NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

Northwestern and Kentucky will meet in the 2017 Music City Bowl. While these teams don’t usually produce good NFL talent on a consistent basis, there are some players to watch in this game. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl:

Kentucky Wildcats

Josh Allen, DE/LB

Allen has had two really good seasons at Kentucky. In his career he has 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. This season he has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. NFL executives love his versatility, being that he can play both inside and outside linebacker.

He has good size at 6’5″ and 230. With that, and his production, Allen has even seen his name as high as the first round in some mock drafts. That might be a small stretch given the production this season, but he will be taken in the early rounds of the draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-3rd round

Derrick Baity, CB

Baity is only a junior, but may elect to leave for the NFL Draft. In his career he has 108 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions and 14 passes defended. He has tons of experience for Kentucky in the SEC, which has seen him go up against some pretty good receivers over the last three seasons.

His biggest asset is his size at 6’3″ and 182 pounds. The length is great for an NFL corner, but he will need to add some strength so that he isn’t pushed off the line of scrimmage.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

C.J. Conrad, TE

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

C.J. Conrad (Photo by gridironnow.com)

Conrad is a good receiving tight end who doesn’t have the best production in his three seasons at Kentucky. That is partially because the last two seasons, Kentucky has emphasized the running game more than the passing game. This season is his best to date with 286 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

At 6’5″ and 245 pounds, Conrad has good size for an NFL tight end. While the lack of production does hurt, teams will look at the tape and see why. He could elect to come back to school for another year and help his draft stock.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

Matt Elam, DT

Elam is a former highly-touted prospect, who never really lived up to his potential. Some national pundits have blamed his work ethic or his weight, but the only thing that matters is that he hasn’t produced. In his career he has 50 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

The production is really bad, but his size is what will get him a chance with an NFL team. Elam is 6’7″ and 360 pounds. Those types of players don’t grow on trees and some NFL team will try to mold him into the player he can be.

Projected draft range: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Northwestern Wildcats

Clayton Thorson, QB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

Clayton Thorson (Photo by insidenu.com)

Thorson is another player that has seen his stock rise this season, but he hasn’t played particularly well. He has 2,809 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. One of the areas he has to work on is making better decisions, because that touchdown to interception ratio is way too close to one. He has completed over 60% of his passes this season.

He has the size to be an NFL quarterback at 6’4″ and 225 pounds. Thorson has some mobility, but has shown improved passing from the pocket, which will appeal to NFL teams.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

Godwin Igwebuike, S

Igwebuike is the senior leader on the Northwestern defense. He has 318 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions and 23 passes defended in his career. This season he has 72 total tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended.

At 6’0″ and 212 pounds, size won’t be an issue for Igwebuike. He will likely get drafted in the middle to late rounds of the NFL draft.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

Justin Jackson, RB

Jackson is 12th on the all-time rushing list for college football with 5,283 rushing yards. In addition to the great amount of rushing yards, Jackson has totaled 39 rushing touchdowns, 848 receiving yards and one receiving touchdowns. His production is unquestionable, especially against Big Ten competition.

He fits right in the mold of an NFL running back at 5’11” and 200 pounds. The fact that he can make plays catching the football bodes well for his draft stock and future playing time.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

 

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NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

While Central Michigan and Wyoming aren’t really known for pushing out a lot of NFL talent, they have before. The Steelers were able to find a diamond in the rough out of Central Michigan in Antonio Brown. This season Wyoming has a prospect that will be drafted early, which is unusual for the program out of Laramie. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:

Central Michigan Chippewas

Joe Ostman, DE

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Joe Ostman (Photo by twitter.com)

Ostman has come on the last two seasons for the Chippewas and has been a force on the defensive line. He has 43.5 tackles for loss and 24 sacks in his Central Michigan career. This season has been his best by far, with 11 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.

He is 6’3” and 255 pounds. This isn’t great size for the position, but it will get the job done. Ostman will be drafted, barring unforeseen circumstances, and then must prove he can get after the quarterback on a consistent basis to make a team.

Projected draft range: 5th round-7th round

Amari Coleman, CB

He had a great 2016 season, which put Coleman on the radar. In 2016 he had 48 total tackles, four interceptions and 15 passes defended. This season saw his production dip to 42 total tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defended. With two solid years in a row, Coleman will have NFL teams intrigued.

Coleman is 5’11” and 188 pounds. The height is fine for a corner in most NFL systems, but he needs to add some play strength for the next level. If he can cover on the inside and on the outside, Coleman can make an NFL roster.

Projected draft range: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Shane Morris, QB

Morris lost out on the job at Michigan to Wilton Speight and decided to transfer for more playing time. He selected Central Michigan and had an ok season. Morris threw for 2,908 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

He is 6’3” and 225 pounds, which is pretty good for an NFL quarterback. The lefty wasn’t efficient this season and will need to show better accuracy to make a team. Morris likely won’t be drafted and will need to sign with a team.

Projected draft range: Undrafted free agent

Wyoming Cowboys

Josh Allen, QB

Allen’s draft stock started to rise at the end of last season. He could’ve come out after last season, but chose to go back to Wyoming for one more year. In his career he has 4,912 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He has a sprained AC joint, but expects to play in this game.

His size and athleticism are what have made Allen highly thought of. He is 6’5” and 233 pounds, but still has some speed to escape the pocket. His arm strength is great too, but he really needs to work on his accuracy to be a franchise quarterback.

