Bowl Game Prospect Viewing Guide: New Year’s Eve Bowls

Joe Malfa With His Bowl Game Prospect Viewing Guide: New Year’s Eve Bowls.

‘Tis the season for over 40 college bowl games sponsored by some very obscure companies to celebrate the mediocrity of 6-6 teams. Surely there is an angry old man somewhere waving his fist screaming about how “everyone gets a trophy” and “the Millennials are ruining everything.” At TOJ, we love bowl season. Maybe not for the games because watching two small schools battle for an irrelevant trophy is not very appealing, but it gives us a chance to watch some teams that we did not get a chance to watch this season and evaluate some prospects who may not have been regularly exposed to us.

The New Year’s Eve slate is jam-packed with six games, but it lacks in quality prospects to evaluate. Across all six games — meaning 12 teams and over 1,000 total players on those rosters — I count just 10 prospects that will be selected within the first two days of the draft. I will highlight a few here, but make sure you stay tuned for the New Year’s Day edition of this article. Five more bowl games to ring in the new year, and a lot of 1st and 2nd round talent on those teams.

New Year’s Eve Schedule:

Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (12:00, ESPN)

Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh (2:00, CBS)

Redbox Bowl: Michigan St. vs. Oregon (3:00, FOX)

Liberty Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma St. (3:45, ESPN)

Holiday Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah (7:00, FS1)

Gator Bowl: NC State vs. Texas A&M (7:30, ESPN)

Prospects:

1) Stanford WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (6-foot-3, 225 pounds)

2018 Stats: 11 games, 60 catches, 969 yards, 14 TDs

Career: 32 games, 132 catches, 2129 yards, 28 TDs

With his size and skillset, Arcega-Whiteside has what it takes to be a true number one receiver in the NFL. His game reminds me of Davante Adams, except the Stanford product is actually an even bigger target. Arcega-Whiteside will be a fantasy football dream, and he will be a touchdown machine. I am very confident in saying this: whichever team drafts him will see a dramatic increase in red zone productivity next season.

Projection: 1st-2nd round pick

2) Stanford TE Kaden Smith (6-foot-5, 250 pounds)

2018 Stats: 9 games, 47 catches, 635 yards, 2 TDs

Career: 20 games, 70 catches, 1049 yards, 7 TDs

All of the attention will go to the preeminent EDGE prospects in this class, but it is a very deep, talented tight end class as well. Stanford is a tight end factory, and Smith is just the next in the long line of prospects. He has experience in a pro-style system and has been asked to block a lot for the Cardinal, which will make his transition to the NFL seamless. He has the size and hands to succeed as a pass catcher, particularly in the red zone.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

3) Oregon DE Jalen Jelks (6-foot-6, 245 pounds)

2018 Stats: 11 games, 53 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks

Career: 38 games, 152 tackles, 30 TFLs, 15.5 sacks

With QB Justin Herbert announcing his return to Oregon, Jelks becomes their top prospect entering the draft. He is a bit of an oddball in this draft class. It is loaded with defensive ends and EDGE prospects who get after the QB but struggle at times against the run. Jelks struggles at times as a pass rusher, but he excels against the run. The lack of production as a pass rusher drops him to Day 2, but a team will draft him knowing they have a reliable run-stopper with a lot of upside as a pass rusher as his game develops.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

4) Missouri QB Drew Lock (6-foot-4, 225 pounds)

2018 Stats: 252/399, 3125 yards, 25 TDs, 8 INTs

Career: 860/1515, 11,820 yards, 96 TDs, 39 INTs

The 2019 QB class may be the most pedestrian in recent memory. Lock is a very average prospect, but “average” is the best this class has to offer outside of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Lock is a four-year starter in the SEC. He is comfortable in the pocket and has a big arm, though he struggles with accuracy. I’ll go through a more formal grading process as the draft draws near, but I would give Lock a 3rd round grade based on what I have seen the last couple of years. In this weak class, however, a team will likely reach on him in the 1st round.

Projection: 1st round pick

5) Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam (6-foot-5, 255 pounds)

2018 Stats: 9 games, 43 catches, 466 yards, 6 TDs

Career: 18 games, 72 catches, 881 yards, 17 TDs

Everything I said above about Kaden Smith — ditto here for Okwuegbunam except the Missouri prospect appears to be a bit more athletic.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

Other names to watch:

Cincinnati: DT Cortez Broughton (4th-6th round)

Virginia Tech: DT Ricky Walker (3rd-5th round)

Stanford: CB Alijah Holder (2nd-3rd round), G Nathan Herbig (3rd-4th round), C Jesse Burkett (4th-5th round), LB Bobby Okereke (4th-5th round)

Pittsburgh: RB Qadree Ollison (4th-5th round)

Michigan State: DE Kenny Wilekes (3rd-4th round), S David Dowell (3rd-4th round), RB L.J. Scott (5th-6th round), LB Joe Bachie (5th-6th round)

Oregon: OG Calvin Throckmorton (5th-6th round)

Missouri: DT Terry Beckner (3rd-5th round), WR Emanuel Hall (4th-5th round)

Oklahoma State: WR Tyron Johnson (5th-7th round)

Northwestern: CB Montre Hartage (2nd-3rd round), QB Clayton Thorson (3rd-4th round), DE Joe Gaziano (4th-5th round)

Utah: S Marquise Blair (3rd-5th round), OT Jackson Barton (5th-7th round), K Matt Gay (6th round-undrafted free agent), P Mitch Wishnowsky (6th round-undrafted free agent)

NC State: C Garrett Bradbury (2nd-3rd round), QB Ryan Finley (3rd-4th round)

Texas A&M: C Erik McCoy (2nd-3rd round), LB Otaro Alaka (2nd-4th round), LB Tyler Dodson (2nd-4th round), RB Trayveon Williams (5th-6th round), TE Jace Sternberger (5th-6th round), DT Daylon Mack (5th-6th round)