The Senior Bowl is the premier all-star game for college football players to showcase their abilities for the last time in a game setting prior to the draft, and some big names will be taking the field in Mobile, Alabama January 26. The players will face off in front of legions of National Football League scouts, general managers and various front office executives.
In 2012, fans saw players like Florida Atlantic's Alfred Morris, Cincinatti's Isiah Pead, and Utah State's Bobby Wagner greatly improve their draft stock with impressive Senior Bowl outings, and the same is likely to occur with this year's crop of collegiate talent.
The Buffalo Bills have a variety of positional needs on both sides of the ball, so which players should fans be keeping an eye on?
Read on, and feel free to comment on any players you agree with, disagree with or players that didn't make the list!
The Buffalo Bills need a significant upgrade at the quarterback position, and with the recent hiring of former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, his former quarterback Ryan Nassib seems like a perfect fit for the team. Nassib has been projected anywhere from a high first round draft pick to a third round selection.
In his three seasons as a starter, Nassib has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 9,190 yards, while posting an impressive 70:28 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Nassib presents great upside, and has one of the more compact releases of any quarterback prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft to go along with a strong arm. He has experience in Bills' offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's offensive scheme, making him appear as an ideal candidate for the Buffalo Bills' No. 8 overall draft pick.
Khaseem Greene, the outside linebacker of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on in the Senior Bowl.
A converted safety, Greene has been an extremely productive member of the Rutgers' defense. He has appeared in 50 games throughout his four-year collegiate career, racking up 386 tackles—30.5 of which came for a loss—while intercepting six passes, making 11.5 sacks, forcing 13 fumbles and batting down nine passes.
Greene is excellent in coverage, displaying the speed and athleticism necessary to cover tight ends at the next level. He truly is a defensive back playing in a linebackers body, and projects well to a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defensive alignment.
Greene does a great job of dislodging the football, and shows good instincts when playing the run. He projects as a second or third round draft pick.
However, the 6'2" 205-pound wide receiver fits the exact mold Buffalo Bills' general manager Buddy Nix described when discussing the potential acquisition of a wide receiver in the offseason.
Nix told the Buffalo News that he wanted a big-time receiver that can "catch the ball when he's covered," referencing the situation in Cincinnati with quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
"I think Stevie's a guy that you can play him in the slot or you can play him outside. But we need a big-time outside receiver. T.J. gives us a lot of that, but you still need to get another, bigger guy that can line up out there and catch the ball when he's covered."
Williams was an explosive weapon for the Bears' offense this year, as he caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards—for an average of 18.9 yards per catch—and found the end zone 12 times.
The Bills used a third round draft pick to select wide receiver T.J. Graham in the 2012 NFL Draft with the hopes of stretching the field as a deep threat, but Graham averaged just 10.4 yards per reception during the season.
With the Buffalo Bills' tight end Scott Chandler suffering an ACL injury in the last game of the season, it's unclear how much of the 2013 season he will be available for. The tight end position is becoming more and more important in NFL offenses, and Tennessee's Mychal Rivera fits the mold of the new-age tight end.
Rivera is big and athletic, standing 6'3" and weighting 237 pounds. He has seen some significant playing time with the Volunteers over the past two seasons, but grew into a bigger weapon in 2012, as he caught 36 passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns.
Rivera is seen as a mid to late-round draft pick, but could really improve his stock with a solid showing during the week of practices.
Ezekiel Ansah is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2013 Senior Bowl. Ansah is from Ghana, and has only played football for three years. 2012 was his first year as a full-time player, and he was a playmaker for the Cougars, as he recorded 62 tackles—13 of which came for a loss—got to the quarterback 4.5 times, and forced a fumble.
Ansah stands 6'6" and weighs 270 pounds and is extremely athletic for his size. He's very versatile and should be played all over the defensive line at end, tackle, and stand up linebacker. Ansah projects best as a strong-side defensive end, but could easily transition to a stand up linebacker, where he played at BYU.
While Mario Williams is a big part of the Bills' defensive line, there really aren't any weapons opposite him. Mark Anderson and Chris Kelsay are earning quite a lot of money, but their production hasn't matched the large contracts they were signed to. Adding Ansah would bring a potentially great player to the roster at a position of need.
Cornerback Jordan Poyer has been a really important member of the Oregon State Beavers, where he served in the defensive backfield and on special teams. He excels in coverage and his ball skills are second to none.
In his four years with the Beavers, Poyer made 152 tackles, intercepted 13 passes—returned three for scores—while defending 23 passes. His draft stock is on the rise, and with an impressive week in Mobile, he could really separate himself from Xavier Rhodes and Jonathan Banks as the No. 2 cornerback in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Bills used a No. 10 overall draft pick in 2012 on cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but aside from him there isn't a reliable player at the position on the team. Aaron Williams, Justin Rogers, and Ron Brooks were liabilities in coverage, surrendering far too many big plays, and Leodis McKelvin is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in March.