NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
The Orange Bowl has the potential to be a very lopsided affair, but that won’t stop it from being one of the most anticipated games of the bowl season. College football traditionalists who favor major programs will be pulling for the Florida State Seminoles to win in dominating fashion, while those who root for underdogs will be hoping the Northern Illinois Huskies make history for the Mid-American Conference with one of the biggest upsets in BCS history.
Draftniks will also enjoy watching this game, as it features one of the 2013 NFL draft’s best overall prospects: Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, a likely top-5 draft pick. Werner isn’t the only prospect worth watching in the New Year’s Day nightcap.
Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State (Jr.) (#1 Defensive End)
The Patriots would likely love to draft Bjoern Werner to pair up with Chandler Jones and give them an incredibly talented pair of young pass-rushers, but unless they are planning a blockbuster trade up the draft board, that isn’t going to happen.
Werner is the best all-around defensive end prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class. He is both an explosive pass-rusher and a very good run defender who can make tackles out in space. He has a terrific burst off the line, very good speed around the edge, great lateral athleticism and very good length.
As one of the draft class’ standout prospects, Werner should be near the top of the draft board of any team looking for a pass-rushing defensive end in a four-man front or hybrid pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (Jr.) (#4 Cornerback)
While Bjoern Werner almost certainly won’t be a New England Patriot, a very realistic possibility from Florida State as an early-round selection for the Patriots is cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Given the Patriots’ need for more cornerbacks, especially if Aqib Talib does not re-sign with the team, Rhodes is a potential option for the Patriots’ first-round pick.
Rhodes is a big, physical cornerback who is one of the nation’s best defensive backs and will likely declare as an underclassman for the 2013 NFL draft. Rhodes does not have elite athleticism by NFL cornerback standards, but the Patriots target physical cornerbacks with great instincts and size, and that is exactly what Rhodes brings to the table.
Rhodes is projected to be a late first- or early second-round pick, which could put the Patriots in a perfect spot to draft him if they deem him to be a good fit for their need at cornerback.
Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State (#14 Inside Linebacker)
An under-the-radar Seminoles prospect who could catch the Patriots’ intrigue as a potential late-round selection or undrafted free agent signing is middle linebacker Vince Williams.
The Patriots need linebacker depth, but aren’t likely to use an early draft pick to get it. A player like Williams, an athletic linebacker who has emerged as a playmaker in his senior season, is a player they would likely be able to get with their seventh-round selection or as an undrafted signing.
Williams has a good nose for the ball and is a very good athlete, but he is a short linebacker who has not had any consistent productivity. For a team who needs backup linebackers who can also contribute on special teams, however, he is a sleeper who may just find a home in the NFL.
Martel Moore, WR, Northern Illinois
One reason it is so surprising that the Northern Illinois Huskies are playing in a BCS bowl is that they will likely go without having any players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft. Defensive end Sean Progar is their top prospect, but one NIU player who could pique the Patriots’ interest is wideout Martel Moore.
Moore is a small wideout without spectacular athleticism, but he is a productive receiver who has very good hands, runs good routes and tracks the ball well. He plays on the outside at NIU, but would likely play inside in the slot at the next level.
The Patriots have a complete lack of depth at wide receiver, and are at risk of losing two of their key players at the position in Wes Welker and Julian Edelman to unrestricted free agency, so they will be looking to draft or add wide receivers through undrafted free agent signings. Moore is unlikely to be selected, but he is a skilled player who would be well worth giving a shot in training camp as a potential fourth or fifth receiver.
Other Prospects to Watch:
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State - Grade: 4th Round
Everett Dawkins, DT, Florida State - Grade: 6th-7th Round
Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State - Grade: 7th Round
Sean Progar, DE, Northern Illinois - Grade: 7th Round-Undrafted