One of the best parts of the college football bowl season is watching the guys who are going to play on Sundays in the very near future.
Here at Cheesehead TV, we're attempting to list all the senior pro prospects (even the longshots) and a couple very highly rated junior ones as well, as a de facto viewing guide.
BCS Title Game–Monday Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN
- Defensive tackle Nick Fairley–He's a junior, but he's very likely to come out and should very well be one of the top picks in April's draft. I personally think he can be every bit as good as Ndamukong Suh. Good enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3. Has a near uncanny ability to be disruptive to both the run and the pass game. Very quick for a defensive tackle. Said to be a dirty player by some. NFL Draft Scout: Top-ranked junior defensive tackle.
- Quarterback Cam Newton–Like Tim Tebow, he has an ability to be effective in both the pass and the run game. He's a monster at 6' 6" and 250 pounds, can run over people and doesn't go down easily. Unfortunately at the next level, that's not as important. He'll also be going up against better athletes that are better equipped to take him down. He had a lot to prove in 2010 to show that he's a decent passer, but he seems to have passed most of those tests by completing over 67% of his passes for over 2500 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He's the Heisman Trophy winner and a consensus All-American, but you knew that already. NFL Draft Scout: Top-ranked junior quarterback.
- Tackle/guard Lee Ziemba–Played left tackle for the Tigers throughout his career, but some think his calling might be as a guard in the pros. He was a consensus All-American this season. Invited to the Senior Bowl later this month. NFL Draft Scout: Eighth ranked guard in the senior class.
- Outside linebacker Craig Stevens–He's played through some injuries this year and will play with a cast on his left wrist during tonight's game. Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated writes, "Solid playmaking linebacker who shows a lot of athleticism and awareness on the field. Potential rush linebacker in a 3-4." A good talent, but not elite talent. NFL Draft Scout: 31st-ranked outside linebacker in the senior class.
- Running back Mario Fannin–With Newton emerging as the top running threat on the team and Auburn deep at the running back position, Fannin fell off the radar some this season, but he's still a solid prospect. Despite limited opportunities, he still averaged 6.5 yards per carry this season on 65 carries including five touchdowns. He had 42 receptions out of the backfield a season ago. NFL Draft Scout: 23rd-ranked senior running back.
- Center Ryan Pugh–Named first-team All-SEC and was on some All-American lists, albeit not on the first-team. With Auburn having such a good season, he's a player on the rise. NFL Draft Scout: 22nd-ranked senior center.
- Inside linebacker Josh Bynes–Led the Tigers with 71 tackles and three interceptions this season. Second-team All-SEC. Was invited to the Senior Bowl. Seems to fit the mold of the type of inside linebacker the Packers covet in their 3-4 and can be had for a mid-round draft choice. NFL Draft Scout: 8th-ranked senior inside linebacker.
- Kicker Wes Byrum–The all-time leading scorer in Auburn history. NFL Draft Scout: 8th-ranked senior kicker.
- Defensive tackle Mike Blanc–A good complement to Nick Fairley, although not nearly the same player. Was able to rack up seven tackles against a good team like South Carolina this season. Ejected during the Georgia game this season for throwing a punch. NFL Draft Scout: 13th-ranked defensive tackle.
- Wide receiver Terrell Zachary–Had 38 receptions for 585 yards and four touchdowns this season. NFL Draft Scout: 55th-ranked senior wide receiver.
- Inside inebacker Casey Matthews–His bloodlines are hard to deny. After the success his older brother has had in the pros, who wouldn't want another Matthews on their team? But Casey is not a Clay-clone. He's definitely an inside linebacker. Earned first-team All-Pac 10 honors and led Oregon in tackles this season. Leads an opportunistic defense that's third in the nation in forcing turnovers. Matthews has three interceptions and fumble recoveries on the year. He's a mid-round draft choice but could go higher based on name recognition on the hope that he'll develop like his brother. NFL Draft Scout: 6th-ranked senior inside linebacker.
- Wide receiver Jeff Maehl–Has emerged as Oregon's best receiver this year, and he's earned that title. Has 68 receptions for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and earned first-team All-Pac 10 honors. After having such a good season, he should be climbing up draft boards and could be a mid- to late-round draft prospect. NFL Draft Scout: 25th-ranked senior wide receiver.
- Outside linebacker Spencer Paysinger–Honorable mention All-Pac 10 for two consecutive seasons. Tony Pauline writes, "Solid, one-gap linebacker who can play over the tight end and covers a great amount of area on the field. Good speed and skill in pursuit. Never improved from a terrific sophomore campaign." NFL Draft Scout: 32nd ranked senior outside linebacker.
- Defensive end Brandon Blair–He's 27-year-old because he spent two years on an LDS mission. That might make him slightly less valuable, but he still has the tools to be able to play in the NFL. He's tall at 6-7 and has played both tackle and end this season. Has had 15.5 tackles for a loss this season. NFL Draft Scout: 18th-ranked senior defensive end.
- Tackle Bo Thran–Second team All-Pac 10 this season. Undersized at only 284 pounds. NFL Draft Scout: 27th-ranked senior tackle.
- Outside linebacker Kenny Rowe–A decent pass rusher with six sacks this season and 22.5 over the course of his college career. Earned second-team All-Pac 10 honors this season. NFL Draft Scout: 24th-ranked senior outside linebacker.
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