The reviews on Askew, who recorded six sacks this season from the defensive tackle position, are mixed. "The pro scouts like Matthias Askew's big body and the way he uses his hands," Michigan State head coach John L. Smith said. "I hope that he can make himself into a first-round pick."
"Matthias Askew is a big guy that can run," Spartan defensive line coach Steve Stripling said. "He made great strides as a pass rusher last season. The best thing about Matthias is that he's a big body that can defend the middle and take on double-team blocks plus, he has the ability to pressure the quarterback." "Matthias Askew is an intriguing player to the NFL scouts because he has so much upside," ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Even before the NFL Combine and individual workouts, I think Askew could be a surprising late first- or early second-round selection because he's so physically talented. If he has an outstanding workout in Indianapolis, some team might be willing to roll the dice late in the first round.
"Defensive linemen are at such a premium that a team, picking anywhere from 24-to-32 in the first round, might take a chance on Askew, knowing that in all likelihood he isn't going to be on the board late in the second round.
"Askew had a productive junior year, but he didn't consistently play at a high level," Kiper said. "If he had stayed another year at Michigan State, I honestly believe he could have been a top 15 pick. He has that much potential in my book."
Smoker appears to be a third or fourth round pick, similar to late blooming University of Michigan star Tom Brady. Brady went from the sixth round to two Super Bowl MVP performances.
"Jeff Smoker provided the one building block in the spread offense," Smith said. "Jeff gave us an opportunity to win on Saturdays. I'm amazed at what he accomplished as a first-year quarterback in this offensive system. Jeff has an extremely accurate arm and the knack for staying out of trouble. He has a great chance to make it at the next level because of his accuracy, arm strength and intelligence."
"Jeff has incredible accuracy as a passer," MSU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. "Jeff is the most accurate quarterback I've ever coached. He's a great competitor with unbelievable focus. I was amazed at how quickly Jeff mastered the spread offense. I was impressed by the way he managed the pass protections and hot reads and worked through the progressions. Jeff is truly a special player."
"His accuracy as a passer stands out to me," Spartan quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier said. "Despite what was going on around him, Jeff had the ability to stand in the pocket and focus on his target downfield. He had the presence to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball accurately. He's also one of the toughest players I've ever been around."
"The depth at quarterback is the best that it has been in a long, long time," Kiper said. "The top-rated quarterbacks in the draft are Eli Manning (Ole Miss), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-Ohio), Phillip Rivers (N.C. State), J.P. Losman (Tulane) and Matt Schaub (Virginia).
"There's no question that Jeff Smoker has the skill to play in the league, but he has to prove to the NFL scouts that football is a priority in his life and remain focused on the game. Another 10 quarterbacks may be selected from the fourth to seventh round and Smoker is in that interesting group."
"I have him grouped with guys like Jared Lorenzen (Kentucky), Casey Clausen (Tennessee), Bradlee Van Pelt (Colorado State) and Luke McCown (Louisiana Tech). I have no doubt that one of those next 10 guys will be a hit in the NFL, like New England's Tom Brady (sixth-round selection in 2000) and Carolina's Jake Delhomme (undrafted free agent in 1997)." The mericurial Taplin appears to have the diciest future. "Greg Taplin's greatest asset is his speed off the corner," Smith said. "Greg established himself as a pass rusher last season. He has the quickness to run around guys and make plays in the backfield. Greg simply needs to become bigger and stronger to develop into more than a situational player." "Greg Taplin certainly has a chance to make it in the league as a situational player," Kiper said. "Taplin didn't play with great consistency in 2003, but he showed flashes of brilliance as a pass rusher. With a solid effort at the NFL Combine, Taplin could earn a spot as a late-round pick."