Good morning New York Giants fans!
Happy Saturday and welcome to... Bowl season? Draft season?
This is one of the best times of the year for people (like me) who both love to see great football be played and young mens’ dreams come true.
Bowl season kicks off this weekend, well, actually it kicked off yesterday with Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl and Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl.
This is also the time of year when underclassmen declare whether they are staying in school for another year or foregoing their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft early. While seniors get the attention of the East-West Shrine Game and the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the tops of draft boards are often dominated by underclassmen.
With that in mind, let’t take a quick look at some of the most notable underclassmen to declare so far.
Most notable declarations
Matt Corral (QB, Mississippi)
Corral isn’t the best underclassman to declare — we’ll be saving the best for last — but as one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft he’s one of the most notable. QBs always play an outsized role in the final draft order, and Corral could be one of the first off the board.
Corral has a quick, compact release with good accuracy and the mobility to scramble and threaten defenses with his legs.
Carson Strong (QB, Nevada)
Strong is a big, strong passer with impressive arm strength. He can easily threaten all areas of the field and force teams to defend every blade of grass. His size and arm strength draw comparisons to Joe Flacco — however Strong comes with significant injury concerns.
His medical reports will be crucial for his draft stock.
Kenneth Walker III (RB, Michigan State)
Walker was probably the best running back in college football last year. He finished second in total rushing (by just 74 yards) with 1,636 yards and scored an impressive 18 rushing touchdowns for Michigan State.
Walker’ athletic traits don’t leap off the screen at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds and with average speed. However, he has fantastic vision, contact balance, and great short-area quickness. He might not get teams excited enough to spend a high first round pick on him, but he’s going to make his eventual team very happy.
Treylon Burks (WR, Arkansas)
Burks might be the premier “X” receiver in this year’s draft. He aligned all over the Arkansas offense, playing outside as well as in the slot, and saw a high volume of targets wherever he lined up. He is a very sure-handed receiver who is competitive and physical at the catch point. He also has solid run-after-catch skills when he get s the ball in space.
Jaxson Kirkland (OT, Washington)
The 2022 NFL Draft looks to be a strong and deep one along the offensive line.
While we expect players like Evan Neal and Tyler Linderbaum to declare and enter the draft, they have not yet done so as of this writing. That makes Washington Tackle Jaxson Kirkland something of a standout name among the early entrants into the draft.
Kirkland is, simply put, a solid offensive lineman who should challenge for a starting job. He has good size, good athleticism, good technique, and he didn’t have a penalty until the final game of the season. He’s the kind of player who slips just below the radar because he just does his job.
George Karlaftis (DE/EDGE, Purdue)
Karlaftis’ is a name that has gained a lot of steam lately and has been lined to the Giants a couple time. I’m not sure how well he would fit in Patrick Graham’s defense, Karlaftis is a good player. His game is predicated on power, leverage, and a motor that just doesn’t slow down.
He is going to be a good defensive end in the NFL and should hear his name called before the first round is done.
DeMarvin Leal (iDL, Texas A&M)
Leal will probably be the first interior defensive lineman off the board in April, and should be a disruptive force in the NFL. He is long (6-foot-4, 290 pounds), with an explosive first step, and the ability to be stout at the point of attack as well as disruptive behind the line of scrimmage.
Leal lined up at a variety of positions for TAMU, but should find a home as a one-gap penetrator in the NFL.
Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon)
Thibodeaux was the prohibitive favorite for the first overall pick nearly all season long. He isn’t any more, but that that is through no fault of his own — more the stellar play of Aidan Hutchinson.
Thibodeaux’s length, explosiveness, flexibility, and agility simply leap off the tape. It was clear that he had star potential as a freshman, and has only gotten better. Wherever he goes, it will be very early in the draft and he is going to have an impact on whichever defense gets him.
Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)
The other “top” underclassman to declare. Hamilton has been trading places with Thibodeaux on draft boards all season long. He has a an injury red flag after a knee injury cut his season short.
Assuming his medicals check out, Hamilton is a simply rare prospect. With the ability to play free safety, box safety, slot defender, and WILL linebacker, the Notre Dame DB has a simply rare skillset and athletic profile. He might be the most unique defensive weapon to enter the NFL in recent memory and should change how a defense is able to play defense.
Today’s bowl games
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - ESPN, 11am
Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State
PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl - ESPN, 2:30pm
UTEP vs. Fresno State
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl - ABC, 3:30pm
UAB vs. (13) BYU
Lending Tree Bowl - ESPN, 5:45pm
Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty
Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel - ABC, 7:30pm
Utah State vs. Oregon State
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - ESPN 9:15pm
(23) Louisiana vs. Marshall
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