NEPD Editor: James Christensen
The Alamo Bowl features perhaps my favorite prospect in the entire 2013 NFL Draft as well as a few other players that fit what the Patriots might be looking for this off-season.
Read on to see which players we’re watching when the Texas Longhorns match up against the Oregon State Beavers.
Kenny Vaccaro, FS/SS, Texas (#2 Ranked Safety)
Vaccaro has been one of my favorite safety prospects since September of his junior year. The level of intensity at which Vaccaro plays is incredible – you can tell how important winning is to him.
Vaccaro comes up with at least one bone-jarring hit per game – he plays with reckless abandon, but also has the fundamentals to do the small things necessary to help his team win the game.
Vaccaro can support the run, rush from the edge, cover a deep half or third and specializes shutting down slot receivers. As we said in our scouting report of Vaccaro, he can bully you at the line and cover you down the field. I absolutely love his game.
He can come in immediately and start at either safety position, while also excelling on special teams if asked to. With the Patriots valuing that sort of versatility, you’d think that Vaccaro would be a prime target if he were to last until the latter parts of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (#8 Ranked Defensive End)
Okafor came into this year as a highly-rated prospect that failed to improve much on his good performance as a junior. He looks a bit rigid and robotic at times, but has some skills that have allowed him to excel at the college level.
I’m not sure where his best fit in the NFL is going to be, if he can play 3-4 OLB or if he is better suited as a LDE. At this point, I’d like to use him a bit like the Patriots have used Jermaine Cunningham this year, as an undersized defensive tackle that can get to the quarterback on the inside.
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (#3 Ranked Cornerback)
It is no secret that the Patriots have had some issues drafting cornerbacks over the last few years. With the exception of Devin McCourty, now a safety, the track record is pretty bad. That said, I won’t be surprised if they try again during the 2013 NFL Draft.
Poyer measures in at 6’0″, but weighs only 175 pounds. You wouldn’t know that from watching him, as his long arms and strength allow him to effectively press at the line of scrimmage. His burst, ball skills and route-reading are fantastic, resulting in seven interceptions for the Beavers in 2012.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (#12 Ranked Receiver)
Wheaton is a guy that many haven’t seen play, but will instantly fall in love with. He reminds me a bit of Deion Branch when he still had his speed. He is very effective working his way open, using his acceleration, 4.4 speed and phenomenal hands to keep defensive coordinators scheming to stop him
A fringe top 100 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick gives Wheaton a look in the third round.
Other Prospects to Watch:
Carrington Byndon, CB, Texas (Junior)
Mason Walters, OG, Texas (Junior)