After missing most of ’09 due to a neck injury, Martez Wilson came back strong with a very impressive season. The Illini linebacker consistently turned heads with his ability to make plays downhill, both as a run stuffer and an effective blitzer.
Those skills were on full display in Wilson’s 9 tackle, 1 sack, 2 TFL performance against Ohio State.
Wilson’s great size (6’4″, 250 lbs.) and good athleticism make him a solid fit for a variety of defensive schemes, both as an inside and outside LB. His versatility could fit him into the top 60 picks of the 2011 Draft, should the 4th year junior decide he’s ready to take his talents to the NFL.
The MAACO Bowl featured an entertaining matchup between Boise’s pair of talented senior wideouts and Utah’s Brandon Burton, a junior cornerback who looked like he could use another year of seasoning before going pro.
Boise’s Titus Young and Austin Pettis showcased the qualities that make them solid early to mid-round draft prospects. Unsurprisingly, the small but speedy Young showed off his jets. Though his six catch, 64 yard stat line isn’t overly impressive, he repeatedly displayed the ability to separate from Burton and Utah’s other defensive backs. He also hauled in what would have been a 12 yard touchdown reception, but the referees ruled that he didn’t get a foot inbounds. While scoring the TD would have been a nice final bullet on Young’s resume, the ten TDs and over 1200 total yards he amassed this season already established that Young can be a legit big play guy.
On paper, Nate Solder looks like the perfect left tackle prospect. The Colorado OT has an impressive 6’8″, 300+ pound frame, and he reportedly runs a sub-5 second 40. In addition, Solder brings ideal smarts to the position: last May, the big man graduated with a 3.51 GPA.
Solder’s combination of smarts and exceptional athleticism will intrigue NFL teams, but his play hasn’t always matched his A+ attributes. Last year, he often looked like a C+ player, including in a poor effort against Mizzou. And this season started on a particularly ugly note, with Solder repeatedly getting beat around the edge by Cal’s speed rushers.
To his credit, Solder did bounce back after a bad September. Instead of his stock tanking, many think he’s shown enough improvement to warrant being taken in the first round, perhaps even in the first 15 picks.
Last week, USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith became one of the first underclassmen to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Smith is a bit undersized, but the freakish athlete should be able to pack on some weight before wowing everyone at the Combine. The bigger question is whether the raw offensive tackle has shown enough on tape to convince teams he can become an elite offensive tackle.
Smith (#70) played right tackle at USC, but NFL teams will project him to the uber-important left tackle spot. Pay especially close attention when Smith is matched up against defensive end Cameron Jordan (#97) — both could end up being top 15 picks in April.
Aaron Aloysius takes you through the first two-round mock of our "Way Too Early" series.
1. Buffalo Bills Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford*
The end of the Captain Checkdown experiment has only further highlighted the Bills’ need for a franchise QB. The team may flirt with drafting an elite receiver (AJ Green) or pass rusher (Robert Quinn), but — like in the last two drafts — the first pick ultimately will be used on a franchise QB. The two most likely candidates are Jake Locker and Andrew Luck. While Locker more closely resembles the type of athletic QB Chan Gailey prefers, questions about his accuracy and pocket presence could damage his draft stock. And while Luck isn’t an athlete on Locker’s level, the Stanford QB is far from a statue, and his combination of physical tools, smarts, and leadership qualities make him an ideal #1 overall Keep Reading…