|Nate Irving ILB N.C. State|
|Starter for the majority of his three healthy years at N.C. State. Plays faster than his timed speed; a good sideline-to-sideline defender. Explosive off the snap, does a great job getting into the backfield. Isn’t a powerful pass rusher, but does a nice job making himself small and slipping through holes in the line (21.5 tackles for loss in 2010).|
|Missed entire 2009 season due to injuries suffered in a car accident. Coverage skills are lacking. Doesn’t have the fluid athleticism to stick with elite pass-catching tight ends and running backs. Instincts in zone coverage aren’t great.|
|If not for missing the entire 2009 season, Irving could have established himself as a 1st or 2nd round pick by now. His 2010 season was impressive, but there are still some holes in game. He shows a lot of potential and is worth a mid-round pick. If he improves his coverage skills he could develop into a solid starter at inside or strong-side linebacker.|
* The most well-known prospect in this game is West Virginia running back Noel Devine. He’s an explosive athlete, but probably isn’t anything more than a kick returner/3rd-string running back at the next level. His stock has also been hurt by a foot injury which has slowed him for much of this season. He probably won’t come off the board until the 6th or 7th round and may struggle to make a roster if he can’t win a job on special teams.
* The top prospect in the game is actually West Virginia safety Robert Sands. He is a gifted athlete with rare size for the position (6’5″, 220 lbs). He’s primarily played free safety at West Virginia, but is probably better suited to play strong safety or even outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. He’s only a junior but definitely could make the jump this season.
* Another player in West Virginia’s secondary to keep an eye on is cornerback Brandon Hogan. Personally I think Hogan is extremely overrated. He’s had some off-field issues and has been inconsistent throughout his career. However, he clearly has the athleticism and raw talent necessary to play at the next level. If he reaches his full potential he could be a starter, but I wouldn’t draft him until the 5th or 6th round.
* On the offensive side of the ball for the Mountaineers, keep an eye on wide receiver Jock Sanders. Like Devine, he is undersized and will be limited in his ability to make an impact at the next level. However, he does have big-play ability and could contribute on special teams.
* The player to watch for N.C. State is inside linebacker Nate Irving, who may end up being their only player drafted this April. He doesn’t have elite speed, but has been tremendously productive for the Wolfpack. He should be a mid-round pick and is definitely one of the more intriguing sleepers at his position. He’s the type of guy who has the instincts to potential excel at the next level despite limited physical tools.