Khalil Mack and More Prospects to Watch on Bowl Season’s Opening Saturday

Deone Bucannon is a big-play safety in the Washington State secondary. (Photo: Casey Sapio — USA Today Sports)

Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State, Sr. (6’1”, 198 lbs)

Washington State’s top prospect is Deone Bucannon, a four-year starter who has been a playmaker in the Cougars secondary since his freshman season. With at least 80 total tackles in each of his four seasons and 14 career interceptions, Bucannon has been a big playmaker in both run support and coverage.

Bucannon is a good athlete with the pursuit speed to track down plays all over the field. He has very good instincts to read plays, both in anticipating and following the direction of running plays and in breaking on passes in midair to steal them away from receivers.

Many of Bucannon’s big plays are a result of his aggressive style of play. He frequently attacks running plays from the snap, allowing him to generate speed as a blitzer and hit the ballcarrier hard or drive blockers back. In coverage, he is not afraid to attempt to make a play on the ball or strike a defender to knock the ball loose when he is in position to.

The flip side of his aggressive play, however, is that he tends to make far more mistakes than a player with his attributes and experience should. While he is a rangy defender and hard hitter, he misses more tackles and gives up more catches than he should by taking poor angles or being out of position.

If Bucannon is going to develop into a starting NFL safety, he needs to become a more disciplined, technically sound player in both coverage and run support. That said, he is a difference-maker with the physical skill set to make plays all over the field, and at the very least could be an immediate contributor on special teams. The Senior Bowl invite projects to be a mid-round selection.

Ryan Grant is the top NFL draft prospect in Saturday’s final bowl game, the New Orleans Bowl. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle — USA Today Sports)

Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane, Sr. (6’1”, 191 lbs)

Ryan Grant may not yet be a household name, but the Tulane wide receiver is well worth watching if you continue your Saturday bowl viewing into the New Orleans Bowl.

Grant is not going to blow anyone away with his size, speed or even his collegiate production, but he was invited to the Senior Bowl for a reason. He is a skilled route runner and consistent hands catcher who could find a role in an NFL offense as an intermediate receiver.

The key to Grant’s success is his precision. He is sharp in and out of route breaks and consistently runs his route to where the quarterback should expect him to be. He is not afraid of taking a hit at the end of his route and shows he can make catches through contact.

He rarely drops passes and can make catches with higher degree of difficulty. He times his leaps well to high-point the football, has good body control and makes plays with great concentration.

Grant is not the type of receiver who is going to beat cornerbacks deep on the outside, but he can turn upfield quickly after making short-to-intermediate catches to gain additional yardage. He has the skill set to be a reliable third or fourth option out of the slot on an NFL offense, and could be a good value selection on Day 3.

More Prospects to Watch

Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo, Sr. (6’3”, 205 lbs)

A first-team All-MAC selection with 58 receptions for 947 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Neutz is another potential draft pick for Buffalo. He is a solid intermediate receiver with good size, reliable hands and a knack for getting open. That said, he might not have the athleticism to stick as a wide receiver at the next level.

Bryce Quigley, LT, San Diego State, Sr. (6’5”, 300 lbs)

The man tasked with protecting San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler’s blind side against pressure from Mack is also San Diego State’s most likely selection in this year’s draft. Quigley has the length and footwork to draw interest as a potential Day 3 draft selection, but he will finish his collegiate career with one of his toughest tests as he goes up against Mack.

Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State, Sr. (6’4”, 300 lbs)

A Senior Bowl invitee and first-team All-Mountain West selection, Colorado State center Weston Richburg is firmly in the discussion to be a Day 3 draft selection. He is an agile, intelligent interior lineman with very clean footwork, but he needs to become better at sustaining blocks at the second level. He is technically sound and is good at switching blocks, but is not going to overpower opponents and could struggle against more powerful defensive tackles in the NFL.

Darryl Surgent, WR, Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr. (6’, 185 lbs)

The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns do not have any likely draft selections, but Surgent is an intriguing sleeper prospect to be a late-round pick or undrafted free agent. Surgent has yet to catch more than 34 passes in a collegiate season and has never emerged as a primary target, but he is a skilled athlete with both downfield speed and lateral quickness. He has shown the ability to make tough catches and can make plays as both a kickoff and punt returner.

Cairo Santos, K, Tulane, Sr. (5’8”, 160 lbs)

Any team looking for a kicker in this year’s draft is likely to take a look at Cairo Santos, the 2012 Lou Groza Award winner. Santos has not been as good in his senior season as he was as a junior, but he is a strong-legged kicker who has made 79.2 percent of his career field goal attempts.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alex Neutz, Bowl Previews, Branden Oliver, Bryce Quigley, Buffalo, Cairo Santos, Colorado State, Darryl Surgent, Deone Bucannon, Game Previews, Khalil Mack, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Potato Bowl, Prospect Previews, Ryan Grant, San Diego State, Shaquil Barrett, Tulane, Washington State, Weston Richburg

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