'09 NFL Draft: Which prospects to watch during college bowl season
December 18, 2008
With the college bowl season set to get underway, SI.com's draft guru Tony Pauline has identified potential NFL prospects playing in all the games. He gets things started below with players in the first 11 bowls. Check back soon for the other 23 games.
Aaron Curry/OLB/#59/5Sr: Curry has elevated his draft stock like no other senior in the nation and has played brilliantly this season. He's a dominant three-down defender who will be one of the first dozen players drafted in April.
Alphonso Smith/CB/#2/5Sr: Smith is slightly undersized yet a shut down cover man who projects as a second cornerback in the NFL. He'll hear his name called somewhere in round two next year.
Brandon Ghee/CB/#17/4Jr: Ghee possesses better size and upside compared to Smith, yet needs to polish his game. He presently grades as a second-round choice but could move into the draft's first round if he continues to progress on the field.
Sam Swank/PK-P/#38/5Sr: Swank handled double duties as a place kicker and punter at Wake Forest the past four years. He possesses a strong leg and can punt his team out of a jam or hit the long field goal in a clutch. Injuries slowed him last season and will push Swank into the later rounds next April.
Chip Vaughn/S/#9/5Sr: Vaughn is a well-sized safety best defending the run. He's a very active prospect who makes a lot of tackles. His size/speed numbers are off the charts and he grades out as a middle-round pick.
Boo Robinson/DT/#96/4Jr: The three-year starter has been steady on the field and shows flashes of brilliance. Robinson teases scouts, who feel he has the ability to elevate his game. He is presently considered a late-round pick.
Kevin Patterson/S/#10/5Sr: Patterson lacks the top size/speed numbers scouts want in a safety prospect. He does possess a great head for the game, which will make him attractive in the late rounds.
Eric Kettani/FB/#36/4Sr: Kettani is what one expects from a Navy football player: He's smart, tough and does the little things well. His military commitment will push him into the draft's late rounds yet Kettani is a triple-threat fullback and worth the investment.
Bear Pascoe/TE/#85/5Sr: Pascoe is a solid pass-catching tight end who holds his own as a blocker. He's sized well but lacks the speed to be anything other than a mid-to-late round choice next April and a number two tight end in the NFL.
Tom Brandstater/QB/#7/5Sr: Fresno State's starting passer the past three seasons is a tough, efficient signal caller who makes good decisions. He struggled a bit this season, playing below expectations, yet will be terrific value in the late rounds next April.
A.J. Jefferson/CB/#28/Jr: Jefferson is a game-impacting return specialist also developing his game at cornerback. He has all the tools to be a big-time player and early draft pick in the future if he completes his game.
Gartrell Johnson/RB-FB/#5/5Sr: Johnson, the Rams primary ball carrier the past two seasons, comes off a career year as a senior. He's a powerful downhill runner who pounds opponents on the inside. Johnson's versatility as an effective short-yardage runner and blocker could secure him as a late-round pick.
Kory Sperry/TE/#80/5Sr: Sperry is a fluid, pass-catching tight end with natural receiving skills. He was never considered fast, even before a knee injury sidelined him in 2007. Sperry will likely drop out of the draft's seven rounds but will have ample opportunity in camp next summer.
Clinton McDonald/DT/#53/4Sr: The Tigers best defensive prospect has been flying up draft boards recently. McDonald is a smallish (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) one-gap tackle with a motor that never stops. Scouts feel he's good value in round four.
Brandon Pearce/OT/#71/5Sr: Pearce is a 6-6 tackle with the ability to add bulk to his tall frame. He offers a good amount of upside and is a solid developmental prospect likely to be signed as a free agent next April.
Charlie Jones/RB/#34/5Sr: Jones is a one-time promising Miami Hurricanes running back who was highly thought of by NFL scouts. He's had a tough year in '08 and struggled with injuries.
George Selvie/DE/#95/4Jr: The Bulls dominant pass rusher comes off a disappointing season. Selvie has been compared to Simeon Rice in size and style. He's an eventual first-round pick when he leaves college for the NFL.
