|Kawann Short helped the Boilermakers pick up a huge OT win over Ohio State last season. (Getty Images)|
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: 9
2012 NFL Draft picks: 2 – OT Dennis Kelly (5th round, 153rd overall), OT Nick Mondek (6th round, 195th overall)
Since 2007 the Boilermakers have produced three first round draft picks. That number might not seem like a lot, but it's more than Big Ten programs Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Indiana have produced combined over that same stretch. Purdue rarely produces gaudy numbers on draft weekend, but the program has had at least one player drafted each year, dating back to 1998. And that streak will almost certainly extend another year as the Boilermakers' roster boasts a handful of draftable talents, led by DT Kawann Short who is considered a first round pick by some.
Over the last seven years, the Boilermakers have finished with a losing record four times. However, Purdue went to their first bowl game last season under head coach Danny Hope, finishing with seven wins including an overtime victory over Ohio State. And this year's team might be the most talented squad Hope has had in his four seasons in West Lafayette, making eight or nine wins a realistic possibility for Purdue in 2012 despite a tough schedule.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. DT Kawann Short (6-3, 315)
Trying to become the next first round Boilermaker, Short has started at Purdue since his freshman season and has tallied 33.5 tackles for loss over his career. He enters the 2012 season as arguably the Big Ten's No. 1 senior NFL prospect. Short was a three-star prep recruit out of the Chicago area and committed to Purdue prior to his senior year in high school. After redshirting in 2008, he started every game as a freshman and sophomore, combining for 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. Short had his best season as a junior last season, setting career-bests with 54 tackles, 17.0 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, earning First Team All-Big Ten and team MVP honors. He is a large human being with a huge wingspan, using his long arms to bat down passes (11 pass break-ups) and make plays on special teams (4 blocked kicks). Short can be an immovable object in the middle of the field when he plays disciplined and generates power from his lower body. However, he too often gives streaky effort and doesn't consistently play with leverage. Short sees a lot of double-teams, but scouts want to see more of a mean streak and less passiveness. He has been productive over his first three seasons in West Lafayette, but there is also some negative game tape out there on him. And while Short will still be an attractive pro prospect because of his natural size and tools, he needs to prove he can be consistently more than just a plugging space-eater to cement his top-50 status.
2. CB Ricardo Allen (5-9, 175)*
A small, but talented defender, Allen is the self-proclaimed “best cornerback in the Big Ten.” Whether or not that is true, he has at least earned a spot in the discussion, starting every game his first two seasons in college. Allen prepped in Maryland and received scholarship offers from several SEC and ACC schools, including Florida State, South Carolina and Clemson, but decided to enroll at Purdue. He earned a starting position as a true freshman and finished third on the team with 83 tackles, adding a team-high three interceptions including a pair of touchdown returns. Allen followed up his impressive debut with an even better sophomore season last year, finishing with 81 tackles and a team-best three interceptions, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. He is a very physical and confident player who was always told he wasn't big enough, but he feeds off those comments, playing much bigger than his small stature would suggest. Allen is very aggressive at the line of scrimmage and loves to press and win battles off the snap. He can get tied up and easily blocked by bigger receivers, but works hard to shed and blow up the run. Allen looks more comfortable in zone coverage where he can watch the eyes of the quarterback, diagnose the action and attack, but is no slouch with his back to the ball in man coverage, showing the speed and developing awareness to hold his own. He has good ballskills and after only two seasons in college, Allen has already tied the school-record for interception returns for scores with three. Despite his lack of size and strength, Allen is a feisty, physical player who just might be, like he said, the best cornerback in the conference.
3. ILB Dwayne Beckford (6-1, 235)
Despite missing the bowl game, Beckford still finished second on the team in tackles last season with a career-best 91 stops. But he missed the final game of 2011 because of some off-field issues, creating some concern about his maturity. Beckford was originally just a two-star prep recruit out of New Jersey and served as a freshman back-up in 2009. He started 18 games the past two seasons and combined for 175 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks, adding his first career interception last year. Beckford has a leaner body type and has done a nice job filling out his frame in the weight room, but looks maxed-out physically. He flows well with the action with good athleticism and quickness for the position, showing the foot speed and movement skills to blitz and also drop in coverage. Beckford delivers a jolt on contact but needs to finish tackles, take better angles and clean up his read/react skills to improve his overall timing. He has an intense on-field temperament, but also comes with some maturity concerns after he was suspended and taken off scholarship prior to the bowl game last year for a DUI-related arrest. However, Beckford worked hard to regain his spot on the roster this spring and is expected to be one of Purdue's defensive leaders this fall.
4. CB Josh Johnson (5-11, 195)
Although overshadowed by fellow cornerback Allen on the other side, Johnson is also talented, creating one of the best cornerback tandems in the country. He led the team in pass break-ups last season (9), adding a pair of interceptions. Out of high school in the Tampa-area, Johnson flew under the recruiting radar and ended up at Purdue, spending his freshman season on special teams. He became a starter as a sophomore (10 starts) with 53 tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and interception. Johnson started every game in 2011 and improved on his production as a junior, finishing with 64 tackles, 4.5 for loss and two interceptions. While not the most technically-sound player, he plays fast and aggressive with adequate size, not shying away from getting his hands dirty. Johnson has done a nice job developing his instincts and pass awareness, showing his smarts on-and-off the field (earned Big Ten All-Academic honors in the classroom the past two seasons). Allen, who offers some experience on special teams as well, is a player who could earn a draftable grade as a senior and should see a lot of action, especially with offenses leaning against throwing to Allen's side of the field.
5. DT Bruce Gaston (6-2, 305)*
Along with having one of the top cornerback tandems in the conference, Gaston, along with Short, will create one of the best interior defensive line duos in the Big Ten. He was a three-star defensive line recruit out of Chicago, signing with Purdue over Notre Dame, Boston College and Wisconsin. Gaston started his freshman season in 2010 as a back-up, but quickly found himself in the starting line-up (10 starts), recording 26 stops, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. He started nine games last year as a sophomore and finished with 30 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Gaston has done a nice job filling out his body since arriving in West Lafayette, but needs to continue to get stronger in order to get off blocks and handle some double-teams. He does a nice job moving up and down the line of scrimmage, showing quick feet, lateral agility and smooth hips to move easily in any direction. Gaston doesn't always appear to have a plan or accurately diagnose the play and is a work-in-progress in this area. Although he is used to playing in Short's shadow, look for Gaston to make more of a name for himself as a junior and boost his draft stock in the minds of scouts.
QB Caleb TerBush (6-5, 225)
QB Robert Marve (6-1, 210)
RB Ralph Bolden (5-9, 190)
WR Antavian Edison (5-11, 175)
OG Peters Drey (6-6, 310)
C Rick Schmeig (6-3, 320)