Top NFL prospects during bowl season
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville Cardinals
Teddy Bridgewater came into the 2013 season riding a bevy of momentum built from his Sugar Bowl performance last year -- 20-32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns -- and he's carried that into 2013, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns to four interceptions. Bridgewater's size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), arm strength, athleticism and cool manner in the pocket make him a top prospect for the draft in April. The Cardinals take on Miami, where Bridgewater originally committed, Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tiger burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2011 with 82 receptions for 1,129 yards and 12 touchdowns. His sophomore campaign wasn’t as successful, but Watkins has more than made up for it this season, as he ranks in the NCAA top-20 in receptions (85), yards (1237) and touchdowns (10). The 6-foot-1, 205 pound receiver displays the route-running and playmaking ability, along with the speed – 10.29 100 meters time – to thrive in the NFL. Clemson plays standout corner Bradley Roby and Ohio St. in the Orange Bowl January 3.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M Aggies
The redshirt sophomore hasn’t officially declared for the NFL draft, but should he come out, Mike Evans will be one of the top wide receivers selected. Although Evans lacks top-end speed, at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds he has plus NFL size, and uses it in the Aggies’ screen game along with towering over corners for jump balls. Evans does not shy away from tough competition, against No. 2 ranked Auburn and No. 3 Alabama Evans had a combined for 18 receptions for 566 yards with five touchdowns. Texas A&M takes on Duke December 31 in the Chick-fil-A bowl game.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor Bears
Following his redshirt senior year, guard Cyril Richardson was named an All-American and the Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year for the second consecutive season. Through 12 games in 2013, Richardson leads Baylor with 83 knockdowns. The 6-foot-5 340 pound behemoth of a man plays low, drives well off the ball and is a large reason why Baylor ranks first in the nation in total yards per game at 624.5. Baylor plays the University of Central Florida on January 1 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M Aggies
Offensive Tackle Jake Matthews returned for his senior season to show that he could switch from right to left tackle, and improve his draft stock. To go along with his family pedigree (father Bruce is a Pro Football Hall of Famer) Matthews has shown that he is versatile – played in a pro-style offense for his freshman and sophomore years, and a spread offense since. Matthews, regarded as the top offensive lineman prospect, is quick and light on his feet even at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds. Texas A&M ranks No. 4 in total offense and will play Duke December 31.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan Wolverines
The famed “Michigan man” returned for his redshirt senior season despite being regarded as a top-10 draft pick. Lewan, a four-year starter at left tackle, is now a two-time, First-team All-American. In the September 7 matchup against Notre Dame, Lewan took potential first-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt out of the game, holding him without a tackle. The massive 6-foot-8, 315 pound tackle has prototypical NFL size, and is a solid pass protector, but will have to play stronger in the running game going forward. Michigan takes on Kansas State December 28 in the BWW Bowl.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington Huskies
Despite only 33 receptions on the season, junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. Seferian-Jenkins made those catches count as seven of them went for scores. At 6-foot-6, 276 pounds he has ample size and ideal athleticism (played basketball his freshman year for the Huskies) to be dominant in the NFL, as he boxes out defenders and attacks the ball – like a rebound – at its highest point on a consistent basis. The Huskies take on the BYU Cougars for the Fight Hunger Bowl.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina Tar Heels
Eric Ebron had a nice sophomore season in 2012, he grabbed 40 passes, averaged 15.6 yards a catch and scored four touchdowns, but nothing first-round worthy. In 2013, Ebron had a coming out party in the Tar Heels’ sixth game of the year, in a Thursday night game against Miami (FL) where he caught eight passes for 199 yards. The 6-foot-4, All-ACC First team selection excels in the slot, as he bodies corners and safeties down the seam on a consistent basis. The Tar Heels play the Cincinnati Bearcats December 28.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon Ducks
Junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is second on Oregon with 78 total tackles and three interceptions, that includes a 10 tackle performance in the victory over rival Oregon State. At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds Ekpre-Olomu has average size for an NFL cornerback to go along with his above average ball skills (seven career interceptions) and superior quickness. When Oregon faced the Stanford Cardinal, the Second-Team All-American held receiver Ty Montgomery to two receptions for 20 yards, while adding 12 total tackles. The Oregon Ducks face the Texas Longhorns December 30 in the Alamo Bowl.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State Spartans
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard is widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. Listed at 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, Dennard, a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection, has been dominant in his senior year and leads the Spartans in interceptions (four), passes defended (14) and pass breakups (10) going into the January 1 Rose Bowl matchup against Stanford. The Jim Thorpe award winner plays a physical man coverage and according to According to ESPN Stats & Info, he has held opponents to 3-of-31 passing to receivers on throws of 15-plus yards.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State Seminoles
The only knock on senior standout defensive back Lamarcus Joyner is his size – listed at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. What he lacks in size, Joyner makes up for in speed – ran a 4.42 40-yard dash – and playmaking ability. Joyner is no stranger to physical football as he is second on the team with 64 total tackles,in addition to his team-leading five sacks. The All-American has also helped the Florida State secondary be tops in the nation, limiting opponents to 152 passing yards per game. The Seminoles play Auburn in the National Championship Game on January 6.
Trent Murphy, OLB/DE, Stanford Cardinal
Like any other season, the key to the Stanford Cardinal in 2013 has been their defense; and their leader on defense is none other than 6-foot-6, 261 pound outside linebacker Trent Murphy. The redshirt senior All-American leads the nation with 14 total sacks and is ranked No. 3 with 21.5 tackles for loss. He has the size to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 NFL system or a 4-3 defensive end. Murphy isn’t an all-world athlete, but plays with a high motor that allows him to thrive. Stanford plays Michigan State January 1 in the Rose Bowl.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota Golden Gophers
After being recruited as a tight end, Ra’Shede Hageman was switched to defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman. Although inconsistent with his motor at times, Hageman’s 6-foot-6, 311 pound size, and athleticism – has a 36 inch vertical and can do a 360 dunk – help make the Golden Gopher lineman an attractive 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. Hageman finished the 2013 regular season with two sacks, an interception and team-high 11 tackles for loss. Minnesota plays Syracuse on December 27 in the Texas Bowl.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
One of the most hyped football defensive prospects in years, Jadeveon Clowney has been a disappointment in 2013 with only three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Last year, Clowney was dominant, ranking in the top-10 nationally in both tackles for loss (24) and sacks (13). Even though he came into the season out of shape, Clowney is still one of the top NFL prospects at 6-foot-6, 274 pounds. When motivated, he can’t be blocked with his array of athletic moves and sheer strength. South Carolina faces Wisconsin on January 1 in the Citrus Bowl.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
After playing running back his first two seasons, Anthony Barr made the switch to outside linebacker. In his first season on defense, Barr led UCLA with 13.5 sacks, leading to the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. Barr continued his success in 2013, leading the Pac-12 in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. The 6-foot-4, 245 pound linebacker uses his speed – ran 4.47 40-yard dash – and running back ability to stymie offensive lineman and quarterbacks. Barr needs to continue to develop against the run, but projects as a top-10 selection in the 2014 draft. UCLA faces Virginia Tech December 31 in the Sun Bowl.