too high for Miami's liking.
Capital One Bowl: Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Georgia vs. Nebraska: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Because the Dolphins have so many needs to address in the 2013 draft, positions that aren't necessarily desperate for upgrades—safety—likely won't be addressed until the middle rounds.
But, that doesn't mean Miami can't find starting-caliber players for those positions.
Georgia safety Bacari Rambo was a leader for the Bulldogs defense, recording three interceptions, three forced fumbles and 67 tackles. Rambo's propensity for causing turnovers would be a welcome trait on a Dolphins defense that is on pace to post a franchise low in that category.
Others to Watch: Jarvis Jones (OLB, Georgia), Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia), Alex Ogletree (ILB/S, Georgia), Shawn Williams (S, Georgia), Tavarres King (WR, Georgia)
Outback Bowl: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
South Carolina vs. Michigan: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Jake Long and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan could switch jobs for a day and nobody would notice.
Lewan is essentially Long's clone. He plays at Long's alma mater, plays the same position, wears the same number and even has a nearly identical build. The only notable difference between the two is weight. Long weighs in at 319, while Lewan weighs in at 310.
Anyway, if the Dolphins opt to draft an offensive tackle with their first-round pick, then Lewan might be their guy. In order to justify his early-first-round draft status, Lewan will have to hold his own against South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl. This is a matchup you don't want to miss.
Others to Watch: Denard Robinson (QB/WR, Michigan), Marcus Lattimore (RB, USC), D.J. Swearinger (S, USC)
Rose Bowl: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Wisconsin vs. Stanford: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
While freakishly athletic tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis terrorize the NFL, the Dolphins continue relying on Anthony Fasano.
Michael Egnew was supposed to fill this void, and while it's too early to give up on him it'd also be a mistake to pass up on a prospect like Zach Ertz in hopes Egnew will catch on.
Ertz led all tight ends in receptions (66) and receiving yards (837) this season, which is no small feat for a player that is a commanding 6'6", 252 pounds. He also caught game-winning touchdowns against USC and Oregon State.
As the draft nears, Ertz's stock rises. By the time April rolls around, there's a good chance he'll be a first-round prospect. Maybe Miami should consider using one of their four second and third-round picks to trade up and grab him.
Others to Watch: Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford), Chase Thomas (OLB, Stanford), Shayne Skov (ILB, Stanford), Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin), Rick Wagner (OT, Wisconsin)
Discover Orange Bowl: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Northern Illinois vs. Florida St: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Once again, the Orange Bowl features a less-than-alluring matchup, but that doesn't mean there's a shortage of NFL prospects to watch.
Headlining this group is FSU defensive Bjoern Werner, who's gaining steam as a top-10 selection.
Werner, a 6'4", 256-pound junior, led the ACC in sacks with 13 and tacked on 18 tackles for loss. He has the makings of a defensive cornerback, which is why ESPN's Todd McShay has him going third overall in his first mock draft:
[The Raiders] would face a tough call between Werner and LSU DE Barkevious Mingo, who has a better natural skill set as a pass-rusher and would give the Raiders a lighter, faster edge rusher. However, Werner is the more consistent player and has a better all-around game.
It's too early to determine if Werner will in fact go that early. Either way, the Dolphins will surely give him an extended look over the next few months.
Others to Watch: Xavier Rhodes (CB, FSU), Brandon Jenkins (OLB, FSU), E.J. Manuel (QB, FSU), Rodney Smith (WR, FSU)
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
Louisville vs. Florida: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Another athletic tight end for the Dolphins to look at is Florida's Jordan Reed.
The 6'3", 243-pound junior was the Gators' leading receiver in 2012, hauling in 44 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Although Reed still needs to polish his blocking game, he's far more well-rounded than Michael Egnew was coming out last year.
Pre-draft workouts will have a huge influence on where Reed falls in the draft. If he posts a blazing 40-time, then he could potentially land at the back end of the second round. Regardless, he's a player the Dolphins will be watching—and one you should be as well.
