NFL Draft Prospects – 2017 Bowl Game Preview: January 1st

Bowl season is coming to an end, but the final day (besides the National Championship) presents dozens of prospects.

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina – Noon ET, ESPN2 

The big man on the defensive front for the Wolverines is, Maurice Hurst. Hurst is probably the best and most complete defensive tackle who will be in the 2018 draft class. Hurst has incredible ability to disrupt offensive plays and shoot into the backfield. He is strong and elusive with an impressive first step. I think that he is a first rounder; he could go in the top 15 with an impressive showing from now until April.

Defensive end, Chase Winovich, has not declared yet and many are unsure if he will. Regardless, he is a player to watch in this game as well. Winovich plays with high energy at all times and a nonstop motor. He has shown flashes of great speed off of the edge. Another weapon for Michigan on defense is linebacker, Mike McCray. McCray has very good instincts that allow him to make big plays. He is equally as effective before the snap as he is after. He has great recognition skills. He does a good job disengaging from blockers, and also can drop into coverage. He projects as a 3rd rounder.

Michigan offensive lineman, Mason Cole has been a leader on the Wolverines offensive line who could be picked up as early as the second round. Cole does a great job getting into position immediately after snapping the football when he is at the center position. It is clear that he knows how to seal defenders from disrupting the play and creates holes. He will most likely play guard at the next level, but center is certainly not out of the question for this versatile O-lineman. Fullback/Tight tend, Khalid Hill could be selected in the later rounds. He shows versatility and has proven to be a red zone threat running or receiving.

South Carolina, tight end, Hayden Hurst recently announced that he will forego his senior season and enter the draft. Hurst could be one of the first tight ends selected in April. He is a big target at 6-5, 250, and has good speed for a larger tight end. He has good blocking abilities, but also can go up and get the ball.

The Gamecocks have a few guys who need to impress the next couple of months in order to be drafted. Linebacker, Skai Moore, guard, Cory Helms, center/guard, Alan Knott, and defensive tackle, Tyler Stallworth, and cornerback, Jamarcus King are all among these players who could be drafted late in 2018.

Juniors, Zack Bailey (offensive line) and Deebo Samuel (wide receiver), are both expected to return for their senior seasons.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 Central Florida vs. #7 Auburn – 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Auburn has a dynamic cornerback in Carlton Davis. Davis is a junior who is expected to declare for the draft. Davis is not one to intercept passes, but his lockdown, man coverage ability makes up for it. He is very physical and this often a strength for Davis, but can occasionally cause him to be called for penalties and make mistakes. He could go in the top 2 rounds.

Tigers offensive guard, Braden Smith moves well and opens up holes for the running game. He is extremely strong and uses his quick burst off of the line to man handle defenders. He has the versatility to play both guard and tackle, but will better serve as a guard. He has foot speed that allows him to pull to the other side of the line which will be where his value lies. He could go in the 2nd round.

No one has a clue if quarterback, Jarrett Stidham will declare, but keep a close eye on him in this one. The same goes for running back, Kerryon Johnson. Both could go in the first couple of rounds.

Safety, Tray Matthews, offensive tackle, Austin Golson, and outside linebacker, Tre’ Williams are the other Tigers who have a shot to be selected late. 

The Central Florida football team does not present many prospects despite their high ranking. Cornerback, Mike Hughes has good cover skills. He could play in any scheme at the next level. He is also a dynamic return man. Linebacker, Shaquem Griffin another player to watch for the Knights. Griffin is a phenomenal cover linebacker. On top of dropping into coverage, he does an excellent job providing a pass rush. He needs to work on his tackling, especially on run plays, but Griffin could be picked up as early as the second day if he has an exceptional combine. 

Citrus Bowl: #14 Notre Dame vs. #17 LSU – 1 p.m. ET, ABC

LSU has plenty of prospects who are NFL-ready. I’ll keep it short and concise so everyone is covered.  Defensive end, Arden Key has top-10 potential. Key is a phenomenal pass rusher and at 6-6, dominates the line of scrimmage. He finds a way to produce some kind of pressure on almost every play it seems.

