Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma – 5:10 p.m. FOX
The Cotton Bowl is often referred to as the ‘other BCS game’ and this year it lives up to that name featuring a pair of formal BIG12 rivals in #9 Texas A&M and #11 Oklahoma. Both of these schools had legitimate arguments to make actual BCS game but instead are faced with this familiar match-up.
Typically when you consider a team has three legitimate top 15-20 draft picks on their roster you usually think of USC, Florida, or Alabama. This year, however, Texas A&M gets that honor. Scouts project bookend junior tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews to declare for the draft and be selected in the top 15. Barring a trade up, it’s unlikely either will be available when the 49ers make their first selection.
The Outland Trophy winner, Joeckel is a three year starter at LT for TAMU and some believe he could be the first overall player selected in the 2013 draft. He’s is big and athletic and demonstrates quick hands in pass protection and strong legs and run blocking.
Matthews, son of Hall of Fame OL Bruce Matthews, is another three year starter that possesses all the intangibles for a prototypical tackle at the next level. Matthews is a better run blocker than Joeckel but lacks the quick feet making him an ideal right tackle. Given the way Joe Staley has held his own and the continuous progression of Anthony Davis, selecting a tackle in first round is probably not something the Niners will consider unless one inexplicably falls to them.
Teammate and fellow Junior OLB/DE Damontre Moore has drawn comparisons to former Texas A&M OLB and current Denver Bronco, Von Miller. Moore, who as already declared for the NFL Draft, is listed in the top 5 of ESPN's Mel Kiper's Big Board and is also as much of a sure bet as his tackle teammates to get drafted in the top 20. With his athleticism and raw ability to rush the passer it’s very easy to see why. NFL scouts put a premium on players’ ability to pressure the pocket, those that can often see their draft stock soar as draft day approaches (See Aldon Smith).
Scouts agree that Moore needs to improve his play against the run but it’s highly unlikely it causes him to drop out of the first round. Moore would likely be a target of the 49ers should he slip to the bottom half of the draft. I would imagine that the team that selects Moore would use him primarily in pass rushing situations until he demonstrates ability to defend the run and/or pass should he be an OLB in a 3-4 scheme.
On the other side of the coin, surprisingly, there are really only two Sooners worth mentioning in preparation for April’s draft. Quarterback Landry Jones flirted with the NFL Draft last season but decided to return to Oklahoma for his senior season. With the big names drafted at the quarterback position last year, who could blame him? While Landry didn’t exactly do anything to improve his draft stock this season, he didn’t do anything to hurt it either. Some thought he could have worked his way into the later part of round one last year but was likely a second or third round pick. Same can be said now.
Jones is a perfect build for an NFL QB. Standing at 6-4, 220lbs, Jones also exhibits above average mobility to extend plays and avoid pressure. At Oklahoma he put up some impressive numbers in a pass first attack, often excelling in accuracy on his first read. He has a very strong arm and can make ‘all the throws’ as scouts like to say. The biggest questions surrounding Landry are how he will progress in an NFL offense. Since plateauing at OU, some question if he can take the next steps and learn how to read his receivers on the drop and read defenses pre-snap. Jones certainly has the makeup of an NFL QB and will likely be selected in round two or three. I don’t see the Niners taking Jones this high as adding quality depth along both lines and in the secondary will probably be a higher priority in the first three to four rounds.
Jones’ blindside protector and perhaps the most interesting story in the draft this year is tackle Lane Johnson. Johnson actually played Quarterback in high school and for a season in junior college. At Oklahoma he played tight end then moved to defensive end before moving to right tackle in 2011. Johnson settled in at left tackle in 2012 and in only two seasons on the offensive line, has shown excellent foot quickness and agility. While he needs to improve his strength and is obviously quite raw when it comes to fundamentals, Johnson is an intriguing option in round two or three should he last that long.