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New Years Day Bowl Preview: 26 NFL Draft prospects to watch

Keep an eye on these names.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Years! With 2017 coming to a close, the new year will start with a bang with five excellent college football games set to play today. Between the two playoff games today and the three other stacked bowls; there will be a lot of NFL draft talent to keep track of.

Outback Bowl, South Carolina v. Michigan, 12 PM ET on ESPN2

  • Maurice Hurst, Defensive Tackle, Michigan: Few interior defenders have been as disruptive this season as Maurice Hurst. Hurst is a high energy, quick twitch defender who can wreck a run game and get consistent pressure rushing the passer. He has been doing it all season, so it won’t be surprising to see him make a big impact in today’s bowl.
  • Skai Moore, Linebacker, South Carolina: Since he stepped onto campus a few years ago; few players have been underrated on the defensive side of the ball like Skai Moore. At 6’2” and only 218 pounds; Moore is built like a safety and runs like one too. He is a very good coverage player and his speed also makes him valuable attacking downhill against the run and as a blitzer. Moore will have a great chance against a heavy run team like Michigan to show his size does not limit him as an every down defender and it will be fun to see what he does in his last college game.

Peach Bowl, UCF v. Auburn, 12:30 PM ET on ESPN

  • Tre’Quan Smith, Wide Receiver, UCF: UCF’s explosive offense had a lot of moving parts to it, but few were more important than Tre’Quan smith and his speed. The 6’1”, 210 pound senior averaged over 20 yards per catch this year due to his down the field ability. Not only is he a burner, but his size allows him to make plays over defenders and create tough yards after the catch. Smith, like his football team, have yet to truly get the respect they deserve and he has a great chance against Auburn to show off what a gam breaker he is.
  • Shaquem Griffen, Linebacker, UCF: Few stories in college football are more inspiring than the success of Shaquem Griffen. With only one fully developed arm and hand; Griffen has been defying the odds as he has been a defensive MVP for the Golden Knights for two years running. The 6’2”, 230 pound senior is a good athlete but primarily wins on effort and strength. He is a savvy player who makes an impact on all facets of defensive football and he will show today that he has what it takes to play at the next level.
  • Kerryon Johnson, Running Back, Auburn: Kerryon Johnson was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers this season. The 6’0”, 215 pound junior burst onto the scene and was fundamental in the Tigers impressive season. He is a powerful, athletic running back and after being a bit beat up towards the end of the regular season; he should have his legs back and ready for what should be a high scoring game today.
  • Braden Smith, Guard, Auburn: One of the best interior lineman in the country will be on display today. The 6’6”, 305 pound senior has great size and athletic ability that helps Auburn run the football with such success. Like Johnson, Smith will be fundamental in Auburn firing back in a shootout. Considering this is his last game, I’d expect a great performance.
  • Jeff Holland, Edge Defender, Auburn: With Carl Lawson now in the NFL, Jeff Holland has taken over as Auburn’s primary pass rusher. At 6’2” and 250 pounds, Holland is not the biggest player but he is a high speed, high effort pass rusher who makes up for mediocre run defense with his ability to pressure the passer. Holland will need to be on his A-Game against an offense like UCF and it’ll be exciting to see how he does.
  • Carlton Davis, Cornerback, Auburn: Carlton Davis has been another surprise for the Tigers. The 6’1”, 203 pound junior has been an excellent cover man this season. Today will be another tall task for Davis given the down the field nature of UCF’s passing game. If he can lock down the likes of Tre’quan Smith and company, it will be a long day for the Golden Knights.

Citrus Bowl, LSU v. Notre Dame, 1 PM on ABC

  • Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Plenty has been said of Notre Dame’s steady tackle. He is experienced, athletic and has very good and consistent technique. Against a tough LSU team, he will have to quiet some questions about his functional strength, but he will no doubt be a big part of the reason Notre Dame wins or loses.
  • Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson is the best offensive lineman prospect in this year’s class and maybe one of the best overall players, too. At 6’5” and 330 pounds, the senior is built like an NFL player and has there strength and attitude of one, as well. Nelson will be pivotal in the success of Notre Dame today and if he can grind through LSU’s defense; the Irish have a fighting chance.
  • Josh Adams, Running Back, Notre Dame: In a crowded running back class, Josh Adams is among the more fun and fascinating players to watch. He is huge player at nearly 6’2” and 220 pounds but he runs with the ease of someone 30 pounds lighter. He is a true freak athlete at the position and it'll be interesting to see him run against a stingy LSU group.
  • Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU: On the other offense, the Tigers have their own tremendous running back. Derrius Guice has been LSU’s main weapon two years in a row now and the athletic, hard running player is probably playing his last game at LSU against Notre Dame. Guice is LSU’s x-factor and he’s on; they have a great shot at winning.
  • Arden Key, Edge Defender, LSU: Arden Key has had somewhat of a disappointing season given that there were a lot of expectations coming in. He is a highly athletic player who flashes totally dominance whenever he wants. This year his play has been more inconsistent and he has been banged up, but a big game today could make people forget about his underwhelming year.
  • Donte Jackson, Cornerback, LSU: LSU always has a handful of impressive defensive backs and this year is no different. The 5’11”, 175 pound Donte Jackson isn’t the biggest player but he is a really solid coverage defender. Notre Dame has few guys they like to get the ball to down field and Jackson will need to answer that test by staying steady like he has for most of the season.

