Duke Williams, S, Nevada
Williams' final collegiate game was the New Mexico Bowl against Arizona, and he demonstrated some skills that are in serious demand for the NFL. The senior had blanket coverage of wide receivers on numerous passes downfield. He was not allowing separation and was running stride-for-stride with team. There were a few plays that turned into great catches, but Williams still had superb coverage.
Williams had great coverage running with a receiver down the seam in the fourth quarter. The ball was thrown slightly behind and Williams made a tremendous leaping catch in front of the receiver. He returned the interception 27 yards before being stopped. It wasn't a flawless performance from Williams, but the senior safety showed good pass-coverage ability. He had six tackles with the interception against the Wildcats.
Williams totaled 107 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, eight passes broken up, three forced fumbles and one interception this year. The three-year starter had quality seasons in 2011 and 2010. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder should add some weight for the NFL, but he looks like a solid pick who could crack the top 100 and develop into a starter.
John Simon, OLB, Ohio State
Health is such a key factor on draft day, and players with medical issues can be quickly ruled out by many teams across the NFL. That is why it was great news for John Simon that the knee injury that caused him to miss the Buckeyes; season finale won't keep him out of the Senior Bowl or NFL Scouting Combine; assuming he doesn't re-injure it. Simon had an excellent senior season but missed the opportunity to battle against Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan because of the knee.
Simon totaled 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, four passes broken up and a forced fumble this year. The Senior Bowl staff is listing Simon as a linebacker even though he played defensive end in college. The 6-foot-2, 263-pounder is a bit of a tweener as he doesn't look fast and athletic enough to play linebacker but is slightly undersized for defensive end. Simon could demonstrate the ability in Mobile to have flexibility as an outside linebacker, which could make him appealing to teams that run a 3-4 defense.
Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
Alonso had an impressive senior season and he needed it. He didn't see the field for significant playing time in his first three seasons at Oregon. Alonso had 46 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks in 2011.
This year was different as Alonso became a real presence in the Ducks' defense. He was a tough run-defender in the box and found ways to make plays in pass defense. The senior recorded 75 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, four interceptions, one sack, two passes broken up and two forced fumbles this season.
The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder has the frame to get bigger, but he doesn't really need to. Alonso could be a good fit in the NFL as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He will have the opportunity to add to his tackle totals against Kansas State in his bowl game. Alonso looks like a potential mid-round selection next April right now.
Corey Grissom, DT, South Florida
The South Florida Bulls didn't have much to cheer about 2012, but one of the few players who impressed scouts was Grissom. He was a tough defender at the point of attack, compiling 38 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and two passes broken up. His strong play earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
The 6-foot-2, 316-pounder has the flexibility to play in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 defense. In the latter, Grissom could be an end or a nose tackle. In a 4-3 system, he would fit best as a nose tackle. If Grissom has a good week at the Senior Bowl, he could put himself into contention to go in an early round on the third day of the draft.
Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
Harper has had a quality senior season as the No. 1 receiver for Collin Klein. The Wildcats' offense hasn't featured Harper or a consistent downfield passing attack, but he has still managed to be a solid contributor. He hauled in 50 passes for 786 yards with three touchdowns during the regular season. Harper caught 40 passes for 547 yards and five scores as a junior in 2011.
The 6-foot-1, 229-pounder plays taller than his height and uses his power to push defensive backs around. His strength allows him to make a lot of contested catches against defensive backs. Harper's effective play has landed him an invitation to the Senior Bowl, and if he shows some speed against those defensive backs, his stock could quickly rise. Harper has put himself into Day 3 consideration.
Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
McDonald ended the regular season strongly with nine receptions for 99 yards against UTEP. The senior has totaled 35 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns entering his bowl game against Air Force. His best season came as a junior when he caught 43 passes for 532 yards with five touchdowns.
In his career at Rice, McDonald has been a reliable receiver with 118 receptions for 1,479 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has ideal size and will get the opportunity to prove to NFL scouts that he can compete against a higher level of competition at the Senior Bowl. McDonald needs to show the ability to get separation in his routes while also being able to hold his own as a blocker. He could turn into a mid-round pick with a strong week in Mobile.
Will Davis, CB, Utah State
Davis had an impressive senior season. The 6-foot, 186-pounder showed special athleticism with a rare combination of size and speed. He went on a tear In the second half of the year with five interceptions in five straight games. Davis displayed excellent ball skills with 17 passes broken up; his 22 total passes defensed currently leads the nation. He also had 54 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss.
The senior's collegiate career ended with eight tackles and a pass batted in Utah State's Bowl win over Toledo. Davis had five starts in 2011, his first season with the Aggies. He was a junior college standout before landing with Utah State. If Davis plays well at the Senior Bowl, he could solidify his stock as a second-day prospect with the potential to go in the second round.
B.W Webb, CB, William & Mary
Webb was a team leader since his freshman season in 2009. He was the conference rookie of the year and a Second-Team All Conference selection as he recorded eight interceptions in his debut season. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Webb was an all-conference pick. The senior had 46 tackles, eight passes broken up and a forced fumble this year. He also averaged 11.2 yards on punt returns and scored a touchdown.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder will need to add weight for the NFL, but he has nice developmental potential. Webb will have the opportunity at the Senior Bowl to show that he can compete with elite competition. Webb needs to excel there, and if he does, he could justify a late-round pick next April.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri
There were high expectations for Gooden at Missouri. After Sean Weatherspoon left for the NFL, many around the Tigers thought that Gooden would take his place as a play-making outside linebacker. It never worked out that way as Gooden was a solid, but unspectacular player.
The senior had 61 tackles, an interception and four tackles for a loss in 2012. He played worse against the SEC than he did the previous two years in the Big XII. Gooden didn't compete well against South Carolina, Florida or Alabama. It was a disappointing season.
Gooden had a solid debut for Missouri in 2010. The sophomore led the team with 85 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions and two fumbles recovered. Gooden didn't elevate his level of play as a junior as he recorded 80 tackles, six tackles for loss and two interceptions.
The drop in production has really hurt his stock. 6-foot-2, 230-pounder somehow received an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. If Gooden performs well there, he could really help himself, but he looks like a late-rounder, at best, at the moment.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
It is tough luck for Burkhead to be on the list because of injuries, but the NFL is hesitant to embrace running backs who have durability issues. He has missed six games in 2012 and totaled just 535 yards and 74 carries. Prior to the season, Burkhead was viewed as a possible second-day prospect. Now he looks more like a third-day pick. It would help Burkhead to have a big bowl performance and a strong week at an All-Star game.