NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
College football’s bowl season kicks off with the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday afternoon between the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Arizona Wildcats. In addition to the game being nationally televised — as all 35 bowl games are — NFL scouts will likely be in attendance to watch the top prospects from each team play their final collegiate game before preparing for the 2013 NFL draft.
While neither of these teams has any prospects likely to be selected in the draft’s first two days, there is some intriguing talent on both teams that could draw interest in the late rounds of the draft or as undrafted free agents.
The New England Patriots currently have only one pick in the draft’s final four rounds, but chances are good that they will acquire additional selections via trade. If so, these are a few players that the Patriots could look at as late draft picks or as free agent selections:
Duke Williams, SS, Nevada (#19 in our SAF Rankings)
Nevada strong safety Duke Williams will most likely be the first player selected in the 2013 NFL draft among participants in this game. Williams is a well-rounded safety and rangy playmaker who should be a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice.
Williams has good size at 6’1” and 200 pounds, and he is both a sound tackler and hard hitter. He also displays very good speed in the open field. He is consistent in deep pass coverage, but he is also very good at reading, reacting and finishing tackles in run support.
With Patrick Chung likely to be let go as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Patriots need safety depth, and Williams’ well-rounded game would make him a great choice if the Patriots are able to trade for some early Day 3 draft selections.
Dan Buckner, WR, Arizona (#30 in our WR Rankings)
The Patriots have a severe lack of depth at wide receiver, and aside from Brandon Lloyd, they don’t have any other true receivers over 6 feet tall on their roster. They could use a receiver with size to give them a bigger outside threat and another red-zone target, and a possible late-round or undrafted free agent option is Arizona’s Dan Buckner.
At listed measurables of 6’4” and 215 pounds, Buckner has great size. He is a physical receiver who catches the ball well in traffic, has good verticality and is also a very solid blocker.
Buckner struggles to gain separation downfield, has some issues with drops and concentration and lacks speed. Because of that, he is a seventh-round pick at best, and will have to be able to contribute on special teams to stick on an NFL roster, but he has some potential as a short-yardage target.
Albert Rosette, ILB, Nevada
The Patriots also need depth at linebacker, and Nevada’s Albert Rosette is a player worth looking at as a seventh-round choice or free agent pickup as a backup linebacker and special teams player.
Rosette, who converted from defensive end to linebacker as a senior, has terrific football instincts. He often anticipates plays before they even begins, and acts on his reads to make plays.
He needs to be stronger, as he is often pushed around by blockers and gets driven through by running backs. He also is not a great athlete, but he makes up for his shortcomings and make plays because of his intelligence and discipline.
Khalid Wooten, CB, Nevada
The Patriots need depth at cornerback, and look for defensive backs who play with physicality and can contribute on special teams. Nevada’s Khalid Wooten, a big, physical and athletic cornerback, fits that description.
Wooten does not have top speed and has stiff hips in coverage, but he uses his 6-foot, 200-pound frame well to body up against opposing receivers. He has good ball skills, as evidenced by his 15 pass defenses during the regular season, and is a sound tackler.
Wooten is also a good punt returner: his 16.36 yards per return average ranks fourth in the FBS this season. With both Julian Edelman and Wes Welker being unrestricted free agents, the Patriots may need another punt returner.
Wooten doesn’t have the coverage skills to be a starting NFL cornerback, but he has potential as a dime back and special teams contributor, which gives him a shot at being picked in the draft’s late rounds.
Other Prospects to Watch:
Arizona QB Matt Scott – Grade: 5th Round
Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson (Jr.) – Grade: 5th Round