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NFL Draft Prospects – 2019 Bowl Game Preview: December 28th

Perhaps the second biggest day in the college football season is finally among us as the college football playoffs have finally arrived. LSU versus Oklahoma and Ohio State versus Clemson are going to be must see television but there are also two very intriguing bowl games that will precede them as well. Make sure to clear your schedule because there will be a ton of good football on today.

Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State – 12 p.m. EST, ABC

The good news is that Notre Dame has a pair of quality pass rushers in Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem. The bad news is that only one of the two will be take part in the Camping World Bowl. Okwara broke his fibula in early November and has been out ever since. Before his season ended, Okwara was putting together a decent season to tune of five sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s a highly athletic pass rusher with a high motor and should his recovery go smoothly, he could be in play on day two. Even that might be too early as PFF has him mocked in the first round in their latest mock draft.

Kareem has recorded 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss over the past two seasons and has been highly productive player for the Fighting Irish. He’s got the power that teams want in a pass rusher and at 6’4, 265-pounds, he also has the frame for the position.

In the secondary look out for safety Jalen Elliott. The senior safety has six career interceptions and 11 passes defended.

Chase Claypool is the go-to guy on Notre Dame’s offense. Claypool is a big, physical receiver who stands at 6’4 and weighs 229-pounds. He broke double digits in receiving touchdowns this season with 12 and also tallied 891 receiving yards.

Kareem, Elliott and Claypool will all be at the 2020 Senior Bowl as well.

In case anyone was wondering, Iowa State will also be sending one member of their team to the Senior Bowl – long snapper Steve Wirtel.

Other than Wirtel, Iowa State has trio of seniors worth monitoring, starting with receiver Deshaunte Jones who recorded 72 receptions for 832 yards this season. Next up is the undersized but effective linebacker Marcel Spears Jr. At 216 lbs, Spears is not the typical size of an NFL linebacker but his numbers speak for themselves – 265 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss and four interceptions. Ray Lima controls the trenches for Iowa State as the defensive tackle does a great job clogging the run.

Cotton Bowl Classic: Penn State vs. Memphis – 12 p.m. EST, ESPN

Two ways to make a lot of money while playing in the NFL – play quarterback or get after the quarterback. Yetur Gross-Matos is not a quarterback but he is the next best thing – a very dominant pass rusher. Gross-Matos is not just Penn State’s best pass rusher but he is one of the best in the nation. Barring anything unexpected, Gross-Matos is expected to play in the Cotton Bowl despite already declaring for the NFL Draft. He has recorded 16 sacks and 33.5 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons.

Penn State receiver KJ Hamler may join his team mate at next year’s NFL Draft but a final decision will not be made until after the Cotton Bowl. Hamler is a speedy and elusive weapon that can bring a big play threat to any offense. Penn State reaped the benefits of Hamler’s ability this season as he recorded 858 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Two key defenders to watch are linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive tackle Robert Windsor. Brown has recorded at least 60 tackles, five tackles for a loss and two sacks in each of his last two seasons. Windsor’s 2019 campaign was a step back from the year prior as his sacks fell from 6.5 to 2.5 but his work was still enough to earn an invite to the 2020 Senior Bowl.

Just like the quarterback he shares a name with, Brady White could be a late round quarterback option for teams. White has not made an official decision on his future yet but he has spent quite a bit of time in the NCAA. After transferring from Arizona State, White sat out 2017 and has played the last two years with Memphis. Over those two years, White has thrown for 59 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions.

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff semi final): LSU vs. Oklahoma – 4 p.m. EST, ESPN

Get ready to hear about future Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow quite often during the pre draft process. There is almost no doubt that Burrow will go first overall after a Heisman winning performance this season. The Heisman winning quarterback completed 77.9-percent of his passes this season for over 4700 yards while also throwing 48 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Burrow is about as ready as a quarterback prospect comes and it will be reflected when he hears his name called at the beginning of the 2020 NFL Draft.

One of Burrow’s favorite targets has been receiver Justin Jefferson as the LSU receiver has caught 142 passes for 2082 yards and 20 touchdowns. Jefferson really had a strong junior season and will likely be a day two selection.

