I thought instead of just the normal draft watch, it would be more useful to everyone to have a primer on who to watch in the bowl games leading up to New Years. So if you're going to watch any of these games, write down these names. And tell your family while you're watching that 3k told you about these guys first!
NFL Bowl watch after the fold.
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte, NC, Sat., 1 PM EST
West Virginia vs. North Carolina
Not a ton of top prospects in this one. Don't believe the Pat White hype. Noel Devine will be a top tier HB, but he's still a true sophomore. Of note, though, is WVU's Greg Isdaner, a powerful junior OG. We'll have to wait to see if he declares, but if he does, he could come off the board one day 1. Hakeem Nicks on UNC is a nice WR, but I don't think he'll declare this year. Sitting behind Brooks Foster on the depth chart hurt his numbers and thus visibility. If he stays for his senior year, he could be a day 1 WR.
Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL, Sat., 4:30 PM EST
Wisconsin vs. Florida St.
Oppositely of the aforementioned game, this one has a boatload of future NFL players. On the Wisconsin side, you'll hear (and see) the Badgers' strength at TE. They lost Sr. Travis Beckum earlier in the season to a leg injury, but Jr. Garrett Graham has been a wonderful fill-in. Also keep an eye on DE Matt Shaughnessy. A good game for him is vital as he doesn't project to have a great combine (save maybe for the Wonderlich).
On the FSU side of the ball, you will see some great talents that will factor in on day 1 on not just this year's draft, but next year's as well. Of course, the most hyped up player probably in the game is FSU's DE Everette Brown. On the same side of the ball is junior safety Myron Rolle. He's not Taylor Mays, but still a great talent.
Emerald Bowl, San Francisco, CA, Sat., 8PM EST
Miami vs. Cal
Alex Mack, Cal's center, is a beastly beast. I'd be surprised if he doesn't go day 1. A possible round 2 pick for the Rams. Cal's MLB, Worrell Williams, has great footwork to go with serious size: 250 lbs. of size. Of course, his downsize is his speed; he doesn't have much. Miami doesn't have any top-level prospects this year, but OT Jason Fox could develop into a nice pick next year if he can gain some athleticism this offseason. At 6'7", he's a beast of a lineman. His problem is that he often stands too quickly and allows defensive rushers to push him around at his base. The short version: watch Mack.
Petro Sun Independence Bowl, Shreveport, LA, Sun., 8:15 PM EST
Lousiana Tech vs. N. Illinois
Do you know anyone who is actually going to watch this? Me either. What a sad development for this bowl game. I went to the I-Bowl in 2005 to see Missouri win 38-31 over South Carolina. Alabama has played in the game the last two years. And this year is La-Tech and North Illy. Ugh. To be fair, I guess I have to list one prospect. Larry English is (apparently) a very good blitzing OLB. I might try to catch a play or two from him, but really, how much of a measuring stick is Louisiana Tech? This is the problem with Bowl Season...
PapaJohns.com Bowl, Birmingham, AL, Mon. 3PM EST
NC St. vs. Rutgers
Weekday afternoon action sees the Wolfpack battle the Scarlet Knights in one of the dumbest names for a Bowl game this year. I think it should be illegal to name a bowl after a website. Maybe we can pony up the dough to get the TurfShowTimes.com Bowl? Two prospects of note: NC St.'s Willie Young and Rutgers' Kenny Britt.
Young is one of the best DE's in the game. No word on whether he'll declare. I'd like to see him play one more year because I haven't seen a NC State game this year. Britt is a WR with a great NFL body: 6'4", 215 lbs. His numbers this year have been tremendous. It's about 95% certain that he will declare for this year's draft as a junior. Depending on how quickly WR's come off the board (and who declares), I would say he's a round 2-4 pick.
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX, Mon., 8PM EST
Missouri vs. Northwestern
Northwestern is stocked with over-producing seniors. Missouri has talented players who can't operate as a team. They will score points, though. Obviously, the biggest name (NFL-wise) is Jeremy Maclin. He's arguably the fastest, most athletic WR in the game. If he comes out this year, he's a first-round pick. Missouri also has one of the best safeties in the game in William Moore. He could improve his pass defense, but he's a nice run-stopping safety. He should make a nice NFL SS for someone. Probably round 3-4. TE Chase Coffman is arguably the best TE in the country. Tight ends are hard to scout (see Joe Klopfenstein) if they're not pure receivers, like Heath Miller or Todd Heap or Tony Gonzo. Nevertheless, he could be the first TE taken if it's not Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma) or Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma St.). Missouri's Ziggy Hood will probably go between round 3 and 6 as a DT.
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, ID, Tue., 4:30 PM EST
Nevada vs. Maryland
I'll make this one short. Watch Maryland's WR Darius Heyward-Bey. He's a third-year sophomore who, at 6'2", will be a nice pick up when he does come out (which I'm thinking will not be this year).
Texas Bowl, Houston, NC, Tue., 8PM EST
Western Michigan vs. Rice
Another joke of a bowl game. Only player worth keeping an eye on is senior safety Louis Delmas. I had no idea Western Mich has so many players from Florida on their roster. Strange. Delmas will be a second day pick.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA, Tue., 8PM EST
Oregon vs. Oklahoma St.
As if you needed a reason not to watch W. Michigan vs. Rice. Oregon has some great prospects, including Jairus Byrd (CB, Jr.), Max Unger (C, Sr.), Patrick Chung (S, Sr.), and, most notably, senior running back Jeremiah Johnson (awesome name). Had Johnson not been behind Jonathan Stewart (who has had a great year for Carolina), he could have had a great career. As it is, he'll just have to settle for a nice NFL contract. I figure he'll go at the end of the 2nd round barring a combine surprise.
The Cowboys have a nice crop of prospects themselves. Brandon Pettigrew will probably be the first TE taken in the draft. Russell Okung, junior OT, will probably stay another year and be the first tackle taken next year. And Kendall Hunter, though just a sophomore, is a hell of a running back. This is probably the best bowl game so far, not just for talent, but as a matchup.
Good game to end on, too. I'll try to post another next week looking at the games on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. And as I watch, if I can remember, I'll post my observations here. I hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas.