Oregon State's Markus Wheaton
There were many NFL prospects that impressed scouts at the 2013 Senior Bowl, but some players from the Pac-12 had particularly good showings.
UCLA defensive end Datone Jones, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, Cal cornerback Marc Anthony and Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton all shined during the practices and the game itself.
Jones, according to NFL Draft Scout, impressed scouts before he even took to the field. His striking physique was duly noted when he had his weigh-in (6'4", 280 lbs.) before the practice week started.
Jones had a good career at UCLA, but nothing spectacular. If anything, Jones was just a late bloomer, which isn't that unusual at the college ranks.
I remember running into him at the UCLA athletic department offices a year ago while he was waiting to have a meeting with newly hired head coach Jim Mora—he appeared to be nervous about the pending conversation.
Whatever they talked about, it must have worked, because he became more productive than the previous year—Jones had 6.5 sacks in 2012 compared to three the previous year. Part of the reason for Jones' slow rise was due to him coming off foot surgery in which he missed all of the 2010 season.
In any case, Jones is now a projected first rounder in the upcoming NFL draft.
Colorado may have had a lousy year of football (1-11), but a converted tight end may see his draft stock go up. Nick Kasa went from defensive end to tight end in one season at Colorado, but despite his limited offensive resume, he impressed the scouts. From Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com:
A former defensive end, he didn't make the move to offense until late last season, entering the 2012 campaign with just one career catch on his resume. Kasa plays a bit tight and bulky, but he is an intriguing athlete and has really impressed as a blocker this week. He obviously needs some more seasoning, but the tools are there for Kasa to be an interesting developmental draft choice early on the third day.
Cal cornerback Marc Anthony also had a good week. From ESPN:
Cal CB Marc Anthony had the best Wednesday. He turned and ran with Georgia's Tavarres King. I think he runs well, showed the ability to turn and run with guys, and he can break on balls thrown in front of him. He almost had a pick, and he can get physical.
Finally, Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton had a great week. This kid flew under the radar for most of the season but really deserves all the accolades he is receiving. CBS Sports currently has Wheaton projected second round but I wouldn't be shocked if he went in the first—he is lighting fast and is a good route runner. His size (5'11", 183 lbs.) is a little on the small size, but Tavon Austin (5'9", 175) is a projected first or second-rounder—so we can't point to that as a reason for Wheaton's second-round projection.
According to the NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, Wheaton had the most impressive Senior Bowl week showing:
Wheaton has been the most impressive receiver at the Senior Bowl -- by far. The Oregon State product has displayed excellent speed, quickness and burst, routinely separating from defenders out of breaks. Most impressively, Wheaton has shown strong hands; he is an outstanding pass catcher in traffic. By showcasing the capacity to make plays at every level, Wheaton has created quite a buzz in the NFL scouting community.
Other Pac-12 players who had good showings at the Senior Bowl include UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, Stanford's Chase Thomas and Stepfan Taylor, Washington's Desmond Trufant and Oregon's Kenjon Barner.
The 2013 NFL draft will be held April 25-27 in New York City and broadcast by ESPN and NFL Network.