Camping World Bowl - (17) Oklahoma State vs. (22) Virginia Tech
ESPN - 5:15pm
From a draft perspective, Oklahoma State might be the most interesting team on the field today, mostly because of quarterback Mason Rudolph.
A fierce debate has raged all season long regarding the two senior quarterbacks from Oklahoma; Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. From a purely measurable standpoint, Rudolph has a clear advantage at 6’4”, 235 pounds, Rudolph looks like a prototypical NFL quarterback. However, his regular season didn’t quite live up to expectations, while Mayfield went on to win the Heisman trophy. The NFL will get the chance to watch him up close at the Senior Bowl, but the opportunity to compete under the lights of a bowl game — the final game of his college career — will be instructive as well.
Rudolph will also be throwing to two of the top receivers in the class. James Washington is one of the players in the conversation for the top receiver in the draft class. Consistently productive, Washington has good hands, runs solid routes and has averaged 20 yards per catch over the last three years. He might not test impressively at the Scouting Combine, but he plays faster and bigger than he will measure (he is listed at 6’0”, 205 pounds). Across from him will be Marcell Ateman, one of the premier “big” receivers in the draft. Ateman made a name for himself as an option when Washington is off the field. At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Ateman is adept at bullying defensive backs, using his frame to win contested passes and generally be a weapon on the perimeter and in the red zone.
The Giants should also be paying attention to Virginia Tech’s defense as well. Given the Giants’ persistent lack of an impact linebacker, OLB Tremaine Edwards should certainly be of interest. At 6’3”, 235 pounds, Edwards has the size the Giants have traditionally favored on defense, while also having the kind of athleticism and versatility they have largely lacked since the early ‘90s. Edwards can play down-hill, in space, and rush the passer, leading the Hokies with 102 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 passes defensed.
Behind Edwards is cornerback Brandon Facsyon. Facsyon is a big DB (6’1”, 190) who plays something of a hybrid role in Virginia Tech’s defense, apparently moving between corner and safety depending on down, distance, and package. He shows good instincts and doesn’t hesitate to come downhill and throw his body into a tackle. Athleticism is a question for him, but he has undeniable ball skills, with 34 passes broken up in his time at VT. He might be best suited in a similar role as Tyrann Mathieu plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
Holiday Bowl - (18) Michigan State vs. (21) Washington State
FS1 - 9pm
The Holiday Bowl features a trio of prospects whose draft stock could be particularly volatile.
Starting on the Washington State side of things, QB Luke Falk entered the season high on scouts’ radar, but has seen his stock dip when he stumbled mid-season. Falk is accurate and seems to have a high football IQ, but he lacks arm strength and threw a cereer high in interceptions this season — mostly in the second half of the season.
On the Washington State defense, NFL teams will have to figure out what to make of Hercules Mata’afa. Mata’afa is a defensive end in school, but at 6’1”, 245 pounds will likely be moved to outside linebacker. But while he has little to no experience playing in space as a linebacker, he has been particularly disruptive this year, with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Assuming the team that drafts him has a plan, Mata’afa’s quickness and explosive first step should quickly carve out a niche as a pass rusher.
On Michigan State, the player to watch is running back L.J. Scott.
Scott will likely draw comparisons to former Spartan Le’Veon Bell as the process goes forward. Whether that comparison is justified remains to be seen, but the two running backs certainly share some traits. Like Bell coming out of Michigan State, Scott is a big back (6’0”, 230 pounds) but possesses very quick feet to complement his natural power. He has also shown improvement in the passing game in each season. Scott might not get the recognition of other running backs, but he could prove to be a mid-round steal. It is worth noting that Scott has had a significant work load, with 543 touches (2760 yards, 25 touchdowns) over the last three seasons.
Alamo Bowl - (13) TCU vs. (15) Stanford
ESPN - 9pm
This game features a Heisman finalist, Doak Award winner, and Pac-12 offensive player of the year, that was a regular in our Top-10 list during the season. That is, of course, Stanford running back Bryce Love.
Love exploded on to the scene this year with an absurd 1973 yards (8.3 ypc) and 17 touchdowns. He isn’t a factor in the receiving game, but Love’s vision, patience, feel, and gliding running style reminds of former FSU running back Dalvin Cook. He has a similar ability to find a crease, turning a bit of daylight and a nice run into a big chunk of yardage. Despite being just 5’10”, 195 pounds, Love is probably the best pure runner in the draft — despite lacking Saquon Barkley’s versatility and utterly freakish athletic ability.
He is expected to play through an ankle injury that has bothered him since October.
On the defensive side of the ball, Stanford has a pair of big, physical corners, Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, that should interest the NFL. Meeks is the more highly regarded of the two, using his long frame and physical game to beat receivers. He generally does a good job of sticking with receivers, but there are concerns about his ball skills.
TCU features one of the best defenses in the nation, and pass rushing outside linebacker Ben Banogu is probably the prospect to watch. He has prototypical size (6’4”, 245), and impressive athleticism, which he uses to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage. Whether or not the red-shirt junior declares for the draft is still up in the air, but his production (45 tackles, 15.5 for a loss, and 8.5 sacks) has the arrow pointing up.