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

Joe Malfa with his prospect viewing guide for the New Year’s Day Bowl Games…

‘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 entire bowl season leads up to today. Five games, nine top-20 teams (and Iowa, who should be ranked), and a boatload of prospects.

New Year’s Day Schedule:

Outback Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Iowa (12:00, ESPN2)

Citrus Bowl: Kentucky vs. Penn State (1:00, ABC)

Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. UCF (1:00, ESPN)

Rose Bowl: Washington vs. Ohio State (5:00, ESPN)

Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia (8:45, ESPN)

Prospects:

1) Mississippi St. DT Jeffery Simmons (6-foot-3, 300 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 59 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 1 sack

Career: 37 games, 159 tackles, 30.5 TFLs, 6.0 sacks

The biggest knock on Simmons may be an off-field incident from 2016. He was involved in an incident in which he allegedly hit a woman. In today’s NFL, this is certainly not something that can be overlook. Speaking strictly in terms of what he does on the field, Simmons can be a stud. His strength and explosive burst allow him to penetrate and blow plays up before they get started. He commands more than one blocker quite often, and he does a good job of shedding those double-teams. He is not much of a pass rusher, but he will be the guy that can draw a double on the inside in order to free up a rusher on the edge.

Projection: 1st round pick

2) Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson (6-foot-5, 243 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 46 catches, 717 yards, 6 TDs

Career: 22 games, 70 catches, 1037 yards, 9 TDs

Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant draws all of the attention because of his athleticism, but Hockenson is arguably the better, more complete tight end. He is not quite as athletic as Fant, but he has very strong hands and he is a great blocker. Fant will likely be a 1st round pick (I don’t single him out in this article because he is sitting this game out), but Hockenson had more catches, yards, and won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end. Don’t sleep on the player regarded as Iowa’s “other” tight end because of the large shadow that Fant has cast.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

3) Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen (6-foot-5, 230 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 84 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 14 sacks, 5 FFs

Career: 41 games, 216 tackles, 39 TFLs, 28.5 sacks, 11 FFs

What are the odds of there being a pair of top ten picks in consecutive years who share the same name? Not important, I digress. What is important is the fact that Allen is the best pass rusher in this class not named Nick Bosa. He could have come out last year and been a 2nd round pick, but he bet on himself and will probably not slip past the 5th overall pick. Don’t be surprised if we see a Jadeveon Clowney/Khalil Mack situation play out between Bosa and Allen. The first player off the board will almost certainly be Bosa, but it would not at all be a surprise if Allen outplays him in the same way Mack (2014’s 5th pick) has outshined Clowney (2014’s 1st pick) thus far.

Projection: 1st round pick (top 5)

4) Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye (6-foot-1, 205 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 48 tackles, 3 INTs, 11 passes defended

Career: 37 games, 104 tackles, 8 INTs, 20 passes defended

Oruwariye has the size that NFL teams look for after the “Legion of Boom” Seahawks highlighted the value of possessing large corners. He is also among the smoothest corners in this class in terms of his footwork, getting in and out of his breaks, and flipping the hips to run with receivers down the field. Everything he does is fluid, and he is a ballhawk. He needs to improve as a tackler, but that could be said for a lot of corners in the NFL.

Projection: 1st-2nd round pick

5) LSU LB Devin White (6-feet, 240 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 115 tackles, 12 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 FFs

Career: 33 games, 278 tackles, 28.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, 3 FFs, INT

Take a look at former LSU linebacker and current Atlanta Falcons standout Deion Jones. That is what you get in White. He has issues at times with the mental aspect of the game, making the right reads, and trusting his instincts, but he gets by on freakish athleticism. His best football is ahead of him. When the mind catches up to the body, he will be a 140+ tackle player capable of taking games over.

Projection: 1st round pick (top 25)

6) Washington CB Byron Murphy (6-feet, 175 pounds)

2018 Stats: 13 games, 56 tackles, 4 INTs, 13 passes defended

Career: 19 games, 72 tackles, 6 INTs, 20 passes defended

Washington has produced some quality defensive back prospects over the last couple of seasons, and Murphy is the next man up. His technique is sound, and he is explosive, quick to the ball, recognizes routes quickly, and is a menace in press coverage. He has what it takes to eliminate one side of the field, and he will be one of the best corners in the league within a few seasons. Washington has allowed just nine passing touchdowns this season, and his play is a big reason. Murphy and the Huskies will face a major test  in the Rose Bowl against……….

Projection: 1st round pick

7) Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins (6-foot-3, 220 pounds)

2018 Stats: 348/496, 4580 yards, 47 TDs, 8 INTs

Career: 388/553, 5145 yards, 51 TDs, 9 INTs

Haskins vs. Murphy and that Huskies defense. We have a great battle in store at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We didn’t quite know what to expect out of Haskins this season as he took over for J.T. Barrett at Ohio State, but he tore through every defense he faced and vaulted himself to the top of the QB rankings. He has yet to officially declare for the draft, but he would, quite frankly, be foolish not to make the jump this season. He will be the clear-cut QB1 in this draft, whereas next year he would at best be QB3 behind Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm. Haskins has a big arm, he is accurate, and he is very comfortable in the pocket. He will have some growing pains early on due to his inexperience, but the talent is there. In the right situation, if he takes a redshirt year, he could emerge as a stud in year two like Patrick Mahomes has.