Tyrone McKenzie/OLB/#27/5Sr: McKenzie is a fleet-footed, one-gap linebacker best pursuing the action. McKenzie grades as a third-round pick in April's draft.
Nate Allen/S/#5/3Jr: Allen is a well-sized safety who improved his game this season. He's a forceful run defender who also holds his own in pass coverage.
Taurus Johnson/WR/#89/4Sr: Johnson is an adequately sized possession wideout with sure hands. He's come up big for South Florida on a number of occasions this season. Johnson grades as a late-round pick, yet could improve his ranking with good pre-draft workouts.
Matt Grothe/QB/#8/4Jr: The versatile Grothe is a terrific college passer with a great command of the offense. He lacks the size to be a passer in the NFL yet has the ability to make a roster for a creative offense as a quarterback that is brought onto the field in red-zone situations.
Cedric Hill/TB/#9/5Sr: A sure-handed tight end with average height, Hill is a late-round prospect whose true NFL position may be fullback.
Eben Britton/OT/#77/4Jr: The Wildcats left tackle has turned heads with his play this season. Scouts are not yet convinced Britton can stay on the blind side in the NFL but love his size and upside. He's openly talked about entering April's draft, in which he'll be a top 45 pick.
Mike Thomas/WR/#10/4Sr: Thomas comes off a terrific senior campaign and has improved his draft stock. He's a short but reliable receiver who also offers potential as a return specialist. Thomas is a solid mid-round pick for a team needing a third receiver.
Willie Tuitama/QB/#7/4Sr: Tuitama is another Arizona senior who had a terrific season. He's an athletic signal caller, effective throwing on the move, and a late-round prospect best served playing in a west coast offense.
Dennis Pitta/TE/#32/3Jr: Pitta, one of the nation's better pass-catching tight ends, has been a lethal weapon in the BYU arsenal all year. He's coming off a slight knee injury sustained last month but is expected to be 100 percent by game time. Pitta has been compared to former Cougar greats Chad Lewis. The junior is expected to take his game to the NFL next year and will get consideration in the third round of April's draft.
Travis Bright/OG/#74/5Sr: Bright is a well-sized lineman who displays ability blocking on the move. He possesses solid pass-blocking feet and a good head for the game. Bright, who's been moving up draft boards all season, projects as a fourth-round pick next April.
Ray Feinga/OG/#76/5Sr: Feinga is a massive blocker at 6-5, 340. He has athletic limitations but will be a good late-round pick for a power running offense.
Harvey Unga/RB/#45/3So: Unga has been a dominant interior ball carrier for the Cougars, breaking the century mark on the ground the past two seasons. Unga offers a terrific combination of power, vision and instincts at running back while also adding the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Dallas Reynolds/OC/#65/4Sr: BYU's leader on the offensive line, Reynolds is smart, tough and strong. He comes off a terrific senior season and could be a late-round gem next April.
Austin Collie/WR/#9/3Jr: Another ultra-productive pass catcher from the Cougars offense, Collie is a sure-handed receiver who fights to make the reception. Collie is another BYU junior expected to take his game to the NFL after the Las Vegas Bowl. He'll fall into the later rounds next April.
Max Hall/QB/#15/4Jr: The transfer from Arizona State passed for 3,600-plus yards again this season and set a personal mark of 34 touchdown passes. He's an efficient and smart passer but lacks the true arm strength to be anything other than a late-round pick.
Brandon Lang/DE/#91/3Jr: Lang is a tremendous pass rusher and reminds many of former Troy State star DeMarcus Ware. He's a quick edge rusher who displays enough speed to pursue the action from the backside. Lang has a great future; the junior will be a top 75 draft pick in 2010.
Sherrod Martin/CB-S/#6/5Sr: Martin is an underrated defensive back who was productive out of the gate for Troy State. He has terrific ball skills and is effective playing over the slot receiver. Martin will be good value in the late rounds and could be used in nickel/dime situations at the next level.
Terence Moore/S-OLB/#20/4Sr: Moore is a hard-hitting run defender who was moved to outside linebacker as a senior after spending most of his career at safety. He'll get consideration in the late rounds as a conventional strong safety.
