NFL Draft: Bowling For Dollars (Part II)

The college bowl season can help the top senior prospects solidify their draft status and help determine the futures of many top underclassmen like Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin (pictured left).'s Chris Steuber continues to identify the top bowl game standouts with Part II of the series. See where some of the top draft-eligible prospects are projected to go after their bowl performances.

*Jeremy Maclin, WR/RS, Missouri

The multi-dimensional Maclin put his full arsenal on display at the Alamo Bowl by hauling in seven passes for 39 yards, which included the game-winning touchdown in overtime. In addition to his offensive output, Maclin starred on special teams and returned a punt for a 75-yard touchdown before halftime. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Maclin is only a redshirt sophomore, but he plays well beyond his years. He’s ready to take his game to the next level after a 102-catch, 1,260-yard, 13-touchdown campaign that will ultimately land him as a top-15 selection this April.

Draft Projection: First Round

Sanchez had the game of his life against Penn State in the Rose Bowl and he now faces a tough decision regarding his football future.
Harry How/Getty

*Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

In a year where the draft is dependant upon the underclassmen quarterbacks, because there isn’t a senior quarterback worthy to be selected within the first two rounds, a junior like Sanchez, a player who only started one season and shined, has a chance to be selected high in the first round. Sanchez dramatically improved his stock with his performance in the Rose Bowl, as he completed 80-percent of his passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Penn State. He had an up and down season, but showed a lot of promise by completing 65.8-percent of his passes for 3,207 yards, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Sanchez has  a lot of upside, and if he declares for the draft, he will be a first round pick.

Draft Projection: First Round

B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

The Music City Bowl was a tough, hard-fought game in which Vanderbilt narrowly beat Boston College 16 – 14. But in the loss, the Eagles got another tremendous performance from Raji in the trenches. The 6-foot-1, 325-pound space eater, Raji played tough inside and recorded five tackles, three for a loss and sack. After being ruled academically ineligible for the 2007 season, Raji bounced back with a dominant 2008 campaign where he totaled 42 tackles, 16 for a loss and eight sacks. His ability to take on double teams and collapse a pocket will be in high demand this April and will ascend his status into the mid-to-late first round.

Draft Projection: First Round

*Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

There are a lot of great linebackers who may declare for the 2009 draft, but one of the best linebackers that doesn’t receive the notoriety many of the others do is Weatherspoon. In Missouri’s 29 - 23 overtime victory against Northwestern, Weatherspoon starred on defense recording 12.5 tackles, 2.5 for a loss and half a sack. At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Weatherspoon is a tremendous athlete who possesses great playmaking ability and ball skills, which led to his 155 tackles, 18.5 for a loss, five sacks and three interceptions this season. He’s a classic WILL linebacker and if he decides to forego his final season at Missouri, he will be a top-40 selection.

Draft Projection: First – Second Round

*Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa

A first year starter, Greene emerged as one of the best runners in college football this season. In what would be his final game in a Hawkeyes uniform at the Outback Bowl, as he declared for the NFL Draft, Greene carried the ball 29 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Although it was his first year starting, Greene made it count by rushing for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns. Greene compares favorably to Pittsburgh Steelers 2008 first round pick Rashard Mendenhall, who was also a first year starter as a junior at Illinois before declaring for the draft. With a strong showing this offseason, it’s likely that Greene will be a late first, early second round pick.

Draft Projection: First – Second Round

*Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut

A workhorse in the backfield, Brown has been Mr. Reliable for Connecticut this season and that theme resumed during UConn’s 38 – 20 victory over Buffalo at the International Bowl. Brown had a career day rushing for 261 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown, in what was his last game as a member of the Huskies. Brown announced that he would forego his senior season and enter the draft following the game. He rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. With Brown now available to all 32 NFL teams, he will be a Day One selection.

Draft Projection: Second Round

*Jairus Byrd, CB, Oregon

Byrd is one of the top cornerbacks in the country and proved that distinction against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl with his strong defensive play. Byrd had nine tackles and an interception, and showed excellent awareness in coverage. He always seems to be around the ball and finished the season with five interceptions. He has great size (6-foot, 205 pounds), but doesn’t have great speed. He’s a bit of a tweener and could play free safety at the next level. If he declares for the draft, he will be a Day One selection.

Draft Projection: Second Round

Blessed with great size and undeniable upside, Britt decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Jim McIsaac/Getty

*Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers

At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Britt has the attributes needed to be successful at the next level, and over the last two seasons, he’s been a big time player. Even when his quarterback Mike Teel had his struggles this season, Britt was the lone consistent offensive force. He continued his consistent ways in the PapaJohn’ Bowl as he had six receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Britt, who’s registered two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, finished his junior campaign with 87 catches for 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns. The talented playmaker declared for the NFL Draft and is a likely late Day One selection.

