South Carolina Football

South Carolina vs. Clemson: Power Ranking Palmetto Bowl's 5 Best NFL Prospects

Lee SchechterContributor IIINovember 27, 2013

South Carolina vs. Clemson: Power Ranking Palmetto Bowl's 5 Best NFL Prospects

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    The Palmetto Bowl is almost here, and for the seniors and NFL draft-eligible players, this will be the last hurrah.

    This year's Palmetto Bowl features the highest combined rankings in a matchup between South Carolina and Clemson. Beyond the rankings and the rivalry, though, is the on-field talent. 

    South Carolina boasts this bowl game's top NFL prospect, Jadeveon Clowney, who still has scouts salivating over his skill set. Past Clowney, the Gamecocks do not have a lot of high-selection, draft-worthy players.

    Clemson, on the other hand, has two potential first-rounders in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Vic Beasley. And don't forget about the man commanding the offensive, quarterback Tajh Boyd, who can still work his way up the big board.

    Saturday's Palmetto Bowl could become an instant classic, but make sure to keep your eyes on the NFL hopefuls.

    Here are the power rankings for the Palmetto Bowl's five best NFL prospects.   

5. Brandon Thomas, OT

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    Outside of the "Top Four" from South Carolina and Clemson, there is a large dropoff in NFL-ready talent for 2014's draft.

    Except for Brandon Thomas. 

    Brandon Thomas, a fifth-year senior, has plenty of experience in the ACC and is a strong offensive tackle with potential to grow. He has moved around and played both guard and offensive tackle, where he has become a trusted blindside blocker for Tajh Boyd.  

    Projected as fifth- or sixth-rounder by CBS Sports, Thomas will most likely play guard in the NFL, but his experience at both positions could increase his stock for a team that is in need of a versatile lineman who is ready to contribute at all times.

    Thomas is fiery, tough and an above-average pass blocker, which is ever so valuable in today's more pass-oriented NFL.

    Thomas may not be an elite talent, but he definitely has the skills to succeed at the next level.  

4. Tajh Boyd

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    There's no doubt that Tajh Boyd is a very good quarterback. His ability to scramble combined with his strong arm and knack for finding his top receivers is respectable. 

    Unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, Boyd will probably pan out to be a second-round pick whose value at the next level is difficult to gauge. In a draft class with quarterbacks like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr and others, Boyd may not be able to stand out from the crowd. 

    Boyd is having a great season with 29 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions as well as more than 3,200 yards. He also has the bulk to survive the physicality of the NFL. 

    As a playmaker, Boyd has a lot of upside and could sneak his way up the draft boards like EJ Manuel did with the Buffalo Bills. 

    The skills are there, but it's a tough year to be anything but an elite quarterback in the draft. There's just way too much competition. 

3. Vic Beasley

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    If you are an NFL team wanting a defensive end but can't acquire a high enough pick to draft Clowney...then Vic Beasley is your guy. 

    Beasley is a little undersized at 6'2" and 235 pounds, but he makes up for it with speed and superior technique. He has proven to be a menace to opposing quarterbacks, despite playing a relatively limited number of snaps.

    He can stand up or be a down lineman, and his burst and athleticism are second to only Clowney among defensive ends. Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt has nothing on Beasley right now, though things can change. 

    All eyes of the South Carolina offensive line will be on Beasley who can disrupt plays in a flash. He is a gamechanger and an energy player, the perfect spark for a defense in need of a boost to its pass rush.

    Beasley is a very highly rated draft prospect who could land in the top 15 picks.

    So who could be higher than a top-15 pick?  

2. Sammy Watkins

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    Sammy Watkins. 

    He's Clemson's best player and the best NFL receiver prospect in the country.

    Whether it is a quick route, the deep ball or an acrobatic catch, Watkins can do it all.

    Last season, DeAndre Hopkins received a lot of hype as the draft-eligible player at the time, though Watkins was the true gem. This season, he got a chance to shine. And shine he has.  

    With 78 receptions for 1144 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns, Watkins is proving that he is the best out there. His speed is exceptional and will surely awe scouts at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. His hands are second to none, and he is the definition of a play-making wide receiver.

    There is no other receiver as elite as Watkins in the 2014 draft class. Watkins looks like he will without question wind up in the top 10 and tear it up in the NFL.  

1. Jadeveon Clowney

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    He could be the No. 1 overall pick, if not, he will go No. 2. 

    He's Jadeveon Clowney also known as "The Freak." 

    Clowney is the total package and still one of the most talented players college football has seen in a number of years. NFL scouts have been waiting for this kid to get his shot at the NFL ever since he was the nation's top recruit his senior year out of high school.

    At 6'6" and 274 pounds, Clowney possesses the perfect size for an NFL defensive end, one who can attack opposing tackles, swat down passes and play the run in the process.   

    Clowney can absolutely bull rush offensive linemen, storming right at them, and he is smooth with his swim moves and spins, making him nearly impossible to block for an entire game. As an added bonus, Clowney continues to get faster and stronger. 

    This kid is ready for the next level and should be a total superstar, I am still sold on that. 

    Clowney talent-wise should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, though teams need quarterbacks, so he could slide a spot or two. 

    He is a total impact player, the best NFL prospect in this bowl game and arguably the nation. 

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