Boris Lee/LB/#2/3Jr: Troy State's leading tackler the past two seasons, Lee is a versatile linebacker who can line up on the inside of a 3-4 alignment or on the outside in a conventional scheme. He's a solid late-round pick in the future.
Shawn Nelson/TE/#1/5Sr: Nelson is a playmaking tight end who consistently creates mismatches in the secondary. He looks like a power forward on the football field but is slightly underrated due to all the star power at the tight end position this year. Nelson will be a steal in the fourth round and eventually start in the NFL.
Gerald McRath/LB/#24/4Jr: Southern Mississippi's emotional leader on defense, McGrath is a tackling machine on the inside yet possesses the size and speed to get consideration at outside linebacker. He's giving serious consideration to entering the draft. He grades as a top 75 choice.
Damion Fletcher/RB/#25/3Jr: Fletcher is an undersized running back who plays bigger than his listed measurables. The junior is a versatile back who'll be a situational ball handler at the next level.
Calvin Wilson/OT/#72/4Jr: Wilson, a Mississippi State transfer, offers tremendous size (6-6, 350), which he combines with a good degree of athleticism. Wilson's lack of consistency has turned off a number of scouts.
Ryan McKee/OT/#66/4Sr: McKee is a tough, workmanlike college blocker who lacks the athleticism to be anything other than a backup in the NFL.
Jerry Hughes/DE-OLB/#98/3Jr: Hughes, a college defensive end who projects to outside linebacker in the NFL, has terrorized quarterbacks all season and is a constant presence in the opponents backfield. A terrific athlete with good upside, he is seriously considering entering the draft. He projects as a third rounder.
Rafael Priest/CB/#10/4Jr: Priest is an undersized cornerback with terrific ball skills. He's fast enough to run with opponents anywhere on the field and displays a good head for coverage. Priest will fit into the draft's top 75 picks when he leaves college.
Jason Phillips/LB/#39/5Sr: TCU's leading tackler the past two seasons, Phillips is a swift linebacker who plays sideline-to-sideline. Slightly limited by his 6-1 frame, Phillips is an interchangeable defender who can play a variety of linebacker spots and will be good value in the late rounds.
Aaron Brown/RB/#23/4Sr: Brown is a versatile skill player who produces as a pass catcher out of the backfield and returning kicks. He's not spectacular in any single area, rather very steady and reliable. He's worth the investment of a late-round pick for a team wanting a Leon Washington-type of ball handler.
Stephen Hodge/S/#29/4Sr: Hodge has been a two-year starter and special teams standout for TCU. He's got the measurables and attitude to succeed in the NFL as a conventional strong safety.
Cody Moore/DT/#56/5Sr: Moore is an intense lineman who plays hard until the whistle blows. He's unlikely to be drafted, but could find a roster spot as an inexpensive backup for a one-gap defense.
Robert Henson/ILB/#51/5Sr: The Horned Frogs underrated run defender is a stout linebacker with a terrific head for the game. Henson is a four-time All-Mountain West performer who will have an opportunity as a reserve linebacker/special teams player at the next level.
Kyle Wilson/CB/#1/4Jr: Boise State has a tradition of putting quality cornerbacks into the draft and Wilson is the next top defensive back from the program. He possesses good size/speed numbers but must polish his game. Wilson offers first day potential when he finally enters the draft.
Richie Brockel/FB/#40/4Jr: Brockel is a true lead fullback in every sense. He's physically strong, aggressive yet plays intelligent football. Brockel is mid-round material for a power running offense.
Ian Johnson/RB/#41/5Sr: The former All-American watched his production slip last season after sharing the ball carrying duties. Johnson, ever the team player, did not complain but contributed when called upon. He's got the size and skill set to be a productive third back for an NFL team and should be selected in the draft's middle rounds.
Jeremy Childs/WR/#9/4Jr: Childs is a well-sized receiver who flashes game-breaking ability. He's stated publicly he will return to Boise State for another season, which was the right choice as his game is rough around the edges.
