Saturday, January 28, 2012

2012 Senior Bowl: Top 10 North Prospects

With players like Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright not participating due to injuries, the North's list doesn't quite have the same star power as its South counterpart that I examined on Thursday.

That being said, the North roster still offers it's share of quality draft prospects and likely first- and second-day selections.

1. OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

A three-year starter for the Buckeyes, Adams opened 25 contests during his collegiate career. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior in 2010 and a second-team selection as a senior despite appearing in only seven games.

A 6-foot-7, 323-pound behemoth, Adams is a prototypical NFL left tackle with the build and athleticism all teams look for. He's a strong pass protector and solid run blocker with room to grow. After a good showing during Senior Bowl week, Adams has probably cemented himself in the first round and has a chance to go higher than expect, as some teams consider him a top-10 talent.

2. OLB Lavonte David, Nebraska

After spending two years at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, David transferred to the University of Nebraska, where he broke Barrett Ruud's single-season tackles record with 153 stops. The first-team All-Big 12 selection and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year was also named a second-team All-American. He continued to dominate as a senior, racking up 133 tackles (13 for a loss), 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.

A quality tackler and all-around good linebacker, David is a hard-hitter with the athleticism to drop back and play in coverage. The biggest knock on him is his size (6'0½ and 225 pounds) but there are teams that will covet the type of player he is and he should find a home on Day 2.

3. OG Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

After redshirting at Iowas State in 2007, Osemele moved into a starting role midway through his redshirt freshman season. He went on to appear in 49 games and start his final 44 games for the Cyclones, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2009, an honorable mention in 2010, and first-team honors as a senior in 2011.

Measuring in at 6'5⅜ and 333 pounds, Osemele is compactly but sturdily built. He's a strong pass protector and a great run blocker with the power to drive his man backward. He has extremely long arms that could help his chances of staying outside, but the college tackle might find he's more effective at guard in the pros. He's squarely a Day 2 pick with an outside chance to move into the first round.

4. OLB Bobby Wagner, Utah State

A four-year starter for the Aggies, Wagner opened 46 straight contests to close out his career as one of the best linebackers in school and conference history. A three-time first-team All-WAC selection, Wagner racked up 147 tackles as a senior to place him second all-time in the Utah State and WAC record books.

A bit like Lavonte David (see above), Wagner is an excellent tackler and hard-hitter with the biggest knock on him being his height (he's just over 6-feet). He's a well-rounded player that won't fit into every scheme but should be excellent on special teams and eventually start for somebody. Look for him to come off the board sometime on Day 2.

5. DE Vinny Curry, Marshall

Curry became a starter at Marshall as a sophomore in 2009, totaling 3.5 sacks and earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors. He broke out as a junior, totaling 94 tackles (18 for a loss), 12 sacks, and two forced fumbles. As a senior in 2011, Curry racked up 77 tackles, a career-high 22 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, seven forced fumbles, three blocked kicks and a safety to earn first-team all-conference honors for the second consecutive season. He was also named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.

A dominant pass rusher at Marshall, Curry is a well-rounded defensive end that has all the strength and athleticism to get to the quarterback and also plays the run well. He fits equally into either scheme, profiling as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. One of my favorite players in this year's class, Curry is probably entrenched as a second-rounder but has a chance to sneak into the bottom of the first round.

6. OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

Zeitler appeared in 43 games for the Badgers over four seasons, making all 36 of his starts at right guard. A first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 2011, Zeitler helped Wisconsin running back Montee Ball become a Heisman Trophy finalist after leading the nation in rushing with 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Zeitler (6'3⅞ and 315 pounds) isn't going to wow you with his physical tools, but he's a strong all-around blocker. He's great at opening lanes for the run with excellent technique and a hard work ethic. A great fit for a zone-blocking scheme, Zeitler should be an early-round pick.

7. DE Billy Winn, Boise State

Spending his first three seasons with the Broncos at defensive tackle and starting both his sophomore and junior seasons, Winn totaled 99 tackle (28.5 for a loss), 12.5 sacks and six pass breakups over that span and earned second-team All-WAC honors in 2009 and 2010. As a senior, Winn shifted to defensive end in the Broncos' 3-4 but continued to have success, notching 33 tackles (eight for a loss), three sacks, and a fumble recovery to earn second-team All-MWC honors.

Winn doesn't have a great first step, but he's a good power rusher from the inside and he can hold his own against the run. The 6-foot-3, 296-pound Winn has played both 3-4 defensive end and 4-3 defensive tackle in college and projects at either spot in the pros, making the versatile lineman a likely second- or third-round prospect.

8. QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

Cousins was a three-year starter for the Spartans, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors during his sophomore and junior seasons and second-team honors as a senior in 2011. He finished his collegiate career with nearly every school passing record under his belt, throwing for 9,131 yards and 66 touchdowns against 30 interceptions.

Knocks on Cousins include an average arm and slightly less-than-ideal height at 6-foot-2, but he's a fairly accurate quarterback that can make all the throws and commands an offense well. He had a good Senior Bowl week (especially compared to some of the other ones there), and looks like a third-round pick that could sneak into the second because of the league's need for the position.

9. RB Doug Martin, Boise State

Despite taking a backseat to Boise State's aerial attack for much of his collegiate career, Martin was a reliable workhorse for the Broncos over his final three seasons despite a brief move to the defensive side of the ball as a sophomore. A two-time first-team all-conference selection, Martin surpassed 1,200 rushing yards each of his final two seasons and scored 45 offensive touchdowns in his career.

Martin was overshadowed by Kellen Moore and Boise's passing game, but there is no question he's a talented runner. With his sturdy, compact frame, low center of gravity and power up the middle, he has all the makings of an NFL feature back. Running backs don't go as high as they once did, but Martin should be off the board in the second or third round.

10. WR Brian Quick, Appalachian State

Quick appeared in 52 games during his career at Appalachian State, leaving as one of the best receivers at the FCS level. His production steadily increased over four seasons and he left the Mountaineers with 202 receptions, 3,148 receiving yards, 16.9 yards per catch, and 31 touchdowns.

Although he didn't play at the top level of college football, Quick has all the tools NFL scouts look for in a receiver. Standing a chiseled 6-foot-3½ and 222 pounds with long arms, Quick has the size to out-muscle defenders for the ball and make him a nice red-zone target. If he runs fairly well for his size, he should should in as a nice middle-round pick with the chance to go on Day 2.

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