Every Friday during the college football season we’ll highlight a few players in key games you should keep an eye on because they’re NFL draft material in 2013. Several teams have more than a couple pro prospects and will be featured frequently in this space. So don’t freak out when only two of Alabama’s dozen pro prospects are mentioned below.
Boise State at Michigan State, 8 pm, ESPN
BOISE ST.- The cupboard is empty. Chris Petersen has to reload after losing six players to the draft (Shea McClellin and Doug Martin in the first round), and that doesn’t include his most important player (for the last three years) QB Kellen Moore. A lot will change as the season progresses, but right now, the player most likely to be drafted in 2013 has to be running back DJ Harper. He’s smaller than the new Tampa Bay Bucs RB (only 5-9, 205), but in 2009, Harper was their No. 1 RB, ahead of Martin on the depth chart (and Martin moved to defense). Harper, who has run a 4.3 40, tore his ACL early in the season, and Martin surged ahead of him. Harper returned the following year and broke off this TD run against Virginia Tech in the opener (:45):
Then, he tore his ACL again. Harper’s ACL history probably prevents him from going high in the draft, but I think he’ll have value in the 4th or 5th round.
William Gholston, DE, 6-6, 275 – You probably remember him for his dirty play against Michigan. (Or the fact that he survived a nasty car accident in May.) But he’s a monster on the end (for his length more than speed) and kind of reminds me of Richard Seymour. Ended last season with two sacks against Georgia. He’s a 1st or 2nd round pick depending on the season he has. In what appears to be a mediocre defensive end class (depending on who enters the draft) Gholston is in the top three.
Dion Sims, TE, 6-5, 285 – One of the biggest tight ends in college football. Sparty lost its QB and top two WR from last year, so Sims should be the safety net for new QB Andrew Maxwell. Sims 2nd or 3rd round talent heading into his junior season. Had a modest 12 catches for 99 yards as a sophomore, but he played the 2nd half of the season with a broken hand.
Clemson at Auburn, Saturday, 7 pm, ESPN
Malliciah Goodman, DE, 6-4, 280 – Physical marvel with enormous hands and wingspan. His problem is production – through three seasons, he has just five sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. He needs to top each of those totals this season. Untapped potential? I’d label him a early/mid-round pick (3rd/4th/5th) right now.
Andre Ellington, RB, 5-9, 190 – Speedy running back who rushed for 1,178 yards last season. Has a higher upside than Boise’s Harper – primarily because he hasn’t had two ACL surgeries – but doesn’t have the size or power to match better backs in his class, like Montee Ball or Knile Davis. Shifty and has value as a special teams returner. Mid-round (4-5) prospect coming into his senior year.
Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, 6-4, 250 – Arguably had the best catch by a tight end in 2011. Great name. Grinder. A late-round pick. Solid twitter follow.
Onterio McCalebb, RB 5-10, 175 – A faster version of Ellington, but he’s not a between-the-tackles type. Multi-purpose threat who could be a special teams weapon or 3rd down specialist in the right system. Doesn’t make people miss like Dexter McCluster did at Ole Miss, nor does he appear to be as durable. But he’s got blazing speed. Most carries he had in a game was 22 – as a freshman in 2009. Big-play ability alone makes him well worth the 5th/6th round gamble.
Michigan vs. Alabama, Saturday, 8 pm, ABC
Denard Robinson, QB, 5-11, 200 – Dynamic QB – most exciting player in college football – probably translates to a receiver in the pros. He falls into the Pat White category – speedy, elusive, but not big enough or possessor of a strong enough arm. Depending on who you listen to, his draft stock is all over the place – 1st round all the way to 4th. Robinson’s draft spot, probably more than anyone’s, boils down to how he performs at the combine. Given the media’s love for QBs, he’ll probably be the story of the combine.
Taylor Lewan, OL 6-8, 310 – One of the best lineman in college football, he’ll be a 1st or 2nd round pick in April. Is he in the same class as Jake Long? No, but he might be close. Will be very interesting to see how he handles one of the best defensive lines in college football. Here’s a nice read about Lewan.
Jesse Williams, DT 6-3, 320 – Animal. Australian. On a defense that reloads instead of rebuilds, Williams is the Tide’s best returning player. Would love to see Williams go head-to-head with Lewan Saturday night. Williams is a 1st round draft pick, and with a big season, could play his way into the Top 10.
Eddie Lacy, RB, 5-10, 220 – Maybe it’s just me. But I’ve got serious reservations about Lacy as a 2nd round pick, where he’s being touted by various analysts. Trent Richardson did the real work last year, then Lacy took over late in games and ran well. Let’s not forget – he’s running behind the best offensive line in college football (it might have three 2013 first round picks). I haven’t see the 4.4 speed yet. I haven’t seen early-round tackle-breaking ability. He was rated as the 13th best high school back in the country in 2009, ahead of guys like Knile Davis, Stepfan Taylor (Stanford) and Montee Ball. I’d rather have either of those guys.