NFL Draft Bowl Preview: December 26th

Now that Christmas has come and gone, the College Football Bowl Season gets back into full swing today with six games lined up across the board.

As always, there is plenty of future NFLers to watch in these bowl games, so I’ve highlighted a few to watch throughout the six games.

St. Petersburg Bowl — Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3), 11 a.m., ESPN

Thundering Herd running back Devon Johnson is the player to watch in this game.

Last season the 6’1”, 244-pound running back rushed for nearly 2,000 yards, but he couldn’t follow that up with another strong season this year due to injuries and inconsistency.

Johnson missed the final five games of the year with an injury, but he should be able to go today against UConn. He’s not a flashy player and doesn’t have a good running style, but when he’s on the field he produces.

Along with Johnson, keep an eye on Thundering Herd wide receiver Davonte Allen.

Standing 6’2” and weighing in at just over 200 pounds, Allen is an interesting prospect because of his size, speed, strong hands and ability to track the ball down when it’s in the air.

Allen does have a lengthy injury history, but he’s a big-play threat and can high-point the football very well due to his 36-inch vertical.

UConn’s defense will have its hands full against Marshall, but Huskies safety Andrew Adams is the leader of the defense and is the top prospect for a middling UConn team.

Adams is a sideline-to-sideline safety who has a very good shot at catching on with a team as a dime package defensive back who can be picked up in the later rounds.

He’s slightly undersized at 6’0”, 197 pounds, but he makes up for it with good technique and good instincts.

Sun Bowl — Miami (Fla.) (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4), 2 p.m., CBS

In a pass-heavy attack, Cougars left tackle Joe Dahl is the standout player for Mike Leach and his staff.

Dahl shifted out to left tackle from left guard this past season and didn’t disappoint. The 6’4”, 303-pound senior will play in the East-West Shrine game following the season, but he’s put enough on tape to show that he can play at the next level due to his strength at the point of attack and his ability to move around the line.

Washington State should be able to put up points on the Hurricanes today, but don’t be surprised if Cougar receivers are hesitant to go across the middle with Miami safety Deon Bush lurking.

Bush is a big defensive back who isn’t afraid to knock your block off.

At 6’1”, 205, Bush has the size, speed and playmaking ability to match up with anyone in coverage, but he has a lengthy injury history that could scare some teams off.

He recently accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game, so he could work his way up into the early second day range.

Heat of Dallas Bowl — Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4), 2:20 p.m., ESPN

Keep an eye on Washington linebacker Travis Feeney against Southern Miss today.

He’s the definition of a ‘tweener due to his frame and lack of production as a pass rusher, but the 6’4”, 226-pound senior is an athletic freak for the Huskies.

Feeney has accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game where he can continue to wow scouts with his athleticism, but there are concerns about his shoulder injury history.

A move to safety could do wonders for Feeney at the next level.

Pinstripe Bowl — Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5), 3:30 p.m., ABC

If you’re looking for high-end prospects then look no further than the Hoosiers of Indiana.

Offensive tackle Jason Spriggs (6’7”, 307) could work his way into the first round with the likes of Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley before it’s all said and done.

Spriggs has the ideal frame for a blindside protector in the NFL, and builds much of his game around technique, which is very hard to teach.

The former tight end is agile enough to deal with speed rushers but he could struggle when giving ground to power rushers at the next level due to questions about his ability to anchor.

Along with Spriggs, Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld could work his way up to an early Day Two selection in a weak quarterback class.

Sudfeld has the arm strength, touch and accuracy that could make him a mid-round steal for a team looking to develop a quarterback (Dallas, Arizona).  He’ll attend the East-West Shrine Game where he’ll get a chance to prove that he’s been overlooked for far too long.

For the Blue Devils, offensive lineman Matt Skura is an intriguing talent at center, but is athletic enough to move to guard at the next level.

Scouts feel the future is very bright for the two-year starter due to his athleticism and sound technique along the interior of the offensive line. Plus, he’s very smart.

If you liked Laken Tomlinson last year out of Duke, you’ll love Matt Skura.

Independence Bowl — Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6), 5:45 p.m., ESPN

In Frank Beamer’s final game at the helm of the Hokie program, Virginia Tech is once again littered with NFL prospects, none bigger than EDGE rusher Dadi Nicolas.

At 6’3”, 223 pounds, Nicolas is an athletic specimen off of the edge who is able to dip and bend around the edge with the best of them despite his long, lanky frame.

He explodes off the ball at the snap and can win from either side of the line, which is rare for college rushers at this point in their career.

Although he’s not a refined rusher his ceiling is extremely high.

VT tight end Bucky Hodges is another intriguing draft prospect.

At 6’6”, 244 pounds, Hodges could look to return to school for one more year under new head coach Justin Fuente, but his pro career has the chance to be much better than his college career due to the lack of use for college tight ends.

He’s a fluid athlete who has soft hands and can make tough catches in traffic.

For Tulsa, wide receiver Keyarris Garrett is an absolute monster.

With a huge frame (6’3”, 207) and a likely 4.4 40-time, Garrett is a physical specimen out wide that has tremendous straightline speed and the body frame to win contested catches.

The redshirt senior will play in the East-West Shrine Game and will likely have scouts raving about his size and speed leading up to the NFL Draft in May.

Foster Farms Bowl — UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7), 9:15 p.m., ESPN

The Cornhuskers aren’t a good team, but they sure do have some talent in the trenches.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins (6’2”, 300) is a powerhouse along the interior of the defensive line that has shown that he can win while working through offensive lineman, or by shooting gaps.

Despite his size, Collins is an explosive athlete who will likely go towards the backend of the first round.

On offense, guard Alex Lewis is very long and lanky for the position, but his athleticism stands out the most.

The 6’6”, 285-pound lineman just needs to add some weight and get stronger and he could fight for playing time from day one in the NFL.

For UCLA, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Jordan Payton are players to watch.

Clark, much like Collins, will likely find himself drafted near the end of round one due to his frame and ability to create separation and leverage with his long arms.

He’s at his best when reading and reacting instead of shooting gaps.

Perkins is currently my No. 5 running back in the 2016 class. He’s not a powerful runner, but he has solid vision, can break tackles when needed and is a fluid runner. At times it looks effortless from Perkins.

Plus, he can drop his pad level exceptionally low making it difficult to bring him down.

Payton is a likely Day Three selection, but he has the necessary frame and catch radius to carve out a role at the next level.

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