11 players who enhanced their 2017 Draft prospects during the College Bowl season

11 players who enhanced their 2017 Draft prospects during the College Bowl season

Deshaun Watson was among a handful of players who will have helped their Draft prospects following strong performances during Bowl season

tom-hiscott
Tom Hiscott

Another College Football season is over, and now all attention turns to the NFL Draft which will take place in Philadelphia at the end of April.

Clemson gained revenge over Alabama to win their first National Championship in 35 years behind another startling performance from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Watson was among a number of young players who impressed immensely during the Bowl season in their final collegiate games and he and others will no doubt have improved their Draft stock ahead of a life-changing few months.

Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson Tigers

For the second year running, Watson saved his best performance of the season for the biggest game in college football. After falling short a year ago, Watson led the Tigers to victory against Nick Saban’s Alabama putting up over 400 yards again in the process.

The signal caller endured an up-and-down 2016/17 season, throwing a worryingly high 17 interceptions but his final pass was one to remember, hitting Hunter Renfrow for a touchdown with one second left on the clock to take down Bama.

Although he showed some worrying traits during the season, Watson has proved time and time again that he is a big game player who excels down the stretch and if he is surrounded by good weapons he can pick apart the best defense College football can throw at him.

Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson Tigers

Watson’s most important weapon was a man who missed much of last season and that was wide receiver Mike Williams.

Coming from a production line of Clemson receivers which has seen Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Deandre Hopkins each dominate in the pro’s, Williams looks to be the next cab off the rank.

Mike Williams makes a catch during Clemson's win (image source: TNS)

The 6ft4in junior feasted on Alabama’s man coverage in Tampa making a number of eye-opening catches. His size-speed combo helped him put up 94 yards and a touchdown in the win, with his ability to high point the ball playing a big part in Clemson’s late comeback win.

Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State Seminoles

Another playmaker from the ACC conference who has been dominant at college level was Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. The leading rusher in Seminole history (4,464 in three years) put in a typically outstanding performance in his side’s 33-32 Orange Bowl victory over the Michigan Wolverines.

His 20 rushes saw him post 145 yards and a touchdown, and he also showed off his prowess in the passing game with three receptions out of the backfield for 62 yards including a late screen to set up the game’s winning score by Nyqwan Murray.

With other players from his position group such as Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey choosing to forgo their Bowl games through fear of injury, Cook took his opportunity to give NFL teams one final reminder of his undoubted talent.

DeMarcus Walker, Defensive End, Florida State Seminoles

On the other side of the ball, another Nole who was just as impressive at Hard Rock Stadium as his colleague was DeMarcus Walker.

From the first minute, Walker was living in the Michigan backfield and putting quarterback Wilton Speight under constant pressure. The senior defensive end accounted for one sack and four tackles-for-loss in his final game for the garnet and gold.

Ryan Anderson, Outside Linebacker, Alabama Crimson Tide

Playing on a defensive line alongside the likes of Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams, it might not always be easy to standout, but Ryan Anderson did just that.

In both playoff games against Washington and Clemson, Anderson came up with big turnovers and accumulated ten tackles and a sack over 120 minutes which will have helped his prospects going forward.

Solomon Thomas, Defensive End, Stanford Cardinal

In a Sun Bowl which was supposed to be all about North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, it soon became apparent that the best player on the field was Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Thomas racked up seven tackles before ending the game with a sack of Trubisky in what was a breakout performance for the junior.

David Njoku, Tight End, Miami Hurricanes

As well as falling behind to a 7-0 deficit, the Miami Hurricanes were struggling to move the ball in the early stages of their Russell Athletic Bowl encounter with the West Virginia Mountaineers. Quarterback Brad Kaaya looked out of sorts and his receivers weren’t gaining separation in what was a sorry start.

Njoku scoring in Miami's win over West Virginia (image source: Miami Herald)

That was all soon forgotten however from the moment Hurricane tight end David Njoku hauled in an pass over the middle of the field for a big gain. The sophomore kickstarted an offence which was spluttering badly, and despite only catching five passes, including one for a touchdown, during the 31-14 win, Njoku showed enough athletic ability to get scouts purring in what is a strong draft for the tight end position.

Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Penn State Nittany Lions

In a Rose Bowl for the ages which saw Sam Darnold introduce himself to a wider audience, one of the best draft-eligible players on the field was Penn State reciever Chris Godwin.

The game which ended 52-49 in USC’s favour was clearly all about offence, and Godwin’s 187 yards on nine catches showed his big-play ability in the passing game. After grabbing two long touchdown catches from quarterback Trace McSorley, the longest a 72-yard score, Penn State’s most exciting receiver since Allen Robinson left for the NFL announced after the game that he would be entering the draft this Summer.

Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan Broncos

In a Cotton Bowl where his side was outplayed, Western Michigan wideout Corey Davis showed signs of why he is expected to be a first round pick in April.

His statline of 6-73-1 doesn’t jump off the page, but Davis was the only weapon in a passing game which struggled to function throughout. He made a couple of tough catches on third down during the first half, and capped his performance with a catch in the endzone where he fought off double coverage to come down with the ball in the latter stages of the contest.

Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma Sooners

After video first surfaced of Joe Mixon hitting a female, it was tough to see how any NFL side would touch him during the draft. However, talent can sometimes outweigh off-field misdemeanours as has been shown with Tyreek Hill, and Mixon undoubtedly has a ton of talent.

Mixon looks capable of elevating his game at the next level, with the Oklahoma back utilising his 24 touches to the tune of 180 yards (91 as a rusher, 89 as a receiver) in their 35-19 win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

Quoted by some as being a first round on-field talent, and an undraftable off-field prospect, Mixon will divide opinion over the coming months and will have to persuade scouts that his horrific past is behind him.

Joshua Dobbs, Quarterback, Tennessee Volunteers

In a 38-24 beatdown of Nebraska, Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs produced a do-it-all performance which reminded Vol fans of just how explosive their quarterback could be when he is on top of his game. 291 yards passing from 38 attempts against a tough Cornhuskers defense was encouraging, and when coupled with his 118 yards and a trio of touchdowns on the ground it wasn’t tough to see why he was awarded MVP for the game.

Dobbs in action during the Music City Bowl (image source: Mark Humphrey - AP Photo)

A polarising prospect, Dobbs has had his struggles against SEC opponents, namely Alabama, yet the lows have definitely been tempered with the highs which elevated his team’s offense to put up some big numbers during his time in Butch Jones’ system.

Never listed among the top quarterbacks available in the upcoming draft, Dobbs could be the developmental player teams target during the middle rounds just like a certain Dak Prescott was in 2016. Although it would be wild to suggest he could have similar success to the Cowboys revelation, Prescott also had bad days in college which saw him drop to the fourth round and Dobbs has shown enough over the past few years to at least warrant teams taking a look in his direction. 

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