Projected draft range: First round

Rico Gafford, CB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Rico Gafford (Photo by twitter.com)

Gafford has two years of production at Wyoming. In his career he has 101 total tackles, six interceptions and 11 passes defended. He did have an interception returned for a touchdown this year too, showing the play isn’t over when he has the ball in his hands.

He is 5’11” and 182 pounds and will also need to add play strength. Gafford will also need to cover in the slot and on the outside. He will likely be relegated to special teams duty if he makes a team.

Projected draft range: Undrafted free agent

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Quarterbacks

It is still a long ways away from the start of college football and even further away from the 2018 NFL Draft. There are however, some great quarterbacks that are worth watching in the 2017 season, who can be good NFL players. These players have a chance to showcase their talents this upcoming football season and could be selected early in the NFL Draft process.

Josh Allen, Wyoming

Allen has created a lot of buzz, despite playing for Wyoming. He has the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Scouts have said that he may have been the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, had he elected to come out. He only completed 56% of his passes last year, but flashed his potential in his lone year as the starting quarterback.

Josh Allen (Photo by: trib.com)

He will have to improve his accuracy this season especially because he doesn’t play the best competition week in and week out. One of the most underrated parts of his game is his speed as he has been clocked at a 4.61 40 yard dash. Allen has the size, speed and arm strength to draw scouts’ eyes, but needs to start getting better results.

This season Allen will have a few chances to prove himself against good competition. The Cowboys start the season at Iowa and also play Oregon and Boise State. If Allen can improve his efficiency and pull of some big wins for Wyoming, he will likely go early in round one.

Sam Darnold, USC

At the start of last season, Darnold was a backup. He didn’t have to wait too long to get his shot as a redshirt freshman and led USC to nine straight victories to end the season, including a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. The best thing about Darnold is his accuracy, as he completed 67.2% of his passes. His arm strength is good too and he can make a lot of NFL level throws. He also helped lead the Trojans to big wins during the regular season, the most notable coming over Washington.

Darnold does need to work on his mechanics because he has a windup in his throwing motion. He also threw nine interceptions and didn’t start a full season, so he needs to keep that number down. The main thing for Darnold is to have a strong second season and avoid a sophomore slump.

He will be on national television a lot this year with USC playing Notre Dame and Texas out of conference and have some tough games in conference as well.

Luke Falk, Washington State

Falk will have to prove that he is more than a system quarterback, but he is already on a lot of NFL radars. He completed 70% of his passes last season, while also leading the cougars to eight straight wins in the middle of the season. One thing that Falk won’t be short on for NFL scouts is reps. He has over 1,520 passing attempts in his career already.

With being in a system, the most important thing for Falk is to prove that he can complete passes down the field that will be expected of him in the NFL. The problem is that he loses his two top receivers in Gabe Marks and River Cracraft.

The Cougars have games against Boise State, USC, Stanford and Washington to get one final year of good tape for NFL scouts.

Deondre Francois, Florida State

Not everyone is as high on Francois, but he has a chance to have a breakout sophomore season. Last year, he was one of the toughest quarterbacks in college football, as he was continually hit. He still managed to complete 59% of his passes. That isn’t great, but when you consider how much he was under pressure and the fact that he was in his first year starting, it is way better than expected. He also only threw seven interceptions showing his ability to protect the football through the air.

Deondre Francois (Photo by: scout.com)

While they did lose to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson, Francois stayed poised and helped lead the Seminoles to two big wins over Florida and Michigan to end the season. He didn’t have great games against these teams, but getting the win is worth something. He adds the ability to run, which is a nice asset he will have to use if his offensive line doesn’t improve.

Francois has the chance to show his stuff early this season, when the Seminoles play Alabama in week one. With Florida, Clemson and Louisville all still on the schedule, Francois will have every opportunity to improve his stock.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

After a great freshman season, Rosen only played in six games as a sophomore due to a shoulder injury. He has a nerve issue in his shoulder, which is cause for concern, but if he can play well this season and be cleared by doctors, he can be selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The most important thing for Rosen is to show he has shaken off the rust and effects from the injury. He also needs to improve his efficiency. Rosen has all the talent you want in a quarterback prospect, but does have things to give NFL scouts to think about with injuries and quirkiness off of the field.

His biggest games of the season are against Texas A&M, Stanford, Washington and USC.

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He had a great season last year and only threw four interceptions while attempting 448 passes. These stats are good and they are even more impressive because he threw for over 4,000 yards. Yes, these stats are mostly against Big 12 defenses, but it is impressive nonetheless.

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: scout.com)

With so many great quarterbacks in this class, Rudolph gets overlooked, but he has the potential to be the number one pick. He needs to put up similar stats to last season to reach that goal and it is definitely possible.

Pitt will be their big matchup in the nonconference schedule and they will have a light Big 12 schedule to go through with one big game against Oklahoma. Rudolph will have a chance to put up some big stats this season.

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Stidham had an impressive season at Baylor when he filled in for Seth Russell, but decided to transfer to Auburn. In his one season of playing so far he has 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He completed 69% of his passes in his limited action at Baylor.

He is going from Baylor to a much tougher SEC. A lot is unknown about Stidham and he really has to get more reps for NFL evaluators to rate him, but he can put up some big numbers under Gus Malzahn.

There will be plenty of chances for Stidham to prove himself this season with games against Clemson, LSU, Georgia and Alabama.

 

Check back at the end of the season to see where these quarterbacks are in the 2018 NFL Draft positional rankings.

 

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