NFL Draft Prospects To Watch In College Football Bowl Games (Part 3)
After an exciting weekend of College Football action that saw LSU and Clemson book their place in the National Championship, it’s time to look ahead to this week’s bowl games and some of the NFL Draft prospects to watch in them.
There are some high calibre games to look forward to this week, as some of the higher ranked teams in College Football take part in some of the most historic bowl games.
It all starts with today’s Servpro First Responder Bowl…
LeVante Bellamy - RB - Western Michigan
The 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely teeming with running back talent. We saw two of them in action this weekend with J.K. Dobbins and Travis Etienne performing on the big stage in the College Football Playoff semi-final.
Western Michigan’s LeVante Bellamy might not have the same stage to showcase his skills but he’s certainly a running back who can make an impact. He may well be one of the fastest backs in the nation, with a reported 4.28 40-yard dash measured back in June.
With one touchdown in the First Responder Bowl, Bellamy will break a tie with SMU’s Xavier Jones for the most rushing touchdowns in the 2019 College Football season. The fifth-year senior has put back to back injury plagued seasons to break 1000+ yards in 2018 and 2019.
Bellamy was the MAC MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, but he isn’t limited to that level. He’s shown he can perform against Power 5 teams with two 100+ yard games against Syracuse in the last two seasons.
Kylin Hill - RB - Mississippi State
This game is the first of many this week that is impacted by multiple players adding to the growing trend of skipping bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft. Mississippi State are without Cameron Dantzler and Brian Cole. Louisville will be without top offensive tackle prospect, Mekhi Becton.
One player entering the 2020 NFL Draft but opting to put his talents on display in the Music City Bowl is Kylin Hill. The Mississippi State running back leads the SEC in rushing attempts (235) and rushing yards (1347).
With both teams leaning on the ground game in 2019, Hill’s performance will be pivotal for the Bulldogs hopes of a victory.
Hill is a strong and powerful runner who makes up for a lack of speed by simply bulldozing through defenders. He is also adept as a receiver, making him a valuable commodity in today’s NFL.
Evan Weaver - LB - Cal
A strong start and finish to Cal’s season sandwiched a mediocre mid-season, as the Bears offense struggled to match it’s defense. With several highly rated players, including safety Ashtyn Davis, the defensive unit was once again led by Evan Weaver.
Weaver has been Cal’s top tackler for two consecutive seasons. This year, his 172 total tackles have led the nation. He’s also weighed in with 11.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. His performances earned him the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Despite his production at Cal, there are question marks over Weaver’s ability to perform at a high level in the NFL due to some physical limitations in coverage. He will get the opportunity to address these issues on the path to the draft, starting with the Senior Bowl.
For now, Weaver gets to finish his illustrious college career just down the road from Cal in the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara.
Jonathan Greenard - EDGE - Florida
Florida have reached the Orange Bowl for the first time since 2001 on the back of a ferocious pass rush, that leads the SEC in sacks. The driving force of that defense has been linebacker Jonathan Greenard.
Greenard is no stranger to the Viriginia Cavaliers. As a Louisville Cardinal between 2016 and 2018, Greenard has terrorised Virginia on two occasions already. In his freshman year he registered 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack, before accounting for a sack and a tackle for loss in his breakout 2017 season.
After suffering a gruesome wrist injury in the 2018 season opener, Greenard missed all of 2018 but secured a graduate transfer to Florida for 2019.
He has thrived in the SEC, posting a career high nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss and showing off his coverage skills with three pass break ups and an interception.
He comes into the Orange Bowl on a hot streak with five sacks in his last two games. Expect him to stand out in his final game for the Gators as his stock rises through the Senior Bowl and onto the NFL Draft.
Lynn Bowden Jr - WR/QB - Kentucky
Lynn Bowden Jr came in to the 2019 season as one of my three key players to watch. The Kentucky Wildcat receiver had 750+ scrimmage yards in his sophomore year and although the Wildcats weren’t expected to repeat their fairytale 2018 season, Bowden Jr was still a receiver on the rise.
Little did I know how truly important he would be to the Wildcats in 2019.
After starting 2-3 and losing not just starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, but also his backup, Sawyer Smith, to injury, Lynn Bowden Jr stepped into the quarterback breach and guided the Wildcats to bowl eligibility.
Although it’s worth mentioning that Kentucky’s best chance of a high draft pick may come in offensive lineman Logan Sternberg, Lynn Bowden Jr is truly the success story of the 2019 Kentucky Wildcats season.
He can play quarterback. He can play wide receiver. He’ll return kick offs and punt. There’s nothing that Bowden can’t do. He won the 2019 Paul Hornung Award which recognises College Football’s most versatile player.
Cohl Cabral - OL - Arizona State
The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl is not only a great name for a bowl game but also houses a lot of NFL Draft talent.
Well, it would if many of them hadn’t already stated their intention to skip the game to focus on preparation for the NFL Draft.
The Arizona Sun Devils are without leading wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and star running back Eno Benjamin. It is the man who has been tasked with leading the way for Benjamin that is the most intriguing talent in this game.
Cohl Cabral is an extremely versatile offensive lineman. He played across the entire line as a freshman, started at left tackle as a sophomore, then kicked inside to play center for 2018 when his play was rewarded with a place in the All-PAC-12 Second team.
The Tony the Tiger Bowl gives Cabral the opportunity to show his skills against a bigger, and more athletic, defensive line from FSU than he would normally face week in, week out in the PAC-12.
Malcolm Perry - QB - Navy
Malcolm Perry rushed into the nation’s conscience in the annual Army vs Navy game earlier in the month. The Midshipmen’s senior quarterback ran for a game record 304 yards. Although football is the ultimate team sport, there can be no denying that Perry carried the team to victory.
