The best part of the college football season has officially started: college football bowl Games! Starting Dec. 15 through the national championship on Jan. 7, there are multiple college football games nearly everyday! That means it is also the last time to see some top NFL Draft prospects in action. Here are a few guys who aren’t being talked about as much as NFL prospects to keep an eye on while watching bowl games this season:
1. Kentucky Defensive End – Joshua Allen (6’5”, 260 pounds)
VRBO Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. EST, ABC)
Joshua Allen is definitely getting talked about as a first-round talent, but to me that is not enough for a guy who could end up being a Top 10 pick in 2019. He is a long EDGE rusher with a very good first step and good acceleration. He can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt. He has made multiple big plays every time I have turned on a Kentucky game this season as evidenced by his 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Kentucky has surprised a lot of people with its success this season, and Allen’s play is a big reason why.
2. Louisiana Tech Defensive End – Jaylon Ferguson (6’5”, 262 pounds)
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl vs. Hawai’i (Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
In a deep class of EDGE rushers in this year’s draft class, Ferguson is another name to remember. He is built in the same mold as Joshua Allen with a similar skill set. Ferguson dominated lesser competition with a solid upfield burst and the ability to set the edge in the run game as well. He was able to rack up an amazing 23.5 tackles for loss this season combined with 15 sacks. Scouts are likely more eager to see him against better competition in the Senior Bowl, but his quickness and football IQ will be put to the test against the quick passing game of Hawaii.
3. Ohio State Wide Receiver – Johnnie Dixon (5’11”, 198 pounds)
Rose Bowl vs. Washington (Jan. 1, 5 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Dixon struggled with major injuries through his first three seasons at Ohio State. He has finally gotten healthy in the past two years and is having by far his best season in 2018. Dixon has especially built a rapport with quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the second half of the season, including his career day in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern (7 receptions, 129 yards, TD). He has shown his speed and ability to stress the defense vertically along with his solid hands and reliable route running. Dixon was an afterthought coming into the season, but has a chance to work his way into the mid-round conversation with a good off-season starting with a good showing against the highly touted Washington secondary.
4. Memphis Running Back – Darrell Henderson (5’9”, 200 pounds)
Jared Birmingham Bowl vs. Wake Forest (Dec. 22, noon EST, ESPN)
There is an argument to be made that Henderson has been the best and most explosive back in college football. For the second straight season, Henderson has averaged nearly 9 yards per carry. Before the bowl game, he has run for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He wins with a thick build and low center of gravity to bounce off and run through arm tackles. He also has good vision combined with very good burst and speed to get to the second level of the defense in a flash. And once he is in the second level you might as well mark up another touchdown because he simple does not get caught from behind. Henderson is only a junior, but expect him to be in the conversation as one of the best running backs in the draft if he decides to declare.
5. Duke Quarterback – Daniel Jones (6’5”, 220 pounds)
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl vs. Temple (Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Jones is another junior who is a possible early entry for the 2019 draft. If he does declare, he has a chance to be picked late in the first round or early in the second round. He has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback combined with good athleticism. His footwork, decision making and accuracy could use some work and improvement, but his dual-threat athleticism and natural arm talent will entice NFL teams. Jones could definitely stay in school and use the extra development, but don’t be surprised if he declares in what is largely a weak quarterback draft class.