LSU safety Grant Delpit has a tremendously high ceiling but he has a few rough edges to smooth out as well. Still, that should not stop him from going on during the first round, or the second round at the absolute latest. Delpit has excellent ball skills, eight career interceptions will back that up and brings an incredible amount of athleticism to the table. If he can clean up his tackling ability, he will be the center of an NFL secondary for many years to come.

Another player from the LSU secondary that will make waves at this year’s draft is cornerback Kristian Fulton. The senior cornerback has a great frame that will allow him to compete with receivers at the next level (6’0) and he is very tough to beat physically. Fulton only recorded two interceptions during his LSU career but do not let those numbers fool you. After bowl season, Fulton will then travel to Mobile to participate in the Senior Bowl.

Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray is perhaps the most appealing prospect to come out of the Big-12 this year. Murray is a tackling machine, he has recorded 318 career tackles, and is a sideline to sideline athlete. This is a guy who is going to transform the linebacking group of the team that selects him during next year’s draft.

If Murray is the 1A prospect from the Big 12, then Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb is the 1B. Just throw it to him and Lamb will find a way to make the catch. Lamb has excellent hands and incredible body control ability. He is also a big play receiver as his 20.8 yards per reception prove. Lamb led the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns this season and his 1208 receiving yards were second most in the conference. Expect him to be one of the first receivers taken during next year’s draft.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts is definitely one of the most polarizing prospects from this year’s draft class. The former Alabama quarterback electrified all year long with his new team, passing for over 3600 yards while rushing for another 1200 yards. He also found the end zone 50 times this season, 32 through the air and 18 coming on the ground.

There is also one Senior Bowl invite on the Oklahoma roster as defensive tackle Neville Gallimore will head to Mobile after all the bowl games conclude. Gallimore is a big, 300-pound defensive tackle that hit a career high in sacks this season with four.

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff semi final): Ohio State vs. Clemson – 8 p.m. EST, ESPN

Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year this season but even that accolade still sells his ability short. Young is not just one of the best defensive players in the country but he is one of the best players period. The Ohio State pass rusher not only led the Big Ten in sacks over each of the last two seasons but his 30.5 career sacks is second most all time in Big Ten history. Young is going to go no later than second overall during next year’s draft and that is a guarantee that you can take to the bank.

If quarterbacks manage to avoid the wrath of Young, they will still have to deal with the Buckeyes’ secondary which is patrolled by cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. The junior cornerback recorded three interceptions this season and will be one of the top cornerbacks on almost every draft board this spring.

The Buckeyes also have an explosive running back in J.K. Dobbins. After rushing for over 1800 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, Dobbins looks more than ready to run wild in the NFL. He will be part of the first handful of running backs to be selected during next year’s draft.

Ohio State will also have two Senior Bowl invites take the field in linebacker Malik Harrison and defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton. Harrison led Ohio State in tackles this season and his 16 tackles for a loss were fifth most in the Big Ten conference.

Switching over to Clemson, linebacker Isaiah Simmons is a player that has been on my radar since last season. A safety to linebacker conversion has breathed new life into Simmons as he has used this season to really perfect his craft and has seen his draft stock soar as a result. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 93 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and two interceptions.

Receiver Tee Higgins led the ACC with a 20.8 yards per reception figure this season and he has been a home run threat for Clemson since he debuted in 2017. Higgins will not only be one of the top receiving prospects for 2020 but he is just the latest big-name receiver to come out of Clemson, which should be re-named Wide Receiver University by now.

When Clemson can not win through the air, they simply hand it off to running back Travis Etienne and let him take care of business. Etienne has won ACC Player of the Year honors in back to back seasons now and will look to cash in during this year’s draft. The Clemson running back has elite speed and scampered his way to another 1500-yard season this year. Etienne is a game changer and will help his future team’s backfield immediately.

Two offensive lineman that helped pave the way for Etienne this year should also be credited for their great work. John Simpson and Tremayne Anchrum are two big bodies that bullied opposing front sevens in the trenches this season. Simpson, a guard and Anchrum, a tackle were also invited to next year’s Senior Bowl.

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