01/10/09 - Stock Rising, Bowl Edition (Updated with all Bowls)
Although many fans and media members wonder why there has to be 34 bowls, the corporations and tourism-desperate communities sponsoring the events give NFL prospects another chance to make a name for themselves before all-star games and campus workouts.
New Year's Day used to be the end-all, be-all of the bowl season. The Bowl Championship Series, and the wishes of its television partners, changed all that. January 1st is still a great day of football, and NFL scouts either attend one of the games or try to catch as many as possible at home or the office. And the BCS games have their own nights to shine, which is good for fans and scouts alike.
One interesting phenomenon is the addition of lesser bowls in the post-New Year's calendar. Tulsa vs. Ball State matched up two pretty good non-BCS teams but it was a bit of a let down between Ohio State-Texas and Florida-Oklahoma. And East Carolina-Kentucky is not necessarily the best lead-in to the Sugar Bowl.
However, there was NFL talent in all twelve games played on or after New Year's Day. These twelve players, with their height/weight/40 yard dash time listed in parentheses, helped their draft stock by giving NFL teams their fill of talent. A number of them are underclassmen simply because they had the most to gain, as scouts really hadn't fully studied them yet. Plus, the seniors playing in these games mostly performed as expected.
Greene didn't take long to announce his departure from Iowa after an outstanding junior year with a MVP performance (121 yards, three scores) against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. USC's defense tried to stop him, but Greene's low center of gravity and tough running is hard to keep down for four quarters. TE Brandon Myers also showed good hands for the Hawkeyes, making four catches for 49 yards.
Despite his current wishes to stay at Nebraska for his senior season, it was impossible to leave Suh off this list (besides, players change their minds about this decision every year). His strength and agility inside against Clemson in the Huskers' Gator Bowl win were impressive. He led his team on the day with eight tackles, four for loss and two sacks. His blocked a field goal using his length and a great push took three points off the board for the Tigers. Suh even lined up at defensive end, showing smooth change of direction skills on the outside. The active, strong play of seniors DT Ty Steinkuhler and DE Zach Potter helped Suh make plays, as well, and held the Tigers' dynamic duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller to 43 rush yards.
The injury to Bulldogs star Jeff Owens helped this JUCO transfer get his name on scouts' minds. He justified his Senior Bowl invite with a strong game in the victory over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. His three tackles and a sack don't jump off the stats sheet, but his all-around effort helped corral RB Javon Ringer inside and limit the Spartans' passing attack. Ringer, did, however, give scouts something to chew on after showing nice hands and elusiveness as a receiver against Georgia's quick defense.
Another underclassmen (redshirt sophomore) who has said he wants to return to college for his senior year. Of course, that was before his 10 catch, 162 yard, one touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. The Arkansas transfer's size, quicks, toughness and strong hands would put him near the top of the receiver list in a year without great senior talent at the position. And then there's the guy who got him the ball, QB Mark Sanchez.
ECU came up short against Kentucky, but Drew's agility and hands stood out during the Liberty Bowl. His five catches for 120 yards led the team, and he showed nice versatility lining up outside, in the slot, in motion and with his hand down. Although his blocking technique needs work, NFL scouts believe he's a work in progress worth taking a shot on.
The US Olympic team won't recruit Brown for its 4x100 relay, but his big body and strength against smaller Alabama corners allowed him to dominate inside and outside. His 12 catches for 125 yards included some crucial third-down conversions, which would be a primary role in the NFL.
Junior RB Donald Brown made the headlines during and after their International Bowl win over Buffalo. First, he gained 261 yards on 29 carries, then he announced his intention to declare for the draft. But Northeast regional scouts have been talking about Beatty's athleticism, and their bosses got a chance to see it for themselves. He plays in front of lefty QB Tyler Lorenzen but would stay at on the left side in the NFL. His quickness from his stance and agility to get out in front of Brown on outside runs were impressive. Still a bit raw, the first team All-Big East pick has the upside to challenge for top 50 consideration.
8. Quan Cosby, WR, Texas Current Rating: 2009 Draft Scout #28 WR, Overall #226, Compiled Projected Round(s): 6-7
With Jordan Shipley returning to UT for a sixth season, Cosby is now the primary senior prospect on offense for the Longhorns. His strong Fiesta Bowl performance against Ohio State (14 catches, 171 yards) finished with a game-winning 26 yard touchdown - his second of the night. The former baseball player should be an excellent West Coast-style receiver, using his strength and ability to make yards after the catch at the next level.
