A couple months ago, the matchup in the Fiesta Bowl looked like a possible national championship game. Now it looks like a game packed with NFL Draft prospects. The Fiesta Bowl features five players who will participate in the Senior Bowl and could have 10 players taken in the draft.
For a proper (and detail-packed) preview of the game, check out what Bill Connelly put together. Here is strictly a look at the NFL Draft prospects in the game.
Tostito's Fiesta Bowl, 8:30 p.m. (ET), ESPN
Oregon vs. Kansas State
When Oregon has the football
There isn't a player with more potential in the 2013 NFL Draft than Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long. It's not BYU's Ezekiel Ansah or anyone else. Long has the size and ability to be a star at the next level. The rub is that he has a checkered past, saw inconsistent playing time this season and when he did play it was mostly at guard. But at 6-foot-7, Long has the length and foot quickness to develop. If there is a team with good patience and coaching, Long could be turned into a starting left tackle in a season or two.
Oregon has become a bit of a running back factory of late. Jonathan Stewart was a first-round pick in 2008 and LaMichael James was picked in the second round last year. Senior Kenjon Barner is the latest Oregon runner who will be picked high in the draft. A Senior Bowl invite, Barner is a speed runner who is dangerous in space. He's a bit of a one-speed runner, but it's a trait he's used to rush for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
Chasing Barner down tonight is K-State middle linebacker Arthur Brown. He turned heads two seasons ago against Baylor. Spying Robert Griffin III, Brown was the main reason Kansas State was able to pull the upset. Brown may be the best athlete at linebacker and his playing style is the future of the position. He's a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can get off blocks and hit. After the offseason process, Brown could be a first-round pick.
End Meshak Williams profiles as an outside linebacker at the next level. He's a fluid athlete at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. In his two seasons with the Wildcats following community college, Williams has 17 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. Outside linebacker Justin Tuggle, a former Boston College quarterback, should get a training camp invite, at least. He's been invited to the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game.
Kansas State's defense also features two draftable cornerbacks in seniors Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman. Both came from the junior college ranks. Malone has 12 interceptions, 18 passes defended and 105 tackles in two seasons. He's not a big or fast corner, but his instincts are sound and he's a good tackler. Chapman has a little bit better size, but isn't as good of a natural cover man as Malone.
When Kansas State has the football
Kansas State's top prospect on offense is wide receiver Chris Harper. A Senior Bowl invite and Oregon transfer, Harper is a physical wide receiver with decent speed. Harper is a converted quarterback, which accounts for his unusual 6-foot-1, 234-pound frame. He comes into the game with 50 receptions for 786 yards and three touchdowns.
Quarterback Collin Klein has yet to score an all-star game invite, but he looked much better as a passer this season. He's probably not a realistic NFL quarterback. His throwing motion is slow and he's not particularly good at reading an entire field. Klein's NFL future will be determined by how willing and able he is to take on another role.
What Long is to potential on offense, defensive end Dion Jordan is to defense. He was hampered this season by a shoulder injury, but could be a top 20 pick. At 6-foot-7, most think Jordan is simply an end prospect. But he's just as much of a linebacker as he is an end. Jordan excels at dropping into coverage and gets asked to cover the slot in zone situations. Teams that run a 3-4 defense may fall in love with Jordan.
Ducks middle linebacker Kiko Alonso should get some late-round consideration as a depth and special teams option. He's good at stopping the run between the tackles, but can roam the middle in coverage.