December 27th presents four bowl games with numerous prospects. There will be a lot to look for on this day as it pertains to the 2018 NFL Draft.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State – 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Auden Tate is someone to look at offensively for Florida State. Tate doesn’t have eye popping numbers (35 Rec, 464 yards, 7 TDs) because of FSU’s quarterback situation. He has an extremely high ceiling. A 6-5 receiver would be a gift to any skilled NFL quarterback. 20% of Tate’s catches resulted in touchdowns this season as he is a red zone nightmare for defenses. His leaping ability and NFL-ready hands provide intangibles that could make him a successful NFL receiver. Tate needs to have a good combine because he is lacking is some areas such as speed. He will most likely go in the 3rd or 4th round.
Derrick Nnadi is a 310-pound beast that stuff up holes on the defensive line for the Seminoles. Nnadi is the best of both worlds. He has skills that allow him to stuff the run and create some pass rush. 51 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble are impressive numbers for a big man. Nnadi bursts off of the line and it is going to take a lot for an offensive lineman to disallow him from wreaking havoc. He is an athletic big man and has the tools to succeed at the next level. He will fit best in a 4-3 scheme where all of the attention may not be on him. Nnadi is on track to get drafted in the top two rounds in 2018.
Linebacker, Josh Sweat recently decided to forego his senior year and enter the 2018 draft. Sweat has impressive strength which gives him the ability to get away from offensive linemen and attack the backfield. His pass rush could improve, but his ability to stop the run is what makes him intriguing. Sweat looks like a third or fourth round selection in next year’s draft.
Cornerback, Tarvarus McFadden hasn’t declared yet, but expect him to. McFadden (6-2, 200) is built to play corner in the NFL. He has very good speed and has lined up consistently in press coverage and his speed makes him capable in trail coverage as well. He has tremendous ball skills. McFadden is also a gifted tackler. If he does declare, he could very well go in the 1st or 2nd round.
The Seminoles defensive prospects don’t stop there. Florida State linebackers, Matthew Thomas and Jacob Pugh, are two other guys to look out for come April. The linebackers possess size and speed and will have a shot to play in the NFL. Look for both of them in the later rounds. Safety, Trey Marshall is another playmaking defender who could also see himself drafted on the third day.
Southern Mississippi is outnumbered in this one when it comes to possible draft picks. The most projectable player for the Eagles is WR, Allenzae Staggers. Staggers has a huge advantage with his quickness. He has the potential to blow by NFL defenders with 4.4 speed. He has good hands and is a favorable size at 6-1. Staggers had a huge season in 2016 and many saw him being
drafted in the first couple rounds heading into this year. Staggers, however, had a much less productive year this year which may hurt him come April.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College – 4:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Harold Landry is the biggest name to watch in this one. The Boston College Defensive End dominates the edge. He is explosive off of the line and provides a consistent and strong pass rush. His strength is finishing which is made possible by his speed. Landry has the opportunity to be selected in the first round in 2018, but injuries he has experienced this year may cause him to drop to the second.
Iowa running back, Akrum Wadley is a guy who has a good chance to go on the second day. Wadley is extremely versatile. He is not just a threat running the ball, but receiving it as well. His versatility allows him to make defenders miss and he possesses breakout speed. His best attribute is his aptitude to change directions abruptly.
Center, James Daniels for Iowa is an explosion blocker who has the athleticism to get to the second tier of defenders. He is only a junior and has yet to declare, but he is another Hawkeye who could hear his name called on the second day of the draft.
Josh Jackson is another junior for the Hawkeyes who has not yet declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. The cornerback has 7 INTs this year to go along with 17 pass breakups. He has the serious makeup of a shutdown corner in the NFL. Not only can he lock down receivers, but he has the ability to attack the run and blitz. If Jackson declares, he could very well be a first round pick.
Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue – 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Purdue DE/DT, Gelen Robinson is not a top prospect, but could see himself being taken late in the draft. Robinson originally played on the edge for the Boilermakers, but eventually transitioned to defensive tackle. He would be smaller for an NFL DT at 6-1, 280 pounds and his lack of ability to explode off the line will hurt him. He could succeed in as a 4-3 DT who lines up in the gaps and beats offensive linemen.
Arizona does not have many seniors who are projectable, but they do have a duo of offensive linemen who could play at the next level.
OG, Jacob Alsadek transferred to Arizona from West Virginia. At 6-6, 325, Alsadek anchored a strong Wildcat offensive line this season. Alsadek has been a great leader and extremely consistent for Arizona. He is not as projectable as most guards and lacks the physicality to be a priority. If he gets taken, it won’t be until late.
Arizona OT, Gerhard De Beer has one of the more interesting stories out of bowl game prospects. De Beer was an elite discus thrower (yes, you read that right) in South Africa before attending Arizona. He walked on to the football team and has been an excellent offensive tackle since. The odds of him getting drafted aren’t high, but he is someone to look out for. He has become so good at a position so fast and scouts have taken some notice.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri – 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Texas has one of the best offensive lineman in the country in Connor Williams. The left tackle is able to block in both the running and passing games. He punishes defenders and doesn’t stop until the whistle blows. He has versatility to move quickly and the athleticism to keep up with top tier defenders. He is quick, balanced and sets the edge very nicely. Williams has a strong change of going in the top 15 in the draft.
Longhorns junior defensive back, DeShon Elliot has declared for the draft and is set to skip the bowl game. He flies all over the field and could be a punishing safety in the NFL. He had six interceptions this season, but also excels in defending the run. His athleticism lets him attack the line of scrimmage. It looks like Elliot is going to be taken on the second day.
Another projectable Texas DB is junior, Holton Hill III who declared this month. He is also skipping the bowl game. Hill (6-3, 200) is a big, physical corner who scored three defensive touchdowns this season (he only played in nine games). Hill has been a lock down corner. He has been matched up with the top receivers that have gone up against the Longhorns and been extremely successful. Hill, however, can also attack the running game and play zone. He is destined to go in the top three rounds, but his combine will determine if he is a first rounder or not.
Texas juniors, P.J. Locke III (CB) and Malik Jefferson (ILB) have yet to declare for the draft, but are two other Longhorns who could be taken within the first couple rounds in 2018 if they decide to forego their senior seasons.
One of the bigger questions surrounding this bowl game is if Mizzou junior quarterback, Drew Lock, will declare for the 2018 draft. Lock (3,695 yards, 43 TDs, 12 INTs) has excellent pocket presence which is coveted at the NFL level. He possesses a powerful arm and a quick release. Lock also holds precise passing skills and can make several difficult throws. It may better suit Lock to return for his senior season because of the quarterback depth in this year’s draft. He could boost his draft stock to a first round pick in 2019.
Missouri Wide Receiver, J’Mon Moore would have had his hands full going up against Hill in this bowl game, but now he has an opportunity to shine. Moore (6-3) is a red zone target who caught 10 touchdown passes this season. He is quick and has the cutting ability to fool defenders. He runs good routes, but doesn’t have the versatility to play anything other than slot in the NFL as of now. He also hasn’t proven to have as great of hands as NFL teams would like. Moore has extreme potential and with a good couple of months, could be taken on day 2.
6-4, 235-pound edge rusher, Marcell Frazier has been consistent on the defensive end for the Tigers. Frazier is sneaky quick for his size. He explodes off of the edge and holds real potential. He could be a difficult to deal with for NFL offenses. I have a problem with Mizzou never having Frazier drop back in coverage as that is something several NFL defenses do. Frazier has yet to develop fully and this will cause him to get taken later. A team should take a chance on him in order to work with him to reach his full potential.