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Bowl games draft preview: a baker’s dozen of prospects to watch

The first round of bowls has plenty to offer in the mid-to-late rounds

Hawaii v San Diego State Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images

Today marks the beginning of Bowl Season, which is also Recency Bias season in the draft world! Players are often facing the best competition they have all season in their post season games, so a lot of folks will put a lot of weight on their performances in their bowl game more than any other game, wrong or not. While there is some time before the marque match ups, there are still a few fun prospects to keep an eye on this weekend…

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico v. Texas-San Antonio (2PM on ESPN)

  • Teriyon Gipson, RB, UNM: In a stacked running back class, few people are paying attention to a 5-8, 182 senior out of New Mexico. However, the little speedster is averaging 9.2 yards per carry on 131 attempts. Gipson’s speed will make him an asset as a number two back and special teamer in the NFL.

Las Vegas Bowl: Houston v. San Diego State (3:30 on ABC)

  • Donnell Pumphrey, RB, SDSU: One of the leading rushers in NCAA history is looking to cap his brilliant, 2000 yard rushing season with a big game against the Houston Cougars. Pumphrey lacks NFL size, but has excellent quickness, vision and is a relentless runner. Though he does not project to being an NFL starter, he absolutely could be a major contributor at the next level.
  • Rashaad Penny, RB, SDSU: Being Donnell Pumphrey’s backup doesn’t leave much spotlight. However, the 220 pounder is on the brink of a thousand yard season of his own and is actually averaging more yards per carry than his running mate. Penny may be the backup, but his size and speed may actually lend itself to him being a better NFL prospect than the guy who is starting over him.
  • Damontae Kazee, CB, SDSU: The 5’11” cornerback has been a productive turnover machine his entire career at SDSU. Houston may be the best passing attack he has faced in his career and a big game could prove that he has what it takes to be a potential start in the NFL.
  • Greg Ward, QB, Houston: Greg Ward may not have the size of NFL quarterback’s, but he is a smart, accurate, mobile passer who should command attention on day three of the draft as a back up who has the intelligence and athletic ability to win games in the NFL.
  • Steven Taylor, LB, Houston: The small but productive Steven Taylor has been Houston’s second best defender this season, making an impact against the run and the pass, while also playing well in coverage. His size may force him to play off ball in the NFL, but his high motor should get him on an NFL field somehow.

Rayco Media Camellia Bowl: Toledo v. Appalachian State (5:30 on ESPN)

  • Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo: One of the most productive backs in the country over the course of his career, Hunt has accumulated over 1700 total yards this season, making an impact in the running and passing game. The 220 pound back has excellent size, strength, and is a very balanced and consistent runner. His running style is very reminiscent of Ezekiel Elliott (though not at that level of athletic ability). Hunt would be an excellent mid round back who could start sooner than later.
  • Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo: In a stacked tight end class, I think Roberts might be one of the best players in the group. In Toledo’s high flying offense, Roberts scored touchdowns on over 30% of his catches, an absolutely insane rate of production. He is a dynamic receiver and a very dependable blocker. This big stage will be a perfect opportunity to show people he needs to be in the conversation for top tight end.

Cure Bowl: Arkansas State v. UCF (5:30 on CBSSN)

  • Shaquill Griffin, DB, UCF: One of the two Griffin studs on the UCF defense, the senior safety is an intelligent coverage safety who does not have great size, but does a good job of making an impact in the passing and running game, despite limited athletic ability.
  • Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF: One of the most productive pass rushers in the country is the one handed Shaqem Griffin. You heard that right; the junior defender has picked up 11 sacks and 19 total tackles for a loss despite playing with one full arm. Griffin has a high motor and overwhelming strength. His motor will get him on an NFL field eventually, even if he may not be an elite athlete.
  • Ja’Von Rolland Jones, DE, Arkansas State: On a team that lacks a lot of standouts, Rolland Jones definitely catches the eye as a quick twitch pass rusher on their defensive line. He has accounted for 11 sacks this season, mostly in part to his quick get off and high motor. Jones is a bit lighter, which will limit what he can do in the NFL, but he could be a situational impact player at the next level.

Carrier New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss v. LA Lafayette (9pm on ESPN)

  • Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss: The 5’9” running back may be easy to overlook (see what I did there) in such a talented running back class, but the little guy packs a big punch. Smith has a lot of power for a smaller back and his quickness makes him a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands. He is also an excellent receiver, picking up 42 catches this year for almost 11 yards per catch. He is a well-rounded player who could be a Branden Oliver-type player in the NFL.

Elijah McGuire, RB, LA-Lafayette: McGuire has been incredibly productive during his time as a Rajin’ Cajun despite the fact that he has been the only primary option on the offense. McGuire is a bit smaller for a running back, but his quickness, speed and third down skills will get him looks at the next level.

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