Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Okafor used the Valero Alamo Bowl to make a statement that he belongs in the first round of next April's draft. Okafor played with an ankle injury in the final few games of the 2012 regular season and that really slowed him down in what was a good senior year. He got healthy during the lay off and dominated Oregon State in impressive fashion.
Okafore burned the Beavers with speed rushes off the edge throughout the game. Midway through the first quarter, he got leverage on the right tackle with a speed rush. As Okafor was pushed by the right tackle, he had the awareness to slap the ball out of the hands of the quarterback for his first sack of the night. Texas recovered the fumble at the Beavers' 26-yard line.
Okafor recorded three more sacks off of speed rushes around the right side. Sometimes he stood up and other plays he lined up with his hand in the ground. Okafor recorded another half sack with teammates getting there as well. The final play of the game saw Okafor almost get another sack. He had a superb bull rush to push the right tackle into the quarterback. Okafor hit the quarterback with an arm before he escaped away only to be sacked by another defender.
Okafor totaled eight tackles, five tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble against Oregon State. It was an awesome night from him that showed his sheer pass-rush ability. Okafor's speed off the edge was phenomenal, and he also illustrated strength to shed blocks.
The senior totaled 54 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. If Okafor performs well at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, he could crack the top 32.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
A year ago entering his bowl game, SMU defensive end Margus Hunt had zero sacks and was known for his special teams prowess. He exploded for three sacks In that bowl versus Pittsburgh in a dominant performance. Now in 2012, Hunt used the Hawaii Bowl to make a statement game for NFL scouts to cap off a quality senior season.
Hunt had a nice swim move on the first drive to get pressure on Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and force a throwaway. Hunt lined up as a defensive tackle on the play. Hunt had a great second-quarter rush on which he came with speed around the right tackle and dropped his right shoulder to gain leverage on the tackle. Hunt exploded into Carr and forced a fumble that was recovered by an SMU teammate.
Hunt darted to the inside on the next series to apply pressure and set up a sack for a teammate. Hunt burst by the right guard with a rip move on the next play to sack Carr in the end zone for a safety.
Hunt blasted into the backfield a bit later to pop running back Robbie Rouse just after a draw handoff. Hunt knocked the ball out of Rouse's hands, and it was recovered by a teammate at Fresno State's 16-yard line. Hunt abused the right tackle on that play by starting upfield and then cutting to the inside to get there just after the handoff.
The 6-foot-8, 280-pounder is a physical freak who is very fast and powerful. The senior totaled 31 tackles with eight sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and three blocked kicks this year. Hunt still needs some development, but he has tremendous upside. Hunt could warrant first-round consideration if he plays well at the Senior Bowl. Hunt could play in 4-3 or 3-4 defense. His best position could be as a 3-4 defensive end.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher is considered by many to be a first-round talent. A drawback to his status is the lack of good pass-rushers he's faced. Unfortunately that trend continued in the Little Caesar's Bowl.
Western Kentucky featured one of the nation's leaders in sacks in speed rushing defensive end Quanterus Smith, but he tore an ACL in the second to last game of the regular season. As a result, Fisher dominated the backup linemen and coasted to another good tape against the Hilltoppers.
Fisher dominated his blockers in the ground game and as a pass protector all evening. He didn't allow any pass pressure and was ready for everything he saw. Fisher stonewalled bull rushes and mirrored speed rushes.
The 6-foot-8, 305-pounder is massive. His arm length is phenomenal, and tackles with that attribute are the rage in the NFL. Fisher has great length to help neutralize pass-rushers and keep them out of the backfield. He also does a good job of sustaining blocks.
Fisher is very quick on his feet. He uses that quickness to get deep in his pass drop to cut off speed-rushers. In the ground game, Fisher is fast to fire downfield to hit blocks on the second level of the defense. The speed can also be seen when he pulls around the other side of the line. Fisher would be a very good fit in a zone-blocking scheme.
It would be good if Fisher added some functional strength for the NFL. That will help him to push defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage. He has the frame to add on another 15-20 pounds of muscle, which would be ideal. Fisher's final collegiate game was impressive and should help him to be a first-round pick next April.
Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
Bailey made a good decision to enter the draft early and illustrated that with an impressive performance against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. While Geno Smith and Tavon Austin were held in check by the Orange, Bailey was excellent. He provided all of the Mountaineers' points with impressive plays.
Bailey started his big day with 32-yard touchdown catch. It was a slip screen on which Smith threw what amounted to a quick slant. Bailey shook a tackle and exploded downfield for the score.
Bailey later provided another big play when he took a wide receiver screen for a 59-yard gain running along the sideline. It flipped the field and took West Virginia out of the shadow of its end zone. Bailey scored again on a go route down the field, after he pushed the corner away to get open for the 29-yard score. The defensive back was shoving him, too, so it was a good no call. Bailey caught seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The junior totaled 113 receptions for 1,627 yards with 25 touchdowns this season. He was a superb target for Geno Smith. Bailey (5-10, 188) runs good routes, is quick and has good hands. It wouldn't be surprising if he cracks the top 100 next April.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
Goodwin's quiet senior season was given a real spark with his huge bowl performance. He had only 26 receptions for 340 yards and three touchdowns this year, but he was phenomenal against Oregon State. Goodwin showed some blazing speed with a 64-yard touchdown run on an end around. He caught the game-winning score in the fourth quarter on a go route down the sideline. The senior burned the cornerback for a 36-yard touchdown.
