As we draw closer to the College Football Playoffs, the bowl games are heating up with higher ranked, more talented head to head match ups. Today’s four bowl games features six ranked teams, three of which are ranked in the top ten. Here are the top draft prospects to keep an eye on...
Taxslayer Bowl, Louisville v. Mississippi State, 12 PM ET on ESPN
- Jaylen Smith, Wide Receiver, Louisville: On an offense that mainly centers around it’s star quarterback, Jaylen Smith stands out as a potential NFL starter. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Jaylen Smith looks like a star and he has moments where his combination of size and speed overwhelm defenses. His trouble is primarily his consistency. His routes can be lazy, his hands are hit and miss and he doesn’t use his size the way a 6’4” player should on a regular basis. Nonetheless, there is no denying his upside and showing out against an SEC defense would prove what he can do when he turns it on.
- Trumaine Washington, Cornerback, Louisville: Ten interceptions in the last three years shows that Trumaine Washington is a playmaking staple on the Cardinals defense. While Washington is a bit diminutive at 5’10” and 180 pounds; he is an instinctual playmaker who can make up for size and speed deficiencies with his savvy. While he remains limited with his athletic tools; Washington has a chance to step up today due to teammate, Jaire Alexander, sitting, and showing he can be a primary defender against Mississippi State will quiet some criticism.
- Martinas Rankins, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State: The 6’5”, 315 pound senior has great size, length and strength that has made him the lynchpin of the Bulldogs offensive line during his career. Rankins has a tall task against a solid Louisville defense today and will need to block for the Bulldogs inexperienced quarterback and grind out the run game. Rankins is a solid player among many a handful of impressive offensive line prospects this year so any chance to stand out is a good one.
Liberty Bowl, Memphis v. Iowa State, 12:30 PM ET on ABC
- Anthony Miller, Wide Receiver, Memphis: Among one of the cleanest prospects in the 2018 draft; Anthony Miller is set to play one more game after going for over 2,800 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns through the air. At only 5’11” and 190 pounds; Miller has a mediocre athletic profile but he makes up for it with killer route running, great hands and an aggressive on the field mentality. Miller has a tough match up today against ISU but it would not be surprising to see him go off in his last appearance at Memphis.
- Allen Lazard, Wide Receiver, Iowa State: Memphis does not have a monopoly on wide receiver prospects in this game. Allen Lazard is a talented senior on his own. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Lazard is never fully covered. While he does not get the most separating; he is fantastic at attacking the ball in the air and winning contested catches. If this game turns into a shootout, a major possibility, it could turn into the Allen Lazard show for Iowa State.
Fiesta Bowl, Washington v. Penn State, 4 PM ET on ESPN
- Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State: I feel like while everything has been said about Saquon Barkley, he still cannot be talked about enough. While people are down on Barkley’s junior season; Barkley still scored 16 touchdowns on the ground and had almost 600 receiving yards. The Penn State offense ran right through him and teams had to gameplay to stop him and only him, basically, on a week to week basis. The 5-11, 230 pound freak athlete has one more chance to show off his stuff before he heads into the draft. The Washington defense is a stingy group and Barkley blowing them up could make people forget about a “lackluster” year.
- Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Penn State: Mike Gesicki hasn't had the most eye-popping season, but the 6’6” senior is still leading Penn State in touchdowns. He is a strong, physical player who has dependable hands and contribute as a run blocker. Penn State will need his dependability against a tough Husky defense and Gesicki will need to be his normal self to give State a chance.
- Marcus Allen, Safety, Penn State: The Nittany Lions emotional leader on defense; Marcus Allen is taking the field for the last time in blue and white. The 6’2”, 205 pound defender functions as a fantastic in the box safety and is smart in coverage. While he is not a dynamic playmaker, he is a solid and dependable defender who will contribute at the next level.
- Dante Pettis, Wide Receiver, Washington: In the absence of John Ross; Dante Pettis has stepped up as Washington’s playmaking threat in the passing game. Pettis not only led Washington in receiving touchdowns, he also returned four punts for scores this season. Pettis is a dynamic player whenever he touches the ball and Washington will need to get him involved to keep their offense moving today.
- Vita Vea, Defensive Line, Washington: Vita Vea is Washington’s freak athlete on their defensive line. The 6’8”, 300 pounder looks more like a small forward than a defensive lineman and he moves like one too. Washington moves him around to utilize his athleticism and it will be greatly needed to stymie the Penn State offensive attack.
Orange Bowl, Miami v. Wisconsin, 8 PM ET on ESPN
- TJ Edwards, Linebacker, Wisconsin: Now in his final game; TJ Edwards will hope to cap off a strong senior season with a great bowl performance. The 6’1”, 244 pound linebacker is an old school player who flies downhill and has the strength to fight through blockers to dominate a run game. He is a savvy player who does a good job diagnosing against the run and moving in space against the pass. He is not a stellar athlete; but he is a very aware player who makes up for lack of speed with football IQ. Against a struggling Miami offense; Edwards could be in for a big night
- Troy Fumagalli, Tight End, Wisconsin: While Wisconsin doesn’t throw the ball much; Troy Fumagalli was the leader of their passing game. At 6’6” and 250 pounds; Fumagalli has tremendous size that makes him a fantastic safety blanket for any quarterback and his size makes every catch possible despite his average athletic ability. Fumagalli will likely be asked to help out in the run tonight, but i expect him to make some receiving plays as well.
- Trent Harris, Edge Defender, Miami: Miami’s renaissance season an be attributed to some really good play on the defensive side of the ball. Senior, Trent Harris, has been pivotal in the defense’s awesome play this year. Harris, only 6”2” and 248 pounds, is a high effort player with good quickness. He is a good pass rusher and surprisingly solid against the run. His well rounded skill set will be needed against Wisconsin’s running game and strong play from Harris could slow down Wisconsin down enough to help Miami to an upset.
- Braxton Berrios, Wide Receiver, Miami: Braxton Berrios has been the catalyst of the Miami passing game this season. Berrios only stands at 5’9” and is 190 pounds soaking wet, but he is a savvy, tough player who makes plays where others can't. Berrios is a not only a stellar player int eh slot, but he can make a difference as a returner. Wisconsin is stingy on defense and Berrios having a big game will be key if Miami wants a shot to win.