In preparation for the 2014 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.
SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 11
2013 NFL Draft picks: 2 -- CB Kayvon Webster (Denver Broncos, third round), OLB Samuel Barrington (Green Bay Packers, seventh round)
The Bulls are heavy on defensive talent again this year, led by seniors DeDe Lattimore (LB) and Ryne Giddins (DE), who each have the chance to be among the top selections at their given positions in next year's draft if they can fulfill their obvious potential. It's redshirt sophomore DE Aaron Lynch that may be the most intriguing of South Florida's draft-eligible class though, having flashed dominant ability in his true freshman year at Notre Dame in 2011 before transferring, and now with an opportunity to take the American Athletic Conference by storm.
Top South Florida prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
* Indicates underclassman
1. Aaron Lynch (6-5, 248, 4.65)*
Lynch transferred from Notre Dame following his freshman year in 2011, and after a mandatory sit-out and redshirt in 2012, will be draft-eligible after this season. All he did as a true freshman in 12 appearances (5 starts) at South Bend, was rack up 7 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. A freakish athlete with a rare combination of size, speed and length, Lynch explodes off the ball with an impressive first step, exhibits powerful hands to clear a path, and closes with elite burst. At 6'6 and just under 250 pounds, Lynch has room to add mass without losing a step, and offers the versatility of lining up at either end, or even along the interior on passing downs. When you hear scouts talk about the prototypical pass-rusher, Lynch is the type of prospect they're referring to. If he can add improved technique to his physical ability this season, he may not last more than a single season in South Florida.
2. LB DeDe Lattimore (6-1, 237, 4.77)
Lattimore has appeared in 37 career games as a Bull, and has started 36 of them, splitting time primarily between the middle and the weakside. A 2012 preseason Lombardi Award watch list member, Lattimore compiled 76 total tackles to go with 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two blocked kicks during his junior year, following a sophomore campaign whereby he totaled 94, 13, and seven respectively. A thick, compact and muscular athlete, Lattimore exhibits big-time first step explosiveness, agility and space, and plays with ideal aggression and physicality for the position. When lined up on the outside, he displays fluidity in space, and can be an absolute menace blitzing off the edge with his ability to get low around the corner, and close in a hurry. From the inside, he shows good diagnostics against the run and takes good angles to the football, although he does struggle to get off blocks at times as he lacks the length to routinely keep blockers out of his space. In coverage, he displays good recognition and an ability to track receiver movement while maintaining an eye on the backfield, and looks plenty quick in the hips when asked to flip and run. He also appears to let up at times when the play is flowing away from him. Lattimore gives you a little bit of everything you look for in an NFL-caliber linebacker – toughness, instincts, speed, versatility and strong fundamentals – and could very well end up one of the first 10 selected at the linebacker spot, in the 2014 draft.
3. DE Ryne Giddins (6-3, 255, 4.76)
Giddins had a breakout year in 2011 when he started 12 games, posting 11 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He earned 2012 preseason first-team all Big East honors as a result, and was a Lombardi Award watch list member. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury limited him to just seven starts as a junior, and although he was still effective (3.5 sacks), he was visibly hampered by the injury as he struggled to get off blocks. Assuming he's healthy this season, Giddins will have an opportunity to be one of the conference's best pass-rushers. He possesses top-notch burst coming off the snap, and has the flexibility to dip, get into his blocker's frame, and clear the corner. He lacks a wide array of rush moves at this point, but has flashed an impressive spin move back to the inside, as well as "plus" lateral suddenness to juke his way around bigger blockers. Against the run, he struggles to anchor and is often carried off the line with what appears to be relativite ease, as he'll get high in the pads and will allow blockers into his midsection. However, he displays surprising power when asked to set the edge with a bull rush against bigger tackles, exhibiting a strong understanding of how to utilize leverage. If he can stay healthy this season and continue to develop a repertoire of moves, he'll not only have a shot at being one of the nation's top statistical pass-rushers, but he could end up one of the stronger pure rush end prospects in the 2014 draft class.
Other South Florida prospects worth watching:
SS JaQuez Jenkins (6-2, 190, 4.62)
Fluid, well-built safety who started 8 games in 2011, and was one of the secondary's best tacklers with 53, including four for a loss, and a forced fumble. Has flashed a nose for the ball in coverage as well (3 career interceptions).
FS Mark Joyce (5-10, 195, 4.58)
Instinctive, physical run defender who posted 74 tackles as a junior, and could be an option to move to corner at the next level if he can have more of an impact on the passing game this year.
RB Marcus Shaw (5-9, 182, 4.46)
Quick, explosive and versatile runner who, as a junior, rushed 51 times, caught eight passes and returned 10 kicks, for 527 all-purpose yards.
DE Tevin Mims (6-3, 246, 4.84)
Long, lean athlete with some quickness and fluidity, who will need to get stronger in order to be more effective as a pass-rusher, but could be considered developmental linebacker prospect at the next level.