2013 NFL Draft: Players Who Need Big Bowl Performances to Boost Stock
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For most NFL Draft prospects, the tale of the tape is pretty much signed, sealed and delivered.
But for some, there's still a shot at enhancing their draft stock before pre-draft workouts, the NFL Scouting Combine and team visits take place.
Guys like Matt Barkley and Landry Jones are household names who have torn up the record books during their lengthy college careers, but they need big bowl performances to boost their shaky draft stock.
With the chance to shine on a nationally televised stage, let's take a look at which players must step up during bowl season to help themselves on draft day.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Before the first snap of the 2012 season, Southern California's Matt Barkley was regarded as the top prospect on most draft boards and the heavy favorite to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The former 5-star recruit was expected to lead USC—who entered the season ranked No. 1 in the country—back to glory and to bring another national championship to the Trojans.
Unfortunately USC forgot how to play defense, and Barkley battled through turnovers and missed the regular-season finale against No. 1 Notre Dame with a sprained shoulder.
Despite owning most of USC's career passing records, Barkley's draft stock has taken a hit over the course of this year. His accuracy and mechanics are solid, but his penchant for throwing interceptions and his lack of elite physical tools leave some doubt about whether he will be a star at the next level.
With a matchup against 6-7 Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl set for New Year's Eve, Barkley has one more shot at reminding everyone why he was everyone's preseason favorite to go No. 1 overall.
Robert Lester, S, Alabama
At one point in his career, Robert Lester was considered to be a better NFL prospect than teammate Mark Barron.
Boy how things have changed.
Barron went No. 7 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last April, but Lester would be lucky to go within the first four rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft based on his play the last two seasons.
As a sophomore, the 6'2", 210-pounder led the SEC with eight interceptions and knocked down 12 more passes.
In the two years since, he's totaled just six picks and 12 passes defended while routinely taking bad angles to the ball and blowing assignments in coverage.
The senior's consistency has been awful without Barron alongside him, but the rangy defensive back still has one shot at redeeming himself.
Oh, it just so happens to be in the BCS National Championship.
EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Always considered one of the more talented quarterbacks in college football, Florida State's EJ Manuel still hasn't proven he's a no-doubt first-round talent.
Blessed with a big arm, good running ability and a 6'5", 240-pound frame, he has all the physical tools you want in an NFL quarterback.
What he lacks is consistency, especially in big games, to go along with a knack of getting banged up.
Manuel started the 2012 season on a tear, but he didn't exactly light up the scoreboard during the final stretch of the year.
He completed just 59.5 percent of his passes in a six-point win against Virginia Tech, threw three picks in a devastating loss to Florida and managed just 134 yards and a pick against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship.
No quarterback prospect needs a bigger bowl game performance than Manuel, who could elevate his draft stock from the third-round range to possibly the first round.
The redshirt senior gets to take on Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, and he'll need a big performance against the Huskies to boost his stock.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Landry Jones continues the trend of quarterbacks who need big bowl game performances to boost their draft stock.
The experienced signal-caller has put up some terrific numbers in his career with the Sooners, but he's been known to struggle against good competition and doesn't have great mobility or pocket presence.
Missing some of his top weapons this year, Jones has seen his numbers slip from 2011 when he threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He did, however, cut his interception total from 15 to 10 and increased his completion percentage from 63.2 to 65.5.
Unfortunately for Jones, the only two games in which he threw fewer than two touchdowns came in losses against two of the better teams in the country in Kansas State and Notre Dame.
He'll have one more shot at proving he can play against top competition as the Sooners take on Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the aggressive Texas A&M defense.
With a good performance against the Aggies, Jones could put his name in the conversation to be the third quarterback selected after Geno Smith and Matt Barkley.
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
For all the talk about LSU's fearsome defensive end duo, only Sam Montgomery really met expectations in 2012.
The other half of the Tigers' pair of potential first-rounders, Barkevious Mingo, simply didn't get to the quarterback or make enough splash plays a year after recording 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Despite possessing ideal length and freakish athleticism, the 6'5", 240-pound junior totaled a disappointing 5.5 tackles for loss and just four sacks for the Tigers.
While NFL teams are still high on him due to his size, speed and growth potential, Mingo could use a statement game in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to remind everyone that Montgomery isn't the only first-rounder on the Tigers' defensive line.
If Mingo can apply consistent pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and take him down a few times, he'll boost his stock for the 2013 NFL Draft.
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