It’s our last chance to see prospects in live game action as the Bowl season trudges on. In some cases the games are bereft of serious prospects to thumbnail because almost 150 were done during the regular season play. But in some cases there are also previously injured players who are returning to action. On the downside the new trend of players skipping their final collegiate game to head for Performance Camps, but those numbers are small, at least for now. Anyway here are some guys who have literally caught my eye already.
DANIEL BUSHKILL/OT/SAN DIEGO STATE 6’5/270 #71 Watch for this guys name at the Combine and during All-Star Game action. He was their second string TE going into Spring ball in 2016. But the coaching staff switched him to OT. By October I was starting to hear his name being whispered as a legit pro prospect at his new position. Sure enough, he looked fundamentally sound in their Las Vegas Bowl win. My eyes say he is of course far from a finished product at his new spot, but I also saw enough to think he has long range potential. Believe it or not I thought he looked better in pass pro, than trying to run block. He is reportedly up to 270 lbs, and clearly is trying to adjust to his new body. He still looks lean and fit though. What he currently lacks in strength is compensated for, in part, by his athleticism. He may become a very intriguing late round prospect.
DAKOTA COX/LB/NEW MEXICO 6’0/231 #49 Sorry to say I had little opportunity and even less viewing time to watch New Mexico play this past season. So watching the New Mexico Bowl was my first/last chance to watch the team carefully. Congrats to Bob Davie for reviving a dormant football program, by the way. The most impressive player to my eyes was LB/COX for the Lobos. He displayed nice athleticism and football savvy. He’s a good tackler and pursues til the whistle. I was impressed with his ability to handle his responsibilities in pass coverage situations. At times he looked to me like a jumbo SS playing in the box. At the end of the day his stat sheet showed me what I thought I saw from him was legit. He was credited with 10 tackles (to lead his team) including 1.5 TFL. He also clearly had several PBU. If he can further develop his current skill set he may have a career in the NFL as a back-up, sub-package & Special Teams player. He might be draftable, albeit late.
MARCUS COX/RB/APPALACHIAN STATE 5’10/200 #14 COX lost his starting/feature RB job to JALEN MOORE this past season, but with MOORE nicked up throughout the Camellia Bowl it was COX who flashed his old skills that allowed him to gain over 1400 yards rushing in 2015. On the day he carried the ball 22 times for 143 yards and 1 TD. I’m not sure how straight-line fast he is, but he has great burst and can really pick up those feet and put them down, as we used to say a quarter century ago. He gets lots of yards after contact due to his balance and forward lean running style. I would think that this effort has put some shine back into his game as a legit possible third day draftee. He also caught two short passes, which will be a major consideration when looking at his overall value. This guy is the kind of quick hitting runner, with the balance and burst to gain yardage through NFL size creases in opponents DL. He’s fighting to make himself draftable and his performance in workouts and hopefully an All-Star game will be critical in the coming months.
SAMSON EBUKAM/DE/OLB/E. WASHINGTON 6’3/240 #3 The long range prospects for EBUKAM are very good because he plays with high energy and looks to be a natural as an edge rusher. But he clearly faces the challenge of adapting to life standing up as an OLB. No question about his athleticism however. Against Youngstown, he got caught up in the wash way too often when trying to set the edge or collapse on running plays inside the tackles. His eagerness to rush the passer also resulted in his being pushed way too far past the QB to actually affect the play. But his quickness and balance are excellent when targeting the QB in the pocket area. He had a 2nd Quarter sack as well as a deflected pass. I felt he was held on multiple occasions during the game, especially in pass-pro. I think it is safe to say that he is fairly raw, but possesses the athleticism and energy to refine his game under pro coaching, and could be RBOERT MATHIS player as a pro. He has to be drafted, likely in the middle rounds.
ANTONIO GARCIA/OT/TROY 6’7/302 #53 Most NFL personnel people think this is one of the weakest OT groups this decade. This will be especially true if a handful of the top juniors don’t declare for inclusion in the 2017 Draft. When such a situation presents itself the talent scouts dig a little deeper looking for potential gems. Go back a few years when a guy named ERIC FISHER from the MAC had a really solid Senior Bowl and vaulted up to being the first pick in the entire Draft. I’m not projecting that for GARCIA, an actual senior, but his name is rising and he recently was named to the Senior Bowl roster for late January. Coincidentally, he was in Mobile Friday night for the Dollar General Bowl affording yours truly his first chance to see him in action. We are talking the real deal here folks with strong Top 100 potential. He has some work to do in strengthening his run blocking, but the whole package is there. He’s a long, lean athlete with great feet. He’s as quick off the snap in pass-pro as anyone I have seen this year. He’s clearly a natural knee-bender who almost looks like a training film for form with fully bent knees, a straight vertical upper body and extended arms waiting to repel pass rushers. He uses agile feet to mirror defenders handily. He looks like he needs to work on a stronger initial hand punch to jolt defenders. He also needs to beef up in his upper body. He’s barely over 300 lbs. right now and should/could easily slide up to 315/320 if it’s muscle. He also showed a tendency to try to cut-block defenders on running plays. I do NOT like that technique in taller, athletic linemen. The bottom line is that he is really good, and looks to have major upside. He should emerge as a starting OT in the League in a few years, and I look forward to watching him a the Senior Bowl next month.
