Who is going to the Senior Bowl? Who could be late-round draft steals? What wide receiver could the Bucs select on day two? Pewter Report’s resident draft analyst Eric Dellaratta breaks it all down in this article. ALL-STAR INVITES
The 2013 Senior Bowl will be held on Saturday, January 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The top senior draft prospects in the nation will be doing their best to impress NFL talent evaluators on and off the field during Senior Bowl week.
PewterReport.com will provide daily coverage and practice reports live from Mobile, so be sure to check out all of the coverage that will be available during Senior Bowl week.
The Senior Bowl has been releasing the names of some of the prospects slated to play in the all-star game in January. Here are the prospects that have already accepted invites to the Senior Bowl. QUARTERBACKS
Tyler Wilson – Arkansas
E.J. Manuel – Florida State
Mike Glennon – N.C. State
Landry Jones - OklahomaRUNNING BACKS
Kenjon Barner – Oregon
Montee Ball – Wisconsin
Mike Gillislee – Florida
Johnathan Franklin – UCLA WIDE RECEIVERS
Quinton Patton – Lousiana Tech
Aaron Mellette – Elon
Aaron Dobson – Marshall
Cobi Hamilton – Arkansas
Chris Harper – Kansas State
Denard Robinson – Michigan
Markus Wheaton – Oregon State
Tavarres King – GeorgiaTIGHT ENDS
Vance McDonald – Rice
Ryan Otten – San Jose State
Phillip Lutzenkirchen – Auburn
Travis Kelce – CincinnatiOFFENSIVE LINEMAN
Oday Aboushi – Virginia
J.C. Tretter – Cornell
Ricky Wagner – Wisconsin
Larry Warford – Kentucky
Brian Winters – Kent State
Dallas Thomas – Tennessee
Hugh Thornton – Illinois
Brian Schwenke – California
Lane Johnson – Oklahoma
Reid Fragel – Ohio StateDEFENSIVE LINEMAN
Ezekiel Ansah – BYU
Cory Grissom – South Florida
Jordan Hill – Penn State
Margus Hunt – SMU
Kawann Short – Purdue
Everett Dawkins – Florida State
Malliciah Goodman – Clemson
John Jenkins – Georgia
Datone Jones – UCLA
Alex Okafor – Texas
Brandon Williams – Missouri SouthernLINEBACKERS
Kiko Alonso – Oregon
Jamie Collins – Southern Miss
Zavier Gooden – Missouri
Sean Porter – Texas A&M
Khaseem Greene – Rutgers
John Simon – Ohio State
Trevardo Williams – Connecticut
Kevin Reddick – North Carolina
Arthur Brown – Kansas State
Nico Johnson – AlabamaDEFENSIVE BACKS
Leon McFadden – San Diego State
Jordan Poyer – Oregon State
Will Davis – Utah State
Johnthan Banks – Mississippi State
Robert Alford – Southeastern Louisiana
Phillip Thomas – Fresno State
Desmond Trufant – Washington
B.W. Webb – William and Mary
J.J. Wilcox – Georgia Southern
Robert Lester – Alabama
Dwayne Gratz – Connecticut
Bacarri Rambo – Georgia
Johnathan Cyprien – Florida International
Marc Anthony – California
Shawn Williams – Georgia
Blidi Wreh-Wilson - ConnecticutSPECIALISTS
Ryan Allen – Louisiana Tech
Dustin Hopkins – Florida State
Jeff Locke – UCLA
Quinn Sharp – Oklahoma State
Carson Tinker – Alabama
Top cornerback prospect Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State will be watched closely throughout Senior Bowl week. In a relatively weak cornerback class, Banks is the
No. 1 rated cornerback by most draft analysts.
Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Alabama’s Demarcus Milliner (if they declare) are the next two in line to claim the top cornerback slot if Banks were to fall. Banks could be a first-round option for the Buccaneers come April. He has great size and possesses tremendous ball skills. The Buccaneers will be looking for a corner that can play press-man coverage. The Senior Bowl is the best place to see man coverage skills because of the one-on-one sessions during practice. It will be very interesting to see how he stacks up against the top receivers in the country during Senior Bowl week. BEAVER RECEIVER
Every NFL team looks for speed when evaluating wide receivers, and one wideout that should stand out to talent evaluators is Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton. The Oregon State senior was outstanding for the Beavers in 2012, where he totaled 91 grabs for 1244 yards and 11 scores.
Wheaton has sensational speed, sure hands, and good route-running skills. He is a versatile, do-it-all receiver that can work the slot, take handoffs and run, and block on the perimeter. If you were to mix Mike Wallace with Kendall Wright, you would be left with Markus Wheaton. That might sound a little crazy, but his skill set resembles the two that were mentioned. He was one of the most consistent playmakers in all of college football, despite having multiple quarterback changes throughout his senior season.
