23 Nov 2013 10:39 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert is a dynamic kick returner. (Image Source: Michael Thomas/AP Photo)
Here’s a look at some of the top NFL Draft prospects taking the field today:
Player Spotlight: Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert, SR: Coming out of Huntsville, Texas, Justin Gilbert has emerged as one of the top senior cornerbacks for the upcoming draft and is considered a potential first or second round pick. He’s 6’0” and around 200 pounds, which is very good size and length for a coverman, especially when you factor in his sizable wingspan. Gilbert has the talent to be a solid two-way corner, one who can cover and provide run support. Gilbert can play in both man and zone schemes. He covers a lot of ground, is very smooth and can recover if beat. Against the run, the Cowboy will fight blocks and is typically a solid tackler, who gives great effort. Gilbert’s top two strengths are probably his ball skills and playmaking ability once he gets the ball in his hands. A natural pass catcher, Gilbert attacks passes as if they were intended for him and is one of the better defenders when it comes to batting wide receivers in traffic. He has excellent hands and body control. He intercepted five passes as a sophomore but he slipped as a junior (no INTs). This season he has bounced back and already has six interceptions. Gilbert is also a dynamic returner with a Big-12 record six career KR TDs.
Today: 8:00 – vs. Baylor (ABC)
Sleeper: Notre Dame WR TJ Jones, SR: Throughout his four-year career at Notre Dame, wide receiver TJ Jones has improved each and every season. As a senior, he’s already posted career highs with 54 receptions, 891 receiving yards and nine TDs (8 receiving, 1 rushing). He’s always been considered a crisp route runner with top-notch quickness. Jones is able to beat man coverage regularly and is a hands catcher, who can make the difficult as well as the routine grabs. This season Jones has been more explosive and he’s emerged as ND’s top playmaker in the passing game. More than ever he’s flashed big-play ability, making things happen after the catch and stretching the field over the top. At just 195 pounds and under 6’0”, Jones is undersized which could hurt him come draft time. That lack of size could limit his role to that of a slot receiver at the next level. He has caught a TD pass in seven straight games and has topped 100 receiving yards in four of the last five games, including three straight coming into today’s action. Jones can also contribute as a punt returner.
Today: 3:30 – vs. BYU (NBC)
Star of Tomorrow: Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche, FR: It’s hard to believe this 6’5”/294-pound man-child is really a true freshman. Robert Nkemdiche hasn’t quite taken over the SEC the way many suspected he would but he’s shown flashes of stardom. He only has one sack, but his seven tackles for loss are second on the team despite missing two games due to injury. He's also used his length to get his hands on a pair of passes. Nkemdiche has a rare blend of size, power and athleticism, which is why he’s so versatile. A natural defensive end, Nkemdiche is listed as a defensive tackle on the depth chart in the Rebels’ 4-3 scheme and he has seen action at both positions. In addition, the freshman has the prototypical build for a 3-4 5-technique. Depending on the scheme and situation Nkemdiche can play up and down the line of scrimmage. He’s the type of player you can build a defense around, which is what Ole Miss plans to do over the next two seasons. A future pro, many see Nkemdiche as a first round pick down the road, with the ceiling to go as high as the top five if he fulfills his potential. Still raw, Nkemdiche is learning the game and has a ways to go in terms of understanding and technique, but he plays hard and is considered a team guy. Once he figures it out the rest of the SEC is going to be in trouble.
Today: 7:45 vs. Missouri (ESPN)
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Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.