Bowl Game Watch List – Part 1

Honestly this particular round of bowl games isn’t all that appealing to me. I’ve already crossed 3 highly touted DB’s off my list because whenever someone ran at them they went out of the way to find someone to be blocked by. Here are some names worth watching though.

Tavon Austin
BOWL: New Era Pinstripe Bowl – WVU vs Syracuse 12/29/12 3:15 PM
Build: 5-9 171 lbs
Early Projection: Late 1st Round
Years Started: 2
Patriots Fit: Deion Branch Wideout/Slot
Relevant Stats:

YEAR REC YDS TDS CARRIES RUSHING YDS
2012 109 1266 12 61 598

Since Randy Moss left the Patriots analysts have said every single year that the Patriots are going to draft some 6’12” sprinter that’s only good for running in a straight line and catching touchdowns. Has that happened yet? Austin is an explosive WR who is just as quick as he is fast, and is amazingly aggressive to the ball. At only 171 lbs he better be. He’s undersized but has an elite set of physical skills that just makes it look like he’s messing with people sometimes.

He flourished in the read-option. At WVU he managed 1100+ yards in each of his senior seasons and was a big reason for the success of Geno Smith. On top of that he could run the ball. I’m not talking about just occasionally coming in motion and sneaking in a handoff. The Mountaineers would line him up in the backfield and hand it off to him most of the time. In his senior year he totaled 61 rushing attempts with a ridiculous 9.80 yards per carry average.

At a cursory glance though I think he’d drive Brady and Belichick nuts. He shows some very cocky tendencies, and takes a lot of risks. Take a look at his high school highlights. He spends about as much time making plays as he does clowning on his opponents. But hell, I’d probably do the same if I had this guy’s skills. He’s a freak athlete, but a far cry from the glass of milk and in bed by 10 Patriots prototype. Keep an eye on him in the Pinstripe Bowl vs Syracuse. He blew up Clemson last year in a bowl appearance for 4 all purpose TDs. One more of those and you can kiss that whole “late first round” thing goodbye.

Of course, if I know anything about the way Draft Hipster Belichick’s mind works he probably sees Austin in the spotlight and is already planning to scout WVU’s outside possession receiver Stedman Bailey. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Bailey is an excellent receiver. It’s just that Belichick thought of it BEFORE it was cool.

Kenny Vaccaro – SS Texas
BOWL: Valero Alamo Bowl – Texas v Oregon State
Build: 6-1 218 lbs
Early Projection: 2nd Round
Years Started: 2?
Patriots Fit: SS – Nickle DB – TE Killer
Relevant Stats:

YEAR TACKLES INT PD
2012 33 A – 59 UA 2 3

The main thing helping Vaccaro’s stock right now is that Seattle made it cool again to have big DB’s. At 218 lbs this Longhorn looks like a really nice move on paper. I’ll tell you right now that I think he’s overrated strictly because he’s being talked about as a mid first rounder right now. I originally wasn’t even going to write about Vaccaro. I was going to write about Longhorn’s DE Alex Okafor. Thankfully for Vaccaro, Okafor’s tape bored the shit out of me and as a result I’m dubbing him this year’s Andre Branch (who was 2012’s Sergio Kindle, another Longhorn), and writing about a guy who might actually make something of himself. Maybe. What does really legitimately interest me about Vaccaro is his Tavon Wilson-ish ability to cover one-on-one on top of playing safety from center field. Look at how he lines up all day against Oregon State below. He tackles well, he was first team All Big 12, and actually almost declared for the draft a year ago after a much more productive junior year (2 INTs, 7 PBUs, 6.5 TFLs). But here we are, and I’d put Vaccaro’s ceiling at the bottom of the 1st round.

Markus Wheaton – WR Oregon State
BOWL: Valero Alamo Bowl – Texas v Oregon State
Build: 6-1 182 lbs
Early Projection: 2nd – 3rd Round
Years Started: 2
Patriots Fit: X-Y Wideout
Relevant Stats:

YEAR REC YDS TDS CARRIES RUSHING YDS
2012 88 1207 11 16 116

Wheaton very quietly managed an 1100+ yard junior year. Equally as quiet he followed up with a stellar 1207 yd 11 TD senior season. Coming into the season he was perhaps considered a day 3 pick, but is hanging around now in the round 2 & 3 consideration. It’s really no wonder. His first step and burst jumps right out and slaps you in the face. We’re talking about a guy who can straight blow by DB’s if they give him an inch. On top of that he averaged 7+ receptions a game as a senior, and came away with less than 4 in only one game.

He’ll be facing a high profile Texas secondary, but quite honestly could steal the whole show. A big game here might push him up into that amorphous late 1st/early second area where a lot of great WR’s are found. I don’t hate him at all as a #2 WR for the Patriots. I can tell already he’s going to get stuck with the “deep threat” label which wouldn’t have to be such a bad thing if prehistoric-minded offensive coordinators like Cam Cameron knew how to draw up anything but straight lines for “deep threats” on the chalkboard. I think he’s potentially a more complete receiver than that. He’s not allergic to contact, and if you can put the ball in front of him with some space to breath watch out because he’s every bit as dangerous as a slot receiver. Definitely will be paying close attention.

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