Although Navy rarely throw the ball in their triple option offense, Perry does have 1000+ passing yards and three touchdowns in 2019.
However, it’s on the ground where he truly excels. He has three straight 1000+ rushing yard seasons, and in his senior season has 23 rushing touchdowns. Depending on the performance of LeVante Bellamy in the First Responder Bowl, there is a chance that Perry will lead the nation in rushing touchdowns in the 2019 season.
After relaxing the rules surrounding service personnel and the NFL Draft, Perry will be eligible for 2020. He won’t interest many teams as a quarterback prospect, but I could see him having a career in the NFL as a running back.
Logan Wilson - LB - Wyoming
This is Wyoming’s fourth straight year of bowl eligibility, having previously only been bowl eligible four times since the turn of the millennium.
A lot of that performance has come on the back of their defense, which has been led by captain Logan Wilson for the past three years.
Wilson came to Wyoming in 2015 as a safety and will leave the program as a first team All-Mountain West linebacker. He has 90+ tackles in each of the last four seasons, with 33.5 career tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Although he has clear tackling ability, it is abilities in coverage from the linebacker position that may see him drafted as a later round prospect. He utilises his experience as a safety to make plays on the ball, with 10 career interceptions and 14 passes defended.
The Arizona Bowl may not be brimming with NFL talent, but Logan Wilson is definitely a prospect to watch out for.
Bradlee Anae - EDGE - Utah
At the start of the year, the Alamo Bowl probably wasn’t where either of these teams thought they’d be. As the season played out, Texas will think themselves lucky to be here and Utah are still ruing what might have been.
For all the offensive NFL Draft talent on these two programs, Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae is a must watch prospect.
The Utes have the number one total defense in the nation and Anae is a large part of that. He has three consecutive double-digit tackle for loss seasons, led the PAC-12 in sacks in 2018, and recorded a career high 12.5 sacks this season.
He gets to go up against a Texas offensive line that has allowed 33 sacks on Sam Ehlinger in 2019, one of the most in the nation.
Anae has the opportunity to break the Utah school record for sacks in this game. Don’t expect him to miss it as he looks to build momentum heading into the draft process.
Derrick Brown - DT - Auburn
Derrick Brown could have been a late first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he took the decision to return to Auburn for his senior season. It’s a decision that has made off spectacularly for the imposing defensive lineman.
Brown’s draft stock has never been higher.
In the 2019 season he has shown what a physically dominating player he can be. He has also shown phenomenal athleticism for a man who has a recorded weight of 318lb. Who can forget him charging from the cornerback position in the Ole Miss game to lay a tackle on running back Jerrion Ealy?
Brown shows up in the big games, noticeably with 3.5 tackles for loss in the Iron Bowl, and this is a big game as Auburn look for just their fourth 10-win season this decade.
Brown will be looking to give a fond farewell to the Tigers faithful as he heads towards a top 10 NFL Draft pick.
Lavert Hill - CB - Michigan
Other than the College Football Playoff games, there isn’t another bowl game that is packed with as much NFL Draft talent as the Citrus Bowl matchup between Michigan and Alabama. They’re two programs who will be wondering how the hell they found themselves in the Citrus Bowl but regardless of the grandeur (or lack of) of the bowl, the game will be a good one.
Bowl season is the start of the long job interview that is the NFL Draft process. No player has the opportunity to stand out more than Michigan cornerback, Lavert Hill.
Hill has led the Wolverines in interceptions in two of the last three seasons. In addition to his interceptions, he has 19 career pass break ups, showcasing his talent for disrupting the opposition offense.
The opportunity for Hill comes in the opposition he will face in the Citrus Bowl. Alabama has the best quintet of receivers in College Football.
If Hill can shut down the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, players that are expected to be early first round picks, then his draft stock will soar
Tyler Biadasz - OL - Wisconsin
One of the top quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft faces off against one of the top running back prospects, in one of College Football’s most historic games, and my prospect to watch is a center? You could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve lost my mind but hear me out.
Whereas Justin Herbert and Jonathan Taylor, the aforementioned QB and RB, are “one of the top” prospects at their position, Tyler Biadasz is THE top interior lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft. He could have been a round one prospect in last years draft but opted to return to school.
As talented as Taylor is, the running back can’t do it alone. Biadasz fronts up one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and that has allowed Taylor to run for over 4000 yards the last two seasons. He received the Dave Rimington Award for best center in 2019.
The son of farmers, Biadasz is a big strong dude and he brings that strength on to the field. He is an absolute mauler, and there’s plenty of teams in the NFL that need that from the center position.
Oregon reached the Rose Bowl by shutting down the Utah rushing offense. Tyler Biadasz will make sure they don’t do the same to Wisconsin.
Denzel Mims - WR - Baylor
The performance of Baylor has been out of the feel-good stories of 2019. After a controversial start to the decade under Art Briles, they have returned to competitiveness under Matt Rhule and find themselves in a position to shock SEC opposition in the Sugar Bowl.
A key component of that performance has been wide receiver Denzel Mims.
Mims rose to prominence at Baylor with a 1000 yard season in 2017, his sophomore year. Unfortunately for Mims, that was hidden by a 1-11 record in Rhule’s first year in charge. His star has really shone in 2019, leading the Bears in yards from scrimmage and scoring 11 touchdowns.
Mims is a perfect combination of big catch ability and track star speed. He has been making highlight plays all season long.
His final opportunity to shine for Baylor comes against one of the nations top secondaries. If he can perform on the big stage, against tough opposition, Mims will elevate himself in a deep wide receiver class.
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.