Two junior cornerbacks also project extremely well. Donte Jackson will be one of the best cornerbacks in this draft if he declares and quite possibly a 1st round pick. He has blazing speed which will enable him to cover elite wide receivers at the next level. He can also be used as a returner. Any team looking for a speedster at corner should give Jackson a look. Kevin Toliver II has the abilities to be a press-man corner in the NFL. Toliver has great speed too, but his injury history may drop his stock. He is most likely a 2nd rounder.

Junior running back, Derrius Guice leads the way on offense for the Tigers. He has not yet declared and isn’t sure if he will, but boy is he dynamic. Guice can turn on his motor and reach top speed very quickly. If a defense allows him to get into the second tier, his blazing speed is going to be a huge problem for that defense. His explosiveness is going to be fun to watch at the next level.

At the wide receiver position, D.J. Chalk is fast and explosive. He has the versatility to play out wide or in the slot and is a dangerous deep ball threat. He has not received many opportunities at LSU because of the Tigers’ offensive game plan, but the sky is the limit for Chalk. Because of the small sample size, he could go in the mid rounds.

Defensive tackle, Greg Gilmore, defensive end, Christian LaCouture, and linebacker, Donnie Alexander are other Tigers player who could be selected late in the draft.

Notre Dame has some serious offensive line talent that will be showcased in this one. Guard, Quenton Nelson is likely to go in the top-10. Nelson uses his size (6-5, 325) to throw defenders around. He has the athleticism to explode off the line and get low in order to gain an advantage. Both his run and pass blocking are exceptional. He will start immediately in the NFL. Tackle, Mike McGlinchey has the chance to go in the top 20. McGlinchey is athletic, quick and possesses great pass blocking ability as a blind side blocker. He has great foot speed and does a great job setting the edge on running plays.

Wide receiver, Equanimeous St. Brown, running back, Josh Adams, defensive tackle, Jerry Tillery and defensive end, Jay Hayes, and linebacker, Te’von Coney are all juniors who have yet to declare for the draft. They all would most likely go after the 3rd round, but it will be interesting to watch them in this one and eventually see if they declare.

College Football Playoff

Each team in the College Football Playoff has plenty of guys who are going to play in the NFL next season. The final games of bowl season (the only ones that really matter in my opinion) should provide a copious amount of talent and entertainment. I am going to touch on the biggest names and guys that will go within the first couple of rounds.

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs. #2 Oklahoma – 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

There is no other way to start with this one without talking about Oklahoma quarterback, and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been graded as high as a top-10 pick and as low as a late 2nd rounder. Not many are sure how his play will translate to the NFL. Mayfield seems just as great at throwing while on the run compared to standing in the pocket. He has a solid arm, mobility, reliable accuracy and great instincts. He reminds me of Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott.

Offensive tackle, Orlando Brown, a junior, is expected to declare for the draft. Brown has incredible strength, but, pass blocking, will need to work on his first step after the snap. He is an exceptional run blocker. Brown could go in the top-20.

Linebacker, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will excel in a 3-4 set in the NFL. He is an animal at the line of scrimmage whether he is setting the edge on running plays or attacking on blitzes. He has a great first step which gives him an advantage against offensive linemen. He is most likely a 2nd day pick.

Fullback, Dimitri Flowers, outside linebacker, Emmanuel Beal, safety, Steven Parker could all be drafter later in April.

Georgia linebacker, Roquan Smith is likely to be the first Bulldog to go in the draft. Smith is a big hitter who is a terrific run defender. He can play in any defensive scheme as an inside guy who attacks the line of scrimmage. He does a great job working his way through traffic. Smith should be taken in the top-20.

