NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Last year’s New Orleans Bowl was a memorable game, in which the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns upset San Diego State to win its first-ever bowl game. This year, the Ragin’ Cajuns are back in the New Orleans Bowl, and will take on the East Carolina Pirates in a game that now kicks off the second week of the bowl season on Saturday at noon.
In truth, NFL scouts likely won’t be flocking to New Orleans for this game, as there is a good chance neither team will have a player selected in the 2013 NFL draft. But for those who do watch on Saturday, there are a few potential late-round selections that you should keep an eye on, and players the New England Patriots could keep an eye on as well.
Melvin White, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
At a listed height of 6’3”, Melvin White has great length for a cornerback, and combined with good athletic ability, he is certain to catch the intrigue of some NFL scouts.
What White doesn’t have, however, is a polished skill set. He is a solid cover corner, but is not a big playmaker, and while his length is a huge asset, he does not have great speed by NFL standards. As a run defender, he is a hard-hitter who is very good at making stops when he is on the attack, but misses too many tackles when opponents are coming toward him.
White’s size makes him a prospect well worth a second look, as he has the size and athleticism to go up against top NFL receivers, and could also project to playing safety as well. He is also a solid special teams player, which is where he will have to make his way onto an NFL roster.
The Patriots need secondary depth and like big cornerbacks, so White could be on their radar as a potential seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent signing. With a raw skill set and nothing that truly stands out about his game, however, White is going to need a strong finish to his career Saturday to get drafted in April.
Emeka Onyenekwu, DE, Louisiana-Lafayette
Emeka Onyenekwu had a breakout season for the Ragin’ Cajuns as a senior, and ended up as a first-team All-Sun Belt selection following a year in which he led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss.
Onyenekwu is a very solid run-stopper on the edge of the defensive line, and is also a solid pass-rusher. He has a decent combination of size (6’3”, 250) and athleticism, but there is nothing spectacular about his game.
Unless Onyenekwu has an outstanding performance on Saturday, he is a long shot to be drafted. He is a player who could capture the attention of a team like the Patriots, however, that needs another hybrid pass-rusher and could bring him in as an undrafted free agent.
Brett Baer, K, Louisiana-Lafayette
Having made 42 of 47 career field goal attempts, Brett Baer is one of the most accurate placekickers in NCAA history. Given his consistency and reliability over the course of his collegiate career, Baer could get a shot to compete for an NFL kicking job next season.
Baer does not have a strong leg by NFL standards, however, which makes him a long shot to be drafted. He is likely to garner a training camp invite from a team like the Patriots, however, who usually bring in a second placekicker for the preseason.
Michael Brooks, DT, East Carolina
Truthfully, it will be a major upset if East Carolina has any players selected in the 2013 NFL draft, but if there is any senior worth watching in this game, it is defensive lineman Michael Brooks.
Brooks split time at defensive tackle and defensive end in his senior season, and was a second-team All-Conference USA selection with 3.5 tackles for loss.
There is nothing particularly special about Brooks’ game, however, to make him an NFL prospect. He does not have the quickness to be a consistent penetrator at the next level, and he won’t overpower opponents either. He could earn a training camp invite, but he is unlikely to be drafted.