In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 7
2012 NFL Draft picks: 0
Despite a combined 20 wins over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Kansas football program has fallen on tough times once again with only 10 victories the past three years, including just two wins last season. Turner Gill won just five games in his two seasons at the helm of the Jayhawks, opening the door for the return of Charlie Weis to the head coaching ranks as he was hired this past off-season to be Kansas' head coach. The chips are stacked against Weis in his first season in Lawrence, but the bar is set fairly low as the Jayhawks need just three victories to surpass last year's total.
In 2008, the Jayhawks produced their first 1st round pick (CB Aqib Talib) since 1993 followed by three more draft picks in 2010. However, Kansas has been shut out of the NFL Draft the past two years and the team's crop of prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft doesn't look much more promising. But the Jayhawks do have a few draftable players and several other seniors who could work their way up draft boards with a productive 2012 season.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OT Tanner Hawkinson (6-6, 295)
Since 2009 Kansas has had three head coaches and several quarterbacks under center, but one constant has been at the tackle position where Hawkinson has started since his redshirt freshman season. He moves back to the left side in 2012 and has already been named a senior captain. Hawkinson arrived in Lawrence as a four-star tight end recruit, redshirting in 2008 and moving to defensive end before settling in at offensive tackle. He started every game at left tackle as a redshirt freshman and sophomore (24 games) before moving to the right side last season. Hawkinson started all 12 games at right tackle in 2011 as a junior, but moved back to left tackle this past spring and is the most experienced player on the current roster. He has done a nice job adding nearly 70-pounds since enrolling at Kansas, but he still plays light and is too easily overmatched by defensive linemen at the point of attack. Hawkinson is a mobile blocker with good-enough footwork, but too often forgets his lower half and overextends at the waist, falling off balance. Despite entering the 2012 season as a three-year starter, Hawkinson still needs more seasoning and currently projects as a day three prospect.
2. DE Toben Opurum (6-2, 245)
One of the more interesting stories in college football belongs to one of the more interesting prospects for next April's Draft. Opurum started his collegiate career as a running back, leading the team in rushing as a freshman, before moving to the defensive side of the ball two years ago. He is coming off his best season on defense, leading the Jayhawks in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (10.5) in 2011 as a junior hybrid defensive end. However, along with the rest of the defense, Opurum will play under his fourth defensive coordinator in the past four years in 2012, creating more questions than answers for his responsibilities as a senior. He will also play for his third head coach in the past four years, but the Plano-native was recruited hard by Coach Weis out of high school and considered the Irish one of his finalists before committing to the Jayhawks because of the lure of immediate playing time. Opurum started three games at running back as a true freshman, finishing with a team-best 554 yards and nine scores on the ground. Under new head coach Turner Gill in 2010, Opurum was moved to the defensive side of the ball, a move that forced him to consider transferring elsewhere to remain at running back, but he decided to stay in Lawrence and bulk up for his new pass rusher position. He started 18 games the past two seasons in a defensive end/linebacker role, setting career-bests last season with 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. A senior captain, Opurum plays fast off the snap and it wouldn't be surprising to see among the conference leaders in sacks in 2012.
3. WR Daymond Patterson (5-8, 180)
After leading the team in receiving as a junior in 2010, Patterson was poised for a big season as a senior last year, but was lost after an injury in the season opener, taking a medical redshirt. Starting his career at cornerback, he is another example of a player who switched positions under coach Gill, however this time, defense-to-offense. Patterson was a three-star receiver recruit out of Texas and played mostly at wideout (two starts) as a true freshman before moving to cornerback towards the second half of the season (six starts). He began his sophomore season in 2009 as a starting cornerback, but struggled and was demoted to athe bench. Patterson moved back to receiver as a junior in 2010 (11 starts) and finished with a team-best 60 catches for 487 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He injured his groin in the 2011 season opener and decided to take a medical redshirt instead of attempting a late-season comeback. Patterson is back to 100% health and looked sharp in spring practices, catching passes from new quarterback Dayne Crist and should regain his spot as the team's top target in the fall. He is vastly undersized and doesn't have the type of frame to get much bigger, but plays fast with the foot quickness to elude defenders and create with the ball in his hands. Patterson also has experience on special teams, averaging 8.2 yards on punt returns with one career touchdown. He is more of a late-round or undrafted type of receiver, but could surprise in 2012.
4. FS Bradley McDougald (6-2, 215)
Another prospect who transitioned to a different position, McDougald bounced between receiver and safety over his first two seasons before settling in at safety last season as a junior. He was initially recruited as a safety and committed to nearby Ohio State out of high school, but surprisingly changed his mind and enrolled at Kansas (viewed Ohio State as too much of a “professional team”). McDougald started at receiver as a true freshman in 2009, recording 33 catches for 318 yards, before moving to safety towards the end of the season (five tackles). He again started as a wideout to begin the 2010 season (19 catches for 240 yards and one score), but moved to strong safety for the final two contests, starting both games. McDougald moved to the defensive side for good as a junior and started all 12 games at safety in 2011 as a junior, finishing second on the team with 90 tackles and a team-best two interceptions. A versatile defensive back, he has seen time at both free and strong safety, playing near the line of scrimmage and also in the deep half of the field. McDougald preferred to line up at wideout as an underclassman, but now that he is older (and much heavier, tipping the scale 25-pounds more than his sophomore season), he believes safety is where he projects best as a future pro. Now he just needs to continue to prove to scouts why he deserves a shot.
5. QB Dayne Crist (6-4, 235)
Once considered the heir apparent to Jimmy Clausen as the quarterback at Notre Dame, Crist struggled to stay on the field during his tenure in South Bend and decided to transfer to Kansas under Weis, his former head coach for the Irish. He took advantage of a NCAA rule that allows graduate students to transfer and play immediately at a new program. A native of California, Crist was one of the highest recruited prep players out of high school and received scholarship offers from every major program in the country, choosing to head east and play for Notre Dame. After redshirting in 2008, he saw limited duty as Clausen's back-up in 2009, but tore the ACL in his right knee and missed most of the season. Crist returned in 2010 as a sophomore and started the first nine games under new head coach Brian Kelly, but was again lost for the season after a serious leg injury, this time to his left knee. He began the 2011 season opener as the starter, but was benched due to ineffectiveness and became an afterthought on the depth chart for the rest of the year. Crist arrives in Lawrence with 2,327 passing yards and 20 total touchdowns over his career, but only 130 of those yards came under the tutelage of Weis. Crist looks the part and has the arm strength to play at the next level, but tries to be too perfect with his throws, forcing him to think too much in the pocket. He needs to refine his accuracy and show better consistency as a passer, but above all, Crist needs to prove to NFL clubs that he has the confidence needed for the position.
WR DJ Beshears (5-9, 185)
WR Kale Pick (6-2, 205)
TE Mike Ragone (6-4, 250)
G Duane Zlatnik (6-4, 310)
MLB Darius Willis (6-2, 245)
LB/SS Tunde Bakare (5-10, 205)
CB Greg Brown (5-11, 185)
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