Sit on your favorite couch, relax and enjoy what has to be the best bowl day so far when it comes to NFL prospects. There is an excess of guys in today’s games that we will hear about over the next few months as it pertains to the NFL Draft.
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M – 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Texas A&M junior WR, Christian Kirk (5-11, 200) is the guy to watch in this one. He has yet to declare for the 2018 draft, but I expect him to. Kirk is incredible at creating separation and his athleticism is second to none out of all the WRs looking to be drafted. He is extremely versatile and demonstrates a strong ability to gain yards after the catch. He projects as a slot receiver in the NFL and can be compared to Julian Edelman and Odell Beckham Jr. He could go in the top 20 of the draft with a good combine.
FS, Armani Watts is one of the best safeties that will be available for this draft. Watts is undersized for a safety at 5-11, 200 pounds, but is extremely nifty. He can drop down to corner and has played a little linebacker for Aggies. He has great instincts and is an incredibly efficient run stopper. Watts will most likely go on the second day of the draft to a team looking for a versatile safety.
DT, Zaycoven Henderson and CB, Priest Willis are two other Aggies to watch in this one.
Wake Forest has a couple NFL-type players as well and it starts with DE, Duke Ejiofor. Ejiofor is looking like guy who will be taken on the second day. He will need to settle in as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 set in the NFL because he is not as big and strong as NFL defensive ends. Ejiofor uses both swim and spin moves on the edge and has impressive pass rushing abilities. He had 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2017 and plays extremely hard.
The Demon Deacon’s TE, Cam Serigne is a red zone threat that might hear his name called on the 3rd day. I don’t see him as being a #1 tight end for an NFL team, but his size and hands make him a threat on third down and inside the 20-yard line.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: N.C. State vs. Arizona State– 3:00 p.m. ET, CBS
One of the most interesting prospects today is N.C. State FB, Jaylen Samuels. He is a unique fullback as he can play tight end and even spread out wide from time to time. He has good hands and is a hard hitting run blocker. He could be used as a number of things in the NFL such as a 3rd down running back. His stock currently lies on the second day.
DT, B.J. Hill is a hefty 6-3, 315-pound beast inside. He is strong and quick off the line. Hill possesses the vision and instincts to explode to exactly where he needs to be in order to make a play. He could end up being a problem for offensive linemen. Hill should be a mid-round pick.
The Wolfpack’s O-lineman, Tony Adams and DT, Kentavius Street should also get some attention as they could be taken in the late rounds of the draft.
ASU does not have several draft prospects, but RB, Kalen Ballage may have a shot. He is a powerful back, but does not possess the abilities to play as an every down running back in the NFL. It may be a waste of talent to move him to FB because of his speed which will make it difficult for teams to take a chance on him. I see him getting picked up in the last two rounds.
G, A.J. McCollum, DT, Tashon Smallwood and OLB, Koron Crump would need a very impressive few months for a team to take them in April.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern – 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Another bowl game, another projectable QB. Clayton Thorson is a junior who has yet to declare. He is expected to return to Northwestern for his senior season, but keep an eye out for his quick delivery, arm strength, athleticism and accuracy in this one. If he does surprise us and declare, he could go in the first couple of rounds.
Northwestern S, Godwin Igwebuike opens my eye in this one. Igwebuike has plenty to work on such as his tendencies to play the guessing game and get poor reads. His ceiling is very high because of his tackling ability and run defense. He shows great speed and takes good angles to make plays. He needs a good combine, but should go in the mid-rounds.
The Wildcats’ RB, Justin Jackson is not the fastest back, but possesses versatility. Jackson is not a sought after back and hasn’t garnered much hype. He may not get taken until one of the final rounds of the draft. If he shows up over the course of the next few months, he could boost his stock significantly.
There is another Josh Allen who may get taken in this draft folks. Kentucky’s leader on defense has had an incredible junior season. Allen has 7 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He has an impressive skill set that includes speed and athleticism. He will work best in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Being an outside linebacker on the edge will maximize his ability to get after the quarterback. Mock drafts have Allen going anywhere from the 1st to 5th rounds. It will be interesting to see when and where he goes come draft weekend.
