Last season nine Nevadans dotted NFL rosters as more Silver State athletes are proving ready to compete at the highest level. This year, five former Nevada high school football players are rated as possible picks in the seven round NFL six more are rated to a level that should see them added as free agents to compete this off-season.
Here is a look at the guys that will be watching the NFL draft and roster moves closely over the few weeks as they prep for a shot at the next level:
DL Billy Winn Boise State 6'4 294 (Las Vegas HS) The second rated player in the state in 2007, Billy Winn (6'4 294) is coming off of a great career with the Boise State Broncos which has scouts buzzing about his versatility a potential both as a defensive end and a defensive tackle. Teams have been impressed with his explosiveness and quickness at the point of attack that bodes well for the future. He is rated as a second round pick in this year's draft and improved his stock running a 4.84 40 yard dash at his Pro Day besides taking in the NFL Combine. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Winn switched spots on the line each quarter but was very effective from any position showing the ability to penetrate and close quickly on the ball. He came into the season rated as the #2 prospect in Nevada and doesn't disappoint. He spends all game in the opposing team's backfield and is a factor on every play even if he isn't making the tackle. He proved at the Nike Camp that he is one of the fastest big men on the west coast and will be a star in college playing inside or outside.
WR Juron Criner Arizona 6'3 224 (Canyon Springs HS) A record breaking receiver in high school after taking up the sport as a junior, Criner became an impact player for the Wildcats earning All-American honors as a junior. One of the program's best player at his position of all-time, Criner totaled 32 touchdowns during his career after earning playing time his first year on campus. He is projected to go somewhere between the second and fourth round of the draft after clocking a 4.54 at his Pro Day and a 38 inch vertical to go along with his impressive strength and size. He was also an NFL Combine invite. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Noted for his tremendous body control and ability to adjust to the ball in flight, Criner added more speed to his list of traits. Criner is a player with excellent size and great run after the catch ability. He is a player with great hand eye coordination and he is a player that can definitely go get the ball. For a player his size, he has very good agility and has taken the strides to improve in every aspect as a receiver. He is a definite mismatch and a player who can make the play in traffic with an extra gear in the open field. Criner has all the making of an immediate impact player with experience at the position being his only real question mark. He is a tremendous target that should develop into an elite player on the next level for the Wildcats.
S D.J. Campbell Cal 6'0 204 (Cheyenne HS) After playing several position in high school, Campbell settled in at safety in college. After earning scout team MVP honors as a true freshman, playing time turned into a waiting game for Campbell as he had to wait for his senior season at Cal for a staring position to open up but he made the best of the opportunity landing as the program's fourth leading tackler as a senior. Campbell's speed, strength and leaping ability has pushed him up as a player that is rated as high as a fifth round draft choice this week. The draft has lots of twist and turns but Campbell should enter next week knowing where he will start his journey as a professional athlete. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Campbell is one of the most athletic players on the west coast and is a player that can play multiple positions on the next level. In high school he is Cheyenne's team leader and a playmaker that can generate instant offense on the ground, through the air or by converting turnovers on defense. His future likely lies at either cornerback or wide receiver on the next level and he has displayed the skill all year that would allow him to excel at either.
OLB Korey Toomer Idaho 6'2 234 (Shadow Ridge) Extremely productive in high school, Toomer signed with Idaho out of college before speeding two year at a Arizona Western Junior College. He resigned as a better overall athlete but didn't get his chance to make a huge splash until his senior year after redshirting as a true senior. Last season Toomer had great year on the field as a linebacker and even played fullback along with tight end. A monster off-season has Toomer being considered a strong sixth round option and nearly a lock in the seventh round. With a best of 4.48 in the 40 and a 42 inch vertical, Toomer is a player many teams will be eyeing in the later rounds of the draft. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Korey is another transfer (to Shadow Ridge) with lots of ability and good speed. He is more of a wrap up tackler with the ability to make plays in the open field or at the line of scrimmage. He has also shown lots of ability rushing the passer and plays very well in coverage. As a great athlete, he can play either strong safety or outside linebacker at the college level and also plays tight end on offense.
OLB Brandon Marshall Nevada 6'1 242 (Cimarron) An impact player for one of the best defensive teams of the decade at Cimarron, Marshall bulked up in a major way as a true freshman and became a four year starter for the Nevada Wolfpack landing as the programs leading tackler as a senior. With great upper body strength and 4.63 speed in the 40, Marshall continued to prove he is a player that understands how to play the game and be in the right place during his career in college. He is a player that has been projected as high as the sixth round but is expected to be taken off the board in the seventh round of the draft after a good off-season including a trip to the NFL Combine. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Marshall is an underrated player that is continuing to improve and has the making of an impact player in college. This game represented his potential and was his best high school performance as he had 8 tackles 3 sacks and an athletic interception. He ran a 4.59 40 this off season and has garnered some attention along the west coast. With 9 sacks so far this season for the best team in the state of Nevada, Marshall should have plenty of time to continue padding his numbers and he is a player that colleges shouldn't sleep on.
