There are some exciting 2014 NFL draft prospects who had huge bowl games to close out the college football season, creating positive buzz heading into the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
A few of these prospects also possess other traits that will have NFL draft analysts drooling about their pro potential leading up to the combine, which will only add fuel to the hype machine.
With big events like the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl still to come, they will continue shooting up draft boards as scouts see what they're capable of doing against other top players in a controlled setting.
By the time they show up at Lucas Oil Stadium to show off their athletic prowess, they'll be viewed as highly coveted players who have the potential to turn things around for a new NFL team in a hurry.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Already viewed as a top player at his position, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard will stand out as one of the top players on the field when Senior Bowl practices begin on Monday, Jan. 20 in Mobile, Ala.
Teams that want to feature tight man coverage on the perimeter will go gaga for Dennard's press-man skills. At 5'11" and 197 pounds, he's not built like Richard Sherman, but he plays like the All-Pro.
After he shut down Stanford's Ty Montgomery in the Rose Bowl, holding the receiver to just three catches for 21 yards, teammate and fellow defensive back Isaiah Lewis spoke in glowing terms about Dennard's abilities and his desire, as Dan Greenspan of NFL.com's College Football 24/7 relayed:
He [Dennard] does things like that all the time. I'm even surprised he caught a pass, Darqueze is so good.
He has great technique. Watching him play, it seems like he knows what route is coming before they even run the play. I'm definitely going to miss him, playing with the other guys in the No Fly Zone.
It's how much you want it. He wants to be great. He set his mind to it and he did it.
Dennard wasn't tested often during his senior season at Michigan State, but when teams did try and throw at him, he usually made them pay. Winning the Jim Thorpe Award, he finished the season with four interceptions and 10 passes defended.
Once he starts working over the top receivers at the Senior Bowl, his already hot draft stock will soar. At that point, the only thing Dennard will need to do in order to secure a top-10 spot in Round 1 is run fast at the combine.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
It's an interesting year for quarterback prospects, as the only real "sure thing" is Teddy Bridgewater, and even he isn't viewed as a consensus first-round quarterback, as Albert Breer of NFL.com reported:
Another AFC college director called Bridgewater, "a second-rounder. Shorter and smallish in size, but he has solid arm strength, he's a good athlete, solid accuracy. Not dynamic or a special talent, but he has NFL starter-caliber skills, and he's a good kid with all the intangibles."
Of course, there are plenty of scouts and analysts who love Bridgewater, and there's been plenty of buzz about UCF's Blake Bortles. However, there's no Andrew Luck in this year's draft class.
While Bridgewater and Bortles have been getting a lot of love nationally, Tajh Boyd has flown a bit under the radar.
However, he's going to see his stock improve after the Senior Bowl. Much like E.J. Manuel did last year, Boyd is going to impress scouts with his leadership, athleticism and command.
At this point, though, it will be surprising if Boyd is drafted near the top of Round 1, but he could be one of the draft's biggest steals, as pointed out by Dan Clasgens of ESPN 1530:
When should Boyd be drafted?
Given the way NFL teams have shied away from taking a smaller quarterback early in the draft, Boyd could fall into the second round. Listed at 6'1" and 225 pounds, will likely measure in shorter than that when he's put under the microscope.
That said, Boyd's intangibles, his athleticism and his leadership makes him a tantalizing prospect for teams looking to get more dynamic on offense. If he rises to the occasion and shows up to the Senior Bowl on top of his game, then those qualities will shine through for all to see.
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
After dominating the line of scrimmage in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson did what many expected him to do and declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided the news, along with some perspective about where Robinson should land in the draft order:
Auburn tackle Greg Robinson announced he will enter the 2014 draft. Will be a shock if he's not a top 15 pick.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 7, 2014
Auburn's potent rushing attack often featured Robinson as its catalyst. The 6'5", 320-pound lineman possesses rare athleticism and agility for someone of his stature, as offensive line coach J.B. Grimes spoke about, via Greenspan:
I've not had one like him. I've had some really, really good players, probably coached somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 guys that have gone on to either play in the NFL or at least gotten into camps, but I've never had one with the skill set he has got.
In addition to his natural athleticism, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah loves his nasty attitude:
Greg Robinson and Calvin Pryor are two of my favorite players in the upcoming draft class. Two very violent football players.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 7, 2014
With his combination of elite physical attributes, prototypical size and a mean streak, Robinson is going to make a big push up the board in the next few months as teams realize his full potential.
Though Jake Matthews is widely viewed as the top left tackle in this year's class, Robinson could give him a run for his money when it's all said and done.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78