We are finally heading into the span of bowl games that features ranked teams with the top prospects that will make up the first few rounds of the draft. As he has throughout the bowl season, Joe Malfa has a list of the top names to watch in each of the biggest games.
Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Time: 5:00 p.m.
1) QB Baker Mayfield
2017 stats: 71.0% completion percentage, 4,340 yards, 41 TDs, 5 INTs
Career stats: 68.6% completion percentage, 14,320 yards, 129 TDs, 29 INTs
Finally — the quarterback I have been most looking forward to watching all bowl season. Georgia’s defense will prove to be his toughest test of the season, but at this point it does not seem like anything can stop Mayfield. I think he has a big day today and puts his Sooners in position to win a national championship. As far as his potential as a prospect, I would put him right behind Darnold an Rosen in this draft. As is the case with every quarterback prospect, there are some minor improvements he needs to make in regards to his footwork, but that’s the only real improvement that needs to be made. The other question marks, if you want to even call them that, all have to do with making adjustments. He needs to adjust to a more NFL style offense, taking more snaps under center and the speed of NFL defenses. He has made some throws and plays that could be considered reckless. While these plays have not typically resulted in turnovers (single-digit interceptions in all four seasons), the faster NFL defenders might be able to make those reckless throws turnovers instead of big plays for Mayfield. With the Broncos picking fifth and the Jets picking sixth, there is no way Mayfield makes it beyond the top-six picks in the draft.
2) TE Mark Andrews
2017 stats: 58 catches, 906 yards, 8 TDs
Career stats: 108 catches, 1,713 yards, 22 TDs
Andrews may be the best, most athletic pass-catching tight end in this draft, but blocking is not his strong suit. He has gotten better as of late, but Jimmy Graham began his career the same way — strictly a pass-catcher with little blocking ability. Andrews will line up out wide as much as he lines up on the line. He strikes me as a 2nd or 3rd round tight end, and I envision the team that drafts Mayfield may try to bring in Andrews as well if they have a hole at tight end.
3) DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
2017 stats: 13 games 70 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
6-foot-1 defensive linemen are fairly common, but typically they are short, stout defensive tackles. It is rare to see an edge rusher, who relies on speed, length and strength, to be 6-foot-1 and thrive at that size, but that is what we have in Okoronkwo. The one thing a short defensive end can use to his advantage is getting low to the ground and bending around the taller tackles, and Okoronkwo has mastered that. A speed rush with some bend around the edge is his go-to move, and it led him to eights sacks this season and nine last season. He will come off the board in the 2nd or 3rd round to a team looking for a sack artist.
More names to watch:
- OT Orlando Brown (1st round)
- HB Dmitri Flowers (4th-5th round)
- CB Jordan Thomas (6th-7th round)
1) MLB Roquan Smith
2017 stats: 13 games, 113 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, Texas’ Malik Jefferson and Georgia’s Roquan Smith — the top three linebackers in a class with a lot of pro-ready linebacker talent. The order in which they are drafted will probably come down to performances at the combine and pro days, but I believe Smith is the most talented and will have the biggest immediate impact in the NFL. The knock on him is his size at 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, but I think his production in a conference that typically boasts the nation’s best offensive lines speaks for itself.
2) RB Nick Chubb
2017 stats: 191 carries, 1,175 yards, 13 TDs
Career stats: 726 carries, 4,599 yards, 42 TDs
Chubb was the heir apparent to Todd Gurley at Georgia and after a stellar freshman season, some people thought he might be better than his predecessor. Unfortunately, he shared another thing in common with Gurley aside from their running abilities — suffering a major knee injury. Chubb has bounced back and is poised to make his mark in the NFL. He is only a two down back as he struggles as a receiver and blocker, but he makes the most of every touch. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry in his college career. I think Chubb’s injury past combined with the workload he has handled at Georgia will push him to the 2nd or 3rd round. Any team who takes him will be getting a running back capable of providing a boost on the early downs. He has the strength and the speed burst to be a top NFL starter and he will be a day two steal.
3) RB Sony Michel
2017 stats: 132 carries, 948 yards, 13 TDs; 5 catches 55 yards
Career stats: 566 carries, 3,359 yards, 30 TDs; 60 catches, 580 yards, 5 TDs
There seems to be a belief that Michel could be a better pro than he is a collegiate player. I agree. He has the combination of speed, sneaky power, elusiveness and versatility in the passing game that makes him an attractive day two pick. He may even come off the board earlier than his partner, Chubb, because he does not have the injury history and he does a better job as a receiver and a blocker. There is a lot of day two running back talent in this year’s draft, and both Chubb and Michel are two of the headliners.
More Names to watch:
- TE Jeb Blazevich (6th round- undrafted free agent)
- EDGE Lorenzo Carter (2nd-3rd round)
- S Dominick Sanders (4th-5th round)
- DL Trenton Thompson (2nd-3rd round)
- G Isaiah Wynn (2nd-3rd round)
Photo Credit: tulsaworld.com