Darren Page, DLD Staff Writer
Texas and Oregon State meet in the Alamo Bowl. Here are some potential Lions to keep an eye on, particularly for the second and third round picks.
#4 Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
As one of the higher-ranked safeties in this draft class, Vaccaro is a good watch for safety-needy teams. He’s a strong and physical defender who loves to mix it up with receivers in coverage and fly to the football. Manny Diaz heavily utilizes Vaccaro as an in-the-box safety or over slot receivers. In both man and zone coverages, he shows good instincts. He’s always getting underneath intermediate routes and limiting passing lanes for quarterbacks. He’s at his best when he can get physical and bully receivers. As a run defender, Vaccaro is aggressive to come up and make tackles, but is a bit undisciplined and will miss some tackles with inconsistent technique. While it may take a transition to a true safety spot in the NFL, Kenny Vaccaro has the instincts, athleticism, and footwork of impact defensive back.
#23 Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
Carrington Byndom hasn’t had the season most expected out of him. But the junior cornerback is still one to watch because of his natural ability in coverage. He arrives at the football with a head of steam, but his technique limits his ability to break on throws. He’s more of a shuffler than a backpeddler, which means he’ll have a higher learning curve in man coverage. Byndom has 5 career interceptions in two seasons as a starter, showcasing his ability to play the football. The biggest question mark with him is consistency, but he’s undoubtedly a playmaker with high potential.
#80 Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Okafor is a productive pass rusher, but I personally like him less than most do. He does have strengths of course. His best pass rush combination is a powerful bullrush to get an offensive tackle on his heels before dipping underneath to find the quarterback. He shows a knack for knocking the football out when sacking quarterbacks. Okafor may also have some schematic versatility, rushing from both two and three point stances for the Longhorns. He’s not the athlete that first round pass rushers should be though. He’s stiff in the hips and doesn’t often win around the corner. He relies on active hands and a bullrush, but stops his feet in doing so. Against the run, he often struggles to disengage and in effect doesn’t get to the ball often enough. If there’s one thing that really impresses me about Okafor, it’s his ability to show up late in games. He seems to have great stamina and does big things in the fourth quarter.
#14 Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
Jordan Poyer is a smooth operator in pass coverage. He’s comfortable in his backpeddle and cleanly breaks forward from it or transitions in man coverage. He’s been an interception machine for the Beavers, recording 7 this season and 13 total. Poyer also shows those ball skills as a punt returner, with decent production in that category. He’s not an elite athlete and relies on physicality in coverage. He’s an imposing press coverage cornerback because of his strength. There’s still room for improvement in run support though. He leverages runs well, but can struggle to get off blocks and make physical tackles. It’s tough to discount a cornerback who intercepts passes at the rate that Poyer does.
#2 Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Markus Wheaton is one of the most underrated wide receiver prospects around. His calling card is his speed, having once beaten DeAnthony Thomas in the 100 m dash in a college track meet. He combines that with change of speed ability and short area quickness as a route runner to create separation against man coverage. When he gets the football in the open field and turns it up quickly, it’s trouble for the fastest of defenses. Wheaton has a lean frame which causes struggles against press coverage. It’s also a limit as a blocker, but credit him for the high effort he brings in that category. He shows ability to track the ball and pluck it away from his body. For a guy with the speed he has, being able to naturally catch the ball with his hands is extremely important. Wheaton vs. the Texas secondary is undoubtedly the game’s most intriguing matchup.