Projection: 1st round pick (top 6)

8) Ohio State DT Dre’Mont Jones (6-foot-2, 295 pounds)

2018 Stats: 13 games, 40 tackles, 13 TFLs, 8.5 sacks

Career: 36 games, 111 tackles, 22 TFLs, 9.5 sacks

Jones is a prospect that I have gotten to watch in person each of the last three seasons, and I have not come away impressed. He is a tremendous athlete who will tear up the Combine, which should ultimately solidify his status as a 1st round pick. He flashes with some brilliant, big plays at times, but then he will disappear and take a few plays off. He struggles against the run, though he has a lot of success generating a pass rush from the middle of the line. If he stays inside, he will need to put on some weight otherwise centers and guards will maul him in the run game. The idea has been floated around for Jones to actually shed some weight and go outside as a pure edge rusher. Given his strength is his ability to rush the passer, this might make sense. I, however, would have a hard time spending a first round pick on a player with this many question marks. Can he figure out how to stop the run? Should he put on weight? Should he lose weight? Should he switch positions? There are other, arguably better defensive linemen available with fewer question marks. However, those players may not have as high of a ceiling. Jones could be a top-flight defensive lineman if a team strikes the right chord regarding his playing weight and his position, but my gut tells me he is a bust.

Projection: 1st-2nd round pick

9) Georgia WR Riley Ridley (6-foot-2, 200 pounds)

2018 Stats: 13 games, 38 catches, 498 yards, 9 TDs

Career: 27 games, 64 catches, 954 yards, 13 TDs

The numbers for Ridley look pedestrian at best, but chalk that up to the way he is used by Georgia and their reliance on the run. Ridley has ideal size, strong hands, he blocks well, and he runs clean routes. He isn’t the shiftiest of receivers which limits his ability after the catch, and he doesn’t have that next gear that allows him to burn by defensive backs down the field. Ridley is a player that will feast on short and intermediate routes in the NFL, and his best football is ahead of him.

Projection: 1st-2nd round pick

10) Texas WR Collin Johnson (6-foot-6, 210 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 65 catches, 945 yards, 7 TDs

Career: 34 games, 147 catches, 2025 yards, 12 TDs

The routes aren’t crisp and he isn’t a very shifty runner with the ball in his hands, but let me direct you back up a few lines to where it lists his size. Read it. Read it again. With his size, hands, and catch radius, he will be the ideal pick for a team looking to get a dangerous deep threat and massive red zone target for their young quarterback (think the Cardinals, Jets, Bills, Browns, Ravens, etc.).

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

Other names to watch:

Mississippi St.: DE Montez Sweat (1st-2nd round), S Johnathan Abraham (2nd-3rd round), C Elgton Jenkins (2nd-3rd round), S Mark McLaurin (3rd-5th round), CB Jamal Peters (3rd-5th round), QB Nick Fitzgerald (5th-7th round)

Iowa: DE Anthony Nelson (3rd-4th round)

Penn St.: C Connor McGovern (2nd-4th round), RB Miles Sanders (3rd-5th round), QB Trace McSorley (6th round-undrafted free agent)

Kentucky: RB Benny Snell (2nd-3rd round), TE C.J. Conrad (3rd-4th round), S Darius West (3rd-5th round), S Mike Edwards (3rd-5th round), CB Lonnie Johnson (3rd-5th round), CB Derrick Baity (3rd-5th round)

LSU: TE Foster Moreau (4th-6th round), DL Rashard Lawrence (4th-6th round)

UCF: LB Pat Jasinski (5th-7th round), S Kyle Gibson (5th-7th round)

Washington: S Taylor Rapp (2nd-3rd round), RB Myles Gaskin (2nd-3rd round), DT Greg Gaines (3rd-5th round), LB Ben Burr-Kirven (4th-5th round), CB Jordan Miller (4th-5th round), S JoJo McIntosh (4th-5th round), OT Kaleb McGary (4th-6th round), TE Drew Sample (5th-6th round), QB Jake Browning (5th-7th round)

Ohio State: WR Parris Campbell (2nd-3rd round), RB Mike Weber (2nd-3rd round), OL Michael Jordan (2nd-3rd round), CB Kendall Sheffield (2nd-3rd round), S Jordan Fuller (2nd-4th round), WR K.J. Hill (2nd-4th round), OL Isaiah Prince (3rd-5th round), OG Malcolm Pridgeon (4th-5th round), CB Damon Arnette (5th-7th round)

Texas: WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey (2nd-3rd round), CB Kris Boyd (3rd-4th round), OT Calvin Anderson (3rd-5th round), DE Charles Omenihu (5th-7th round), DT Malcolm Roach (5th-7th round)

Georgia: LB D’Andre Walker (2nd-3rd round), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (5th-7th round), TE Isaac Nauta (5th-7th round), S J.R. Reed (5th-7th round), OG Kendal Baker (7th round-undrafted free agent), K Rodrigo Blankenship (7th-undrafted free agent)