- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The NFL draft is five months away, but you can do a little scouting over the next few weeks by watching some of the 35 bowl games. It’s a good chance to see some of the players the Jacksonville Jaguars may be interested in drafting, whether the first round or later rounds.
The Jaguars’ biggest needs are quarterback, pass-rusher, interior offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, running back and receiver. Each Friday until the bowl season ends, I’ll give you a list of the games you should watch that involve teams with players at those positions in which the Jaguars could be interested.
Some will be possible first-round targets. Others will be mid- or late-round targets.
One caveat: there are a lot of draft-eligible underclassmen who have yet to declare whether they will return to school. Until they do, they will be included in this list. They’ll be marked with an asterisk (*).
AT&T Cotton Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Oklahoma State vs. Missouri
Why to watch: Missouri defensive end Michael Sam (6-2, 249) fits the profile of the Jaguars’ LEO position, which is a hybrid end/linebacker. The Jaguars may try to load up on those kinds of players so they can put four on the field on obvious passing downs. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert has elite speed and rebounded from a disappointing junior season. I don’t think the Jaguars need to address corner in this draft, but he could be too tempting to pass up.
Discover Orange Bowl (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
Clemson vs. Ohio State
Why to watch: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has slipped down a lot of rankings but he still remains one of the most exciting players in college football. He needs to refine his work in the pocket and the way he sees the field because he’s often too quick to take off and run. There’s some concern about his height (6-1) but he’s got a strong arm. Receiver Sammy Watkins* is one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football. He’s got great hands, speed and run-after-catch ability. Brandon Thomas can play guard or tackle and that versatility helps. Outside linebacker Vic Beasley* (6-3, 225) has 12 sacks this season and more than 20 in his career.
Ohio State’s Braxton Miller* is an elite athlete playing quarterback. His mechanics, ability to read defenses, and accuracy need a lot of work, but he’s dynamic in the open field. Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde is a physical runner with good size (6-0, 238) and the ability to be a factor in the passing game. He’s not shifty in the open field but he can make guys miss. He may go higher than the Jaguars want to select a running back. Jack Mewhort is Mel Kiper Jr.'s No. 3 senior tackle and he says Mewhort plays like the QB off the line. I don’t think OT is as high a priority as some do, but he’s someone who could be on the radar. Tight end Jeff Heuerman* (6-6, 250) is a name to keep in mind for the later rounds. Outside linebacker Ryan Shazier* isn’t a pass-rusher but excels in coverage. Cornerback Bradley Robey fits the Jaguars’ description of what they want in a corner: big (5-11, 193) and physical.
BBVA Compass Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN)
Vanderbilt vs. Houston
Why to watch: Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews is Kiper's top senior receiver. He’s got good size (6-3, 201 pounds), can make all the catches, and was extremely productive (211 catches for 2,657 yards and 13 TDs in his final two seasons). The only thing he doesn't have is top-end speed. The Jaguars need to add a bigger receiver. Commodores OT Wesley Johnson projects as a guard in the NFL. He'll be a mid- to late-round pick.
Vizio BCS National Championship (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
Florida State vs. Auburn
Why to watch: Every player on FSU’s offensive line has the ability to play on Sundays. Offensive Cameron Erving* is pretty raw but he’s athletic enough to fit at left tackle. Guards Josue Matias* and Tre’ Jackson* are maulers who also move well. Kiper believes center Bryan Stork could be starting next year. Tight end Nick O’Leary* (6-3, 250) isn’t going to help much as a blocker but is a matchup issue in the passing game. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan* is disruptive in the run game despite being a little light at 298 pounds. His quickness is his biggest asset. Outside linebacker Christian Jones can play every linebacker spot. Outside linebacker Telvin Smith is undersized at 210 pounds. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks* are both solid in man coverage of slot receivers. Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson* is a former guard who has developed into a potential first-rounder. His athleticism is his biggest asset. Jay Prosch is one of the country's top fullbacks.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The NFL draft is five months away, but you can do a little scouting over the next few weeks by watching some of the 35 bowl games.