COOPER KUPP/WR/E. WASHINGTON 6’2/215 #10 KUPP seemed to be the top rated FCS prospect going into the 2016 season. After watching him play in the semi-final loss to Youngstown State I can see why. This guy is a polished player and a good athlete. Though he is not a speedster, he had enough speed to get open deep on several occasions. And to his credit on those occasions he had to pull up to wait for under-thrown balls, then battle with defenders to make the catch. And catch them he did. He showed excellent hands on a single digit temperature day. He made a nifty one-handed catch of an errant throw in the second quarter. He was double teamed from the start of the game and still finished the day with 10 catches for 180 yards and 2 TD. He also showed the physical strength to win contested throws and break tackles. I think he will bring the same ability to an NFL team as that of ERIC DECKER of the JETS. Luckily, we will see much more of him in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. A good showing there, and posting some solid numbers at the Combine could push him to the cusp of Round 1, IMO.
HENRY LANGI/LB/DE/BYU 6’3/249 #16 This do-everything defender may be a riser as we get into All-Star game action and Combine/Pro Day workouts. BYU had a Top 10 rushing Defense this season and the versatile LONGI played a big part in that work. He split time this season as a LB, and a pass-rusher with his hand on the ground. He is not a superior athlete, but he is a highly productive player with a clearly high FBI. He absolutely covered the field in BYU’s win over Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl. He was dropping into coverage, rushing the passer and, of course, stuffing the Cowboys rushing attack. He finished the night with 16 tackles, to match his uniform number, including 1 TFL. He’s big enough to take on blockers and runners at the point of attack, but also does an excellent job dropping into shallow/medium coverage. Watch for his name in the next 4 months. I just have a notion he will make some noise as a fairly early 3rd Day draftee prospect.
NICK MULLENS/QB/SOUTHERN MISS 6’1/195 #9 Anther gunslinger is coming out of Southern Miss, but let’s be real and dispense with any pretense of FAVRE comparisons. At best he may have potential to stick on some team as a developmental 3rd QB. Which means he’s likely to go undrafted, but… He can move around and sling the ball downfield. In the near home game New Orleans Bowl MULLENS was a one man army in crunch time situations. He finished the game going 25/40- 62.5%- 346 yards- 2TD- 1 INT. He did not dominate the game totally with 2 turnovers to his name (1 INT, 1 Fumble), but he was the field general who did what needed to be done more often than not. The 2016 NFL Draft featured 15 QB being drafted. I don’t expect a new record this next April, but if it gets close he’ll be among those getting late consideration. Right now I would say he’s most likely an URFA.
CALVIN MUNSON/ILB/SAN DIEGO STATE 6’1/240 #54 In the last 3 seasons MUNSON has never failed to start a game for the Aztecs D. He has played both inside and outside in their schemes. I think he’s best suited as an ILB in a base 3-4 scheme at the next level. His lack of length will be less obvious on the inside, IMO. But he shows the whole package despite not exactly being a great athletic specimen. How about if we say he’s a smart, hard nosed football player. He was decidedly the leader of the Aztecs D with his play in the Las Vegas Bowl. By the end of the evening he had recorded 8 tackles, including 1 Sack and 1 TFL. Then as a finishing touch to the evening he sealed his team’s victory with an INT in the late 4th Quarter. He’s a high rev motor guy with a high FBI. He should be outstanding Special Teams player immediately for his pro team. Given his skill set what appeals most to me is his ability to diagnose the pass and effectively drop into short area coverage. His resume’ says he gets a few Picks every season. His pro potential may exceed his athleticism.
STORM NORTON/OT/TOLEDO 6’7/306 #74 I am not going to proclaim NORTON as a top prospect, but I do see him as being draftable. His play can best be described as steady. He more than held his own in the Camellia Bowl against an aggressive APP State Defense. I liked his work best in pass-pro in this contest, but he was adequate with his run blocking, especially to his side of the field. He had a tendency to go for cut blocks on running plays away from him, which in general I feel is an ugly look for guys his size. He looked to me to have a strong, effective arm extension and hand punch. He also showed a pretty good/quick first step backwards in pass-pro. Like most really big bodies he is likely to be challenged at the next level by fast/quick edge rushers, and primarily for that reason I think he is a possible late round draftee at this stage in his play.
JORDAN REID/WR/OHIO 6’3/210 #12 REID turned out to be the go-to guy for the Ohio Offense in the Dollar General Bowl Friday night. He ran solid routes, and showed dependable hands. He was also to gain some significant yards after the catch with his strength and good field vision. He can catch in a crowd and his size makes him a natural red zone threat on jump balls. He became the teams big playmaker against TROY finishing the night with 12 catches for 162 yards and 1TD. Speed, or lack thereof, may be the biggest concern for Personnel People heading into Draft evaluation season, but his size and hands will earn him points. Most NFL receiving groups show balance between pure speed, quickness, size and a few other factors. For a team lacking a big guy to work the middle and run over defenders after the catch REID should start generating interest in later rounds. If not in the states, he should generate some scouting interest from CFL talent scouts.