I am going to be taking a look at every projected bowl game as predicted by SI.com (https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/11/24/bowl-projections-week-13-playoff-rankings-predictions) and picking out my favorite offensive players in each game who are eligible and likely to be entering the NFL draft in this off season. Yes, I know that these fixtures are not finalized, but the majority of these teams will be playing in a bowl game so we will go with it.
(*) denotes that an at-large team is filling a spot left vacant by the conference under contract with that bowl. (**) denotes that matchups have been confirmed and announced by the bowls themselves.
New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque
Mountain West vs. Conference USA
San Diego State vs. Louisiana Tech
There is only one player I am looking at who will be entering the draft in this game, LA Tech wide receiver Teddy Veal. He spent the first two years of college at Tulane before transferring to the Bulldogs. His stats aren’t great with only 14 touchdowns and 2,584 receiving yards across his four years of eligibility, but Veal is a good receiver who this year has played in a 7-5 LA Tech team in a lot of low scoring games.
AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando
American vs. Sun Belt
Eastern Michigan* vs. Troy
I couldn’t really find anybody of interest in this game. The best I could come up with was running back B.J Smith (Troy) who is currently in his junior year so is eligible for the draft, but may not enter. This year has been his only productive college year after having only carried the ball 56 times in his first two years. This year, however, he has had 199 carries and taken them for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Pac-12 vs. Mountain West
Arizona State vs. Boise State
The big name who will be entering the draft in this game is Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. He has thrown for over 13,000 yards and 89 touchdowns in his four years in Idaho while throwing 29 interceptions. In my opinion, this year’s draft isn’t the strongest at QB. There are some good ones in there, but not a lot (players like Herbert could still return to college). Rypien could be a good NFL quarterback if he lands in a good situation. I am excited to see him in this game.
I also have to mention one of the best WR’s going into this year’s draft, N’Keal Harry. He has already announced he will forego his senior year to enter the draft which will make him one of the most sought-after receivers in the draft. He is over 1,000 yards receiving this season and the 6’4, 213lb just looks like a prototypical NFL receiver. With both teams having potential NFL talent, this could be one of the better bowl games this year.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
Sun Belt vs. MAC
Georgia Southern vs. Ohio
I don’t think this game is exactly brimming with NFL talent. But I am going to be looking at both teams running backs to have big games in an attempt to boost their draft capital. Georgia Southern’s Wesley Fields and Ohio’s A.J Ouellette. They have both rushed for around 1,000 yards this year and 21 touchdowns combined and they are simply fun to watch. Are they top-level NFL talent? Probably not. But they should add something interesting to this bowl game and both of these guys will be declaring for this year’s draft.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Sun Belt vs. Conference USA
Appalachian State vs. Marshall
There is one guy in this game who I strongly believe is NFL ready. Marshall’s, Tyre Brady is 6’3, 206lb’s and simply looks like an athlete. In his two years at Marshall (his college career started in Miami), he has amassed 1,944 yards and 18 touchdowns and is one of the most talented players currently playing in the Conference USA. If you watch this game, you will simply be impressed by how he plays, I guarantee it.
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
American vs. Conference USA
Tulane vs. Southern Miss
There aren’t any draft-eligible players I am really interested in for this game. Although look out for Southern Miss’ sophomore wide receiver, Quez Watkins. He has some talent and can be quite fun to watch.
American vs. At-large
Temple vs. Utah State
Utah State has two seniors playing at wide receiver in this game, neither of which I am overly high on, but both guys could improve their draft stock with a good game in Frisco, Ron’Quavion Tarver and Jalen Greene. Between them, they have gone for over 1,000 yards this season and 12 touchdowns. Look out for a big game from either of these and they could get noticed going in to draft season.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa
American vs. ACC/Conference USA
South Florida vs. Wake Forest
Wake Forest has a receiver I am really high on in Greg Dortch, but he won’t be in this year’s draft. So for the purposes of this article, I will be looking more towards Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite. The USF running back has had an amazing year so far with over 1,000 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, so I expect him to have a big day in this game. He is currently 26th in the FBS for total rushing yards and 24th on rushing yards per carry. There is absolutely no doubting this guys talent and I will not be surprised to see him playing in the NFL in the future.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, Nassau
Conference USA vs. MAC
** Florida International vs. Toledo
I don’t really have any interest in any of the draft eligible players in this game so this one I am passing on.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise
Mountain West vs. MAC
Nevada vs. Western Michigan
There are quite a few players in this game who aren’t draft eligible that I am interested in such as Western Michigan’s freshman wide receiver, Jayden Reed and Nevada freshman running back Toa Taua. So I won’t go into any depth, but they will be interesting to watch in this game.
