By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
As we begin to put the holiday season in the rear view one phrase will help help us start the New Year with joy or at least get us through: playoff football. The NFL will crown a champion within the next few months and while the college football season ends with something more like a mix between an exhibition and pro tryout it can still be exciting. Especially if you are an NFL draft fan.
Here are the names to watch on Friday as we could be seeing much more of them on Sundays next year.
Military Bowl: Marshall vs Maryland 2:30pm
TE Gator Hoskins, Marshall
Hoskins is an interesting prospect at the tight end position. He lacks the height most teams seek, but he has a lot of beef packed onto that smaller frame, which makes him a tough cover and viable possession receiver. It seems as if his lack of explosion is more due to poor, or at least inconsistent, effort as he displays some nice after the catch ability and lateral agility at times while looking slow footed and sluggish at others.
Projection: 6th-7th Round
CB Dexter McDougle, Maryland
Most of Maryland’s potential NFL talent is too young to enter the upcoming 2014 Draft, most notably WR Stephon Diggs. There are a few Terps poised to hear their name called in May or at least get a tryout. McDougle’s 2013 season did not go as planned missing most of the season with a shoulder injury. He earned the ACC Defensive Back of the Week award back in week 3 and showed some coverage ability before getting hurt. You won’t see him on Friday but he still deserves mentioning as any corner with 4.4 speed will get a look. If he can get healthy in time to work out for teams he could salvage his NFL future.
Projection: 7th Round
DT Darius Kilgo, Maryland
Kilgo, who plays a lot of snaps at the nose tackle spot, has done so well enough to earn some looks from pro teams. He’ll have to have a breakout bowl game against Marshall if he hopes to leave school early and get drafted.
Projection: Likely to return, otherwise he’d be lucky to be a late round selection
Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs Minnesota 6:00pm
DT RaShede Hageman, Minnesota
In terms of physical potential Hageman is elite. An athletic monster who placed #2 on Feldman’s 2013 Freak List (only behind Jadaveon Clowney) has the strength, agility and length to dominate interior linemen. A guy with a 36 inch vertical at 302 pounds clearly has the lower body explosion needed drive back offensive linemen and at times already looks a force in the middle. If he can play with more consistency, both in technique and effort, he has the natural talent of an All Pro.
Projection: Top 25
OT Sean Hickey, Syracuse
A fluid mover with quick feet, the Syracuse left tackle has to answer questions about his size. At almost a full 15 pounds under 300, teams could doubt his ability to handle the strength of NFL linemen. Hickey could return for his senior season for a couple reasons. One, before missing time with a left ankle injury he was considered a top 70 selection and likely second round pick by most draft sites including CBS Sports, who had him at #59 overall to start the year. Second, if he does come back he’ll again start the season at full health and likely even higher than previously projected. Currently CBS ranks him as the 5th best tackle for next year’s 2015 draft. And third, it will give him a full offseason and ample time to bulk up to the the preferred weight NFL teams will look for.
Projection: 3rd Round
DT Jay Bromley, Syracuse
Bromley has a shot to be a late round selection as the senior has proven he has the quickness and strength to penetrate inside. At only 285 pounds Bromley lacks the size most teams like in a tackle so he’ll need to rely on his quickness and motor to earn a spot as a 4-3 tackle, likely on primarily passing downs to start.
Projection: 5th-6th Round
ILB Marquis Spruill, Syracuse
The leader of Cuse’s defense is a great athlete (mentioned on the Freak List) and will head to the NFL with loads of experience (4 year starter) and the speed and burst to run sideline to sideline as well as through the line on an occasional blitz. Against NC State Spruill put on a show, racking up 10 total tackles (6 solo) including a sack. He is a bit undersized for the linebacker position, so he’ll need to test well at the combine. I expect him to do so.
Projection: 5th-7th Round
RB Jerome Smith, Syracuse
While not the quickest back in the country Smith is a powerful runner with great leg drive and the ability to break tackles. When he gets a head of steam going he has some nice burst and his strong legs and powerful frame allow him to plow over defenders inside. He understands his skill set too, rarely wasting time trying to get outside.
Projection: 5th-7th Round
CB Keon Lyn, Syracuse
Coming off a season ending injury Lyn will have to prove he’s back to his prior form, but he has the size and athleticism to make it. If not for the injury those factors alone would have made him a probable 5th round selection.