Lorenzo Carter is another Georgia linebacker who could hear his name called in the top 2 rounds. Carter is an explosive edge rusher who could excel in a 3-4 defensive system. He is great at rushing the quarterback and has the power to force fumbles when he hits offensive players.

Offensively, Georgia has two excellent running backs. The big name is Nick Chubb. He is a physical, powerful, traditional running back. He possesses great vision and is very hard to tackle when in the open field. Chubb projects as an early 2nd rounder. Complimenting Chubb is Sony Michel. He is an explosive, consistent back. He is going to hit holes hard and run between the tackles. Michel is likely to go in the mid-rounds.

Offensive guard, Isaiah Wynn, defensive tackle John Atkins, outside linebacker, Davin Bellamy, and cornerback, Aaron Davis could all be taken late in the draft.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama vs. #1 Clemson – 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Projected top-5 pick, Alabama cornerback/safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, leads Nick Saban’s defense. He has the size (6-0, 200) to play corner or safety in the NFL. He gets to his top speed in a hurry and is extremely athletic. He has the skills necessary to be a lockdown corner or hard hitting safety at the next level.

Junior safety, Ronnie Harrison hides in the shadows with Fitzpatrick being the big name. If Harrison declares, he could be a first rounder as well. He is a hard hitting ball hawk with great recognition and awareness. He could be used as a true safety whose plays deep middle and delivers big hits.

Anthony Averett and Tony Brown are two cornerbacks who are both projected to go in the top few rounds. Averett, likely a 2nd rounder, works better in man coverage. He is athletic enough to cover dynamic receivers and if developed properly, could turn into a top NFL corner. Brown has good instincts, but off the field issues worry me with him. A team will likely take a chance on him in the 3rd or 4th round.

Rashaan Evans is Alabama’s best linebacker. Evans, who should be a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, sheds blocks tremendously. He hits with power and also does a great job in coverage. Blitzing is another skill that Evans brings to the table as his speed allows him to play on the edge.

The defensive line has tackle, Da’Ron Payne. At 6-2, 320, Payne has ideal size to stuff the run. He is powerful and has the athleticism necessary for a big man to excel in the NFL. The scary part about Payne is that he has yet to reach his potential. He should be taken in the 1st round.

Offensively, Calvin Ridley stands out for the Crimson Tide. Ridley is an excellent route runner with good size (6-1) and elusiveness. He has a great first step and the speed to blow by defenders. Ridley projects as a first round pick.

Center, Bradley Bozeman and edge rusher, Da’Shawn Hand could be selected in the last couple rounds.

Christian Wilkins is a junior defensive tackle for Clemson who is bound to go in the first round. Wilkins is versatile, quick for his size and extremely disruptive at the line of scrimmage. Even NFL offensive linemen will have trouble blocking his 6-4 310-pound frame. He can stuff the run, but also has the skillset to pressure the quarterback on passing plays.

Wide receiver, Deon Cain is a junior who is expected to forego his senior season. Cain looks to be a 2nd rounder in this year’s draft. Cain has the speed and explosiveness to be a home run hitting NFL wide receiver. He controls his body well, but needs to work on his route running ability.

Mitch Hyatt is the leader on the offensive line for the Tigers. Tigers usually plays out of a 2-point stance. He does a good job of staying low and exploding off of the snap. Guard, Tyrone Crowder should also be selected, but not until the mid-rounds. 

Junior defensive end, Clelin Ferrell may not end up declaring although he could be a top-15 pick. He has great pass rushing potential and explodes when the ball is snapped. He does a good job containing on run plays and has the instincts to be successful at the next level. Another junior defensive end for the Tigers is Austin Bryant. He has plenty of potential, but hasn’t mastered his game just yet. He does a decent job against the run, but there is room to improve. The same goes for his pass rushing. He should go late in the 1st round because of his raw potential.

Cornerback, Ryan Carter and linebacker, Dorian O’Daniel are two other defensive players who will be taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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