Louisville and Mississippi State will play in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl and have some quality players going head to head. Some of these players will be making plays on Sundays in no time. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl:
Lamar Jackson, QB
Jackson has always been a dynamic athlete, but some doubted he could play quarterback at a high level. He has improved his accuracy and worked his way up to being a first round pick. He has thrown for 3,489 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions on 60.4% passing.
He is 6’3″ and 211 pounds which is decent for a NFL quarterback. He will need to add some weight if he plans on scrambling as much as he did in college. Not many teams will be able to pass up on his athletic ability.
Projected draft range: 1st round
Geron Christian, OT
Christian has been a starter since he walked on Louisville’s campus. The junior shows flashes of being a good tackle, but is inconsistent. Christian has been recognized as an All-ACC lineman. He could elect to go back to school to show he can be more consistent, which will raise his stock.
At 6’6″ and 314 pounds, he is good size for an NFL tackle. He is a prime candidate for the middle to late rounds of the draft, who teams will draft and try to work with.
Pojected draft range: 4th round-6th round
*CB Jaire Alexander and LB James Hearns have decided to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Hearns’ draft range: 2nd round-4th round. Alexander’s draft range: 1st round-3rd round.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Martinas Rankin, OT
Rankin has been a star for Mississippi State after transferring in from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. He has shown a proficiency for pass blocking for the Bulldogs and has a lot of experience clearing holes for Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams.
He is 6’5″ and 302 pounds, which is decent size for a tackle. His physicality and run blocking ability will be questioned at the NFL level. Rankin will likely go in the first few round of the NFL Draft.
Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round
Johnathan Abram, S
Abram started his career at Georgia, before transferring to Mississippi State. The junior has 62 total tackles, three tackles for loss and three passes defended this season. That is a solid start for his career as a Bulldog, but Abram probably needs another year of development.
He has good size for an NFL safety at 6’0″ and 216 pounds. Abram doesn’t have the best ball skills or production, which is a concern.
Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round
*CB Jamal Peters is missing the bowl game for personal reasons. Peters’ draft range: 4th round-6th round.
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