NFL Draft Prospects To Watch In CFB Bowl Games (Part 4)

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Photo Credit: College Football News

Happy New Year College Football fans! It seems like just days have passed since Buffalo opened up Bowl season with a beatdown of Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl. Yet here we are, with just five games left to go until the College Football National Championship wraps up the 2019 College Football season. Before we know it, the All-Star games will come and go, the combine will fly by faster than Henry Ruggs, and the NFL Draft will be upon us.

Over the last two weeks of bowl game action, I’ve narrowed down one NFL Draft prospect to watch in each game. You can find those prospects in parts one, two and three.

Below are the final five prospects, starting with a running back to watch out for in tonight’s Birmingham Bowl between Boston College and Cincinnati.

Michael Warren II - RB - Cincinnati

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Photo Credit: University Of Cincinnati Athletics

As I’ve mentioned in my previous bowl prospect pieces, the 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely teeming with running back talent. Because of this, the chances of getting a steal late on are greatly increased.

Michael Warren II could well be one of those steals.

The Cincinnati running back has put together two 1000+ yard seasons. Although his production dipped slightly in 2019, he still has 34 career rushing touchdowns.

Cincinnati have recent bowl history against ACC opposition, despatching Virginia Tech in last year’s Military Bowl. Warren showcased his big game ability in that game, rushing for 166 yards and scoring two touchdowns. His second, with 1:29 left on the clock, secured the Bearcats win. Boston College will provide another opportunity, having given up an average 180 yards per game on the ground.

Although Warren lacks top end speed, he has a physical style which gets him wins at the line of scrimmage. He’s not afraid to deliver a hit but at the same time is savvy enough to avoid unnecessary contact. He’s also a threat as a receiver, with 446 career receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Trey Smith - OL - Tennessee

Photo credit: Andrew Ferguson - Tennessee Athletics

The last three years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Trey Smith.

He’s gone from five-star high school prospect, to starting left tackle in his freshman season, through a medically shortened 2018, and finally back to form in 2019.

He has told several media outlets that he won’t consider his future until after the Gator Bowl, but even with concerns over his health it would be a miracle if he made it past Day 2.

Smith is an absolute monster of a man. His sheer size alone would be enough to terrify most people. Although he played the majority of his early career at left tackle, he has played both right guard (freshman season) and latterly at left guard, which is where he’d be best suited to line up in the NFL.

Tennessee rank as a top 40 team in terms of sacks allowed, giving up less than two sacks per game. A large part of that is due to the play of Trey Smith.

Nathan Rourke - QB - Ohio

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Photo Credit: 247 Sports

Ohio were a pre-season favourite to win the MAC Championship. However, after a disappointing campaign, they need a win in the Potato Bowl to avoid only the third losing season of Frank Solich’s 15-year tenure as head coach.

Those chances will ride or die with senior quarterback, Nathan Rourke.

The Canadian began his college career as a dual threat quarterback, accounting for more rushing touchdowns in 2017 than he had passing touchdowns.

He has developed throughout his career to become more efficient as a pocket passer whilst retaining the elusiveness that made him such a rushing threat.

2019 has seen him produce the highest completion percentage (61.4%), passing yards (2676), plus his best touchdown to interception ratio (20:5) of his college career. His 8.6 yards per attempt average led all MAC quarterbacks.

Although not quite the polished prospect, Rourke has the potential to be a late round NFL Draft pick or make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Either way, expect him to end his Bobcats career in style.

Thakarius Keyes - CB - Tulane

Photo Credit: Tulane Athletics

The Tulane Green Wave got off to an impressive 2019. On their way to a 5-1 record, their only defeat was to Auburn of the SEC. Their season got away from them from there, including three straight to close out the year.

The Armed Forces Bowl gives the senior players an opportunity to close out their careers with a win against Southern Miss. The Tulane secondary has several standout seniors including P.J. Hall and the gloriously named Thakarius Keyes.

Of the two, I believe Keyes has the greater potential to hear his named call at the NFL Draft. He has good size to succeed as a corner in the NFL and speed to match. He can reportedly run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4s.

Keyes currently has two interceptions and 15 pass break ups and will use the Armed Forces Bowl to add to these, creating some momentum going into the draft process.

Has the potential to be a late Day 3 pick.

Mike Brown - S - Miami (OH)

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Photo Credit: Miami Redhawks

A five-game winning streak in the middle of the season took Miami of Ohio to the MAC Championship Game and their first winning season since 2010. Despite being blown out by Ohio State in Week 4, their success has been largely built on defense.

A key component of that success has been safety Mike Brown.

The junior is one of only six players in the nation who has had returned two interceptions for a touchdown in 2019. His first was against Buffalo, one of two interceptions in that game, followed by a 75-yard pick six in a routing of Bowling Green State.

Brown contributes more than just interceptions from the secondary. He has registered a tackle for loss in four different games in 2019, and had a half sack against Western Michigan.

With another year of eligibility remaining, it is unclear at the time of writing whether he’ll declare or return to the Redhawks. Either way he’s a defensive playmaker to watch in this final bowl game of the year.

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