NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
This year’s Gator Bowl features an overachieving Northwestern team and a Mississippi State team that has had a nice year competing in the difficult SEC. The game features one of the best defensive backs in the 2013 NFL Draft as well as a couple other players that might interest the Patriots and other NFL teams as the draft season kicks into full gear.
The game is usually one of the most entertaining New Year’s Day Bowl games and while this year’s matchup isn’t exciting on paper it should be a good game.
Potential Patriot Draft Picks in the Game
#13 Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (6’2/185) (#1 Ranked Cornerback) – It’s a longshot that Banks will be available when the Patriots pick at the end of the first round, as he is consider one of the top two or three defensive backs in this year’s draft. Banks possesses very good size and length for the position. He’s played three full seasons in the SEC against top competition and matched-up one on one with the best competition in the country. He has good instincts and often finds his way to the ball.
Banks is the type of CB the Patriots were hoping they were getting when they drafted Ras-I Dowling. A big CB who can play man and zone coverage and set the edge vs. the run. If the Patriots are willing to cut ties with Dowling and chalk it up as a loss, Banks could get a long look. Either way he is a top player in this year’s draft and with a secondary that is still unsettled, he will be on the Patriots draft board.
#61 Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State (6’4/320) (#9 Ranked Guard) – Jackson is an underclassmen who is considering entering the draft. If he does he will likely be one of the top four or five offensive guards selected. At 6’4/320 pound Jackson has a big frame and moves very well for his size. He bends well and exhibits the flexibility needed to be a top OG selection. According to Jackson he has worked hard to shed weight and add strength, which has led to more consistancy in his play.
The Patriots have good depth at OG with Pro Bowler Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly and a very good reserve in Donald Thomas, but you can never have enough good OL and Jackson is someone who they will be watching.
#97 Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State (6’3/300) (#16 Ranked Defensive Tackle) – I’ve said repeatedly that the Patriots need to add at least one impact defensive tackle this off-season whether through free agency or the draft. Boyd has a nice frame and shows good burst off the ball. With his quickness and burst he profiles as a 3-Technique at the next level. Boyd had a great Junior season, but really floundered as a Senior. This is his last chance to impress scouts in a competitive football game.
Last season Mississippi State produced top 15 pick DT Fletcher Cox and while Boyd isn’t close to that level he could be someone to keep an eye on late in the draft. Keep in mind that Patriots DT Kyle Love is from Mississippi State, so the Patriots are familiar with the system.
#1 Chad Bumphis, WR, Mississippi State (5’11/200) – Bumphis is a speedy WR who really reached his potential as a Senior totaling 55 catches for 904 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bumphis has a solid build and possess explosive agility. He has experience returning both kicks and punts, which should interest the Patriots. Bumphis does have some off the field issues as he was arrested in 2012, but he is a player to watch in this game as he has a knack for making the big play. As far as draft stock is concerned Bumphis is a day three player, but should get a chance somewhere.
#72 Brian Mulroe, OG, Northwestern (6’4/295) – Mulroe isn’t well known but, he is a very solid OG and a legit NFL prospect. He’s a three year starter at left guard and a team captain. Mulroe was selected as a 2nd team All Big-Ten selection in 2012. On the football field Mulroe exhibits very good mobility for a Guard. He can get out and pull and does a good job of finishing his blocks. The Patriots love to use day three picks on offensive linemen and Mulroe fits what they look for in a Guard.
Other Prospects to Watch:
#25 Corey Bloomfield, CB, Mississippi State (5’10/180)
#5 Nickoe Whitley, CB, Mississippi State (6’1/205) (Jr.)
#27 LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State (5’10/190) (Jr.)
#10 Cameron Lawrence, LB, Mississippi State (6’3/230)
#5 Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern (5’8/175) (Jr.)