Tiquan Underwood was solid as a slot receiver for the Buccaneers in 2012, but the team could look to upgrade the number three wide receiver position in the draft. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams working on the outside, the middle of opposing defenses can be exploited with a good tight end or slot receiver. Great tight ends are hard to come by, and 2013’s draft doesn’t appear to have very much top-shelf talent. Drafting Wheaton would give the Bucs an explosive receiver that isn’t afraid to work the middle of the field.
The Buccaneers could use some depth behind the obvious starters. Arrelious Benn who has struggled to stay healthy in Tampa, and as stated earlier, Tiquan Underwood could be jumped by a more talented player. Behind them, there are only developmental prospects Chris Owusu and David Douglas. The Bucs could really use another receiver to push for a No. 3 role or at the very least provide additional depth.
Wheaton is quietly flying under the radar right now, but in a few months we could be talking about him as a second-round prospect. Wheaton will be attending the Senior Bowl later this month, and will certainly be a player that PewterReport.com will watch closely. If the Buccaneers are serious about picking up a speedy slot receiver and kick returner, Wheaton could be selected by the team in the second or third round. BURIED TREASURES
Every year there are players that are selected on day three, rounds four through seven, of the NFL draft that surprise and contribute early on in their careers. Some players that fit in this category from 2012’s draft are Washington running back Alfred Morris, New England cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Indianapolis running back Vick Ballard, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, and Philadelphia running back Bryce Brown. This section will cover three players that I believe could be late-round picks that contributes early on in their NFL careers. ARKANSAS RB DENNIS JOHNSON
Johnson took over for the injured Knile Davis as junior in 2011, but the Razorback senior earned more carries than Davis near the end of the 2012 season. Johnson finished his senior season with 137 carries for 757 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Razorback senior is a very shifty runner that relies on his great vision to make plays. He consistently makes defenders miss at the second level and is a major threat in the open field. In addition, he often breaks tackles near the line of scrimmage and is rarely tackled for loss. Johnson can get skinny between the tackles and has shown that he can use power to get past defenders.
Johnson has very good hands and is also a willing blocker in pass protection. This is something that coaches will love and it could put him in position for playing time early in his career.
Johnson needs to improve his pad level when he hits the hole. He runs a little bit upright and that could leave him vulnerable to big hits. Luckily, this is something that can be fixed through coaching.
The Arkansas rusher stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 210 pounds, and has the frame to handle a substantial workload at the next level. If Johnson lands in a good situation, he could make immediate impact in the NFL. GEORGIA WR TAVARRES KING
King has been a tremendous deep threat for the Georgia Bulldogs. The senior receiver totaled 39 catches for 846 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2012. He averaged 21.6 yards per catch as a senior. King got an increase in targets after star wide receiver A.J. Green left for the NFL in 2011, and ever since he has been one of Georgia’s biggest threats on offense.
King had a monster bowl game in 2011 as a junior where he set the Outback Bowl record for receiving yards. He totaled six catches for 205 yards and a touchdown. King came up big for quarterback Aaron Murray on three huge passing plays that went for big gains.
The Bulldog senior has great speed. His long strides allow him to quickly and efficiently get past opposing corners on deep routes. King has also developed some solid route running skills over the course of his career. He sets up defenders well on double moves and creates consistent separation.
King needs to improve his technique catching the football. He lets the ball get into his body far too often. The Bulldog receiver needs to catch more balls with hands instead of his body.
NFL teams are always searching for receivers that can take the top off of defenses. While King doesn’t have tremendous size (6-1, 200), he possesses great speed which could allow him to make an impact early on in his NFL career. VANDERBILT RB ZAC STACY
Stacy has been rock solid for the Vanderbilt Commodores over the last two seasons. The Commodore senior carried the ball for 1034 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2012. This was one year after running for more than 1100 yards and 14 scores as a junior.
Stacy has tremendous vision and excels at reading blocks on outside running plays. His first cut on stretch running plays is explosive, which allows him to get up field quickly and efficiently. Stacy is an ideal fit for an NFL team that runs a zone-blocking scheme. The Commodore rusher is strong in between the tackles. He picks up lots of yard after contact when asked to run north and south.
The reason the senior will likely be taken in the later rounds is because of his lack of breakaway speed. He isn’t slow by any means, but he doesn’t appear to have that second gear that is found in great running back prospects.
If Stacy finds a home on a team with a zone-blocking scheme, he could be in line for solid production from day one.
Follow @EricDellaratta on Twitter for more draft analysis and discussion.
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