Teammate receiver Brian Robiskie could have been the Buckeyes' player of note in the Fiesta Bowl (five catches for 116 yards) despite a rough start and All-American James Laurinaitis made nine tackles and took away Texas receivers over the middle. But Freeman helped himself the most on Monday night because he was all over the field (eight tackles, one for loss), making plays from sideline to sideline displaying the speed and tackling ability that NFL defensive coordinators covet.
Adams is a tough runner who usually gets overlooked in Tulsa's quick-pace offense despite accumulating more than 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. But he helped his stock immensely by running wild over Ball State for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the rainy, windy GMAC Bowl. He will not clock a 4.4 in the 40 during post-season workouts but has enough of a burst to be part of a NFL backfield rotation.
Fellow junior QB Tim Tebow made some nice throws and once again led his team to a BCS championship. But Harvin's impact on the team despite fighting through injury gave him the biggest bump. His speed and vision led to nine rushes for 122 yards and a score, as well as five catches for 49 yards. Scouts may wonder if he's a back or receiver, but offensive coordinators just want to get him the ball. He may finally get a shot as a return man in the NFL, as well, where he could be a dangerous weapon.
Even though the Sooners gave up 480 yards to Florida in the BCS championship game, McCoy's athleticism stood out throughout the contest. The stat line of four tackles and an interception did not tell the story. The redshirt sophomore's hustle and consistent ability to push the pocket put him in a great position to be a top ten pick in this year's draft, if he decides to throw his hat in the ring.
13. Herman Johnson, OG, LSU - Stock Current Rating: 2009 Draft Scout #4 OG, Overall #87, Compiled Projected Round(s): 3
LSU's 38-3 blowout of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl came mostly because of the Tigers' defense and special teams. But it's tough to watch a massive human being like Johnson in the trenches and not be impressed by his strength and relative agility. He consistently make room for junior RB Charles Scott and gave freshman QB Jordan Jefferson the time he needed to look impressive as a runner and thrower against a pretty good Tech defense.
14. James Holt, OLB, Kansas Current Rating: 2009 Draft Scout #32 OLB, Overall #411, Compiled Projected Round(s):
Kansas WR Dez Briscoe was the star of the Jayhawks' 42-21 win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl (14 catches, 201 yards, three TDs), but he's only a sophomore so scouts have to wait on him. On defense, linebackers Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen combined for 27 tackles but the real star was Holt. The game's "most outstanding defender" made eight solo stops including four for loss and three sacks. He also displayed good lateral quickness in coverage and an ability to disengage from blocks.
Raji has a body built by Burger King, but he still showed amazing athleticism against Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. It was basically a road game for the Eagles but Raji felt at home in the backfield. Whether he was lined up on the nose or on the outside shoulder of a guard, the All-Big East tackle consistently disrupted Vandy's offense. His stout partner inside, nose tackle Ron Brace, also didn't hurt himself in the eyes of scouts in the Eagles' 16-14 loss.
The back of his jersey is pretty full right now because he wears "Strong-Butler" in tribute to his long-time stepfather. But that extra fabric did not weigh him down against Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl. The first team All-Pac 10 defensive end - likely to move to outside linebacker in the NFL - used his speed, hustle and strength to rack up 11 tackles, including five for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble in the 3-0 Oregon State victory.
Former backfield mate RB Jonathan Stewart took advantage of Johnson's knee injury last season to run himself into the first round. This year, Johnson's been able to stay healthy and could wind up in a similar position. His 119 yards on 19 carries, included a 76-yard touchdown run which showed his elusiveness and speed. He won't be able to run east-west as much in the NFL, but he has the skills to be a fine runner in a pro-style system.
Navarre proved himself a versatile defender who was a force whether playing outside in a 3-4 alignment or inside with four down linemen. Coach Fridge has been telling scouts for some time that Navarre's talent, hustling and work ethic is exemplary…and his play in this game (seven tackles, 3.5 for loss) backed up that high praise.
