New Mexico Bowl: 2011 NFL Draft Prospects
Matt Reynolds, Offensive Tackle
Another solid game for Reynolds as he helped lead the way during a 514 yard offensive attack. His outstanding run blocking paved a path for the BYU runners to gain 219 yards on the ground. He showed good technique against the Miners’ defensive linemen, but that isn’t saying too much. Too often, Reynolds relies on his toughness and big body to help him slow down defenders. He will need to work on getting in better shape and improving his pass blocking, where speedy defenders tend to get the best of him. With great intangibles and a hard-nosed attitude, Reynolds has the foundation to be a decent NFL offensive lineman, but has much room for growth and improvement. In the NFL, he may work better as a right tackle or guard then as a left tackle, which was his main position during his time at BYU. Although he is a bit of a liability because of his non-athletic frame and below-average mobility, he could easily be worth a fourth or fifth-round selection.
Andrew Rich, Safety
He reminds me a little of Jim Leonhard, safety for the New York Jets. Against UTEP, he made his presence felt in a big way. Multiple receivers had their bells rung while going across the middle, courtesy of Rich. He flies all over the field and makes people pay for coming into his zone with big hits. Against the Miners, he racked up five tackles, including a sack. He also proved that he could be a ballhawk, making two of the Cougars’ three interceptions. He plays with a mean-streak and does an excellent job of coming up and playing the run. His deep zone coverage could use some work after UTEP managed to throw three deep touchdowns, but has all the tools to make it happen. With this New Mexico Bowl performance, along with a strong showing at his pro day, Rich could be a late-round pick. I may be jumping the gun here, but I see sleeper written all over him.
Mitchell Payne, Kicker
Throughout the 2010 season, Payne has proven himself to be a very consistent kicker for the Cougars. He converted on 16 of his 20 attempts during the regular season, and easily put a 38-yarder between the uprights against the Miners. The biggest concern is his lack of strength. His career long is a 49-yarder, and he has never even attempted a 50-plus yard field goal during his time with the Cougars. His consistency is a nice aspect, but without a big leg, not too many teams are going to even give him a passing glance. He may get a shot as an undrafted free agent, but wouldn’t be surprised if the New Mexico Bowl was the last football game he plays in.
Trevor Vittatoe, Quarterback
He may not be a top quarterback prospects, but he sure did have plenty to put on display against BYU. Despite having an ankle that was torn to shreds, Vittatoe stood in the pocket with poise and determination. He managed to complete 14 of his 29 passes for 245 yards, including three touchdowns and three interceptions. BYU brought pressure all game long knowing that his immobility would make it hard for him to avoid defenders, which led to a couple of his three interceptions. He was pummeled on almost every play, but still hung in, played hard, and proved that he has the toughness and desire to win. If he can get healthy and continue to unlock his potential, Vittatoe could be a quality backup in the NFL. His talents are definitely worthy of a late-round pick or at least a look as an undrafted free agent.
Kris Adams, Wide Receiver
Three touchdowns on three catches will definitely help his stock. Adams embarrassed the opposing cornerback on three separate occasions, hauling in deep passes for all three of UTEP’s touchdowns. He showed impressive speed and acceleration on his way to the endzone as well as excellent concentration and soft hands. He may not have been productive in any way other than beating his man deep, but he gave scouts something to think about. With proper coaching and the right scheme, Adams could become a valuable third or fourth receiver. He will most likely get some looks, but probably won’t get a call until the draft is over. Look for him to get an invite to some training camps where he can at least utilize his speed as a special teamer or practice squad member.
Donald Buckram, Running Back
Well if Buckram was hoping to turn some NFL scouts’ heads during the New Mexico Bowl, he sure failed. With UTEP trailing big for the majority of the game, the offense had to rely mostly on the pass to try to score quickly. As a result, Buckram was only given six carries with which he managed to gain only 10 yards. Two other runners for the Miners managed 10 or more yards on the ground with less carries than Buckram. To go along with a somewhat disappointing senior season in which he was replaced as the starting running back by a junior, this game may have buried any chances he had of making an NFL roster next year. His best bet is as an undrafted free agent, but even that will be a long shot.