Others to Watch: Matt Elam (S, UF), Dominique Easley (DE, UF), Jonathan Bostic (ILB, UF), Mike Gillislee (RB, UF), Xavier Nixon (OT, UF), Adrian Bushell (CB, Louisville)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Oregon vs. Kansas St: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET
Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan is one of my personal favorites, which is why I had him going to the Phins in my first mock draft of the year.
ESPN's Todd McShay followed suit, giving Jordan to the Dolphins with the 12th overall pick:
Miami has an inconsistent pass rush and needs another rusher opposite Cameron Wake, who will turn 31 in January. Jordan is long and athletic, has explosive initial power and shows the versatility to play multiple roles along the front seven.
Jordan is seething with potential. Although he may need some time to develop, Miami could reap serious benefits from preaching patience. This is a player with perennial Pro Bowl potential. Let's hope his draft stock doesn't rise too much before draft day.
Others to Watch: Kyle Long (OT, Oregon), Kenjon Barner (RB, Oregon), Kiko Alonso (ILB, Oregon), Arthur Brown (OLB, Kansas State), Chris Harper (WR, Kansas State)
Cotton Bowl: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma: Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET
Maybe Jeff Ireland should start picking Mike Sherman's brain because he recruited a slew of studs during his days at Texas A&M.
As many as three of Sherman's former players could be selected in the first round of the 2013 draft.
Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel headlines this trio. Joeckel is a 6'6", 310-pound junior who could be a top-five selection come draft day. He was recently awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy—given to the SEC's best blocker—and was also voted onto virtually every All-American list out there.
The Dolphins may prefer to add a pass-rusher in the first round, but if they can get their hands on Joeckel, then they can't pass up on a franchise cornerstone-caliber tackle. Plus, Joeckel could make Miami fans forget about Jake Long.
Others to Watch: Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M), Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M), Sean Porter (OLB, Texas A&M), Ryan Swope (WR, Texas A&M), Tony Jefferson (S, Oklahoma), Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma), Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma)
BBVA Compass Bowl: Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss: Jan. 5, 1 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh has a track record for spewing out quality NFL running backs. LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Rashad Jennings and LaRod Stephens-Howling are the four active Pitt Panthers backs in the NFL, and they were preceded by Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Curtis Martin.
Ray Graham might not be a Hall of Fame talent, but given the success of Pitt running backs in the NFL he's worth an extended look.
Plus, Graham bounced back from a 2011 ACL tear to rush for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns on 222 carries in 2012. That's an incredible recovery. If his knee checks out with NFL doctors, then he could be a third or fourth-round target for a team such as the Dolphins.
GODADDY.com Bowl: Dri Archer, Running Back, Kent State
Kent St vs. Arkansas St: Jan. 6, 9 p.m. ET
This isn't exactly the most exhilarating bowl game this college football season has to offer, but if you happen to watch the GoDaddy.com Bowl, make sure you keep an eye on Kent State running back Dri Archer.
The Laurel, Florida, native is only 5'6", 164 pounds, so his size alone makes him a long shot for the NFL.
However, he has managed to slice up opposing defenses despite his physical limitations. Archer rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 150 carries—giving him an astounding 9.0 yards per carry average.
Others to Watch: Brian Winters (OT, Kent State)
National Championship: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Notre Dame vs. Alabama: Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET
Whenever Alabama takes the field, there's a rich abundance of NFL talent to observe. But, when they square off with Notre Dame in the 2012 National Championship, it's a player on the other sideline that should steal your attention.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had a Heisman Trophy-worthy season, which is an incredible accomplishment for a defensive player.
Even though the Dolphins have Karlos Dansby under contract for two more years, he's aging and underachieving. Te'o, meanwhile, is the total package—he has the makings, both physically and mentally, of a franchise player.
Miami would absorb a substantial cap hit by cutting Dansby, but if it can draft a dominant and marketable player like Te'o, is it worth it?
Others to Watch: Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama), Chance Warmack (OG, Alabama), C.J. Mosley (OLB, Alabama), D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama), Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama), Robert Lester (S, Alabama), Nico Johnson (ILB, Alabama), Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame), Bennett Jackson (CB, Notre Dame), Zeke Motta (S, Notre Dame)