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2014 NFL Draft Bowl Preview: Texas Bowl – Minnesota vs. Syracuse

Ra'Shede HagemanThe Texas Bowl, featuring Syracuse and Minnesota who have nearly flipped 2012-2013 records, feature some NFL worthy talent. The three likely highest picks, if Sean Hickey declares, are on the lines of scrimmage. Off the trenches, Syracuse has a talented back and Minnesota has a veteran defensive back.

Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota, #99, 6'6" 311
A  war daddy who has earned his many comparisons to former LSU defensive lineman, Michael Brockers. While he's not a non-43 player, his hybrid ability for 34 teams will be very valuable. He's potentially able to play every defensive line position in a 34 scheme. He's very explosive for his size, which likely comes from his time as a tight end and as a basketball player. The biggest issue with Hageman is his consistency with pad level and his first step. At times, he's off the line much before any of his other Golden Gophers. Other times, he's in his stance when offensive linemen first make contact with him. Hageman is likely a first round pick who will shine at the Senior Bowl.

(JR) Sean Hickey, OT, Syracuse, #60, 6'5", 287
Syracuse's coaching staff has been comparing Sean Hickey's potential to Justin Pugh's, a 2013 first round pick, since last season. Only a two year starter, Hickey's been able to flash enough talent to garner a draft pick. His intelligence is top notch, too, which apparently translates to the class room, too, as he's been All-Academic ACC in his two years as a starting tackle, flipping back and forth between the left and right bookend. With some time in an NFL weight room, he could be a starter in 2015, but there's questions if he's NFL ready for 2014. He has not yet declared, but he's going to discuss it after the Texas Bowl.

Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse, #96, 6'4" 285
Jay Bromley is one of the least talked about linemen in college football compared to his production. Not only does he lead the FBS in sack yardage for an interior lineman, but he also is third in total sacks by an interior lineman (only .5 sacks behind South Carolina's Kelcy Quarles and 1 sack behind Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald.) With Donald netting the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik, and Outland trophies overshadowing Bromley in his own conference, he hasn't been able to get the national attention he deserves. His length is a plus compared to a majority of the linemen with his level of a first step trait. There are questions about him in the run game, but if nothing else, he's a Day 3 selection.

(JR) Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse, #45, 6'0", 226
As a junior, Jerome Smith has already declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. When watching Smith, it seems like he wins as a between the tackles, downhill runner. There's not much of a hop to his step, but his north-south speed is good enough to get by in the NFL. He shouldn't be asked to be a home-run back, anyway. The third-team All-ACC runner hasn't cracked 1,000 yards this year, and he's only cracked the 100 yard mark in three games, but his 2012 production was much better than 2013. A captain, it should be interesting to see how his last game for the Orange pans out. At this point, I see him as a Day 3 selection.

Brock Vereen, SS, Minnesota, #21, 5'11", 202
Brother of the Patriots' Shane Vereen, Brock Vereen has played safety, outside corner, and nickleback since his first start his freshman season at Minnesota. The past three season, he's been a full-time starter, bouncing around the defense based on injuries in the Golden Gopher secondary. Overlooked by man, he was only an honorable mention by the Big Ten media, but was voted first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches in the conference. His head coach, Jerry Kill, says there's no question that he'll be in the NFL in 2014 (http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_24778500/gophers-football-brock-vereens-play-and-leadership-have). Vereen will be at the East-West Shrine Game, where he hopes to cement his draftable status, potentially moving into Day 2.