NFL Draft Prospects To Watch In College Football Bowl Games

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Photo Credit: College Football News

With the College Football regular season in the rear-view mirror, the countdown to the 2020 NFL Draft begins now. The first step on that path to the draft begins today, with the start of the Bowl season.

For some programs, gaining bowl eligibility means a great deal. For others, it’s time and resources that could be spent on the recruiting trail.

In a growing trend, some players have already decided to forego their bowl game in order to focus on the draft. You can hardly blame them. With such financial reward on offer from the NFL, the chance of an injury could shatter their dreams before they’ve been truly realised.

Despite this trend, and some less than attractive matchups, there is still plenty of talent to watch in these games.

Over the next two weeks of College Football Bowl season we’ll be looking at one player in each game that you should be keeping an eye out for, with a view to either the 2020 or 2021 NFL Draft.

Let’s start with the games coming up in the next week:

Jaret Patterson - RB - Buffalo

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Photo Credit: UB Athletics

What do Travis Etienne, Zack Moss, and D’Andre Swift all have in common? Yes, they’re all top-quality college football running backs but that isn’t the answer.

The common denominator is they all have less rushing yards in 2019 than Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson.

Over the last two games, Patterson has rushed for 10 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards.

In Buffalo’s regular season finale against Bowling Green State, he rushed for 298 yards and six touchdowns. It was a new MAC single game record, and helped contribute to a Buffalo record breaking season, with 1626 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2019.

This is a little bit of a cheat as Patterson isn’t NFL Draft eligible until 2021. However, with a combination of speed and power he is a must watch in today’s game with one eye on next year’s draft.

Jordan Love - QB - Utah State

Photo Credit: 247 Sports

It’s been a busy week or so for Jordan Love. On the 11th December he announced his decision to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, ending rumours of a potential transfer for the 2020 College Football season. Then on 14th December he was arrested, and charged, with marijuana possession along with several other members of the Utah State team.

The Frisco Bowl gives Love an opportunity to end the season, and his Aggies career, on a high. He was the darling of many College Football and NFL Draft analyst coming in to the 2019 season.

However, there has been a marked drop off this season compared to his sophomore campaign. His completion percentage, average yards per throw, and touchdown passes have fallen significantly. Although this can be attributed to a glaring lack of talent around him, Love’s 16 interceptions this year speak to his questionable decision making. Despite this, there is a strong possibility Love still goes in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tonight’s game is the first stop on a path to the draft that will take in the Senior Bowl on its way. Expect the journey to start in style against a Kent State that has given up over 30 points a game.

Luqman Barcoo - DB - San Diego State

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Photo Credit: Hayne Palmour IV

The San Diego State Aztecas were ranked as high as 24th this College Football season, only the third time this millennium that they’ve been featured in the AP rankings. They’re a team built on defense, ranking fifth for total defense in the FBS this season.

One of the cornerstones of that defensive success this season is senior cornerback Luqman Barcoo.

Playing football at the JUCO level for Grossmont College, Barcoo was a two-way player snagging seven touchdowns in 2017, whilst accounting for three interceptions in his two seasons.

He transferred to SDSU in 2018 and began to impress the coaches there.

It’s his 2019 season that makes him a player to watch in the New Mexico Bowl. Barcoo leads the nation in total passes defended. His experience playing at wide receiver has shown with 8 interceptions, which led the Mountain West conference.

With good hands, coverage skills, and a 6’1 frame, Barcoo has the necessary traits to make it in the NFL. He gets another chance to show them off in this game.

Antonio Gandy-Golden - WR - Liberty

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At 6’4 and 220lbs, Antonio Gandy-Golden is an absolute monster of a man. When you throw a ball in his direction, that monster of a man becomes an animal of a wide receiver.

A Saturday evening spent in front of Liberty versus Georgia Southern may not immediately grab your attention, but A.G.G. is one extremely good reason why it might be worth your time.

Gandy-Golden has THREE straight 1000 yard seasons including 1333 yards in this 2019 edition. That’s good enough for the third most in the nation. Included in that are SEVEN 100+ yard games.

The slight on A.G.G’s statistical record is the lack of top-level competition that he faces playing for an FBS Independent like Liberty. However, he had a 100+ yard game against Syracuse this season and another against Baylor in his freshman year.

If you enjoy one handed, athletic grabs then set your eyes on Antonio Gandy-Golden. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on him in this upcoming NFL Draft.

Meiko Dotson - DB - FAU

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Photo Credit: FAU Athletics

It’s been a long road to the Boca Raton Bowl for Meiko Dotson. From Daytona Beach, via Georgia Tech, through Garden City Community College, and finally to Florida Atlantic University. Now he gets to face off against Shane Buechele and SMU.

Dotson does so on a hot streak. He has had an interception in each of his last four games, including one in the Conference-USA Championship Game against UAB. His performances in 2019 earned him an all C-USA First team nod.

You’d expect nothing less from a player who is leading the nation in interceptions. Those nine INTs set a new FAU program record, a record that had stood since 2007.

The SMU Mustangs come into the game with one of the top offenses in College Football. Meiko Dotson can be the man to tame those wild horses, and enhance his reputation at the same time.

Omar Bayless - WR - Arkansas State

Photo Credit: Terrance Armstard

Senior years don’t come much better than they have for Omar Bayless.

