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NFL Draft expert: Eric Rowe is first-round material; Jordan Leslie likely to be drafted

There's plenty of chatter filling the airwaves and the Internet with just over three weeks remaining until the 2015 NFL Draft.

Who will be the top pick? Will a running back go in the first round? How will Pro Day efforts impact certain players come draft night?

CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Dane Brugler spoke with the Deseret News and answered five questions pertaining to the upcoming draft, set for April 30 through May 2. The topics included discussing the outlook for several local college stars.

Recently, Brugler elevated Utah defensive back Eric Rowe into the first round of his often-updated mock draft. In his March 29 edition, Brugler had Philadelphia selecting Rowe at No. 20. In his most recent mock draft, released Monday, Brugler has Rowe going to Green Bay at No. 30.

DN: What motivated you to move Rowe into the first round of your mock draft?

DB: Coming out of the season and into the Senior Bowl and the (NFL Scouting) Combine, I graded him as an early to mid-second-round pick. Looking at the corners at the end of the first round, I think there’s a good chance to see a little bit of a run; guys like Ronald Darby (Florida State), Byron Jones (UConn), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) are different players at the cornerback position who could come off the board in the late first round. I think Eric Rowe is in that mix for some teams.

Really, it comes down to preference with some of these teams. I know the Eagles and Chip Kelly have shown a lot of interest in Eric. Really, (when) we’re doing mock drafts a month out, it’s more about scenarios, not necessarily to be 100 percent accurate. It’s more to try and connect the dots.

Rowe is a three-year starter at safety, but last year he showed he can play corner. That versatility is really attractive to NFL teams, and he showed that he can do both. That’s really important for him and his draft stock. It would not shock me at all if he sneaks into the first round.

DN: Let's talk about another Utah guy, defensive end Nate Orchard. What kind of system would he best fit into in the NFL?

DB: I think he’s ideally suited as either a wide-nine defensive end in a 4-3 or standing up in a 3-4 as more of a pass-rush linebacker. He’s a player who's obviously highly decorated, very active, lines up on both sides of the line. He’s very green when he’s asked to drop in coverage, but he does his best work when he’s getting up field. He’s got natural flexibility, and he can bend the edge.

He’s not a guy who's going to get a big push with his upper body strength. He doesn’t have that power element; it’s kind of missing from his game. He’s not going to overwhelm blockers, but he finds ways to get to the quarterback and penetrate the pocket.

Guys like that are going to find a home in the NFL. All 32 teams could use another pass rusher. While he can fit any scheme because he can play that wide-nine in a 4-3, his best transition’s probably more to a 3-4.

DN: BYU wide receiver Jordan Leslie recently had a strong Pro Day, and you noted on Twitter he has a draftable grade from several teams. What teams have you heard are interested in him?

DB: There are a handful of teams that have shown interest. I know the Saints are one of them. I think it’s to the point where teams were hoping they’d be able to snag Leslie as a priority free agent, and they weren’t going to have to use a draft pick on him. But after his Pro Day, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. There’s a chance he could sneak into the sixth or seventh round.

He’s a good player. He was at UTEP for three years, goes to BYU and really did a nice job. His stats are OK, they’re not amazing, but he’s just a quality receiver. He’s a little leaner than ideal, but he has a good-sized catching radius. He uses every inch of his length to block and finish catches. He has some lower-body explosiveness to work well in small areas that really helps with his routes.

Overall, I think you have a smart, competitive player with quick hands and impressive height-speed combination that NFL teams are looking for. He’s an underrated talent who might slip into the later part of the NFL Draft.

DN: You mentioned on Twitter you have given draftable grades to 25 non-combine guys. Are there any Utah ties on that list?

DB: Westlee Tonga, the tight end out of Utah, I gave him a priority free-agent grade. I think he’s a good player. He’s 27, which will hurt him, and he’s not the best blocker. He just wasn’t asked to block a lot in college.

BYU has a couple interesting guys. I’m not sure they’re draftable, but De’Ondre Wesley, the BYU tackle, I think he’s interesting.

The guy to keep an eye on who could be moving up a little bit is safety Skye PoVey. I hear some teams are even looking at him as more a wide receiver, a Julian Edelman type of receiver. He’s a terrific athlete who showed really well at the BYU Pro Day.

I’m not sure any of them are draftable, but they’re guys who won’t have to wait very long for their phones to start blowing up if they don’t hear their names called during the draft.

DN: We’ve seen Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have their pro days. Are they Day One starters, or would they benefit from sitting behind someone else and learning? What’s your assessment on their development at this point?

DB: Both could, no question, benefit from sitting and learning, but that’s not the reality of it in today’s NFL. Jameis Winston just turned 21 a couple months ago. Can he step in and start from Day One? He could. He has that natural passing skill.

He does a lot of things on his college tape that some quarterbacks in the NFL are trying to figure out how to do. (Winston displays) pocket maneuverability, his presence back there, his anticipation as a passer, throwing to open receivers with terrific touch.

The football field, that’s his refuge. That’s where he feels most comfortable. From both a maturity level and his talent, he could really benefit sitting behind, if taken by Tampa Bay, Mike Glennon or whoever ends up starting the season opener.

Definitely Marcus Mariota, he would really benefit from sitting. Going from Oregon’s spread shotgun scheme to a pro-style concept offense, it’s going to be a big jump for him. He showed a little bit of that on tape at Oregon where he made a few reads, and at Pro Day he took snaps from under center. But still, it’s a different animal in the NFL, and it will be a big leap for him.

He’ll be asked to do things in the NFL he wasn’t asked to do at Oregon. It’s not that he can’t do it, it’s just that he’s unproven. He would really benefit from a redshirt year at the NFL level. If he goes to a team like Tennessee or the New York Jets, then he would have that opportunity. If he goes to the Jets, who have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, it would be a great situation to sit for a year, then hopefully he’d be ready to take the reins in 2016.

It will be really interesting and fascinating to watch both of these guys moving forward.

Email:; Twitter: @brandonljudd