Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
It's the final daylong college football marathon of the season. We're running out of time to formulate opinions about prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. How sad.
Today's slate of games will have a hard time topping last night's Chick-fil-A Bowl between LSU and Clemson, but there are plenty of solid matchups and good NFL prospects.
Gator Bowl, noon (ET), ESPN2
Mississippi State vs. Northwestern - SB Nation preview
In regard to NFL Draft prospects, the Gator Bowl is a one-sided affair. Northwestern has no obvious senior prospects and they rarely lose underclassmen. Mississippi State has a handful of NFL hopefuls who will likely hear their named called in April.
The first Bulldog who will get drafted is cornerback Johnthan Banks. The Jim Thorpe Award winner has good size and excels in zone coverage situations. At times he can give up too big of a cushion in coverage, but Banks' flaws are all in coachable areas. His cornerback partner in the secondary, Darius Slay should also get pick in the middle rounds of the draft.
On offense, Mississippi State has two solid, draftable playakers in wide receiver Chad Bumphis and junior running back LaDarius Perkins. Bumphis, a senior, has been a do-it-all playmaker for Mississippi State since his freshman season. He doesn't have great size at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, but the senior could make a roster solely due to his versatility. Perkins hasn't done a lot since the middle of hte season, but has shown flashes of a good burst. State left guard Gabe Jackson is waiting to hear back from the NFL Draft advisory committee on whether or not he'll enter the draft. He should get a grade in the third round range.
Heart of Dallas Bowl, noon (ET), ESPNU
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State - SB Nation preview
Of all the games today, none is lighter on NFL prospects than the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The top prospect in the game is Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short. It only seems like Short has been at Purdue for a decade. Short is a Senior Bowl invite following a season of 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. With his career finally up, Short has a chance to go out on a high note against Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle. The junior has said he won't announce his NFL Draft decision until after the game. He's a shifty runner with good burst. He comes into the game with 24 touchdowns on the ground and just over 1,200 yards.
Purdue also a cornerback who could get drafted in senior Josh Johnson. He's tied for fourth nationally in passes defended with 19.
If your team needs a punter, Oklahoma State has arguably the best on in the country in Quinn Sharp. A second team All-American, Sharp kicks and punts. He's averaging 46.3 yards per punt.
Capital One Bowl, 1 p.m. (ET), ABC
Georgia vs. Nebraska - SB Nation preview
There may not be a defense in college football that is more stacked with NFL talent than Georgia. Eight starters off Georgia's defense should be in the NFL next season. That doesn't even include suspended tackle John Jenkins. He's being replaced by Kwame Geathers, a monstrous tackle who has been inconsistent throughout his college career.
Safeties Shawn Williams and Baccari Rambo could both be picked on the second day of the draft. Both can cover and also support the run. They'll be tasked with stopping tight ends Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, as well as running back Rex Burkhead and mobile quarterback Taylor Martinez. Nebraska's offense will test just how well Rambo and Williams can play the entire field.
Of course, they'll get help from middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. After Manti Te'o, Ogletree is the best middle linebacker in the draft. He's a physical but athletic linebacker who missed some time at the beginning of the season due to suspension. Unquestionably, Georgia's best player on defense is linebacker Jarvis Jones. He's often lined up right at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his plus first step. Jones gets around the corner with a quickness and could be a top 10 pick. His medical evaluations this offseason could be the key to his draft stock.
On offense, Georgia has a pair of late-round wide receiver prospects in Marlon Brow and Tavarres King. They're both solid players with King being a vertical threat and Brown having the potential to be a red zone threat at 6-foot-5. The big question for Georgia is the decision quarterback Aaron Murray makes. Like many quarterbacks eligible for this year's draft, Murray has flashed great throws and almost as many bad ones.