Priority Free Agents
WR Phillip Payne UNLV 6'3 210 (Western) After his sophomore season, Payne seemed an NFL Draft Day lock but a few things on and off the field derailed his draft stock. Payne maintained his penchant for big plays and left as UNLV's all time leader in touchdown receptions but missed enough routine plays to drag down his stock Payne has talent and skill to become an NFL player but he will be taking the tougher route looking to stick with a program as a free agent. Payne ran a solid 4.59 in the 40 at his Pro Day and is a strong overall athlete. If he regains his focus, he could develop into a solid pro. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Payne is a bit more raw physically than Criner but he brings very good speed and great leaping ability to the mix. Payne is a true competitor that is a dominating player in the clutch and has tremendous hands. With very good size, he is a mismatch one on one versus a corner as a great option on fade and slant routes that knows how to find the end zone. He is also a very good route runner that does a great job setting up opposing defensive backs. He is a player that will get bigger and faster in a college weight program with tremendous upside. In college, he should become an early contributor and a player that becomes a major playmaker in a few years as he develops physically. He is a player with great upside and should be a major standout that could become one of the top players at his position in the Mountain West.
RB Michael Ball Nevada 5'9 206 (Desert Pines) Take away the reason Ball left Nevada and he would likely be a guy considered among to better prospects at his position this draft cycle. Ball proved to be one of the more powerful and explosive running backs in college football and at worst a standout kick returner that also rated among the best in the country. Despite leaving as a junior, Ball landed at the NFL Combine and performer very well with size ranging up to 216-pounds. Among the Nevada guys landing as free agents, Ball is the player that is most ready to make an impact. Running a best of 4.52 this off-season with great strength, quickness and a 36 inch vertical leap, Ball is a player that could be a steal for the program that lands him with his return skills as well his ability out of the backfield. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Ball is a very physical runner that can run through you or go around you. With blazing speed, he is a player that is a threat to score on any down and he is as competitive as they come. He has shown a knack for punishing opposing defender in the process of tackling him and he isn't a player that needs many carries to warm up. With soft hands, he is a player that can make plays out of the backfield. There aren't many players in the country that can match him in physical tools and he should eventually be a guy that develops into an NFL level prospect during his career at Nevada.
RB Keola Antolin Arizona 5'7 196 (Bishop Gorman) Antolin rushed for at least 500-yards in every season he played for Arizona maintaining the position as an all-purpose change of pace back but never became a work horse topping out with 668-yards rushing as a junior. A very effective playmaker he was a consistent weapon that can create big plays. Antolin enters draft week lacking the number to blow you away and lacks the size of an every down player but he is expected to get a strong look. With good speed and overall skill, he is a player that can make a living with the right program and has the experience to move on and become a great coach. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights The things that makes Antolin a very special player is that he provides a triple threat as a great running back, slot receiver and return specialist. He is a player that can go for huge chunks of yards at a time and he is tremendously elusive in the open field. This season he has stepped up to become a great runner up the middle and he definitely has the speed to bounce it out side. As a great pass catcher and a guy that has become the state's most dangerous returner, look for him to be an early contributor at Arizona.
ILB Nate Carter UNLV 6'0 260 (Las Vegas HS) A late bloomer in high school, Carter became an instant impact player in college for a defense that lacked the overall depth to get over the hump as a strong unit. Very thick with 4.72 speed in the 40 but just decent agility, Carter isn't a player entering the weekend with a buzz but he does offer athlete talent with the thickness to be a player on the inside in the NFL. Carter is a player that will have to sneak into a camp but he is a player to watch that could surprise for a team that lines up in the 3-4 as a solid addition at inside linebacker as well as strong player on special teams. Nevada Prep Report High School Scouting Report Senior Season STG Highlights Nate is a chiseled player with great ability but with the depth at linebacker for Vegas he is a first year starter. He is a very disciplined player at his position with excellent closing burst and can chase from behind. He flow very well to the ball and is a sure tackler that can play inside or outside. He is also and excellent athlete that was a star at the LA Nike Camp that has a very bright future.
Others to Watch
ILB Paul Vassallo Arizona 6'2 240 (Bishop Manogue) A standout out of high school, Vassallo used two great year at the junior college level to earn a scholarship offer to Arizona where he had an instant impact. An impressive tackler that dos a good job pursuing the ball, he had a very productive two years at Arizona as a starter earning Pac-10 honorable mention twice. Vassallo did the things to earn a look in college but he isn't a blow you away athlete and needs to develop more strength at the point of attack.
DT Michael Cosgrove Idaho 6'4 300 (Desert Pines) Extremely raw and just 6'3 235 coming out of high school, Cosgrove did it all improving his body and size in college. Earning time as a starter every year in college, Cosgrove became one of the WAC's best interior linemen during his career. Still a very good athlete, Cosgrove is a player that will get some looks after the draft but will need the right opportunity to make an NFL roster. He is a player to keep an eye on and is a great candidate to move on in the coaching ranks as well.