Draft Projection: Second Round

*Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

After a breakout season where he totaled 76 tackles, 19 for a loss, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions – both of which he returned for touchdowns - Suh is ascending up draft boards. He played a big part in Nebraska’s 26 – 21 victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl where he had eight tackles, four for a loss and two sacks. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound junior has said that he intends to return to Nebraska next season, but it will probably depend on the draft grade he receives from the NFL advisory board. If Suh enters the ’09 draft, he will be a late Day One selection.

Draft Projection: Second – Third Round

Jeremiah Johnson, RB, Oregon

Johnson is a premier running back who shares the spotlight with another quality runner (LeGarrette Blount), but performs like a featured back and was his usually consistent self against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl. Johnson had just 12 carries and rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown; a touchdown that came on a spectacular 76-yard run. In situational duty this season, Johnson rushed for 1,201 yards on 168 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. He has to develop his game as a receiver, but he’s a physical runner who’s tough between the tackles and elusive on the edge. He’s one of the top senior running backs, and depending on which underclassmen declare for the draft, he could emerge as a late second round pick.

Draft Projection: Second – Third Round

Louis Delmas, FS, Western Michigan

Despite his team not playing much defense against Rice in the Texas Bowl, Delmas was the only defender who decided to show up. A playmaking safety with tremendous ball skills and awareness, Delmas was all over the field being involved in 10 tackles. His defensive prowess wasn’t enough on that day, but he finished the season strong with 111 tackles and four interceptions. He’s rapidly moving up draft boards and could be ticketed for the second round in April.

Draft Projection: Second – Third Round

*Damian Williams, WR, USC

A former Arkansas transfer, Williams has shown patience getting on the field and emerged as a big-play threat this season for USC. Williams saved his best performance for last in the Rose Bowl as he caught 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Only a redshirt sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Williams submitted paperwork to the NFL advisory committee to see what value he has in April’s draft. He has plenty of talent and a world of upside, but it would benefit Williams to stay in school another year to develop further and become a more complete wide receiver.

Draft Projection: Second – Third Round

*Marshwan Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati

A tremendously skilled offensive playmaker, Gilyard burst on the scene this year and elevated his status as a top offensive weapon in the country. He was the main offensive threat for the Bearcats in the Orange Bowl and pulled in seven receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Gilyard has more room to grow and is still improving at the wide receiver position. He had a breakout season this year and had 81 receptions for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns. Gilyard is versatile and is an outstanding special teams player. He has a tough decision to make about his football future, and it will come down to what round grade he receives.

Draft Projection: Third Round

*Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota

Another talented junior wide receiver in the Insight Bowl was Minnesota’s Eric Decker. Decker is very similar to KansasKerry Meier, but possesses more speed and explosiveness. In a losing cause, Decker shined for the Golden Gophers hauling in eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Decker finished the ’08 campaign with 84 receptions for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns. If Decker decided to enter the 2009 draft, he would be an early Day Two selection, but it would benefit him to return for his senior year.

Draft Projection: Third Round

Dillard had a prolific career at Rice and is ready to take his game to the next level.
Brian Bahr/Getty

Jarett Dillard, WR, Rice

The main recipient of Chase Clement’s passes, Dillard once again was the model of consistency at the Texas Bowl. Dillard hauled in eight passes for 86 yards and touchdown, adding to his outstanding senior season production. In the final frame of a prolific career, Dillard had 87 receptions for 1,310 yards and 20 touchdowns. Generously listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Dillard is an undersized receiver who doesn’t possess elite speed, and his future will be determined by how he performs this offseason.

Draft Projection: Fourth – Fifth Round

Phillip Hunt, DE, Houston

One of the best pass rushers in the country, Hunt is skilled with his explosiveness to the quarterback. In the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force, Hunt added two more sacks to his season total, which gave him 14. Hunt plays with a high motor and is relentless attacking the quarterback; his ability compares well with Denver Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil. He will be a defender to keep an eye on during the offseason and will be a solid mid-round selection.

Draft Projection: Fourth – Fifth Round

Davon Drew, TE, East Carolina

A player that emerged from nowhere and transformed himself into a legitimate prospect was Drew. The emergence of Drew coincidentally came with the unforeseen rise of East Carolina this season and landed the Pirates in the Liberty Bowl against Kentucky. Despite losing 25 – 19, Drew had his best statistical performance of the season catching five passes for 120 yards. Drew finished the season with 43 receptions for 695 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Drew has developed into a solid all-around tight end and will receive mid-to-late round attention.