Outback Bowl, 1 p.m. (ET), ESPN
South Carolina vs. Michigan - SB Nation preview
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan versus South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. If there were ever a chance for Lewan to cement himself as a top 15 pick in the draft, today is it. Lewan plays angry on the left side and is physical beyond the whistle. In Michigan's offense, Lewan has shown he can get out on the move as well. The key is if he can keep his feet under him and keep a base. Clowney, tragically, is not eligible for the draft until next year.
Still, the South Carolina defense is loaded with talent. D.J. Swearinger really impressed late in the season after shifting from safety to cornerback. Swearinger likes to play off the quarterback's moves, so he can get in trouble there. But if he stays at corner he is a physical talent. The Senior Bowl invite is a player who could rise during the offseason process. Linebacker/safety Devonte Holloman has the kind of coverage skills that will make him attractive to a lot of teams looking for athletic, speedy linebackers.
Opposite the uber-talented Clowney is senior Devin Taylor, a Shrine Game invite. The production for the 6-foot-8 end has never quite matched his potential. He's the kind of player who will have to be coached up in the NFL and because of his raw physical skills he has potential down the road.
One of the big questions that will start to get answered this offseason is what the NFL thinks of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. A lot of people have projected him out to wide receiver, or even cornerback. But I think he's shown that his best position is going to be running back. He's a shifty runner with the ball in his hands and is going to time incredibly well in drills.
Rose Bowl, 5 p.m. (ET), ESPN
Wisconsin vs. Stanford - SB Nation preview
Which Wisconsin will we see today? The one that dominated in the Big Ten title game, or the one that lost several close games this season? No matter to us, we're here for the draft prospects.
This year's Rose Bowl is going to be a game played between the tackles and the Badgers have a good point man in center Travis Frederick. The powerful junior is considering the NFL and would be among the best players at his position. Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner is a solid mid-round option with starter upside. While he never became the next Joe Thomas, his NFL future may be similar to Gabe Carimi.
Wisconsin's vaunted offensive line opens things up for senior running back Montee Ball. What he may lack in pure speed, Ball makes up for in balance and vision.
The Stanford defense will make things difficult for Ball. Linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov are physical, old school linebackers who can run and hit. Skov can patrol the tackle box while Thomas often likes to get in the backfield. Both are possible second round picks. Junior outside linebacker Trent Murphy is the team's pass rush specialist who has tremendous upside.
Stanford's top prospects on offense are tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Both are big athletic targets. Ertz is the better pure pass catcher of the two, but Toilolo's athleticism makes him the intriguing. Running back Stepfan Taylor is a lot like Ball. He's put up big numbers but may not time particularly well this offseason.
Orange Bowl, 8:30 p.m. (ET), ESPN
Northern Illinois vs. Florida State - SB Nation preview
Most evaluations are in for NFL teams, but its important for Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel to have a big Senior Bowl performance. His career at FSU has been up and down, but he's a tough player who still has potential due to his size and skills. Where Manuel has struggled is in reading defenses and ball placement. Northern Illinois has a smart, rangy safety in redshirt sophomore Dechane Durante who could give Manuel trouble.
Even without the injured Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins, Florida State still has plenty of talent up front on defense. Junior end Bjoern Werner is a possible top 10 player. He's a powerful pass rusher with just enough quickness to bend around the corner. For a relatively inexperienced player, Werner has good instincts and can really sniff out the ball. Tackles Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud could both get taken in the later rounds of the draft. Dawkins is more of a gap shooting tackle while McCloud is a wide body that can plug up the middle.
In the secondary, athletic and physical cornerback Xavier Rhodes looks like a junior who is ready for the NFL. For teams looking for a corner that can cover big receivers and tight ends, Rhodes will be an attractive target. He's a top 40 player with first round potential. Safety Lamarcus Joyner gets overlooked because he's short, but he's a playmaker. A junior, Joyner is the type of player who will be a hit on special teams and as a good depth option. Junior linebacker Christian Jones is an impressive physical specimen. He led Florida State in tackles this season and is athletic enough to drop in coverage.
The Seminoles have a kicker in Dustin Hopkins who will most likely get picked in April. He's accurate with a powerful leg.