Put your foot on the throttle because we have 26 bowl games including the College Football Playoff throughout the next week. We are going to see a number of top prospects in these matchups and it starts with three games on December 26th. The number of prospects today make up for the lack of prospects on Christmas Eve.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia – 1:30 ET, ESPN
Utah had a school record setting eight players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. This year, they won’t be as successful, but there remain a couple guys to look at. The first player to look at is The Utes’ defensive lineman, Lowell Lotulelei. He has the making to be an anchor on an NFL defensive front. Football runs in his blood as his brother, Star Lotulelei is a force for the Carolina Panthers. Lotulelei’s physique is just what NFL scouts are looking for from his position. He is strong and capable of fending off double teams from the opposition. He often will use the popular ‘spin move’ to get himself into the backfield. This guy has the ability and size to be extremely successful in the NFL. He constantly plays all three downs for the Utes and is an absolute work horse. Lotulelei is going to be a late first or early first round pick.
Offensively, wide receiver, Darren Carrington is a big bodied, talented athlete. Carrington is both explosive and a good route runner. He has excellent hands and has the ability to go up and get the ball at 6-2. He also adds a bonus to his game with his blocking ability as a wide receiver. Carrington originally played for Oregon, but was dismissed because of off the field issues. There is a chance that NFL teams are hesitant to draft him because of his past. He still has the chance to go in the middle rounds come April.
West Virginia will be without starting running back, Justin Crawford in this game as he is preparing for the NFL Draft. Crawford has the typical size a team would want in a running back at 6-0, 200 pounds. Crawford has breakaway speed and hits the hole hard and fast. He is not dynamic enough as a receiver to be a top pick in this year’s draft so I expect him to get taken on the third day.
The Mountaineers also have one of the better safeties in the country, Kyzir White, brother of Chicago Bears wide out, Kevin White. White has raw ability from the safety position. He is not limited to playing back, however, as we have seen him play linebacker for the Mountaineers in a safety-linebacker hybrid role. He has lightning speed and does extremely well flying in from either position on running plays or to blitz. White looks to be a mid-round pick, but could jump into the second day if he impresses scouts over the next couple of months.
Mountaineers Quarterback, Will Grier and Wide Receiver, David Sills II will be sought after next year after deciding to stay at West Virginia for their senior seasons.
Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois – 5:15 ET, ESPN
Northern Illinois Defensive Back, Shawun Lurry is an interesting prospect. Inconsistency has led to Lurry’s draft stock dropping a bit. He has the abilities to be a lock down cornerback. With 14 interceptions in his career, he has shown flashes of playing receivers tight. He isn’t a bad tackler either which is important in a league where some cornerbacks struggle. Unfortunately for Lurry, he is very undersized at 5-8, 170 pounds and that could significantly turn away NFL scouts. Lurry is looking at a very late round selection, but could turn some heads if he does well in the combine.
Duke tackle, Gabe Brandner is also looking at a potential late round selection come April. Brandner is capable of both pass and run blocking. In my opinion, his strength lies in pass blocking, but he also has the capabilities of punishing defenders who try to get through the line on a running play. Brandner is undersized at 6-6, 280 pounds and that could land him in the late rounds or free agency.
Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA– 9:00 ET, ESPN
Can’t start talking about this game without the name, Josh Rosen. The UCLA Bruins quarterback is going to be one of the top picks in the 2018 draft, maybe the first. Rosen is a well-developed, physically gifted, accurate throwing QB. In my opinion, he is the best and most NFL-ready out of the numerous quarterbacks that are going to be drafted. He is so gifted as a passer and has a pocket presence that has the potential to be deadly in the NFL. Rosen has shown that he has the ability to sling the pigskin into tight windows, and the mechanics and enhanced fundamentals to become a franchise quarterback. Come April 26th, it is a strong possibility that Rosen’s name is the first name you hear. If that happens, only time will tell if he can become the first successful quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in recent memory.
One of the keys to Rosen’s success has been his blindside blocker, Kolton Miller. This season, Miller allowed only 15 quarterback pressures on 544 passing plays, according to Pro Football Focus. Miller is huge at 6-8, 310 pounds. He is very long and has done a great job this season protecting Rosen and stopping defenders on the edge. He has struggled at times with quicker edge rushers which may be an issue in the fast paced NFL. Regardless, he is big, capable, and has the blocking abilities to be taken in the first or second round.
Another member of UCLA’s offensive line that is going to be drafted in April is center, Scott Quessenberry. Quessenberry, like Miller, has been a very good against the pass rush. He struggled early in his career run blocking, but has gotten better over the last year or so. Quessenberry is a tough, hardnosed center who has a knack for the position. He will probably go in the middle rounds of the draft.
Kansas State interior defensive lineman, Will Geary is a force against the run and has a presence on the line that can be dominating at times. Geary, however, does not generate any pass rush. The NFL demands athletic defensive tackles that can rush the passer just as much as they can stuff the run. This big hole in Geary’s game will cause him to fall to one of the last few rounds or not get drafted at all.
K-State junior offensive lineman, Dalton Risner is a first team All-American who has the opportunity to go early in the 2018 draft, but he has yet to declare and, as of now, there is a belief that he will return for his senior season. The same goes for DB, D.J. Reed. Reed is undersized, but athletic and has had a great junior year. He reminds me of Patrick Peterson.