The DA Draft Buzz: January 3rd

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Two college games are left on the schedule and both will determine national champions.  As the non-title bowl games finish up NFL prospects from the senior class are receiving combine invitations.  Here with more information on the NFL combine as well as a few notes on potential underclassmen entries is the DA Draft Buzz for January 3rd.

I’m told the first batch of combine invitations sent to senior prospects last week was fewer than usual as scouts expect huge numbers of underclassmen to enter the draft.  Once it is determined which of the declared underclassmen will be invited to the combine another batch of seniors will be sent invitations.  Expect the number of, “I can’t believe this player was not invited to the combine,” to be greater than usual this year.

It may come as a surprise to some but a few teams have graded Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie at safety.  As mentioned on December 13th, scouts listed Awuzie as the third rated cornerback prospect at seasons end and some feel he could jump into the late part of round one with good showings at the Senior Bowl and pre-draft workouts.

Awuzie’s teammate Jimmie Gilbert is an intriguing prospect.

Entering the season graded as a street free agent, he was a week five riser and finished the season 10.5 sacks, 16 QBH’s and 6 forced fumbles.  Despite his production scouts wonder how he’ll hold up at the next level.  Those close to the program tell me Gilbert played at 211-pounds last season and while he’ll probably be closer to 230lbs come combine time scouts wonder if he can hold the weight.

Looking for a sleeper pass rusher?  Check out Dylan Donahue of West Georgia if you have the means.  Donahue also entered the season stamped as a street free agent despite having NFL computer numbers (6-feet/2-inches, 240lbs, 4.7’s in the forty) and NFL production (20 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks last season).  He is participating in the NFLPA Game, could get a late invite to the Senior Bowl and I fully expect Donahue will receive in invitation to the combine in March.  We presently grade him as a UDFA but would not be surprised if Donahue jumps into the draft's final day.

As I initially reported yesterday, Tuesday (today) was the day underclassmen from Washington would make their intentions known and four have already declared for the draft.

I continue to hear defensive tackle Vita Vea is returning to school despite being a potential mid-first round choice.  As of this afternoon I was informed the plan for the ultra-talented lineman was to properly condition himself in the off season then dominate in 2017.

Scouts believe the sky is the limit for Vea but are concerned about his weight as well as his motor.   If Vea sticks to the game plan and succeeds he has the potential to be a top five selection in 2018.

One player no one seems to have a feel as to whether or not he’ll enter the draft is quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  The North Carolina junior has met with agents yet no one I’ve spoken with, including people associated with UNC, can say for sure what they believe Trubisky is going to do.

As of today I’m told two additional juniors are leaning towards entering the draft; Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee and Iowa running back Akrum Wadley

Lee, a week one riser, is the ninth rated outside linebacker on our board and will probably be the top weak side candidate available if he enters the draft.  Lee led the Wildcats with 110 tackles last season and also broke up 5 passes.  He’s a terrific pursuit/run and chase linebacker with average size to this point.

I’m told Wadley has been calling agents looking for representation.  He led the Hawkeyes 1081 yards rushing and 10 TD’s on the ground while also adding 36 receptions for 315  receiving yards.  

While I think Lee could squeeze into the third round Wadley, who’s more of a third down/situational back, is a late round choice.