The 2012 NFL draft is 118 days away.
Focused on their own teams throughout the regular season, NFL decision makers' first opportunity to zero in on draft prospects often occurs during college bowls. GMs and personnel directors will eventually fall back on NCAA regular season tape, but this is a time for first impressions. And those can go a long way.
This year, we've enlisted NFL Draft Scout's Josh Norris to cover the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl all-star practices and games. Norris spent the past two seasons working in the St. Louis Rams' scouting department and will attend both events in person. You can follow Norris on Twitter here: @JoshNorris. I’m also planning a pre-Senior Bowl interview, possibly of the podcast variety, with ESPN College Gameday’s David Pollack. Stay with us from January through April for comprehensive NFL draft coverage.
As of Friday morning, here is a look at bowl performances from ten prospects for the 2012 NFL draft. I'll do another bowl roundup after the January 9 BCS Championship Game. At that point, we'll have a better idea as to which underclassmen will turn pro. The deadline for juniors and redshirt sophomores to declare is January 15.
1. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III
Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl
Result: Bears 67, Washington 56
Griffin's Stats: 24-33-295-1-0, 18-55-1
The 2011 Heisman winner opened the Alamo Bowl on fire, in the first quarter going 12-of-14 for 118 yards and a touchdown with 36 more yards and another score on the ground. The Huskies' pass rush gave RG3 fits the rest of the way. He took three second-quarter sacks, losing a fumble on one of them, and seemed unwilling to throw the ball away in pressure situations. Too often, Griffin played panicked and small in the pocket in the face of an oncoming rush. He did rebound to connect with sophomore wideout Levi Norwood and senior Kendall Wright for second-half deep shots, but Baylor's Terrance Ganaway-led backfield was the difference in this game. Asked afterwards when he'll announce his NFL plans, Griffin replied "Pretty soon here, probably." Griffin is going to possess the most dynamic quarterback skill set in the 2012 draft, and at least a handful of GMs are expected to grade him higher than Andrew Luck on their draft boards. I think if there is one big concern about Griffin's ability to translate his college success into the pros, it is his pocket presence.
2. Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd
Bowl Game: Champs Sports Bowl
Result: Florida State 18, Irish 14
Floyd's Stats: 5-41-1
The top-rated senior receiver in the country this year, Floyd appeared headed for a monster finish to a decorated career when he returned the game's opening punt 41 yards. Ultimately, Floyd was held in check offensively by Seminoles sophomore CB Xavier Rhodes' physical press coverage, often with safety help over the top. Floyd showed impressive concentration to secure his five-yard touchdown catch after several bobbles, but disappointingly missed most of the second half with an abdominal injury. Floyd measured 6-foot-3, 229 in the spring of 2011 and shed 5-10 pounds for his senior season. He recorded a career-high 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. With a skill set similar to Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall's, Floyd projects as a first-round and possible top-15 pick. NFL evaluators will investigate his medical (eight games missed in four years due to various injuries) and off-field backgrounds (three alcohol-related incidents in college).
3. Washington running back Chris Polk
Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl
Result: Baylor 67, Huskies 56
Polk's Stats: 30-147-1, 2-8
At halftime of the Alamo Bowl, SI's Tony Pauline reported that word amongst scouts and program insiders is Polk will go pro. A fourth-year junior, Polk turned 22 earlier this month and has an NFL body (5'11/222, listed) with pro-ready tackle-breaking ability and leg drive. In this game, Baylor sold out to stop Polk early by stacking the box with eight defenders until promising sophomore QB Keith Price began lighting up the Bears' secondary. Polk capitalized to break off big plays of 14, 15, and 56 yards, the latter for a score. Polk's long speed has been questioned, but no Baylor defender got within striking distance on the breakout run. Keep in mind Polk plays behind one of the nation's poorest offensive lines, but he was thrown for three negative runs and held to two yards or fewer on 17 of his 32 touches. He also lost a third-quarter fumble. Polk has carried the football 799 times in college, so it would undoubtedly be in his personal best interest to take his game to the next level. While Polk's down-to-down consistency wasn't great against Baylor, he maintains an overall talent base to be a year-one NFL feature back. Polk has top-40 pick potential.
4. Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright
Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl
Result: Bears 67, Washington 56
Wright's Stats: 7-91-1, 4-28
There is some feeling in the draftnik community that Wright -- not RG3 -- is Baylor's top prospect for the 2012 draft, and the fourth-year senior did little do damage that notion in Thursday night's victory. Wright showed his toughness and RAC ability on a short first-quarter red-zone reception, breaking two tackles to battle his way in for an 11-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Wright blew by man coverage to collect an underthrown pass from Griffin for a 48-yard bomb. Though he goes just 5-foot-10, 194, Wright is a playmaking downfield threat with a game that has generated comparisons to Panthers All-Pro wideout Steve Smith. A second-team All-American as a senior, Wright will likely run a forty time in the low-4.4s and projects as a possible late first-round pick.
