Pro prospects: At least 6 Gamecocks on NFL radar

jkendall@thestate.comNovember 14, 2012 

D.J. Swearinger

C. ALUKA BERRY — File photo

In this week’s chat with Rotoworld.com NFL Draft Writer Josh Norris (@JoshNorris on Twitter), we skip right over Saturday’s opponent (no offense, Wofford) and look at the South Carolina seniors who Norris thinks have a chance to get drafted or get an NFL free agent deal in April. You probably won’t be surprised to learn the first name out of his mouth is senior safety D.J. Swearinger, who Norris says could be the top senior safety in this draft class by the time the evaluation period is complete in the spring.

What’s your list look like?

The are always surprises, but I think there are six that have a shot to be drafted, just of the seniors. I think you absolutely have to lead off with D.J. Swearinger. A lot of people talked about Devin Taylor leading into the season but we’ll get to him later. I think that Swearinger is easily going to be the top prospect from South Carolina this year, and he may even move up to the consensus top senior safety, passing guys like Kenny Vaccaro at Texas and T.J. McDonald at USC. I really think highly of Swearinger. The way he is so good moving forward and back. That just seems like a very simple statement, but a lot of guys don’t do both of those very well. He’s really aggressive and the way he’s throwing his versatility now playing cornerback now. He aggressively comes up in the box, and he’s a hitter. I think Swearinger has a great shot to be a second day pick, maybe later part of the second round and into the third. I think he’s absolutely a third round pick and he could really show that at the Senior Bowl. I expect him to be there and do really well.

Then we’ll go to his counterpart, DeVonte Holloman, and this is an interesting guy. I think Holloman is good moving forward, and if his 6-1, 241, if that pans out, that’s plenty of size to play linebacker, plenty of size to play weakside linebacker. A lot of people are talking about undersized linebackers and how that’s an issue, but honestly give me every single one of the undersized guys, I’d be happy with all of them. I wouldn’t put him up there (in the draft) because he’s been moved around so much, safety, linebacker, now back to safety, that you don’t know exactly how he’s going to play. I think he has a chance to get drafted on the third day.

Then you talk about Devin Taylor. He is someone that if you look at him just standing straight up, he’s going to look imposing. He’s a get-off-the-bus type guy, but he doesn’t carry that to the field, and I hope I don’t get any hate mail for that. I don’t think he uses his length and his hands enough. That’s something he could probably learn, and he’s probably a great athlete, I don’t doubt that, but he’s very tight in the hips. That seems very detailed, but the way he plays forces him to bend at the waist, not bend around the edge. I think a prospect like that is going to have to turn into a power rusher, and in order to do that he is going to have to gain a lot of weight, he’s going to have to gain a lot of mass. But if he can do that, he’s got the length to be able to separate and extend and generate pressure, but I think he’s going to have to kind of change the way he plays the game, and that’s tough to do but I see him probably being a mid-third day pick, so fourth, fifth, sixth round something like that. I think that could go all the way to the sixth round like other guys who were once big names but teams now have a lot of questions about them. I could see him going all the way to the sixth.

Then we talk about Shaq Wilson, who is kind of the opposite of Holloman in that hopefully he measures in at, what?, 5-11, 225. As much as I hate talking about measurements and that being the cut off if he’s going to make it or not, there is a floor to certain guys making it at certain positions. I am not sure if Shaq Wilson has those unique talents to overcome the lack of measurables. I do like him sideline to sideline. He does pretty well between the tackles and filling lanes. I don’t know if he’ll be drafted, but he’ll get a shot. It’s just up to him to make the most of it.

Justice Cunningham, last week that catch was outstanding. That catch is exactly the one you want to see from a tight end. To me, he looks a bit mechanic at time. He’s not very fluid, but I think just with that size and that athleticism and that catching ability, I think he’s worth a shot. Maybe that’s in the sixth or seventh round. We’ve seen athletic tight ends get a shot there, even basketball recruits get drafted there. Anyone who can run and catch will get a shot there in the sixth and seventh areas.

And then finally T.J. Johnson. We talked a long time ago about his lack of lateral mobility and how he loses on the countermove too often on my opinion, but I think he probably the size to move out to guard, and I think that would help him a lot. Center is much more difficult than guard because you have to snap the ball and get right on the guy, especially when you are playing 3-4 teams, so I think a possible move to guard would help T.J. Johnson.

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