Three games are on the slate today as we are slowly heading into the heart of bowl season. The next week and a half is going to present plenty of NFL-ready prospects.
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. University of South Florida– Noon ET, ESPN
Not many knew about Texas Tech quarterback, Nic Shimonek heading into this season. He had the job of backing up Patrick Mahomes the last couple of years. 2017 is his first year as a college starter. Shimonek did not disappoint. Shimonek put up big numbers to go along with his big frame (6-3, 225). He possesses a big arm and NFL pocket passing abilities. He lacks athleticism, but that is not necessary in today’s NFL for a QB. Schimonek’s accuracy is what makes him successful. He can make any throw that someone asks him to. His 68.2% completion percentage in 2017 attests to this. Unfortunately for Shimonek, this draft is stacked with quarterbacks. Barring an incredible combine, I don’t see him getting picked up until after the 5th round because of his lone year as a starting quarterback.
Shimonek has weapons. One of those weapons is receiver, Dylan Cantrell (6-3, 220). Cantrell’s senior year has not been productive as his junior year, but he’s still going to get drafted. He has size and hands that many NFL teams covet. He also has strong blocking abilities that do very well in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s screen oriented offense. His speed is not up to par with NFL receivers which could hurt his draft stock, but he is a player maker who makes defenders miss after the catch. I don’t see him being a #1 receiver in the NFL, rather, more of a slot, red zone threat. I envision him getting drafted in the later rounds.
UCF Inside Linebacker, Auggie Sanchez is a guy who will fit in best with a 3-4 defense. He hits hard and attacks the line of scrimmage against the run. He has the ability to drop back and cover at 6-2, 244. I am most impressed with Sanchez’s instincts as it seems like he is always in the right place at the right time. The consensus on Sanchez is that he won’t go until later. He lacks the incredible speed necessary to play ILB in the NFL.
Deatrick Nichols is UCF’s best cornerback who also has great tackling abilities. He was third on the team in tackles and second with 3 interceptions. Nichols is smaller (5-10, 190), but has the athleticism to play on Sundays. He will work best in a nickel package, but also has the capabilities to play other defenses. He also attacks the run from the cornerback position and is a scrappy, projectable corner. Look for Nichols to go in the third or fourth rounds.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army– 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
San Diego State has one of the best running backs in college football. Rashaad Penny rushed for an astounding 2,027 yards and 19 touchdowns. He led the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,698. He is a house at 220 pounds and runs a traditional game. He will run over defenders and won’t take no for an answer at the goal line. His lack of speed and agility is a con, but I don’t think that will prevent teams from being interested in him. He needs to improve his blitz pickup and pass blocking, but Penny could be taken as early as the 2nd round. I think a 3rd or 4th round selection is more likely.
Defensively for the Aggies, senior cornerback, Kameron Kelly is a guy who has popped up on scout’s radars in recent months. He is a bigger cornerback at 6-2 and has the ability and versatility to play safety and return kicks as well. He has very good instincts and has done a very good job of frustrating receivers with his size. He has three interceptions on the year and possesses the athleticism and physicality to play in the NFL. Kelly’s stock has risen this season, but if drafted, it won’t be until the 6th or 7th rounds.
Army has only had one player drafted in the 21st century. That was linebacker, Caleb Campbell and he only played three games in the NFL. He did not play until two years after he was drafted because of the military academy rules requiring athletes to serve two years after graduation.
Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo– 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Appalachian State does not have many players who are NFL ready, but I really like Inside Linebacker, Eric Boggs. Boggs had 97 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions this season. That stat line is telling. This guy is everywhere on the field. His quickness allows him to attack the line of scrimmage, and keep up with receivers or tight ends in coverage. He had a great senior season that could put him in the 6th or 7th rounds, but it is more likely that he gets picked up as an undrafted free agent.
As I have mentioned, this is going to be a record setting draft for quarterbacks. That doesn’t work in favor of Toledo quarterback, Logan Woodside (6-2, 210). Woodside possesses a smooth delivery and accuracy (65% completion percentage in 2017) that will definitely land him in an NFL camp come the start of OTAs. Will he be drafted? He needs to play exceptionally well in this game and have a good combine. Woodside’s 3,758 yards and 28 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions have helped his case already this season. He has proven to be a very intelligent, playmaking quarterback in Toledo’s spread offense. He has averaged 10 yards per pass this year which proves he is capable of throwing the ball down the field. His strength is his precision passing as he is capable of making difficult throws. I could Woodside being drafted higher in any other year, but he is a late round pick in 2018.