22 Rex Burkhead, Running Back, Senior 5’11″ 215 pounds
Rex Burkhead was one of my favorite running backs in the country going into the season, and unfortunately, he has missed a ton of time in the 2012 season due to injury. As a junior, Burkhead was one of the most impressive runners in the Big Ten with 284 carries for 1,357 yards, 15 touchdowns, 21 catches, and two more receiving touchdowns. He’s a pretty complete overall back with good vision, quickness, deceptive open-field speed, and nice overall power. Probably one of Burkhead’s best qualities would have to be his ability to get yardage after contact as well as running inside and outside. His injuries in 2012 have been a concern, as he’s only played four full games, but in those games he has had some really good production. Despite Burkhead’s size, he is capable of making huge plays from the RB position. He has runs of 57, 61, and 73 yards in 2012 before missing a bunch of time. I think he will still be drafted in probably the first five rounds or so unless he times really poorly.
25 Kyler Reed, Tight End/H-Back, Senior 6’3″ 230 pounds
Undersized TE/H-Back prospect who has good athletic ability and can really stretch a defense with his playmaking ability. I think he has a chance to be a decent weapon at the next level but he will have to add some weight in the offseason and get better in the blocking department. I’m not sure he’ll be drafted, but he is a pretty impressive athlete and has shown he can make plays downfield with 21 catches for 325 yards and two scores as a senior, despite the Huskers not really utilizing their passing game a whole heck of a lot. If Reed can finish the 2012 season strong and show out at the Combine or his pro day, he could definitely be drafted.
81 Ben Cotton, Tight End, Senior 6’6″ 255 pounds
Big, physical tight end prospect who is a pretty good blocker but obviously hasn’t been overly productive in his career as a receiver. Only 11 catches as a senior, but two have gone for touchdowns. I think he has a ton of upside with his size and physicality, and will make it on to an NFL roster due to his potential as a blocking tight end and potentially to contribute on a variety of special teams units. He has a great frame for a tight end and has reliable hands, but his production is inconsistent because of Nebraska’s style of offense and because he sometimes doesn’t catch the ball away from his frame. He has a ton of raw ability and I think some team should take a late-round look at this guy. If not, he should be picked up and brought into some team’s camp.
51 Will Compton, Linebacker, Senior 6’2″ 230 pounds
Compton is a very good looking linebacker prospect out of Bonne Terre, Missouri who has been one of the top tacklers at Nebraska the last two seasons. After coming to Nebraska with four stars attached to his name and a lot of expectations, he really struggled to get it going, starting 12 games from 2009-2010. In 2011, he emerged late in the season and started vaulting himself to where he is today, one of the most consistent tacklers and one of the leaders on the Blackshirt defense. Compton has really good overall size and athletic ability, and in 2012, he has 93 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and seven passes broken up. He’s always around the ball and always making plays. He could be selected in the first three to five rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.
3 Daimion Stafford, Safety, Senior 6’1″ 205 pounds
Stafford is a big safety prospect and one of the best in the 2013 crop of players at his position. He is very good at filling holes in the run game, playing downhill, as well as making plays on the ball. But, like many young players, he has plenty of inconsistencies. Stafford has been a very productive Nebraska Cornhusker, racking up 76 tackles, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 2012 as a senior. That’s following up a junior season where he had 80 tackles and 10 passes broken up. Plays with a little chip on his shoulder and is willing to deliver big hits. I could see Stafford getting picked within the first three or four rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.
13 P.J. Smith, Safety, Senior 6’2″ 210 pounds
Smith is a very intriguing safety prospect who has broken out as a senior with 67 tackles, six tackles for loss, and two interceptions. Great size overall at 6’2″ 210 pounds, and I think is certainly an underrated player at this point but could definitely shoot up draft boards if he is able to impress at his pro day performance. He also has a ton of value as a potential special teams ace in the NFL. I am not sure whether he will be drafted or not, but he certainly has some raw abilities.
46 Eric Martin, Defensive End, Senior 6’2″ 250 pounds
Martin is an undersized defensive end who may be destined to play some linebacker and special teams at the NFL level, but I love his energy and intensity, and when he was given an opportunity, you have to give him credit for making the most of it. He leads the Huskers defense with 11.5 tackles for loss and he has also added 7.5 sacks and 44 total tackles. He is a high energy, high intensity player who has been a core special teams performer in his career as well as one of the most critical defensive reserves for the Huskers. I think there is a place in the NFL for a guy like this, a guy who is just going to out-work so many other people.
55 Baker Steinkuhler, Defensive Tackle, Senior 6’6″ 290 pounds
Steinkuhler has had some really high expectations the last few years, expectations which he hasn’t really lived up to. After Ndamukong Suh left for the NFL, he was supposed to be the next guy to step in with Jared Crick and take over as the defensive line’s top playmaker. After Crick left this year, Steinkuhler still hasn’t been able to steal the spotlight, but I still think he is a very solid draft prospect and a guy who can do some dirty work on the defensive line. He has some upside and versatility as a defensive tackle in a four man front or as an end in a three man front. He will get picked up by an NFL team based on his potential, but so far, he hasn’t proven that he is able to live up to it.
96 Brett Maher, Kicker, Senior 6’0″ 185 pounds
One of the top kicker prospects in the country in 2012, Maher has delivered in 16 of 22 field goal attempts and is also averaging 41.55 yards per punt as a senior. The dual-threat special teamer is capable of hitting field goals from beyond 50 yards, and he has decent kickoff ability as well. He will likely crack an NFL roster next year as some team’s place kicker and emergency punter.