Projection: 6th Round
SS Brock Vereen, Minnesota
A versatile defensive back with nice speed and cover skills, Brock is likely to follow his brother Shane to the NFL whether as a late round selection or UDFA. NFLDraftScout.com has him clocked at a 4.49, which among senior safeties is one of the fastest times you’ll see. Someone will give him a shot with those bloodlines and speed.
Projection: 7th Round
Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU at Washington 9:30pm
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Ever since he played his first game for the Huskies he’s drawn the eyes of NFL scouts. His 6’6 276 frame is nearly perfect for a potential duel threat tight end and he’s shown flashes of being just that. With a well built frame able to shield the ball from defenders and the strong hands to high point it at its apex he’s an impossible cover in the red zone. ASF is not where he needs to be as a blocker, but has the strength and body type to be dominate at the line of scrimmage. Despite all his struggles (mostly off the field with a DUI charge) he’s still the most talented player and best prospect in this game.
Projection: Late 1st, early 2nd
OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
It was a bit of a surprise to see Van Noy head back to Provo instead of cashing in on an impressive late season showing in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. In that game the 6’3 linebacker showed great instincts and the ability to find the ball and make plays effortlessly. He finished with 8 total tackles, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery including 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Van Noy his lack of a true position seems to cloud his tangible effects on the game. Teams will want to know whether he fits better as an undersized 3-4 linebacker (unlikely) or a traditional OLB in a 4-3. Either way he impacts the game and will garner first round consideration by creative defensive coordinators.
Projection: Early 2nd Round
RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
Not the flashiest back Sankey has been able to rack up yardage and create some serious NFL buzz due to his well rounded skill set. Sankey is patient, allowing blocks to develop with the vision to find the hole and attack it. What really stands out with Sankey is his low center of gravity and balance, which helps him change directions quickly and stay on his feet through contact.
Projection: 2nd-3rd Round
WR Kasen Williams, Washington
Some have compared him to a less explosive Dez Bryant. Before you freak out concentrate on the less explosive caution as well as the following. The Parade Magazine’s High School Player of the Year in 2011 Williams was also a state champion at the long, high and triple jump! Is it really necessary to call him an explosive leaper? On top of the having that lethal red zone trait he adds to it a strong 6’2 216 frame and large hands sure to make him a jump ball and fade monster. Those big mitts are strong and he uses them to pluck the ball away from his body. That being said, he also drops a lot of easy passes, but this is a physical wide out with second round grades before the injury.
Projection: 3rd-4th Round
S Sean Parker, Washington
Due to his closing speed and range Parker has really risen up draft boards late in the year and could go in day two if all goes well. A hard hitter and playmaker when the ball is in the air its not out of the question that Parker could be a potential starter in the pros. As an impact defender the senior will look to lead his team to a victory as he closes the book on his college career.
WR Cody Hoffman, BYU
Hoffman has the skills you look for in an X or possession receiver. He’s tall with a well built frame that allows him to go over the middle and make catches in traffic and through contact. He lacks top end speed but can get going quickly, often dragging defenders for extra yardage. With his skill set he should be even more adept at beating press coverage, but with some more refinement he could really help a team move the chains and convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
Projection: 4th-6th Round
TE Kaneakua Friel, BYU
He might never be an elite level tight end with dynamic receiving ability, but Friel has a place in the league and is a guy people might be sleeping on. With his size he’s already a good blocker who can seal the edge and move to the next level to open up holes in the run game. Friel also has some receiving skills with the ability to run decent routes with better than expected athleticism as well as use his long arms to extend and snatch the ball.
Projection: 6th Round
QB Keith Price, Washington
After a breakout performance vs RGIII in the 2011 Alamo Bowl where he accounted for a record setting 7 TDs, some expected Price to take a giant leap forward. It turns out that sophomore campaign was the best season he’d produce finishing with a 73.1 Adjusted QBR and almost 67% completion rate. Injuries and inconsistency might be to blame and have put a damper on some on the excitement, yet he does have the running ability that might cause a team to give the 6’1 Price a look if they think they can mold him into a better passer.
That being said he already has a good over the top throwing motion and makes enough flash throws to suggest he has plenty of ability to become a better pocket passer. As a senior he was able to raise his numbers almost to where they were as a sophomore (68.1 Adj QBR, 65.5% completion rate and a career low 5 picks). Can he finish off strong?
Projection: 6th-7th or UDFA