Vinny Perretta/WR/#18/5Sr: The Broncos multi-faceted weapon produces at receiver, as a return specialist and even carrying the football on reverses. Perretta's 5-9 frame poses challenges and will knock him out of the draft's seven rounds, yet this versatile skill player will have an opportunity in camp next summer.
Eric Olsen/OG/#55/3Jr: Olsen responded well after becoming a full-time starter this season. He's a big, powerful blocker with mid-round potential in the future.
Sam Young/OT/#74/3Jr: Young holds the honor of being the first Irish freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line since freshmen regained their eligibility in 1972. He's possesses good size as well as growth potential. He offers starting possibilities in the NFL as a right tackle.
David Bruton/S/#27/4Sr: Bruton is a forceful run defender with enough ball skills to start in the NFL. He presently grades as a late-round pick, though that will change if he runs well prior to the draft.
Maurice Crum Jr./LB/#40/5Sr: Crum has been a reliable and productive four year starter at Notre Dame. His measurables (5-11, 235, 4.75 seconds in the 40) will push him deep into the draft, yet Crum's attention to detail and versatility could secure his future in the NFL.
David Veikune/DE/#94/5Sr: Veikune comes off a terrific senior season and is watching his draft stock take off. He's a terrific pass rusher who displays resiliency in run defense. An All-Academic performer, Veikune could slip into the initial 100 choices next April.
John Estes/C-G/#55/4Jr: Estes is a versatile blocker who can play any number of positions on the offensive line. He combines toughness, fundamentals and smarts to control opponents. Estes grades as a solid third-round pick when he enters the draft.
Ryan Mouton/DB/#2/4Sr: Hawaii's multi-purpose player saw action at receiver, in the defensive backfield and on special teams last season. He's a tremendous athlete with rare speed. He'll be a late-round prospect for a team interested in investing in his development.
Solomon Elimimian/LB/#17/4Sr: Elimimian's a four-year starter and the team's leader in tackles the past two seasons. His 5-11, 225-pound frame and 4.8 speed will turn off teams, but don't be fooled as Elimimian plays bigger and faster than his numbers suggest.
Dan Lefevour/QB/#13/4Jr: The Chippewas signal caller has been a three-year starter and an All Conference performer every season. He's a big armed passer who can throw the deep ball with accuracy. Lefevour must improve the finer points of the quarterback position but carries a third-round grade at present time.
Antonio Brown/WR/#27/3So: Brown is a deep threat at receiver who uses his home run speed on punt and kick returns. He has all the makings of a first-round pick if he continues to develop his game.
Andrew Hartline/OT/#74/5Sr: CMU's starting left tackle is a smart, feisty blocker who's best in a small area. He'll be drafted in the late rounds then moved to the right side of the line in the NFL.
Bryan Anderson/WR/#7/4Jr: Anderson is a huge receiving target at 6-5, 210 pounds. He's proven himself to be a lethal red zone threat and projects as a possession wideout in the NFL.
William Rose/FB/#46/4Jr: Rose is a triple threat fullback who can handle the ball as well as block. He's an outstanding pass catcher and a perfect fullback for a west coast offense. Rose will get middle round looks in the 2010 draft.
Frantz Joseph/ILB/#56/5Sr: The Boston College transfer is a ferocious run defender who flies around making plays. Frantz comes off a solid season but lacks the true size/speed numbers to be anything other than a late round pick.
Tavious Polo/CB/#5/3So: Polo is a developing cornerback with a terrific future. He's shown steady progress the past two years and could develop into a to top 60 choice down the road.
Quinton Andrews/S/#8/4Jr: Andrews is a hard hitting run defender who elevated his game this season. He's considering entering the draft but projects as a top 75 pick if he returns to school and completes his game.
Greg Isdaner/G/#79/4Jr: The Mountaineers top offensive lineman is a mountain man who moves well for a 320-pound blocker. Isdaner has dominated the opposition for two years now and will be one of the top guards in the country as a senior.