Goodwin was definitely held back by inconsistent quarterback play during his collegiate career. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder is a track star who is extremely fast. He's averaged 22.4 yards per kick return in his career. Goodwin's big bowl performance could help him to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round, but at least, it should prompt a team to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
Honorable Mentions: UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria, UCLA defensive end Datone Jones, Baylor guard Cyril Richardson.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
In snowy conditions in New York, Smith struggled with his decision-making in the final game of his collegiate career. He consistently held onto the ball too long and allowed Syracuse's pass rush to make a number of game-changing plays. Smith's first mistake came with blitzers crashing in on him, and he couldn't get rid of the ball as he was sacked and fumbled the ball away. Luckily for Smith, a teammate recovered the ball for a safety rather than an Orange touchdown.
After a turnover set up West Virginia in Syracuse territory, Smith made a bad decision by holding onto the ball way too long, and he had the ball slapped out of his hand. The Orange recovered the ball and ran for a long touchdown on the next play.
Smith made another questionable decision at the end of the third quarter as he backpedaled into the end zone. Smith should've thrown the ball away, but as he was tripped to the ground, he flung the ball away. It was flagged for an intentional grounding penalty and a second safety for Syracuse. Smith threw a hissy fit at officials and showed a real lack of composure. He seemed to really struggle with his ability to diagnosis where the pass rush was coming from.
Smith never found a throwing groove, while the Orange's defense played an excellent game. He completed 16-of-24 passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The fumbles and decision-making were disappointing, and this game is going to hurt his draft stock.
The senior completed 71 percent of his passes in 2012 for 4,201 yards with 42 touchdowns and six interceptions. Smith's still the current favorite to be the first quarterback selected, but teams may be wary of using a top-10 pick on him.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Thomas disappointing game against Rutgers was a microcosm of his entire junior season. He had awful accuracy all night. Passes were skipping in front of receivers and others were massively overthrown. Thomas held onto the ball too long as well and took some bad sacks. He also struggled to get plays off before the play clock expired. Once in awhile, the junior would throw a perfect strike, but those were few and far between.
Thomas threw his first interception of the evening on a deep ball just before halftime. Defensive back Brandon Jones made a great play and beat the receiver for the jump ball. Late in the fourth quarter, Thomas had a poorly overthrown pass into double coverage that was easily picked off by Jones.
Thomas was 15-of-39 for 193 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against the Scarlet Knights. It was another ugly performance that illustrated that Thomas is nowhere near being ready to compete in the NFL. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has a great physical skill set with a powerful arm and good mobility. However, Thomas' accuracy is horrible, his footwork is sloppy and he doesn't see the field well.
Thomas should return for his senior season. He needs to get the reps of throwing against college secondaries and improve his overall game as a passer. Thomas needs to make a lot of improvements over the offseason and put those on display as a senior.
Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State
Glennon did a lot of harm to his draft stock with a disastrous performance in his final collegiate contest. Some have hyped him as the top quarterback in the draft class, but he looked like a third-day pick against Vanderbilt.
Glennon made a terrible decision late in the first quarter that illustrated some horrible fundamentals. He saw some pressure and lofted a pass off his back foot. The deep pass floated in the air and safety Kenny Ladler easily cut in front of the intended receiver for an interception.
Just before halftime, Glennon threw his second awful interception when he forced a pass to a blanketed double-covered wide receiver. The ball fell into the cornerback for an easy pick. At the beginning of the third quarter, Glennon threw a ball to the front of the end zone. The ball was underthrown and easily intercepted by Trey Wilson. Glennon was tricked into throwing the pass by Wilson as he closed on the receiver while the ball floated in the air.
Glennon also held onto the ball too long and took unnecessary sacks. He fumbled the ball once and almost fumbled a second time. Glennon threw a garbage-time touchdown, but he really struggled with his accuracy against Vanderbilt. Glennon completed 35-of-53 passes for 383 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He played worse than the numbers indicate.
Glennon (6-6, 232) would occasionally make phenomenal throws that showcased his great arm strength with some good ball placement. He is terribly inconsistent and needs to vastly improve his decision-making. While Glennon has all the physical tools, he needs work at the pro level. Glennon looks like a second-day pick, and this performance will definitely hurt his draft stock.
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
It is tough to have Ryan on this list. He had good coverage with the exception of a couple of plays, but his two mistakes led to 10 of Virginia Tech's 13 points in an overtime win over Rutgers. The first half was fine, but things went bad for Ryan in the second half. First, he lined up offsides on a blitz. Ryan was then beaten by Corey Fuller for a 21-yard touchdown a short time later. It was a perfectly thrown pass by Thomas after a terrible throw the down earlier.
In overtime, Ryan was beaten by Marcus Davis on a deep dig route for a gain of about 20 yards. That completion would set up the game-winning field goal. Ryan almost made up for his error a few of plays later when he had perfect coverage on a fade route to Davis. The pass was poorly placed by Thomas, and Ryan almost grabbed an interception in the end zone, but Davis knocked the ball away.
Overall, Ryan had a disappointing game and this tape made him look more like a second-day pick rather than a contender for the first round. He has entered the 2013 NFL Draft and is skipping his senior season.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Franklin averaged 6.2 yards per carry as senior, racking up 1,734 yards with 13 touchdowns. However against a Baylor defense that had some horrible performances in 2012, he could only muster 34 yards on 14 carries. Franklin (5-11, 195) had a great senior year, but this performance won't help him on draft day. He looks like a mid-round pick and a running back to be part of a rotation in the NFL.
Will the broncos realistically be able to snag Zach Cunningham like you're predicting? This is a dream scenario for me as he's my favorite true Inside Linebacker in this draft. I see him coming off almost everyone's day 2 mock draft super early besides yours. He's had tackling issues when coming from behind and doesn't have that elite speed but...will he really drop that far? Oh I've never been so excited for round 2 of the nfl draft!!! Thoughts?