NFL Draft | Southeast's Dowling, Palmetto's Copeland hoping to hear names Saturday

adell@bradenton.comMay 10, 2014 

Southeast High product Jon Dowling and Palmetto's Damian Copeland are expected to be selected Saturday in the NFL Draft.

At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Dowling is somewhat of a hybrid defensive back who could play safety or cornerback. He has been projected to go as early as the fourth round by some and figures to be gone in the fifth.

The first three rounds of the draft were completed late Friday night. The draft ends Saturday with rounds four through seven.

According to several draft sites, Dowling could wind up as a safety with the Chicago Bears, filling a big immediate need after the departure of Major Wright and less-than-stellar play and health issues of Chris Conte.

Dowling played the past two seasons at Western Kentucky after spending a semester at the University of Florida, where he did not play.

The tall, rangy defensive back is known for making splash plays. During his two seasons at WKU, he had nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles. In 2012, he had 68 tackles, seven pass

breakups and six interceptions. He ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Dowling played one season at WKU under Willie Taggart (now USF's head coach), who praised him for his growth in maturity and skill set.

Copeland, touted as one of the best receivers to ever come out of Manatee County, was one of the favorite targets of Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. He battled injuries his first three years, but was healthy and did not miss a game the past two seasons.

The biggest obstacle for Copeland is that he is coming out in a draft that is extremely deep in receivers with one publication saying he would be a second- or third-round pick if he had stayed for his sixth year of eligibility at Louisville.

"I am ready. Not many people realize what this means to me. This is a blessing after what I've been through," Copeland said. "There are a lot of sleepers in the draft, so you can't get caught up into what round you might get picked. All you need is one team to like you."

The 5-11, 180-pounder has been rated a fourth- to sixth-round pick by most analysts. He is considered to have one of the best set of hands among the receivers in this draft. In his final two years at Louisville, he caught seven touchdown passes for 1,400 yards.

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