The performances by star underclassmen WR/RS Jeremy Maclin and OLB Sean Weatherspoon did little to hurt their stock. But Hood's explosiveness out of his stance, splitting of double teams, closing speed to the quarterback and ball-chasing jumped out. He had five tackles and a sack, but influenced several other plays with his athleticism and motor inside.
20. Mike Teel, QB, Rutgers - Stock Current Rating: 2009 Draft Scout #14 QB, Overall #271, Compiled Projected Round(s): 7-FA
Teel's stock took a hard turn south early in his senior season, but his MVP performance against North Carolina State in the PapaJohns.com Bowl capped off an outstanding second half of the year that included seven straight wins. He completed 22 of his 37 passes for 319 yards included a fourth quarter drive to take the lead for good. Teel lacks the arm strength to be drafted very high, and he may not hear his name at all…but few quarterbacks have done more to help their draft stock late in the year.
Regional scouts and Cal fans know all about the playmaking Follett. But East Coast and Midwest NFL decision makers who hadn't had much of a chance to see him in action got a full diet of his skills in the Emerald Bowl against Miami (Fla.). Whether beating big offensive tackles off the edge on blitzes, stuffing runs near the line or tracking down backs and receivers in coverage, Follett's underrated strength and athleticism were on full display. His fourth quarter sack and strip of Miami QB Jacory Harris led to the game-winning score.
Teammate Graham Gano deserved to win the MVP award against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl for his punting and kicking prowess, but that effort was expected...Carr's performance was more beneficial to his draft stock. Carr's one-handed catch in the end zone was exactly what you'd expect for a 6'6" receiver and his eight catches went for only 78 yards. But his quick feet on out routes and moves made after the catch might push scouts to re-assess if he is a one-trick pony.
NFL scouts have been discussing White's future as a quarterback since early 2008, where he really started to make all of the NFL throws. His record-setting fourth bowl game win over North Carolina on Saturday showed scouts that although he's not very big and struggles with his accuracy on the run, he can look off safeties and throw hot, accurate passes down the seam. White completed 26 of 32 throws (81%) for 332 yards and three touchdowns on the day, a career high and the first time he's thrown for more than 300 yards. He's earned the right to at least get some reps at the position in a team's training camp next summer.
The true junior's first half in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against West Virginia would be a career-best game for most receivers: five catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were highlight-reel quality. Already heavily leaning towards entering the draft, his display of strength and hands in this game probably sealed the deal. When scouts evaluate Hicks, they should remember the impact of guys like the aforementioned Anquan Boldin, once considered too slow to be a first round pick.
He looks like a wide receiver, but Brown's 102 yards with a touchdown against Boise State in the Horned Frogs' Poinsettia Bowl win showed NFL scouts some nice running skills. He slipped through creases and cut back in space to get into a very good second gear. Although Brown didn't make much of an impact as a receiver or returner in this game, he proved during the season the ability to contribute in both ways at the next level.
One of the leading tacklers in the nation over the past two years, Joseph's ability to pound ballcarriers inside overcomes his average straight-line speed. His 14 bone-shattering tackles against Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl proved to scouts that his tackle numbers are not inflated by dragging down running backs after ten yard gains or coming late into the piles. It was only appropriate he broke up a fourth quarter pass in the end zone to help seal FAU's win.
The Trojans lost to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl and Martin didn't make any game-changing plays. But he showed scouts his excellent speed, which he used to close quickly on ballcarriers while making seven tackles. His ability will be tested at the Senior Bowl next month, but this contest in the SuperDome provided a nice appetizer.
Although he's maddeningly inconsistent, Tuitama followed up a big win over Arizona State with a Las Vegas Bowl MVP performance against BYU. He completed 24 of 35 yards for 325 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for another score. When he's on target and poised, Tuitama looks like a NFL quarterback.
Johnson's been a reliable force for the Rams the past two seasons, but his 285 rushing yards against Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl introduced him to the rest of the country. His lack of speed lowers his value to scouts but his toughness inside and solid receiving hands will get him a shot at fullback, or possibly as a tailback in a power running system.
As a team, Wake probably wasn't happy playing in the first bowl game of the season (the first EagleBank Bowl) against Navy. But this brother of NFL star receiver Anquan took advantage of the situation to display his strength and athleticism, making four catches for 60 yards and returning two punts for 26 yards.
12/28/08 - Chad Reuter & Rob Rang, Draft Analysts, The SportsXchange