Rose Bowl, UGA v. Oklahoma, 5 PM ET on ESPN

  • Mark Andrews, Tight End, Oklahoma: Mark Andrews might not be a classical tight end, but the 6’5”, 250 pound match up nightmare is going to be a game changer in the NFL. He is highly athletic and has been integral in Oklahoma’s success this season; catching 58 passes for over 900 yards to this point. Against a stacked Georgia secondary, Andrews will need make an impact. His play will heavily dictate the game’s outcome.
  • Orlando Brown, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma: Both physically and metaphorically, Orlando Brown is huge presence on the Oklahoma offense. The 345 pound offensive tackle has long arms and his strength can erase someone from a game. Today he will need to play strong against a very good Georgia front so Oklahoma can move the ball.
  • Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia: Roquan Smith has been dominating offenses all season but this will be his biggest test yet. The explosive Oklahoma offense will test his full ability as a defender. Smith is as good as they come in terms of linebacking prospects so he should be up to the task.
  • Sony Michel, Running Back, Georgia: One piece is Georgia’s backfield is one of two talented seniors. Sony Michel is a quick, “make you miss” back who also has some power behind his pads. He will be rotated in all night against Oklahoma’s defense and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a big impact.
  • Nick Chubb, Running Back, Georgia: Nick Chubb is the leader in the Bulldog backfield and is going to do everything in his power to will Georgia to a National Title berth. Chubb is hard running with great speed and agility for a 230 pound running back. In a crowded class of backs, Chubb will be pushing this post season to be considered among the best.

Sugar Bowl, Alabama v. Clemson, 8:45 PM ET on ESPN

  • Damien Harris, Running Back, Alabama: Alabama always has a crowded backfield but Damien Harris stands out as being their top runner. He is fast and powerful, not unlike a lot of his Alabama predecessors. Harris will be leaned on against a talented Clemson defense and his ability to create yardage will be integral in deciding the outcome of the game.
  • Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama: Despite being an older prospect; there is still a lot to like about Calvin Ridley. The 23 year old has an NFL ready body with impressive speed and quickness to pair with a refined route running ability. Ridley will need a big game against this stingy Clemson defense if the Crimson Tide want a third straight national title appearance.
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama: Minkak Fitzpatrick might be the best defensive player in this draft class. He is a versatile defender who can play any spot in a secondary and play it at a high level. Fitzpatrick’s blend of run defending ability, coverage skills and great speed make him as well rounded a defender as you could want and his complete skill set will be on display against Clemson.
  • Deon Cain, Wide Receiver, Clemson: While the explosiveness of Clemson’s offense petered off since Deshaun Watson left; Deon Cain still flashed the ability of a number one wide receiver this season. He has a very nice blend of size and speed as well as the ability to make impressive contested catches. Alabama’s defense is no joke and Cain will be leaned on in the passing game to keep the Tigers offense moving.
  • Mitch Hyatt, Offensive Tackle, Clemson: Hyatt is one of the more battle tested lineman in college football. He has very good size at 6’6” and plays with a great attitude. Against Alabama, it is important every offensive lineman is at his best but this will no doubt be a great test for Hyatt.
  • Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson: One of my favorite players in this class; Christian Wilkins is an athletic, versatile talent that can play all over a defensive line. Wilkins is a very good run defender and creates a lot of pressure in the passing game. Wilkins and the rest of Clemson’s awesome defensive line will be the key in deciding this game.
  • Clelin Ferrell, Edge Defender, Clemson: Despite only being a redshirt sophomore; Clelin Ferrell is an NFL ready pass rusher. At 6’5”, 260 pounds; Ferrell has awesome size and length to play on the edge and overwhelming speed that makes him dangerous any time the ball is snapped. Alabama has a dynamic quarterback in Jalen Hurts and keeping pressure on him will be incredibly important. Ferrell might not come out for the draft, but a strong post season might push him to declare.

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