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NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Cotton Bowl

This may not be a College Football Playoff game, but the 2017 Cotton Bowl has some really good players in it. With Ohio State and USC matching up, it should be a good game and a foreshadowing of what some players can do at the NFL level. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Cotton Bowl:

USC Trojans

Sam Darnold, QB

Darnold was the projected top pick before the season started, but had issues turning the ball over early in the season. He has 12 interceptions, with six coming in the first three games. The sophomore redshirt has also had issues fumbling the ball. He has rebounded well for a solid season with 3,787 passing yards and 26 touchdowns on 63.7% completion.

He is the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Darnold has the arm strength and accuracy to make any throw, but has trouble with decision-making. If a good NFL coach gets him on his team, he can work out the kinks.

Projected draft range: Top 15 pick

Ronald Jones III, RB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Cotton Bowl
Ronald Jones (Photo by

Jones has been the best running back USC has had since Reggie Bush. The junior has 3,555 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground. He is overshadowed by Darnold, but Jones is a great running back. This season he has 1,486 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

At 6’0″ and 200 pounds, Jones can be an every down back in the NFL. He doesn’t have the most experience catching the ball out of the backfield, but he can do a lot of things when the ball is in his hands.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Porter Gustin, DE/OLB

Gustin is doubtful for this game with a toe injury, but is a good prospect. He has experience playing defensive end and linebacker. The junior has only been able to play four games this season, but last year he was dynamic. In 2016 he had 68 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

He has the size of an NFL pass rusher at 6’5″ and 255 pounds. The most sacks he had in a season was 5.5, so there will be some concerns about his pass rushing ability.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable USC players: LB Cameron Smith (3rd round-5th round), DE/DT Rasheem Green (3rd round-5th round), DE Uchenna Nwosu (3rd round-5th round), G Viane Talamaivao (5th round-7th round)

Ohio State Buckeyes

Denzel Ward, CB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Cotton Bowl
Denzel Ward (Photo by

Ward started off the season with a bad start against Indiana, but has been great ever since. The junior has two interceptions and 15 pass break ups this season. With the more playing team he gets, the more he produces. Ward has shut down some pretty good wide receivers in the Big Ten over the last three seasons.

At 5’10” and 191 pounds, he is a little undersized, but has proven to be able to match up with bigger receivers. He has speed, athleticism and ball skills which will help him get drafted early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Sam Hubbard, DE

Hubbard has great athleticism for a defensive end and even played safety in high school. He has 26.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in his three years at Ohio State. While he is solid at rushing the passer, Hubbard is one of the best defensive ends at stopping the run.

It is weird to think that a 6’5″ and 265 pound defensive end played safety in high school, but with more time to learn his position, Hubbard could turn into a star. He is limited to playing 4-3 defensive end, but is a good prospect.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Parris Campbell, WR

Campbell has been the best receiver for Ohio State. At times he can be inconsistent, but that isn’t entirely his fault. This season he has totaled 576 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Ohio State has given him some experience running the ball out of the backfield as well.

He is 6’1″ and 208 pounds, which is good enough for the NFL. His production isn’t great, but in Ohio State’s system players often don’t reach their full potential while in college.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable Ohio State players: G/C Billy Price (1st round-2nd round), OT Jamarco Jone (2nd round-4th round), LB Jerome Baker (2nd round-4th round), DT Dremont Jones (2nd round-4th round), S Damon Webb (3rd round-5th round), QB J.T. Barrett (6th round-undrafted free agent)


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