The Arkansas State wide receiver has had a standout season, which culminated in being named the Sun Belt Player of the Year. He led the conference in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

His performances, however, transcended the Sun Belt conference.

Bayless’ 16 touchdowns were the second most in the nation. His 1473 receiving yards were good enough for, you guessed it, second in the nation. Only LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase had more yards and touchdowns in 2019.

What makes Bayless must watch in this game?

Like Antonio Gandy-Golden, Bayless is a big, physically imposing wide receiver who can make highlight reel catches over and over again.

He started the 2019 season with 132 receiving yards and four touchdowns against SMU. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him replicate that performance in his final game for Arkansas State.

Curtis Weaver - EDGE - Boise State

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Photo Creidt: Brian Losness - USA TODAY Sports

This game promises to be one of the best games of the first slate of College Football bowl season. Despite an average season, Washington have a number of NFL Draft calibre players and it would have been easy to focus on them. However, some of those eligible players will have a little something else to focus on.

Actually, there is nothing little about Curtis Weaver.

The guy is an absolute STUD.

Let’s start with some numbers. Weaver’s 13 sacks in 2019 is joint second in the nation, behind only one-man wrecking machine, Chase Young. He features in the top ten for tackles for loss. He also has a forced fumble and an interception to his name this year.

There is nothing he can’t do.

For that reason, he was voted the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year as well as securing All-American honours.

Weaver is powerful, explosive, and versatile making him an intriguing NFL Draft prospect. He can make himself a little more intriguing with a standout performance against PAC-12 opposition.

Akeem Davis-Gaither - LB - Appalachian State

Photo Credit: Appalachian State University

The hype behind Akeem Davis-Gaither is starting to gather momentum, and rightly so. After a phenomenal season that once again saw Appalachian State emerge as a group of five force, Davis-Gaither was voted the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.

His all-round versatility from the linebacker position makes him such a valuable commodity in the NFL Draft. His ability to get into the opposition backfield is evidenced by his second most in the Sun Belt 14 tackles for loss, as well as contributing 4.5 sacks. He is, however, equally adept dropping into coverage as evidenced by an interception and six pass break ups this year.

The New Orleans Bowl will be followed by a trip to the Senior Bowl as the momentum grows stronger.

In a linebacker class lacking much in the way of top end talent, Akeem Davis-Gaither could be a name appearing very highly on NFL Draft boards.

Gabriel Davis - WR - UCF

Photo credit: 247 Sports

A date with Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl is quite the comedown for UCF. It doesn’t seem too long ago that they were self-appointed National Champions and playing LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

It isn’t all doom and gloom in central Florida, however.

Gabriel Davis has quietly had a phenomenal season at wide receiver. In fact, he has the highest number of receiving yards of any junior at the position. He has formed a deadly partnership with freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel and leads the AAC in receiving yards with his first 1000+ yard season.

Unlike the other two wide receivers in this piece, Davis doesn’t rely on physicality to make plays. Although he’s a similar height, he has a slighter frame and so uses speed and savvy route running to make highlight catches.

Matt Bushman - TE - BYU

Photo Credit: Robert W. Grover

If Matt Bushman declares for the 2020 NFL Draft, he will be one of the top 5 prospects at the position. For now, that is a big if. The BYU tight end has stated he won’t make any decision on the future of his career until after the game.

He remains a prospect to watch whether it’s for the 2020 or 2021.

If he does decide to wait until after next College Football season, he’ll likely be one of the older players to enter the Draft.

A huge part of Bushman’s story comes off the field. He spent two years away from university on a mission for the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Santiago.

On the field, Bushman has been the model of consistency for BYU. He has logged three 500 yards seasons and led all Cougars in receiving yards in 2019. He also has experience in blocking, which will prove invaluable in the NFL.

Shaquille Quarterman - LB - Miami

Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/University of Miami Athletics

Unlike team-mates Trevon Hill and Jonathan Garvin, Shaquille Quarterman is determined that he will lead the Miami Hurricanes in their Independence Bowl game against Louisiana Tech.

It’s of no surprise. Despite it being a down year for the ‘Canes, Quarterman has once again been a leader on the field.

His 96 total tackles are by far the most on the team. Only freshman sensation, Gregory Rousseau, has more tackles for loss. Watch out for Quarterman using his insane athleticism to get after LA Tech QB, J’Mar Smith.

As well as being a beast on a blitz, Quarterman isn’t too shabby in coverage, with only defensive back Trajan Bandy having more passes defended this season.

Shaquille Quarterman has not missed a single game in his Miami career. Sit back and enjoy as he tries to ensure that his last one is a winning one.

Jaylen Twyman - DT - Pitt

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If it hadn’t been for a loss to Boston College, Pitt could have been playing at a higher tier Bowl game than the Quick Lane Bowl. As it is, Eastern Michigan is just another opponent who will have to try and stop Jaylen Twyman.

Not that many have succeeded so far in 2019.

After starting just one game in 2018, Twyman has become not just a fixture of the Pitt defensive front, but a key part of it. He led the team in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (12) this year on his way to an ACC First-team honour.

Thursday night (Friday morning in the UK) will see Twyman pull on the famous number 97 shirt for the last time. It was made famous by Aaron Donald and now Twyman follows him into the NFL. Does he feel any pressure?

“Pressure only busts pipes or makes diamonds”.

Twyman could well be the next NFL defensive diamond from the Pitt pipeline.

Feature Image Credit: College Football News

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