Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For some the NFL Draft has become bigger
than the game itself.
For months leading up to the annual April event at New York City's Radio City
Music Hall various experts tell us exactly who is climbing up their boards and
who is sinking faster than the Titanic.
Starting with Senior Bowl week prospects are poked and prodded, looking for
minute differences in size, speed, strength, quickness and mental aptitude.
The real start of draft season, however, is when the top prospects gather in
Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine. Lucas Oil Stadium serves as
the NFL's version of a stock exchange, the place where players can elevate
their draft prospects or see their futures turned into toxic assets.
Here's a look at five players you should be keeping an eye on in Indy when
things kick off on Feb. 20:
1. - Ryan Nassib - quarterback, Syracuse - Most rate Nassib as a second or
third round pick but in a draft with no Andrew Luck- or Robert Griffin III-
types the Syracuse product is generating some buzz as a potential first round
selection with a few even earmarking him as a top 10 choice. That's a stretch
and fueled in large part by the fact Nassib's old college coach, Doug Marrone,
is now the head man in Buffalo, which just happens to have the eighth overall
pick and is looking for a signal-caller.
Even though Marrone is obviously a Nassib fan, it's unlikely he'll want to
shorten his honeymoon in Western New York and pull the trigger on his old
protege that early but trading down is always an option and Nassib is
reportedly on the radar of other quarterback-starved teams like Kansas City,
Philadelphia and the New York Jets also.
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock recently compared Nassib to Bengals
quarterback Andy Dalton and Washington signal-caller Kirk Cousins. Whether
that kind of ceiling is worthy of a first-round pick is questionable but
Nassib is certainly taking things seriously and has been preparing for the
scouting Combine with former NFL offensive coordinator Paul Hackett and Ken
Anderson, the ex- Bengals great. A solid performance in Indy could cement
Nassib as a first-rounder.
2. - Cordarrelle Patterson - wide receiver, Tennessee - It's early but
Patterson is rising in most mock drafts and looks like his has a real chance
to be the first receiver off the board come April. He's raw and body catches
far too often but his size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and speed ratio have NFL
During his only season at the FBS level, Patterson scored four different ways,
as a receiver, runner, kick returner and punt returner. That kid of
versatility is rare for outside the number threats in the NFL and if Patterson
proves he can get off the line of scrimmage against NFL coverage and sharpen
his routes, its' hard to imagine him falling past Miami at No. 12.
3. - Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan - Texas A & M's Luke
Joeckel is unquestionably a top five pick in 2013 and it's looking like CMU's
Fisher won't be far behind.
At 6-foot-8 and 305 pounds Fisher is a tall athletic player with the ability
to add weight and strength to his lanky frame. Most project Fisher as a better
player than Joe Staley, a fellow Central Michigan alum who was a first round
pick in 2007 and has developed into one of the top tackles in the NFL.
Fisher already had an excellent Senior Bowl week and if he proves he has the
functional football strength to hit the ground running in the NFL, it's more
than conceivable he'll be joining Joeckel in the top five.
4. - Theo Riddick, running back, Notre Dame - In this era of specialization
you can't helped but be intrigued by a versatile player like Riddick, who
started his career in South Bend at running back before moving to wide
receiver when Brian Kelly needed him there only to return to the backfield as
If Riddick can muster a strong 40-time in Indianapolis or at his pro day, he
could be a valuable middle- or late-round addition for a team as a third down
A natural runner with solid situational receiving skills on the outside as
well as in the slot will be a tough matchup for any defense in today's NFL.
5. - Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, Brigham Young - Some are calling Ansah, who
lined up as a rush outside linebacker, defense end, and defensive tackle at
BYU, Jason Pierre-Paul version 2.0.
An imposing physical specimen with the ranginess and versatility of J.J, Watt,
at least on the college level, Ansah might be this year's ultimate boom or
bust prospect. A former track star and basketball player, Ansah's ceiling
reaches higher than just about anyone else in this draft but he's also got a
long way to go.
Ansah's motor tends to waiver at times, his technique is very raw and some
have questioned his toughness. A greater attention to detail along with a
commitment to conditioning is all that stands between Ansah and NFL stardom.
The Sports Network