5. Boise State running back Doug Martin
Bowl Game: Maaco Bowl
Result: Broncos 56, Arizona State 24
Martin's Stats: 31-151-1, 3-26
Martin opened the Maaco Bowl with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, eluding four Sun Devils in the open field and confirming his lethal long speed. Boise scored the game's first 21 points, never looking back as Martin took home game MVP honors. Gaining five yards or more on 16 of his touches, Martin kept the chains moving and made big plays throughout the contest. He had seven double-digit gains. Martin measured 5-foot-9, 213 last spring and ran a 4.48 forty time adjusted for surface. Russ Lande pegged Martin as a late first-round pick in his most recent mock draft for Sporting News. While it ultimately seems unlikely that Martin would be a top-32 selection, he certainly helped his stock on December 22 and projects as a potential every-down back in the pros. In terms of running style, Martin has drawn comparisons to Ray Rice and Ahmad Bradshaw.
6. Temple running back Bernard Pierce
Bowl Game: New Mexico Bowl
Result: Owls 37, Wyoming 15
Pierce's Stats: 25-100-2
Wyoming entered bowl season ranked 115th of 120 nationally in run defense, so a better yards-per-carry average from Temple's first-team all-conference tailback probably should have been expected. In fairness to Pierce, Temple ran one of college football's most predictable offenses this season, amassing 636 rushing attempts compared to 198 passes. In more of a workmanlike effort, Pierce executed back-to-back goal-line carries to kick off the scoring and give the Owls a 14-0 lead from which they wouldn't relent. Against Wyoming, Pierce was held to two yards or fewer on 11 carries. Still a quality early- to mid-round prospect, Pierce goes 6-foot, 218 (listed) and has scored 54 all-purpose touchdowns in his three-year career. He is expected to strongly consider entering the 2012 draft ahead of the January 15 deadline.
7. Utah State running back Robert Turbin
Bowl Game: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Result: Ohio 24, Aggies 23
Turbin's Stats: 20-101, 1-7
Turbin was one of the first "underclassmen" to declare for the 2012 draft, although he's not a true underclassman. A fifth-year junior, Turbin missed the 2007 and 2010 seasons with foot and ACL injuries, respectively. He turned 22 earlier this month. Earning WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in his bounce-back season, Turbin was a load against the Ohio Bobcats on December 17. Rebounding from an early goal-line stuff and getting stronger as the game went on, Turbin racked up 68 yards on his final ten carries. Though he caught only one pass in the bowl loss, Turbin's 67 career receptions and 12.6 yards-per-catch average are impressive for a big power back who's generated Shonn Greene comparisons. Turbin projects as a middle-round pick in April's draft.
8. San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley
Bowl Game: New Orleans Bowl
Result: Louisiana-Lafayette 32, Aztecs 30
Lindley's Stats: 28-49-413-3-0, 2-6
San Diego State had no running game on December 17, so the Aztecs were forced to lean heavily on their senior quarterback's right arm to stay competitive. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, Lindley stepped up for one of the best games of his career. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound pocket passer threw for gains of double-digit yardage on 21-of-28 completions and positioned SDSU for the win with a 12-yard touchdown strike to sophomore wideout Colin Lockett, only to watch as the Ragin Cajuns nailed a game-winning 50-yard field goal with time expiring. Lindley played in a pro-style offense at San Diego State and has NFL-caliber arm strength. Accuracy and interceptions have been an issue, however. The fifth-year senior completed just 55.5 percent of his career passes with a 90:47 TD-to-INT ratio. Lindley is expected to be a middle- to late-round pick in April's draft.
9. North Carolina wide receiver Dwight Jones
Bowl Game: Independence Bowl
Result: Missouri 41, Tar Heels 24
Jones' Stats: 6-77-1
Jones has physical tools to be a serious threat in the vertical passing game, and in the Heels' bowl loss to Missouri it showed up on his 22-yard first-quarter touchdown catch. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound wideout sprinted downfield and outmuscled his man for the score to put North Carolina up 7-0. Jones ultimately had an up-and-down bowl game performance, however, consistently failing to secure quarterback Bryn Renner's throws with his hands and allowing them to reach his body. Due to this tendency, drops have been an issue for Jones throughout the last two seasons. Still the next excellent prospect from a school fast becoming an NFL factory for wide receivers, Jones finished his senior season with 85 receptions for 1,196 yards and a dozen touchdowns, earning second-team All-ACC accolades. He's been getting second-day grades from NFL scouts.
10. Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White
Bowl Game: Little Ceasars Bowl
Result: Purdue 37, Broncos 32
White's Stats: 13-265-1
A prolific small-school wideout, White broke several of Greg Jennings' records at Western Michigan and was kind enough to save his best for last. White recorded a career-high 265 yards, opening the scoring with a 49-yard touchdown catch over his shoulder. Early in the fourth quarter, White got wide open on a slot route for a 45-yard gain, picking up 10 additional yards after the catch with a stiff arm. A third-team All-American, White measured 6-foot, 214 last spring and will probably run his forty in the 4.55-4.60 range. He'll be an intriguing late-round flier on draft day.