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.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 7
2013 NFL Draft picks: 1 – DT Kawann Short (2nd round, Carolina Panthers)
Although the Boilermakers haven't had more than eight wins in a season since 2003, Purdue has quietly sent a good amount of talent to the next level with at least one draft pick each of the last 16 years. Purdue has produced at least one top-75 selection in seven of the last eight years and the Boilermakers have several prospects who could fight for a spot in the early rounds of next May's NFL Draft to make it eight of the last nine years.
Top Purdue prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
1. DE Ryan Russell (6-4, 275, 4.72)*
A player who passes the eye ball test, Russell has flashed impressive talent the past two years and if he can put it all together on a consistent basis? Look out. He was a no-name high school recruit, but after redshirting in 2010, he became a starter as a freshman and set career-bests last season as a sophomore with 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Russell has terrific measureables with an excellent blend of power and initial burst to win with strength and speed, showing the ability to be an every-down player against both the run and pass. He is a fiery, intense rusher who is active on stunts and does a nice job in the open field, showing the discipline to hold contain and finish tackles. Based on film study, the best part of Russell's game so far has been his steady progression with every game. He seems to get smarter and better with more reps, showing the necessary improvements that coaches and scouts hope to see as he develops. But Russell still has a lot of room before he hits his ceiling. He needs to refine his pass rush moves and be more creative as a pass rusher when he doesn't win with his first step. Although Purdue isn't exactly known as a pipeline for producing pass rushers, the Boilermakers are well represented in the NFL at the defensive end position (Cliff Avril, Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Spencer, Mike Neal, Rob Ninkovich and Shaun Phillips to name a few). And Russell will be the next Purdue alum to get a chance to star at the next level and definitely a player to watch this season.
2. DT Bruce Gaston (6-2, 305, 5.25)
Purdue has produced several interior defensive linemen who wound up in the early rounds of the NFL Draft, most recently Kawann Short who was a second rounder last April. And Gaston looks to be the next Boilermaker defensive tackle to be potentially worthy of a top-100 selection. He has started 32 games the last three seasons, mostly with his helmet lined up over the “A” gap, but this fall will be his first year without Short next to him attracting most of the attention. Gaston moves well for his size with smooth hips, agile footwork and rangy ability to always be around the ball. He will fight through the whistle on one snap, but then take the next play off, and needs to keep the motor revving for all four quarters. Gaston plays with a nasty attitude and is at his best when he plays with correct pad level to best utilize his strength to shed blocks and make a play on the ballcarrier. He isn't a big-time interior pass rush threat (last sack came in November 2011), but he can be disruptive behind the line of scrimmage with 17 career tackles for loss. Gaston has flashed All-American potential, but scouts would like to see more consistent production and overall impact on defense. Nonetheless, don't be surprised if Gaston becomes one of the top-10 defensive tackles drafted next May with his combination of size, strength and movement skills.
3. CB Ricardo Allen (5-9, 186, 4.48)
Although he doesn't look like much with his pint-sized frame, Allen plays bigger than he looks with a feisty attitude that allows him to match up with superior-sized receivers. He found the field early in his Purdue career and enters his senior season with 36 starts, 19 passes defended and seven interceptions, four of which he has returned for touchdowns (school record). Allen has quick, coordinated footwork to drive fast and furious on plays with enough make-up speed to compensate for his aggressive play style. He is battled-tested and plays with supreme confidence, often attempting to get into the opponent's head with his gift for gab. Allen has limited strength and can be easily out-muscled by receivers, but loves to throw his body around and displays a good amount of toughness and physicality on tackle attempts for a player with his smallish body type, getting low and never holding back. He will bite on pumps and fakes and needs to improve his overall discipline and body positioning so he doesn't get turned around, especially on post and corner routes. Allen always believes a ball in the air belongs to him and displays reliable ballskills with a knack for making something happen after the interception, averaging 29.3 yards per INT return. Allen doesn't have elite size, strength or speed, but his fearless, feisty attitude will earn him a spot on a NFL roster, probably best-suited as an inside nickel corner.
4. TE Gabe Holmes (6-4, 247, 4.78)
While the production hasn't matched the potential (yet), Holmes has a NFL body with the athleticism and natural tools to make it at the next level. A three-star recruit out of Florida, he surprised many when he spurned offers from Miami, Florida State and South Florida in favor of Purdue, citing the Boilermakers persistence as the main reason he chose to pack his bags for West Lafayette. Holmes, who is the son of an Olympic long jumper, was more of a basketball star growing up, but took up football as a sophomore in high school and is still learning with every snap. He has an athletic body type with the speed and quickness to match, playing like a small forward on the football field. Holmes is still unpolished in several areas, including his routes and blocking technique, but needs the most work with his reliability catching and securing the ball before he turns upfield. He has only nine career starts and hasn't received much help from the quarterback position, but he needs to improve upon his 37 career catches for 305 yards and three scores. He has never had more than four catches or 50 receiving yards in a single game, but should be more of focal point of the offense in 2013. Holmes has had too many drops on his docket and his game is still a work-in-progress, but he's a player poised for an improved senior year, which would dramatically help his draft stock.
Other Purdue prospects worth watching:
QB Rob Henry (6-2, 200, 4.54)
With the Boilermakers' two-quarterback system of Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush no longer in West Lafayette, Henry takes over as the expected starter and leader of the Purdue offense. Despite coming off the bench most of his career, he does have 200 pass attempts on his resume, but his collegiate playing time thus far has produced mixed results (53.5% completions, 1,212 yards, 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions).
WR Gary Bush (6-0, 185, 4.52)
Gone are Purdue's top-two receivers from a year ago, leaving Bush as the Boilermakers' top returning pass-catcher. He became a full-time starter as a junior last season and set career-bests with 41 catches for 360 yards and seven touchdowns. Bush is a lean, athletic specimen with terrific acceleration and natural tools, but he still has room to improve his route running and reliability finishing catches.
OT Trevor Foy (6-7, 300, 4.94)
Purdue's projected starting right tackle, Foy arrived in West Lafayette as a defensive end before moving to the offensive line as a freshman. He has combined for 17 starts the past two seasons and will be one of Purdue's offensive leaders this fall. Foy plays too tight and will struggle with pad level at times, but he shows enough foot quickness and overall length to shield the pocket from edge rushers and redirect defenders in the run game.