December 31st and January 1st are really the meat and potatoes, or at least the potatoes, of the bowl action. There is a combined 10 games over the next two days and with the New York Giants season officially over you can not feel guilty about looking forward to potential players who might be available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Because there are so many games I'm not going to highlight every single player, but I'll give you a pretty comprehensive look.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on ESPN at noon
North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt
If you're not a Giants fan the name you want to watch in this game is Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon is kind of the "it" name right now for quarterback prospects in a class that is seen as a down class for quarterbacks. There are plenty of smart people projecting Glennon right now as a post season draft riser -- maybe high enough to be a top 10 pick. As a Giants fan I always root for quarterbacks to go early and often because that means other players will get pushed down the board -- so here's to Glennon excelling today.
The other player on North Carolina State who is a big draw is cornerback David Amerson. Amerson is interesting because he has played cornerback very poorly this year, but he is talented and has tremendous ball skills. The question with Amerson right now is could he make the transition to safety and be a good safety in the NFL? The other two Wolfpack players I'm going to mention are safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop. Both players are guys who could hear their name called late in the draft.
There are a slew of other Wolfpack players who are currently draft eligible that could be UDFA that get signed as well.
Vanderbilt has three really intriguing players. The first, and my favorite on the roster is wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Matthews is big and fast and made a ton of plays against the best opponents he faced. In games against South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida he had 397 yards receiving and a couple of touchdowns. I like him as a second-round player.
Quarterback Jordan Rogers is the brother of Aaron Rodgers and is definitely draft-able, though he's not as talented as his brother. Lastly is running back Zac Stacy is a guy that is right now being touted as a sleeper running back in the draftnik community already and he's a really nice prospect who doesn't have the kind of size or speed teams generally covet, but could turn out to be a steal. As an aside and a little trivia nugget he had a higher yards per carry average last year (5.94) than Trent Richardson (5.93) even though they both had more than 200 carries.
Hyundai Sun Bowl 2 p.m. on CBS
USC vs Georgia Tech
For USC you could pretty much say "everybody" and be pretty close to the truth. USC is loaded with talent, especially among their starters. Everyone is well aware of the big name offensive stars Matt Barkley (won't play), running back Silas Reed, wide receivers Marquise Lee (not draft eligible) and Robert Woods, but I'll hit on some other players.
One of the best center prospects in this class Khaled Holmes, though he has missed time with injury this year. Holmes is a major asset in the running game and has the size (6'3 305 pounds) to be a player who could line up at center, or either guard spot. He is likely a day two pick or very early round four guy. He's a really nice player.
Safety T.J. McDonald has had a disappointing year and has played more like an athlete trying to play safety than a safety who is a good athlete at times not taking the best angles or making enough plays on the football. But he does have size and speed and can really lay some walloping hits and is good in run support. Taylor Mays got drafted in the second round, and I think he's a better player with not quite the same speed, so I would say he's still going to be selected in the first three rounds.
Underclassmen Nickell Robey is a really nice cornerback in college, but he's just so small for a NFL cornerback. He's listed at 5-foot-8 and a 168 pounds. His stock is hard to gauge because he has been very good, but he just lacks the measurables teams desire, and with the Giants recently selecting Jayron Hosley (another feisty, undersized cornerback in the third round I don't see him as an option).
Defensive end Wes Horton is a player who has flashed big-time ability at times, but not consistently, so he should fit right in with this team (bazinga!). Now he's a talented defensive end prospect, who is long, athletic, and the son of former American Gladiator Gemini (hat tip to Rob Rang for that info). He's a player I think could really interest the Giants in the mid rounds if they don't take a defensive end early.
Moran Breslin is another talented defensive end prospect to watch, and I've always thought running Curtis McNeal could play in the NFL.
Georgia Tech has two guys I think have a good shot at being drafted, but no on monster wide receiver prospect who runs a blazing forty yard dash (Calvin Johnson, Demariyus Thomas, Stephen Hill). The two players to watch for the Yellow Jackets are offensive linemen Omoregie Uzzi and cornerback Rod Sweeting. Both look like day three prospects as of now. Uzzi is the better of the two, he is a good run blocker with plenty of experience in that department playing at Georgia Tech.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl on ESPN at 3:30
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
For draft prospects this is the worst game of the day.
The best likely to enter the draft player is linebacker Jake Knott, but he'll miss this game with a shoulder injury suffered in (October, I think?) that ended his season. They have another linebacker, A.J. Klein who has a shot at getting drafted. On Tulsa defensive back Dexter McCoil is the name to watch.
Chick-fil-A Bowl 7:30 on ESPN
LSU vs. Clemson Tigers
Recently, these have been teams that have been loaded with draft prospects and that is the case again for the 2013 NFL draft.
LSU is a team you really want to pay attention to as a New York Giants fans. Basically watch their entire defensive line: Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Lavar Edwards and Josh Downs. Downs is the least coveted of the five. Bennie Logan has probably played the best of them this year. Sam Montgomery is the prototypical 43 defensive end and could be an option for the Giants as high as their first round pick.
There are a lot of other players to watch on LSU. Safety Eric Reid is a good player, who had a good year, but not a great year. He'll likely be one of the first safeties drafted and the Giants need all the help they can get in the secondary.
I'm not a guy who screams for the Giants to draft a linebacker every year, but I think this is the year where the talent is worth selecting a linebacker in the first or second round. One of the players that makes this such a nice class is linebacker Kevin Minter. There are some who think Minter is not much of a step down from Manti Te'o. He's a really good player.
Also watch essentially every player on their team.
Clemson has a reputation of having guys who maximize their talent in college and not the NFL, specifically that they enter the league too soft, which might be an unfair assessment but there are a bunch of talented player on the team.
Their best prospect for the 2013 NFL draft, to me is wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has out-shined the terrific Sammy Watkins this year. Hopkins has good size at 6'2 205 pounds and good speed. He has made a ton of big plays (averaging 17.6 yards per catch and hauling in 16 touchdowns). Hopkins could even end up being the first wide receiver selected when all is said and done.
The Clemson Tigers also have a speedy running back prospect in Andre Ellington who has stepped up his game this year. Last year I was unimpressed with him, but this year he looks like he is a tougher runner who still has his terrific speed. He's probably not an option for the Giants, but he's a fun player to watch. The best defensive player for my money is Malliciah Goodman. Goodman was a big recruit (top 100 player entering college from multiple services) who has enough size (6-4, 270 pounds) and athleticism to be a contributor at the NFL level. Goodman never leaves the field and gives great effort. An early day three pick.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd, center Dalton Freeman, safety Rashard Hall, and safety Jonathan Meeks are a few other players I would track in the game.
Happy Bowl Games and New Year!
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