NCAA Football

2011 NFL Draft Prospect Bowl Preview: Cotton, Capital, Alamo, Gator

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We'll split up the bowl games for the day in two parts, one for the early games (starting before 2:00 PM EST) and the second for the later, BCS games.

In this edition, we'll get a chance to see one of the most talented defenses in the country against one of our favorite quarterbacks in Alabama vs. Kirk Cousins and Michigan State. Also, we'll see Urban Meyer against Joe Paterno, it what will be at least one of their final games.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders - Cotton Bowl

Detron Lewis, WR, Texas Tech
Not as athletically talented nor as dominate as Michael Crabtree was in this Texas Tech offense, Lewis still has the size, quickness, and production to play in the NFL. The mild change in system and the lack of consistent quarterback play has hurt his stock a bit, but he should wow in the post season and will be a player to watch against this very average Northwestern secondary.

Baron Batch, RB, Texas Tech
You wouldn't think that a spread, pass happy offense has a running back that could stick in the NFL, but that could very well happen for Baron Batch. He's still be influenced by the spread, wide open offense that the Red Raiders are known for running, but an increased dependence on the run game this year as well as his versatility as a back could lead him to be a mid to late round prospect.

Quentin Davie, OLB, Northwestern
Davie has been the leader of this up and down defense, and has the speed, lateral quickness, and reliability as a tackler to make it at the next level. He'll be tested as a coverage linebacker and blitzing linebacker in this game, as he'll have to play well for this Northwestern team if they hope to win this one.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan State Spartans - Capital One Bowl

Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (JR)
One of the most physically gifted receivers I've seen in college football as far as the body type and potential, Julio Jones has been the subject to constant double teams and overall pressure to succeed. And while he hasn't been lighting up the stat sheet, he's still being physical, showcasing great hands and ball skills, and demanding attention on every level of his routes.

Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama (JR)
Dareus was suspended for the early part of the season due to NCAA infractions, but when he came back, you could see why he was featured as the most talented defensive player on their roster. Dareus has a good build for a pass rushing defensive end, and his speed off the edge and versatility in his rushes make him a deadly next level talent.

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (JR)
The 2009 Heisman trophy winner suffered a bit of a letdown season this year, thanks to his battle with injuries and the emergence of Trent Richardson. However, what still makes him the top running back that is draft eligible is his vision, anticipation, and quick cuts that allow him to break off big plays without having to break two to three tackles.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama (JR)
Barron has been hit or miss at times this season, but as a whole, I think he's the top safety in this draft class, if he declares. Barron has great ball skills when the ball is towards him, and can come up and lay a big hit on the ball carrier. He needs better instincts overall and to become a more reliable tackler, but he has the ability to be a frontline safety in the NFL in the future.

Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
Not only a productive inside linebacker in the Big Ten, Jones has shown that he can play in different schemes and at different positions based on his film. He can clog a hole in the middle of the defense, scrape through traffic on the side, explode to the outside in run support, and has improved his drop back ability. He'll be able to showcase all of those skills against a great running back duo and a senior quarterback.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (JR)
Similar to the fact that we have really liked Blaine Gabbert all season, we really like Kirk Cousins as well. He has an NFL arm, he's improved his touch over the season, and has confidence in his reads and in his receivers, regularly using 4-5 guys. He can still develop his skills outside the pocket and needs to fine tune his accuracy, but I think he has NFL starter written all over him, and I expect him to at least show those skills in this game, though it'll be tough against an NFL talented defense.

Don'ta Hightower, ILB, Alabama (JR)
Hightower stepped in this season as a replacement for Rolando McClain, and while he wasn't the leader or impact star that McClain was, Hightower filled the role of defensive leader and productive tackler. Hightower, however, does have a bit more speed than McClain, and could be a better fit in a 4-3 defense at outside linebacker at the NFL level.

Darius Hanks, WR, Alabama
A complement to Julius Jones, Hanks has emerged this season and last season thanks to the constant attention to his receiver counterpart. He doesn't have the athletic ability of Jones and isn't a speedy receiver, but he does run good routes, has reliable hands, and can take advantage of man to man.

Florida Gators vs. Penn State Nittany Lions - Alamo Bowl

Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
Twin brother of current Pittsburgh Steelers center and possible top three rookie of the year vote getter Maurkice Pouncey, Mike is quite as nimble or smooth as his brother, but could very well make a big impact in the NFL. He's played center this year, but he can play at either guard spots in the pros, and should be able to start right away in his career.

Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
Arguably the best center prospect in the country, Wisniewski has been a solid starter for all four years of his Penn State career, and that experience has really made him a leader of this team and a smarter center on the field.

Will Hill, S, Florida (JR)
At one point, Hill was viewed as the top safety prospect in the upcoming draft. But Hill was very inconsistent from game to game, quarter to quarter, and gave up too many big plays and was out of position too often. His bright spots on the field plus his great size should still make him a decently high pick, however.

Ahmad Black, S, Florida
Black, along with his fellow safety Will Hill, are both solid NFL draft prospects who have struggled with inconsistencies much of the year. Black has played a little closer to the line this year more than a season ago, and I think that helped him showcase his range in the run game and his better fit as a strong safety.

Jeff Demps, RB, Florida (JR)
One of the fastest backs in the country, Demps was, at times over his career, as explosive and versatile as Percy Harvin was during his time at Florida. Demps isn't a complete running back, and may end up being a lesser version of Reggie Bush in the pros, but his speed, shiftiness, and likely help as a returner could still get him to the middle to high rounds.

Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State (JR)
A guy I really like a lot this whole year because of his pass rush moves, speed off the edge, and quickness, Crawford likely would be smart to stay another year at Penn State to get stronger and be more effective in run support.

Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
Royster came into the year as our top senior running back, and will finish his career atop the Penn State all time rushing leaders, but overall, he hasn't had the type of season we expected. He lacks great overall skills, and best case scenario, he becomes a Pierre Thomas type player.

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Michigan Wolverines - Gator Bowl

Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The foundation for Mississippi State's success this year (along with the coaching of Dan Mullen), Sherrod has developed into more than just a good athlete on the outside of the tackle box. Sherrod has a chance to go even higher if he can move well in pass blocking drills, and he could go as high as the Top 10.

Stephen Schilling, OG, Michigan
A highly touted guard coming out of high school, Schilling finally kicked it in to gear late last year and has now developed into an NFL type guard. He has great size and strength, but his movement as a guard is still in the air, though this season with the spread running attack did make him a bit more agile.

Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
This Bulldogs program has been down for a while now and has constantly been towards the bottom of the SEC. However, they almost always have one or two players that are among the best in the SEC but struggle to get realized. McPhee is that type of defensive end, and he's as complete as you'll find in the country, but still can fit in a variety of situations.