NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Up to this point many of the bowl games have been uninteresting or disappointing, that should change tomorrow night in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The game features one of the best QB match-ups of all the bowl games with Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib taking on potential top ten pick Geno Smith. This game will be closely watched by many to see what QB outperforms the other.
Besides the two high profile quarterbacks, there are a pair of receivers and a few other prospects we will be watching closely.
Obviously the two Quarterbacks will be the most watched players in the game. Geno Smith needs to display the same ability to lead the offense he did early in the season and Ryan Nassib needs to show that there is more to his ability than just his arm talent.
With the New England Patriots fairly set at both the starting and back-up QB positions, these are the prospects that we feel they will be watching the closest.
#1 Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5’9/175) (#3 Ranked Wide Receiver) – The most electrifying playing in the nation. Austin is going to be a slot receiver in the NFL, but a player that teams will find ways to get him the ball. He returns kicks, takes hand-offs and stretches the field. No matter where he lines up he makes plays. Austin isn’t just an athlete, but he is a pretty polished WR prospect. He runs good routes and explodes out of his cuts. With the way teams value slot receivers Austin will be in high demand. I want to see him be a more consistent hands catcher and if he can do that he could be a star in the NFL. The Patriots WR lack speed and explosiveness, Austin would add another dimension, a match-up problem for defenses and another slot WR besides Welker on the roster.
#3 Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (5’10/195) (#9 Ranked Wide Receiver) – Austin gets most of the publicity but Stedman Bailey is a very good prospect in his own right. Bailey is a strong and fluent route runner. He has very good hands and has shown he can make some very tough catches. Bailey has been used at each level of the passing game with good results. He has shown the ability to work his way open vs. different coverages and with good speed, he could be the ideal possession WR in the NFL. While Austin is locked into the slot in the NFL, Bailey has the ability to line up at a couple different positions. Bailey put on a show this year hauling in 23 touchdowns and over 100 receptions. Bailey recently compared himself via twitter to Kendall Wright and I think the comparison is apt. When you go tool by tool, Bailey is one of the more complete WR in this year’s draft.
#21 Shamarko Thomas, SAF, Syracuse (5’10/206) (#9 Ranked Safety) – Thomas is a short, compact and physical safety. With the Patriots safety position still in transition they will likely will be watching Thomas closely in this game. Thomas is quick to read plays and loves to fly up and deliver big hits. He’s a sure tackler but, still gets too aggressive which leads to big plays. At the next level he can be an impactful run defender and possibly a nickel defender. His coverage skills and ball skills are definitely questionable. Despite playing 47 games he was only able to record two career interceptions.
#67 Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse (6’5/297) (#11 Ranked Tackle) – Pugh is a three year starter at left tackle for Syracuse and a very good pass protector. He combines good technique with above average athleticism for the position. Pugh has everything a team would look for in an NFL tackle; experience, frame, technique and agility. While the Patriots are currently set at OT, Sebastian Vollmer is an UFA and if something can’t be worked out with him, the need for a tackle would immediately change. Pugh shouldn’t have a problem playing either tackle position and while other OT have gotten more attention, with a good post-season he could rise quick.
Other Prospects to Watch:
#12 Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
#12 Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
#5 Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse
#15 Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse
#6 Pat Miller, CB, West Virginia
#74 Joe Madsen, OC, West Virginia