Bobcats With NFL Potential (2016)

After four Bobcats were picked up in the NFL draft and free agency, our lead reporter Keff Ciardello takes a look at this year’s roster to find out who could potentially end up playing on Sundays.

It’s been an exciting time for Texas State football fans recently. After finishing last season above .500 for the first time since 2009 and just missing out on the school’s first ever bowl game, the Bobcats had four players bring their talents to NFL teams. Two players were drafted, CB Craig Mager in the third round to the San Diego Chargers and LB David Mayo in the fifth by the Carolina Panthers. The others received free agent contracts after the draft with RB Terrence Franks to the St. Louis Rams and K Will Johnson to the Houston Texans.

Despite the departure of those four, Texas State still has an abundance of talented players on their roster capable of making an NFL squad. I’ve studied the roster and narrowed it down to five current Texas State players that I feel have NFL potential.

5. TE Ryan Carden
There will be a void along the Bobcats offensive line this season with the departure of their sure-handed TE Brad Miller. They have two big options to replace Miller at TE with Lawrence White and Ryan Carden. It’s tempting to look at the 6’7”, 240 lb White and think, with all that height, he is the answer to fill that void. However, Carden has one advantage that separates him: blocking. Carden is shorter (6’4”) but heavier (250 lbs) than White and both have shown the ability to get open and make catches, especially in the red-zone. Carden is a superior blocker, which will be crucial for protecting Tyler Jones (passing and running) and opening lanes for Rob Lowe and Nutall. He has the ability to find space and pick up big yards after the catch, averaging over 15yds a reception last season, and is a serious receiving threat. That's eye popping for a tight end on any level. Of course NFL teams want the next Jimmy Graham but if a TE can’t block, he’s probably not an NFL TE.

4. WR C.J. Best
He has NFL pedigree with his cousin being former Lion’s RB Jahvid Best. At 5’10”, 185 lbs, does CJ Best have the size, is the one daunting concern surrounding this pick for me. I considered another WR, Brandon Smith, for this list, who has the height at 6’2”, but his route running and hands leave much to be desired. After playing one position his entire life, Best made the switch from RB to Slot WR pretty seamlessly last season, catching 37 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 326 yards rushing. He has the route-running, hands and speed to make the jump to the pros, but he first has to prove he can be the top pass-catcher on the Bobcats. There will be plenty of extra catches to go around with the departure of Ben Ijah and Brad Miller.

3. LB Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon
With Mayo and Orakpo both gone, Jeter-Gilmon will have some big shoes to fill. Luckily for the Bobcats the 6’1”, 230 lbs LB seems up to the task. A three-star recruit out of high school, he played right away as a true freshman for the Bobcats and has contributed defensively every season since, appearing in every game but one in that span. Last season, Jeter-Gilmon appeared in all 12 games, starting four, and recorded 46 tackles, 17 solo, with 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Known as an edge-rusher, he has a non-stop motor that NFL teams could find enticing. This will be a very telling season for him as he will shoulder a lot more responsibility.

2. RB Rob Lowe
With a system that regularly rotates between three running backs, Rob Lowe has been the consistent starter. In two seasons as the Bobcats primary rusher, Lowe has amassed 2,036 yards and 19 touchdowns. He doesn't run guys over or dance around them, he finds the running lane and he doesn't hesitate when taking it. He doesn't tip-toe to the line from a hand-off, he just takes it and takes off. He's a north-south, one-cut back who's has a knack for finding holes. His decisiveness is a quality that the NFL will take notice of. Now, at 5'10", 195 lbs, Lowe may need to bulk up if he wants to make an NFL roster. There aren't very many backs out there weighing under 200 lbs (Darren Sproles is 190 lbs but also only 5'6"). Former Bobcat and St. Louis Rams FA Signee Terrence Franks is 214 lbs coming into Rams training camp.

1. OT Adrian Bellard
Bellard has come a long way. Just a couple of seasons ago, Bellard looked lost and completely out of place on the field. His footwork wasn't right and he just didn't seem to have the confidence in his ability despite his size. At 6'5", 314 lbs, Bellard is already an ideal size for NFL teams but he got the push he really needed to take it to the next level when the Bobcats brought in Brad Bedell to coach the offensive line. Bedell was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round and played for the Dolphins, Texans, Redskins and Packers. Bedell has brought intensity and energy that Texas State has been lacking. It has definitely rubbed off on the offensive linemen, especially Bellard. Last season, he tallied 57 knockdowns, including a season-best nine against ULM. His foot work has improved, he looked great last season and in the spring. His quickness will determine if he can legitimately play on the edge as a tackle, or transition to the inside at guard on the next level.

(Honorable Mention)

RB Chris Nutall
Even though he is second string, the 5’8”, 200 lbs Nutall packs a mean wallop when toting the rock. So much so, that even his own teammates are afraid to play against him. The main reason he was the top pick in spring game draft was that nobody wanted to hit him. Even with a bruiser’s reputation, Nutall has shown off his speed by consistently racking up 20+-yard runs. Plus, with Franks getting the nod from the Rams despite being a backup, you have to imagine teams are looking at Texas State’s backfield. CB Brandon McDowell
Despite only being a sophomore, McDowell will take on a much bigger role this year with Mager off to the pros. He has the confidence of the coaching staff so he will be given the chance to show he’s a shut-down corner, as well as a threat returning punts. He's showed above average speed on special teams and when patrolling his side of the field this past spring. He would have the made final list if he had a little more experience under his belt. He is a little undersized, standing 5'10" 183lbs.

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