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Scouting The AT&T Cotton Bowl

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For all the offensive firepower expected in the Cotton Bowl, the top NFL prospects in the game are defensive players, like Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, who also is a dangerous kick returner. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.
For all the offensive firepower expected in the Cotton Bowl, the top NFL prospects in the game are defensive players, like Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, who also is a dangerous kick returner. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.

The Cotton Bowl features two former Big 12 foes from the days before the most recent conference realignment. Two years ago, Missouri left the Big 12 for the greener pastures of the SEC. The two teams meet again in what should be a high-scoring matchup. Both teams feature a number of pro prospects for 2014, and one potential superstar in 2015. 

OKLAHOMA STATE

Justin Gilbert, CB

Gilbert is a big-play corner who has exceled in the pass-happy Big 12. An exceptional athlete with speed and ball skills, he has the size NFL scouts love, measuring out at 6-foot and 200 pounds. His quick feet and agility help him leverage receivers tightly out of breaks. Gilbert is also a dangerous returner, increasing his value for NFL teams. His matchup versus super sophomore Dorian Green-Beckham could be a battle of future first rounders.

Tracy Moore, WR

The NCAA granted Moore a medical redshirt, giving him the opportunity to redo his senior season in 2013. At 6-2, 215, Moore has great size NFL scouts love. Moore doesn’t possess blazing speed, but enough to be dangerous. He is a natural hands catcher who uses his agility and power to eluded tacklers. He has shown the ability to adjust to the ball in the air. A mid-round selection is a possibility.

Blake Jackson, WR/TE

Jackson is a 6-4, 235-pound athletic WR/TE hybrid. He would be a weapon for many NFL offensive coordinators hoping to create mismatches in coverage. In 2012, he was second on the Cowboys with 30 receptions and 598 yards. His 2013 season has been marred by injury, but his athletic skills will certainly have many scouts vetting his abilities for the upcoming draft. Jackson will likely be a mid- to late-round pick.

Calvin Barnett, DT

Barnett is wide-bodied, 6-2, 300-pound plugger who has good quickness off the snap. He has the ability to penetrate and make plays in the backfield. He is a 1 technique in a 4-man front but could serve as a nose in a 3-man front. He is a mid- to late-round selection.

Shaun Lewis, LB

Lewis is a speedy, ultra-quick and instinctive linebacker. He plays with great effort on the field. His biggest red-flag is his lack of size (5-11, 225). He would be best-suited as a weak side or protected linebacker in a 4-3 scheme who can flow and play in space. Lewis is a late round selection at best.

Daytawion Lowe, FS

Lowe is a physical player and a sound tackler. He lacks the ideal speed and agility to match up with receivers in the NFL. His physical play and tackling ability should garner him consideration in the late rounds and he could make a roster as a special teamer.

MISSOURI

Michael Sam, DE

Sam is an explosive player at the snap with tremendous speed, making him a highly coveted prospect. Sam plays with great leverage and power, showing a knack to plays with bend off the edge.  His size will be questioned as a run defender in the NFL, but his value will be in rushing the passer. He could be a 4-3 End in the Dwight Freeney mold, but teams may consider using him as a rush backer in a 3-4 scheme. Sam could be a Day 2 selection.

Kony Ealy, DE

Ealy has the length, strength and speed that make scouts salivate. His combination of size and athletic ability make Ealy versatile enough to move inside as a 3-technique in pass rushing situations as well as an edge rusher, versatily which NFL teams like in defensive lineman. He has a great first step off the line and shows he can power rush. His aggressive play and penetrating style regardless of gap responsibility in the run game will need to be harnessed, but shows good effort on every play. Ealy has obvious first-round ability and if he declares, he could be a late first or second round pick.

E.J. Gaines, CB

Gaines is an aggressive corner who displays good instincts in coverage and plays the ball well in the air.  Gaines' physicality, speed and athleticism make him attractive as a nickel corner, where he can also stay on the field in run situations. Gaines could be a Day 2 pick with a strong final game and Pro Day/Combine.

L’Damian Washington, WR

Washington has the prototypical combination of size and speed NFL scouts covet. Washington has remarkable body control and has good enough ball skills to win one-on-one battles in the red zone, but he has yet to develop consistency in that regard. He needs work on running crisper routes and catching the ball with his arms extended rather than the body. His measurables will get him looks in the middle to late rounds.

Henry Josey, RB

Josey has returned to form after tearing his ACL and MCL in 2011. He has the elusiveness and speed to break off huge runs.  Josey will have to decide if leaving for the NFL is his best option, considering he has come back from one horrific injury to be a game-breaking back. He will likely be a mid-round selection should he declare, though he may elevate his status if he returns and remains healthy as a senior.

Marcus Lucas, WR

Lucas has been a stalwart receiver for the Tigers the past three seasons. Lucas had been an X or outside WR to start the year, but his speed is not elite and the development of Green-Beckham prompted a change. His size (6-5, 220) could merit consideration as an H back or tight end. He most likely will be a late-round selection.

James Franklin, QB

Franklin, when healthy, was the catalyst for the Tigers offense. Franklin shows good accuracy on intermediate throws. Franklin has very quick release which maybe the one trait that gets him serious consideration. He will need to develop skills for working under center and has been injury-prone over his career. Should a team select him to develop, he has the moxie and ability to be a viable starter in the NFL.