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NFL Draft Prospects In The 2016 Las Vegas Bowl

The Las Vegas Bowl is the most intriguing match-up of the first weekend of the bowl schedule. This is not only because of how well these teams have performed this season, but also because of the amount of NFL talent on the field. Here are the top NFL prospects to watch:

Houston Cougars

Greg Ward, QB

Projected draft range: sixth round-undrafted free agent

Ward has improved his passing over his three years as a quarterback. He has been accurate this season, with 67.6% of passes completed, but a lot of those passes are screens and dump offs. Arm strength is a huge issue with Ward, but could be decently successful in the right system. His dual-threat ability is also desirable, as he can escape a pass rush really well. Durability is an issue, as Ward is often injured and has a slight figure at five foot eleven inches and 185 pounds.

A position change may be in store for Ward, who already moved from wide receiver to quarterback. Teams could see him as a good slight receiver, with his small frame and good quickness. He could develop like Julian Edelman, who uses his quickness and football IQ to his advantage in the slot. Both players were quarterbacks in college.

Chance Allen, WR

Projected draft range: fourth round-sixth round

Allen is a good red zone target for the Cougars because of his good size at six foot three inches tall. There are a plethora of tall receivers in this class, so Allen will most likely be selected in the middle rounds of the draft. Speed will be a question for Allen, because he doesn’t always create separation. He is however a good down the field target at 14.6 yards per reception. Allen didn’t have a great game against Oklahoma, which should have been a favorable match-up, but proved he could show up in big games when Houston beat Louisville. He burned a good secondary with four receptions or 105 yards and a touchdown.

Steven Taylor, OLB

Projected draft range: third round-fifth round

Steven Taylor (Photo courtesy: Sporting News)
Steven Taylor (Photo courtesy: Sporting News)

The best player on defense for Houston this season has been Steven Taylor. He had two sacks against Oklahoma and two and a half sacks against Louisville, stepping up when Houston needed him the most. He isn’t an edge rusher so his 8.5 sacks on the season display his great blitzing ability. He has to do better against the run in the pros and add a little bit of strength, but his ability to vet to the quarterback will make him coveted.

Tyus Bowser, OLB

Projected draft range: fifth round-undrafted free agent

Bowser has been banged up this season, but has 7.5 sacks in seven games, which will get on any scouts’ radar. Bowser is more of an edge rusher than Taylor, which is apparent by his size at six foot three inches and 240 pounds. His height isn’t ideal, but rather adequate. His athleticism isn’t as great as most edge rushers, meaning he may go undrafted.

San Diego State Aztecs

Donnell Pumphrey, RB

Projected draft range: fourth round-sixth round

There are two running backs with over 2,000 yards rushing this season and Pumphrey is one of them. Pumphrey has been one of the most productive backs of all time in his career, currently sitting second all time in FBS rushing yards. If he rushes for 108 yards in the bowl game he breaks the record, currently held by Ron Dayne. Although he is a shorter running back at five foot nine inches, he can do it all. He is a weapon out of the backfield with around 1,000 receiving yards in his career. Because he is small, he will need to prove he has speed and quickness, making his 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine crucial.

Nico Saragusa, OG

Projected draft range: fifth round-seventh round

Size and run blocking are the strengths of Saragusa heading into this game. Being six foot five inches tall is a great asset for his NFL future. He has been a great run blocker for Pumphrey, but will need to improve his pass blocking to play at the NFL level. Mobility will be another question, as he will be asked to pull and block on the edge in the NFL.

Damontae Kazee, CB

Projected draft range: third round-fourth round

Damontae Kazee (Photo courtesy: Yahoo Sport)
Damontae Kazee (Photo courtesy: Yahoo Sport)

The two time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, Kazee is a ball hawk. He had seven interceptions this season, including two games with two interceptions. He has decent size, but excellent speed. Kazee should be pretty versatile to play nickle corner or on the outside. If teams need corner depth and a guy to return kicks, Kazee may be their guy in the middle rounds of the draft.

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