Pat White/QB/#5/5Sr: White is a prospect who draws a variety of opinions around the league. He's a college quarterback but is built like a receiver and shows ball carrying skills. White has recently peeked the interest of scouts with his signal caller abilities. Pre-draft events such as the Senior Bowl and combine will go a long way in determining where White is eventually selected in April's draft.
Selvish Capers/OT/#66/4Sr: Capers is quickly learning the ropes at offensive tackle after playing tight end early in his career. He's a big athlete with a large amount of upside and worth the investment of a late round draft pick.
Ellis Lankster/CB/#2/4Sr: Lankster moved into the starting lineup as a senior and proved himself worthy of playing with the first team. He was not graded by scouts coming into the season but now ranks as a late-round choice.
Mortty Ivy/OLB/#44/5Sr: Ivy is a stout, hard-nosed football player yet a limited athlete. He'll get consideration in the late rounds by a defense that employs a 3-4 alignment.
Hakeem Nicks/WR/#88/3Jr: Nicks is a reliable possession wideout who has been ultra-productive since his freshman season. He's got the makings of a good second receiver for an NFL offense.
Brooks Foster/WR/#1/5Sr: Foster has fallen in and out of favor with the Tar Heels coaching staff but NFL scouts feel he has the body type and physical skills to produce at the next level. Expect Foster to be a late riser as the draft approaches.
Trimane Goddard/S/#31/5Sr: Goddard has developed into a complete safety, effectively defending both the run and pass. He's an opportunistic defensive back who picked off seven passes and broke up five more this season. Goddard lacks classic safety size, yet has played well enough this season to elevate himself into the middle rounds.
Brandon Tate/WR/#87/4Sr: Tate was off to a blistering start and on his way to a career season before a knee injury put a halt to his campaign. He's shown game-breaking skills the past two years but the injury could push him out of the draft.
Garrett Reynolds/OT/#75/4Sr: Reynolds is a king-sized right tackle who controls opponents once engaged in a block. He lacks the great athleticism but has enough talent to be a backup on the NFL level.
Matt Shaughnessy/DE/#93/4Sr: Shaughnessy is a fierce pass rusher who makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He has the size to stand up over tackle as a linebacker but the body type that will eventually mature into a defensive end. Shaughnessy could slide into the draft's initial 50 picks.
Travis Beckum/TE/#9/4Sr: He was considered one of the top tight ends when the season started. He was setback by injuries from the start of the campaign then a broken left fibula ended his season in October. Beckum is third-round talent who could end up dropping deep in the draft if he's not fully healed by the combine.
Kraig Urbik/OG/#63/5Sr: Urbik is a four-year starter who's effectively played the guard and tackle positions. He's a workmanlike lineman who lacks the eye-popping athleticism, yet is just a good football player. He's worthy of a third-round grade but is likely to be drafted a frame later.
Gabe Carimi/OT/#68/3So: Wisconsin has a history of putting quality offensive tackles into the draft's first round and Carimi is likely the next in line. He's a solid pass protector who possesses the frame to dominate the opposition run blocking.
Elijah Hodge/ILB/#52/4Jr: Hodge is a fierce inside linebacker who plays sideline-to-sideline, showing skill against the run and pass. A tad undersized, he's a perfect one-gap defender with first-day draft potential.
Garrett Graham/TE/#89/4Jr: Graham picked up the slack after Beckum went down with his injury and proved himself to be NFL worthy. He is not the same downfield threat compared to his teammate but is a better blocker.
Jonathan Casillas/OLB/#2/4Sr: Wisconsin's super athletic defender, Casillas is one of the fastest linebackers in the nation. He covers a lot of ground and stands out in pass protection. Scouts feel there's much more to his game than Casillas shows on a regular basis and they label him a bit of an underachiever. Casillas possesses top 60 skills but is likely to fall out of the draft's initial 100 selections.
Andy Kemp/OG/#75/4Sr: Kemp is a three-year starter and an All Academic performer who plays smart football. He gets the most from his ability. Kemp is likely to fall into the draft's late rounds but has the resiliency to stick around the league for many years.
