|N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon (left) and BYU pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah could shoot up draft boards.|
The Senior Bowl (Sat., 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network) is the premier game on the college football all-star circuit. NFL scouts marvel over the collection of talent in Mobile, Ala., for the week, knowing that several unheralded participants will eventually become stars at the next level. In fact, the two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco and the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, rose to prominence in the NFL scouting community after turning in strong performances at the Senior Bowl.
Given the copycat nature of the NFL, every scout and coach will spend the week assessing the talent and potential of the players running around Ladd-Peebles Stadium to determine which unheralded prospect is ready to make an immediate impact on Sundays.
Here is a list of 10 "under the radar" players certain to draw a lot of interest from scouts this week:
1) Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State: The lack of star power at the quarterback position has opened up the competition for the No. 1 spot on several draft boards across the NFL. Glennon is arguably the most talented drop-back passer available in the 2013 NFL Draft, but concerns about his mobility and overall athleticism have scouts worried about his effectiveness at the next level. In addition, Glennon has shown questionable judgment while under pressure in the pocket, leading to turnovers and negative plays at inopportune moments. Despite his immense talent and potential, scouts are uncertain about his ability to play "winning football." Glennon's play this week could provide a lot of answers about his capacity to develop into a franchise quarterback.
2) Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: The former walk-on track star has been the buzz of the NFL scouting community with his exceptional athleticism, movement skills and motor. Scouts rave about his raw talent and rush skills despite a limited football background. In fact, the comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul have been flying off the tongues of evaluators since Ansah started wreaking havoc on opponents in the fall. If he seizes this opportunity to showcase his talents against elite competition, Ansah can transition from urban legend to certain first-round pick.
3) Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State: The emphasis on the passing game has NFL scouts searching for athletic deep-middle defenders with cover skills and big-hit ability. Thomas had a knack for making big plays as a senior at Fresno State (eight interceptions and three pick-sixes), but scouts still have reservations about his overall speed and athleticism.
4) Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse: As the first junior to participate in the Senior Bowl -- thanks to early graduation -- Pugh has already made history at the event. But scouts want to see if he possesses the athleticism, body control and technical skill to man the left tackle spot as a pro. Pugh has been a model of consistency as a collegian and could jump into serious first-round consideration with a good week against elite competition.
5) Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon: A small-school standout, Mellette hasn't faced top competition on a consistent basis; his play this week will tell scouts a lot about his ability to make an immediate impact as a pro. Mellette (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) certainly possesses the physical dimensions scouts covet, but his ability (or inability) to separate from defenders will ultimately determine his NFL fate.
6) Margus Hunt, DE, SMU: Coming off an impressive performance (two sacks, a safety and two forced fumbles) in the Mustangs' Hawaii Bowl win over Fresno State, Hunt is riding a wave of momentum in NFL scouting circles. Evaluators are intrigued by his combination of size, strength and speed as a base defensive end, but they still have questions about his ability to rush the passer off the edge. Given plenty of opportunities in one-on-one and team drills, Hunt can silence his doubters and continue his ascension up the charts.
7) Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State: Poyer garnered a lot of attention from NFL scouts as a premier ball hawk during a strong senior campaign (seven interceptions) that included a three-interception effort against Washington State. While most of the attention has centered on his superb ball skills and awareness, Poyer's ability to thrive as a slot defender is what has earned him high marks in war rooms across the NFL. If he can dispel concerns about his top-end speed and athleticism, Poyer could solidify his status as a Day 2 prospect.
8) Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: The buzz certainly is growing about Johnson's talent and potential as a future left tackle following a strong senior season. The Oklahoma standout held his own in games against quality opponents -- including Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore, widely projected to be a top-10 pick -- and his positional flexibility makes him a likely starter at the next level. Although his limited experience at the position is a concern, NFL scouts will certainly pin their hopes on his tremendous potential, if he performs well in drills this week.
9) Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: The seventh-leading rusher this season in the FBS (Division I-A) hasn't garnered national fanfare, despite rushing for 1,734 yards. Scouts, however, are intrigued by his shifty running style and explosive game. Although Franklin's penchant for putting the ball on the turf (21 fumbles during his first three seasons) sparks concerns about his ability to handle a heavy workload -- especially at his size (5-10, 195 pounds) -- he will have plenty of chances to show evaluators he's more than a change-of-pace back at the next level.
10) Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: The Bobby Petrino scandal marred Wilson's senior season, but he still led the SEC in passing with 307.9 yards per game. Wilson also tallied 20-plus touchdown passes for the second straight season and displayed big-time arm talent as a pure drop-back passer. However, scouts are worried that Wilson more than doubled his interception total from his junior season (13 in 2012 after throwing just six in 2011), which suggests concern about his judgment from the pocket. With a week to deliver the kind of strong performance that shows evaluators his up-and-down season was the result of instability in the Arkansas program rather than playmaking deficiencies, Wilson has a chance to fly up the charts.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.