Saturday Spotlight: Draft Prospects To Watch Week 14
There's far less of Daniel McCullers than there was when he first arrived in Knoxville in 2012, with two seasons at Georgia Military College and close to four bills under his belt. Specifically, there's about 12% less of the formerly Biggest Man On Campus. McCullers is listed in the final game notes of his college career at 6-foot-8, 351 pounds -- down considerably from a personal high of nearly 400 pounds.
He's slimmed down, added strength and improved his stamina since coming to Tennessee. Now, McCullers is a few salads away from potentially yielding the honor of Biggest Prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft to Miami tackle Seantrel Henderson.
Still, at the end of the day, Daniel McCullers is hoping that NFL scouts agree with him: Less is more.
And he'll have one final chance Saturday to make that pitch to prospective employers.
For fewer prospects than you'd think, Saturday's games are the final opportunity to put something on film for scouts to evaluate. The big tent that is bowl season accommodates more than half the FBS teams, so most prospects will have a chance to play again.
But for a handful of seniors, their college career is now one and done.
Many of them will have the chance to show at the Senior Bowl what they're able to do on the practice field -- a huge part of the vetting process. They'll have a shot to literally measure up against their positional peers at the Combine. They'll get to impress NFL coaches during personal interviews at both events, and they'll get to wow them against air during their individual pro days next spring.
It's game film, though, that offers NFL coaches the best insight into a prospect's potential. Strutting your stuff in shorts and against stopwatches is one thing; NFL decision-makers want to see what you can do in game situations.
Which makes this Saturday the last chance at making a lasting impression on game film for these 10 draft prospects (listed alphabetically):
Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue: Allen's skills around the football are exceeded only by what he does with the ball after a takeaway. His 11 career interceptions are second-most in Purdue history, but his four interceptions returned for touchdowns are a school record -- and most among all active college football players (he came close to a fifth against Wisconsin but was tackled short of the goal line). At 5-9, 186, Allen might have trouble matching up against the big, physical receivers he'll face at the next level. But he'll catch on as a nickel or dime corner on the strength of his ball skills alone.
Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming: This isn't necessarily Herron's final game; Wyoming could become bowl eligible with a win at Utah State. It's not inappropriate to wonder whether Herron's production has been a factor of playing in Wyoming's wide-open offense, but some of his skills will translate to the next level. Herron is a smooth route-runner with the quickness to gain separation against any coverage, and his top-end speed (he should run around a 4.35 at the Combine) makes him a potential game-breaker. It's his ability to catch balls in traffic that might make him a somewhat one-dimensional prospect -- though every team will be looking for that one quick-strike dimension he brings.
Ja'Wuan James, T, Tennessee: Most draft discussion has focused on Tennessee's left tackle, Antonio Richardson, a junior who presumably will come out this season. James has been steady if unspectacular as the Vols right tackle, where he'll make his 49th start on Saturday. At 6-6, 318, James projects to be a strong-side tackle in the NFL, and he's also shown an ability to handle top-tier pass rushers (he had a better day against Jadeveon Clowney than Richardson did this year).
Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee: Though he lines up as much as a three technique tackle as he does at nose tackle, McCullers is an NFL nose tackle. He has the bulk and lateral agility to be a consistent run stopper at the next level, but he lacks the first-step quickness and ability to sustain a bull rush that would enable him to become a pass rushing force as a pro. If teams don't see him as an every down player, his draft stock will drop him into the third or fourth round.
Keith McGill, CB, Utah: At 6-3, 205, McGill will be one of the two or three biggest corners available in 2014, which automatically puts him on the Seahawks' radar. He's a converted safety, the position where he earned All-American honors in junior college and where he began his Utah career in 2011 before suffering a shoulder injury that would sideline him through 2012. Durability is a concern, as is his relative inexperience as a cornerback. Still, his size, versatility and playmaking ability around the ball (his 10 PBUs lead the Pac-12) will warrant long consideration. Posting good game film against Colorado WR Paul Richardson would be a great way to finish his college career.
Morgan Moses, T, Virginia: Like McCullers, Moses has had to work to control his playing weight. He's 6-6, 335, and though he's started every game this season at left tackle, he might be a better fit as a right tackle in the NFL. He can hold his own against most bull rushers, but he could struggle against elite quickness. It's likely scouts will want to see him become more aggressive as a run blocker.
Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah: One of the 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker, Reilly may be a better fit as a 4-3 defensive nd. He seems suited to play at the point of attack rather than in space, where his speed, coverage skills and tackling technique may get exposed. Reilly, though, can rush the passer; he's second in the Pac-12 with 8.5 sacks and third with 15 TFL.
James Stone, C, Tennessee: Probably the most underrated of Tennessee's offensive linemen, Stone is one of the six or seven centers likely to be drafted in 2014. He's started at both center and guard this season, and his versatility will be a plus (whereas his size -- 6-3, 291 -- might be a bit of a negative). It'll be interesting to see what scouts think of the fact that he's left-handed; Stone makes his shotgun snaps as a lefty and all of his snaps under center right-handed.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: The fourth-best cornerback on our Midseason Big Board, Verrett is the best prospect on this list. He is terrific around the ball, leading the nation in passes defended (8 INTs, 28 PBUs) over the last two seasons. His instincts and football intelligence project him to be a promising cornerback at the next level. The issue for Verrett, though, is his size (5-10, 176), which could pigeonhole him as a slot corner in the NFL.
Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa: If all seven rounds of the 2014 draft expire without Watts' name being called, don't expect him to panic. If ever there was a prospect who could make a team as an undrafted free agent, it'd be Watts, who on Tuesday was named one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, presented to a player who began his career as a walk-on. Watts certainly has made the most out of his shot at Tulsa. He's wrapping up his second-straight season of 1,000 rushing yards and has gained more than 6,000 all-purpose yards. His size (5-11, 200), versatility and work ethic will earn him a spot to someone's camp next summer.