DeAndre Levy/OLB/#11/4Sr: Levy elevated his game last season and is watching his draft stock soar. He possesses good size and is fast enough to start in the NFL. He will be a steal in the middle rounds.
Everette Brown/DE/#99/4Jr: The athletic Brown is the Seminoles premiere pass rusher. He's slowly developing a complete game, has been stamped with a first-round grade by NFL scouts and is expected to enter next April's draft.
Antone Smith/RB/#6/4Sr: Smith is very much like former Seminole running backs Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker; small but quick and elusive. He's got the ability to create his own yardage. Similar to Washington and Booker, Smith will be used as a situational back at the next level.
Myron Rolle/S/#3/3Jr: The Seminole defensive back has terrific size/speed numbers and has shown a lot of skill over his FSU career. Recently awarded a Rhodes scholarship, Rolle has stated this will be his last season on the college football field. He has yet to decide whether he will opt for the NFL draft or take advantage of his scholarship and study abroad.
Darryl Sharpton/ILB/#50/4Jr: Sharpton is the most recent Hurricane linebacker whose game is characterized by speed and intensity. His style very much parallels former Miami greats such as Jon Vilma and Ray Lewis. Sharpton offers terrific potential and could be a first-round pick in 2010.
Bruce Johnson/CB/#22/4Sr: The athletic senior offers terrific size (5-10, 180) and speed (4.42 40) at the cornerback position. He was highly rated by NFL scouts entering the season, yet his play on the field falls short of expectations. Johnson offers a large amount of upside potential, which could solidify him as a top 75 choice.
Jason Fox/OT/#64/3Jr: Fox is a three-year starter who effectively manned the left and right tackle spots. He has a terrific combination of size and athleticism and has shown steady improvement on the field. Fox could move into the initial two rounds of the 2010 draft if he completes his game.
Dedrick Epps/TE/#18/3Jr: Epps improved his game significantly this season and the 255-pound tight end with 4.65 speed caught 22 passes, averaging 13.8 yards per reception. He has the skill and physical tools to make a big move up draft boards as a senior if he takes it to the next level.
Javarris James/RB/#5/3Jr: The talented ball carrier struggled through an injury-plagued junior season and saw the field for just eight games. James has big time potential but must play to it on a fulltime basis next year.
Spencer Adkins/ILB/#48/4Sr: Adkins is another physically gifted prospect whose time on the field has been limited. He's a late-round draft pick who could be a late bloomer and surprise critics at the next level.
Antonio Dixon/DT/#96/4Sr: The Hurricanes defensive tackle is a prospect who's shown flashes of brilliance but has never pulled the pieces of his game together. He's an underachiever of sorts, but his sheer size (6-3, 325) and potential at nose tackle will garner late-round consideration.
Alex Mack/C/#51/5Sr: Mack has been one of the nation's most dominant blockers the past two seasons. He possesses the size, skill and intellect to quickly start at center as a rookie. Mack is also likely to slide into the late part of round one next April.
Syd'Quan Thompson/CB/#5/4Jr: Thompson was a freshman All-American whose game leveled off as a sophomore. He returned to form this year and has soared up draft boards. Thompson offers the size and speed to start in the NFL and will be a top 60 pick if he continues to improve.
Worrell Williams/LB/#1/5Sr: The athletic Williams has been a steady player on the Cal defense since breaking into the starting unit as a freshman. He' displays an array of skill and is a three-down linebacker. Fast times at the combine could push him into the third round.
Zach Follett/LB/#56/4Sr: Follett is another three-year starter for Cal and a defender constantly making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He offers solid size/speed numbers and is likely to be drafted in the middle rounds.
Will Ta'ufo'ou/FB/#23/5Sr: Ta'ufo'ou is a bruising lead blocker rarely asked to handle the ball. He does the dirty work up front and has a special teams mentality. His game is a bit one-dimensional yet his attitude and approach should get him drafted in the late rounds.
Anthony Felder/LB/#7/4Sr: Felder really stepped up his game last year on a squad with two other talented linebackers. He's a stout run defender who showed enough skill in '08 to get late-round consideration.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!