Missouri vs. Oklahoma State 2014: NFL Draft watch notes for Cotton Bowl Classic

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers and Cowboys match strength for strength in the Cotton Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl is home to legends. From Keyshawn Johnson and Johnny Manziel more recently to Doak Walker, Dickie Maegle and Bobby Lane in the earlier years of the classic, some of the most talented players in college football have passed through this bowl game.

On Friday, Oklahoma State and Missouri will take the field inside Cowboys Stadium. The stage will be big, and a handful of players will have their last chance to impress NFL scouts in game action.

Between the two defenses, there could be two first-round picks on the field Friday. Quietly, these two teams are deep with prospects ready to play at the next level.

When Missouri has the football

The 2013 Missouri offense has experienced a dramatic turnaround from a rough 2012 season. Senior quarterback James Franklin has been at the forefront of the improved play when he's been on the field. While Franklin's NFL potential is limited, the guys he is throwing to have NFL talent. Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington both have a chance to be drafted in May, but sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham is the star of the bunch. He's an early top prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft and should see a healthy dose of Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert in this game. Both players have great size and better ball skills. Green-Beckham struggled with physical cornerbacks earlier this season, so this matchup is one to watch.

The Cowboys also have a solid run defense due to their experience at linebacker. Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis are both seniors worth watching. They have a chance to make plenty of plays because of the space defensive tackle Calvin Barnett occupies in the middle of the defensive line. Justin Britt is the leader of Missouri's offensive line at left tackle, and the entire unit will have one of its toughest tests of the season. Missouri running back Henry Josey is worth watching as well. Earlier this week he hinted that he still hasn't decided whether or not he will go pro. Don't be shocked if he enters the draft a year early.

When Oklahoma State has the football

Since the end of the SEC Championship Game, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy has been badgered by reporters about his upcoming decision on whether or not to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He seems to be leaning towards declaring for the draft, and who could blame him? He's come on strong toward the end of the season and has a chance to go high in the first round if he leaves. Ealy isn't the only defensive end on Missouri's roster with NFL potential. Michael Sam was a consensus all-american but has some physical limitations that make him a day two or three pick. Underclassmen Markus Golden and Shane Ray are both exciting young prospects as well. Golden has toyed with the idea of the NFL Draft but will likely be back for his senior season.

As a unit, Missouri has something to prove on defense. After allowing over 500 rushing yards to Auburn a month ago, there's a bit of a chip on the players' shoulders. Oklahoma State's running game runs hot and cold, but junior Desmond Roland has flashed serious potential at times in 2013. The Cowboys get the ball out to their playmakers quickly in the passing game. Senior wide receiver Tracy Moore will have a tough matchup when he finds himself across from Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, who has flashed good click and close ability when healthy as a senior.

Question of the night

Will Missouri wide receivers be able to get separation against Oklahoma State's secondary?

All season long, the size Missouri has at wide receiver has been a hot topic. The top three wide receivers all stand 6-feet-5-inches or taller, and their height has provided mismatches throughout the season. Oklahoma State's secondary has some size, though. Not only that, the Cowboys have physical defensive backs who play aggressive. How will that effect guys like Green-Beckham and Washington? Pay attention to that, because NFL teams will be.

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