Scouting The Hawai'i Bowl
As part of Football.com's coverage of all 35 bowl games, we will provide a draft prospect-primer, so you know whom to watch during every postseason game.
Let's be real. The Smurf Turf isn't the only thing turning blue in Boise in late December.
The current Christmas Eve forecast (high of 37) notwithstanding, you have to believe the Boise State Broncos don't mind hitting the road for the holidays. The only thing blue about Hawaii, where the Broncs will be spending Christmas Eve, is an Elvis movie.
And if you're not going to be in a BCS game, well, Honolulu's not a bad Plan B.
I'm sure Oregon State will agree (though Beaverton will see a high of 44 degrees on the 24th). As will those scouts fortunate enough to be dispatched from the mainland to see the five legitimate prospects who will be featured in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
Demarcus Lawrence, OLB
Traditionally, Boise State was the NFL's prime shopping outlet among WAC programs, but the Broncos are facing competition as prospect producers in their third year in the Mountain West. Fresno State, San Jose State and Colorado State all have three promising NFL prospects, and Wyoming has a couple.
Boise State has one solid prospect, and that's Lawrence, whose pass rush skills make him a Day Two candidate. He had 10.5 sacks in 2013 (20 for his career) and 19.5 TFL. And he's got a knack for blokcing kicks -- he blocked two field goal attempts against Southern Miss, and had BSU's only FG block in 2012.
Lawrence likely will have to move from defensive end to outside linebacker, as his size (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) put him at a disadvantage against NFL tackles. He has the mobility to play standing up, and is an active and effective tackler. His coverage skills will be the NFL's biggest question, but he has the athleticism to thrive in a new position.
Charles Leno, LT
Leno has been a staple on the Broncos offensive line, having started the last 25 games at left tackle after 13 consecutive starts at right tackle.
His versatility is a plus. His size . . . not so much. Leno is listed at 6-4, 295. Only two offensive linemen were drafted in 2013 who weighed less than 300 pounds. The good news is one of those was David Bakhtiari, who was 299 pounds when the Packers drafted him in the fourth round; Bakhtiari has started all 14 games at left tackle for Green Bay.
Whether Leno can add and maintain some bulk without compromising his athleticism (he blocked a field goal against Utah State in october) will determine whether he's a Day Three pick or more of a UFA.
Boldewijn is a massive target, a 6-4, 220-pound receiver with some big-play potential (he had 50-yard receptions in consecutive games this season). He's been moderately productive (37 catches, 510 yards) and has only two touchdowns; you'd expect more from a receiver that size in the red zone. Still, he could catch the attention of some NFL coaching staff that prefers big receivers -- or maybe someone in the NFC West who has to go up against Seattle's supersized corners.
Brandin Cooks, WR
Not only is Cooks having the best season of any receiver in the nation (as his winning the Biletnikoff Award would suggest), he's having he best season any Pac-10 or Pac-12 -- Pac-Anything -- receiver has ever had. His 120 catches are already a conference record, and he's 52 yards shy of Marqise Lee's league mark of 1,721. Cooks also has 15 touchdown catches, which is tied for fifth in league history.
Cooks is listed at 5-10, 186, which projects him as a slot receiver in the NFL, even though he plays primarily outside as a Z receiver for the Beavers. He certainly has the moves to get open anywhere on the field, particularly in traffic, and he's a dynamic runner after the catch (though he lacks the elite top-end speed of, say, a De'Anthony Thomas). Should he declare at the end of his junior season, Cooks might be the top true slot receiver prospect in the draft.
Scott Crichton, DE
Like Cooks (and junior quarterback Sean Mannion), Crichton is on the fence about turning pro. If he does, he's looking like a middle-round end, best suited for a 4-3 front. He's shown a terrific first step, and has used that quickness and burst to make a ton of plays in opponents' backfields (he has 21.5 sacks and 48 TFL in 36 career starts). At times, he can look a bit rigid, and he might not possess the strength to effectively bull rush an NFL blocker. But he'll make a roster on his motor and his quickness, if only as a situational pass rusher in the early part of his career.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB
There's little doubt about Reynolds' coverage skills. His instincts and technique are terrific, and he is comfortable shadowing receivers through their routes and making plays around the ball (6 INTs in 2013). The question is whether he has the size (he's 5-11, 187) and speed to match up with elite NFL receivers in a man coverage scheme, or the quickness to track slot receivers all over the field. He's a reliable tackler, but he might not have the strength to provide consistent run support required from a zone corner. He has the experience and work ethic to be a positive addition to any NFL roster -- perhaps he's a candidate to be moved to free safety.