Draft Projection: Fifth Round

Stryker Sulak, DE, Missouri

Sulak continued to put together a solid season as he captured two sacks against Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl, which gave him 10.5 for the season. Not only has Sulak been impressive by getting to the quarterback, but his ability to track down ballcarriers from behind and create turnovers is promising. He led the team with six forced fumbles. Sulak is a high-energy player who should be a solid situational defender at the next level.

Draft Projection: Fifth – Sixth Round

Victor Butler, DE/OLB, Oregon State

The bowl season is a time where unknown players have a chance to shine in front of NFL scouts and for Butler, the Sun Bowl was a perfect time. An undersized defensive end, who will likely be an outside linebacker prospect at the next level, Butler was a major factor in the Beavers dominance over Pittsburgh. Butler was all over the field recording 11 tackles, five for a loss, a forced fumble and four sacks. He had a breakout senior campaign and finished with 65 tackles, 21.5 for a loss and 12 sacks. Butler will play in the East-West Shrine game, and his performance in the Sun Bowl will only help his draft status heading into the offseason.

Draft Projection: Fifth – Sixth Round

*Kerry Meier, WR, Kansas

A former signal caller at Kansas, Meier has found his calling at wide receiver and has been incredible all season long. One of the best athletes on the Jayhawks roster, Meier showed his versatility at the Insight Bowl where Kansas defeated Minnesota 42 – 21. Meier caught 10 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown and also threw a 32-yard touchdown in the win. Only a junior, Meier has become a quick study at the receiver position and had 97 receptions for 1,045 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He will return to Kansas for his senior season and is a player to keep an eye on next year.

Draft Projection: Sixth Round

*Ryan D'Imperio, MLB, Rutgers

D’Imperio played well this season for Rutgers and finished strong in the PapaJohn’ Bowl as he registered five tackles, two for a loss, an interception and a sack. He was exceptional in coverage and played strong at the line of scrimmage. The junior middle linebacker totaled 93 tackles, 13 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and an interception this season. It’s a long shot that D’Imperio will enter this year’s draft, and by staying in school, he will be among the top middle linebackers available in the 2010 draft.

Draft Projection: Sixth Round

After his late season surge, Teel has become a legitimate quarterback prospect for the April draft.
Jim McIsaac/Getty

Mike Teel, QB, Rutgers

Teel had a rough first half of the season as he completed just 56.4-percent of his passes for 1,362 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. After his slow start, Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano flirted with the idea of benching Teel. Luckily that never happened, and Teel rewarded Schiano with an unbelievable second half. In the last six games of the season, including Rutgers’ 29 – 23 victory over NC State in the PapaJohn’ Bowl, where Teel completed 59.5-percent of his passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, he’s been spectacular completing 68.5-percent of his passes for 2,056 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. The transformation he’s undergone this season has taken him from a undrafted free agent to a potential sixth round draft pick this April.

Draft Projection: Sixth – Seventh Round

James Holt, OLB, Kansas

The one outstanding defensive star in the Insight Bowl was Holt. Hold played extremely well at the line of scrimmage and forcefully patrolled the perimeter. Holt had eight tackles, four for a loss and three sacks. The 6-foot-3, 226 pound Holt had a tremendous senior season and totaled 105 tackles, 19.5 for a loss and 10 sacks. He’s a little undersized, but is a good special teams option for a team looking to fill a spot late in the draft.

Draft Projection: Seventh Round

Chase Clement, QB, Rice

Clement put together one of the most productive, but silent seasons any quarterback accomplished and continued to impress at the Texas Bowl against Western Michigan. In the Owls 38 – 14 victory, Clement completed 68.2-percent of his passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns; he also rushed for 72 yards and scored a touchdown. He has a great sense of timing and makes a lot of plays with his legs. In his final season at Rice, Clement completed 66.5-percent of his passes for 4,119 yards, 44 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also rushed for 693 yards and 12 touchdowns. Clement could be a late round pick, and there’s a possibility he will be an undrafted free agent. His size (6-foot, 210 pounds) doesn’t translate well to the NFL, but his production is hard to ignore.

Draft Projection: Seventh Round – Free Agent

Brian Johnson, QB, Utah

Johnson is an outstanding athlete who had a breakout year for the undefeated (13 – 0) Utes. He was the catalyst all season long and had his best game of the season in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Johnson completed 65.9-percent of his passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns against the favored Crimson Tide. For the season, Johnson completed 68-percent of his passes for 2,972 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior will be a late round pick and possibly an undrafted free agent this April.

Draft Projection: Seventh Round – Free Agent

*denotes underclassmen

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the network and on If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at:

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