NFL Draft: Five Bowl Games with the most NFL Talent
By Dan Dahlke
2. The Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Clemson (Dec. 31st)
At 18 potential pro prospects, the Fiesta Bowl is a highly anticipated matchup for talent evaluators. The stakes will also be high because the winner of this game will go on to compete for a National Championship.
For one of the two teams, it will be our last chance to see some of the top players in the upcoming draft play in live game action.
When Clemson’s offense takes the field to square off against the Buckeyes defense, there could be as many as 12 draft prospects on the field at once.
The majority of the top-end talent on Ohio State’s offense is on the offensive line. Center Pat Elflein and guard Billy Price headline the 2017 class of interior offensive linemen. They’re both tough road graders with quick feet and a take no-prisoners attitude. They could each go in the second or third round of the draft.
Offensive weapon Curtis Samuel is fun player to watch. As a hybrid halfback-slot receiver, Samuel makes plays in a variety of ways. 1526 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in 2016 should grab the attention of a lot of NFL scouts.
As many as six players on the Buckeyes defense could land spots on an NFL roster next year. The most notable players are cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker. If all three declare, they could each be taken within the first two rounds of the draft.
Inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a tackling machine and as reliable as they come at the position. He could go as early as the second round. He’s a starting caliber player in the NFL.
Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis appear to be mid-round prospects. While Hubbard is the more athletic of the two and has more upside as a 3-4 rush backer, Lewis is still a solid player coming off very productive college season (7.5 sacks, 10 TFLs).
The Tigers’ offense has playmakers at every key position, starting with quarterback Deshaun Watson. The junior is a duel-threat quarterback who could crack the top-ten of the draft if he finds the right fit. Watson should be in the conversation with DeShone Kizer and Mitch Trubisky as QB1 in this draft.
Wayne Gallman may get overlooked in this deep running back class, but he’s a speedy tailback with good cutback ability. He may not go until the third or fourth round, but he could compete for a starting job in an NFL camp next summer.
Watson has plenty of targets to throw to. Mike Williams could be the first receiver off the board come draft day. After sitting out a majority of the 2015 season with a neck injury, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound wideout returned in 2016 to put up big numbers and prove he’s a go-to downfield target.
Wide receiver Artavis Scott, guard Tyrone Crowder, and tight end Jordan Leggett are also good offensive prospects and should warrant some attention as the draft nears. Leggett in particular has playmaking potential as a tall athletic midfield target.
The top prospect on Clemson’s defense is cornerback Cordrea Tankersley. He’s a physical cover corner with good size (6-1, 200) and lockdown ability. He could get drafted as early as the second round.
Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and linebacker Ben Boulware are decent players who could be role players at the next level.