The Wildcats also have a pair of offensive tackles that we could see drafted late. Those two are Kyle Meadows and Nick Haynes.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State – 5:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN
This is the least important game to watch today if you are looking for draft prospects.
New Mexico State WR, Jaleel Scott is the lone player in this bowl matchup who could hear his name called in a few months. Scott (6-5, 200) has the size and length to play in the NFL. He has a knack for going up to get the ball and could be a serious red zone threat at the next level. He releases well off of the line of scrimmage and finds ways to create separation. Scott will most likely be a late round selection.
Utah State has CB, Jalen Davis and OT, Preston Brooksby also have some value, but it doesn’t seem like either will be drafted.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs. #5 Ohio State – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Want to watch a game with some serious NFL prospects. Tune into this one. It begins with USC QB, Sam Darnold (6-4, 225). He projects as a top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold has the arm strength and dynamic playmaking ability to be a franchise QB. He has a heck of an arm, but has shown many flashes of being able to throw the ball with a nice touch as well. Darnold demonstrates patience and presence in the pocket along with accuracy. His 21 interceptions in 26 career games at USC are a bit concerning to me, but that won’t stop a team from taking him early in the first round.
USC LB, Uchenna Nwosu is a pass rushing machine. He has 10.5 sacks the last two seasons along with 17 tackles for loss. He knows how to get into the backfield and make plays. His good hands allow him to create separation on the line in order to disrupt offensive plays. Nwosu is a long shot for the first round, but could very well go on day 2.
The Trojans also have three juniors, other than Darnold, who could be selected in the top 5 rounds. RB, Ronald Jones, WR, Deontay Burnett, and CB, Imam Marshall all have draft aspirations. Senior safety, Chris Hawkins is an extremely fast playmaker who has a chance to hear his name called, too.
As far as Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team goes, the Buckeyes might have their most successful year in the NFL draft which is saying a lot. Four juniors could end up declaring and all would be taken within the first few rounds. One of these guys is CB, Denzel Ward. I love this kid. His size may hurt him at 5-10, 190, but he has the skills that make up for it. He changes direction very nicely and demonstrates superb versatility. He is a shutdown corner who is often breaking up passes. Ward should be taken in the top two rounds.
DE, Sam Hubbard (6-5, 270) has the size and athleticism to be an edge rusher in the NFL. Hubbard moves extremely well and has an insane amount of upper body strength that often gives him an advantage. I see him working best in a 4-3 scheme at the next level. His 4.5 sacks on the season do not do him justice. Hubbard is a lock to go in the first couple rounds.
At 6-3, 295, DT, Dre’Mont Jones may be a little undersized for the position. That hasn’t stopped him. Jones does a great job penetrating into the backfield and can often be found blowing up run plays for losses. He needs to work on his balance, but Jones has a stock that lies around the 2nd or 3rd round.
LB, Jerome Baker has the tools to succeed on Sundays in the near future. Baker has speed and versatility. He has the skills to run all over the field and chase down offensive players. His recognition is terrific and is a vital part to his game. He seems to constantly be in the right place at the right time. Baker should get selected within the first 64 picks.
It is worth noting that each of the four mentioned above are juniors who have not declared. We should see each of them make the decision to forego their senior seasons, but crazier things have happened.
Another Buckeye DE who is projectable is Tyquan Lewis. He demonstrates the ability to get after the quarterback and has good balance. His main weakness is failing to explode when the ball is snapped. Lewis may fall to the mid rounds.
The Buckeyes have two offensive linemen who are ready to play NFL football. C, Billy Price is the best center in the draft. He has earned a first round grade with his ability to gain an advantage immediately, awareness and tenacity. He could also play guard at the next level. Expect him to go in the first round or very early in the second. OT, Jamarco Jones is not as highly touted as Price, but should get selected in the first few rounds as well.
QB, J.T. Barrett, TE, Marcus Baugh, S, Damon Webb are three other Buckeyes who have NFL aspirations and could be taken in next year’s draft.