SEC vs. American
Vanderbilt vs. Memphis
There is a sneakily big amount of offensive talent in this game. Vanderbilt have junior wide receivers Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney, with Ke’Shawn Vaughn at running back and Kyle Shurmur at quarterback. But my favorite player in this game (and it isn’t even close) is Memphis junior running back Darrell Henderson. He is currently 2nd in the FBS in rushing yards with 1,699 and 19 touchdowns. He is built like a tank and still relatively fast and should be the most exciting player in this game.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas
Big 12 vs. American
Army* vs. Houston
I quite like Houston quarterback D’Eriq King, but I am not convinced his skill set will translate to the quarterback position at NFL level. Outside of him, there is only really Houston wide receiver, Marquez Stevenson that I would look at. But since he is a sophomore, he won’t be eligible for this year’s draft.
Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala.
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana
This isn’t a game that stands out to me. Louisiana tends to run an RBBC and is a very run-heavy team, so it is hard to find a stand out player in their team, whereas Northern Illinois doesn’t really have any offensive players I am interested in. The best I can come up with is junior running back, Raymond Calais for Louisiana. Even in the RBBC, he has managed 711 yards and six touchdowns this year. The problem I have is that the other two guys (who are both sophomores) are both doing much better. Underwhelming.
Hawai’i Bowl, Honolulu
Mountain West vs. Conference USA
Hawai’i vs. Middle Tennessee
Hawai’i do actually have quite an exciting receiver in this game who isn’t yet on many radars: junior receiver John Ursua. This year was a huge year for him, hauling in 89 receptions and going for 1,343 yards and 16 touchdowns, placing him 5th in receiving yards amongst FBS receivers. He does have another year of eligibility in college so he may not be in this year’s draft. But he is definitely one to watch in this bowl game.
SERVPRO First Responders Bowl, Dallas
Big Ten vs. Conference USA
Buffalo* vs. North Texas
There are two draft eligible guys I am looking at in this game, one from each team. Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson, who in my opinion is very underrated. He is a solid dual-threat quarterback who stands at 6’7 tall. This season he has passed for 2,605 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 167 yards and 7 touchdowns placing him 14th in the FBS in points responsible for. The other player is North Texas wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. He is currently 26th in the FBS for receiving yards with 1,017 and 12 touchdowns, but I think there is a good chance he will go back to college to play his senior year due to only having one big year for the Mean Green.
Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit
Big Ten vs. ACC
Minnesota vs. Virginia
The most obvious guy in this game for me is Minnesota wide receiver, Tyler Johnson. He has had a good year so far with 74 receptions going for 1,112 yards and 10 touchdowns, giving him 1,930 total yards across his three years of college. PJ Fleck has had some good fortune over the last few years with his wide receivers with Corey Davis going early in the 2017 draft to Tennessee. Don’t be surprised to see Johnson enter the draft this year. Virginia’s pass defense is pretty good, so if Johnson goes off in this game, NFL scouts will start to take notice.
Cheez-It Bowl, Phoenix
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
TCU vs. BYU*
There is only one guy I absolutely love in this game, but he is only a sophomore so won’t be in this year’s draft. Look out for Jalen Reagor. In his two years in college he is already over 1,500 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns and looks to be an NFL ready receiver. BYU’s pass defense can be shaky so Reagor should have a monster day in this game.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La.
SEC vs. ACC
UAB* vs. Miami
Most of the players I would be interested in for this game are on Miami’s ‘turnover machine’ of a defense. The one guy to watch for is Travis Homer. The junior running back has done okay this year for Miami despite Deejay Dallas eating in to his carries. I think Homer will probably stay in Miami for another year before declaring to increase his draft stock with one more year, but he should get used a lot in this game as UAB give up 120.9 rushing yards per game.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York
Big Ten vs. ACC
Purdue vs. Pitt
This should be a high scoring game with two reasonably good offenses. David Blough has been pretty good this year for Purdue throwing for 3,521 yards and 25 touchdowns, while Qadree Ollison has run the ball well for Pitt this season, managing 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both of these will be entering the draft this year and should both land on an NFL roster. This could be a really fun game to watch.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, Houston
Big 12 vs. SEC
Baylor vs. Texas A&M
Another potential shootout! A&M has just come off the back of a 74-72 overtime win against LSU so their offense will be buzzing for this game. For Baylor, there is one guy in particular that I am looking at. Running back turned wide receiver: Jalen Hurd. The transfer from Tennessee has a wide skill set similar to that of Curtis Samuel so could be useful on an NFL team as a dual-threat running back, after he managed 946 receiving yards this season but only 209 rushing yards. Then on A&M’s team, I love Trayveon Williams and strongly think he should enter the draft this year (he is only a junior so could go back to college). Williams is 3rd in rushing yards amongst FBS players this year with 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns and is just brimming with talent.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Kentucky vs. Boston College
One guy stands out for me in this game, and it is somebody I’m not particularly high on: Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. He is only in his junior year so isn’t a lock to enter the draft, but he has had a really good year this year with 1,305 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns – making him 11th in rushing yardage.
Camping World Bowl, Orlando
Big 12 vs. ACC
West Virginia vs. NC State
There is a lot of draft-eligible talent in this game. For NC State, wide receiver Kelvin Harmon who has had a pretty good year and running back Reggie Gallaspy who has been a touchdown machine, running in 16 touchdowns so far. Then for West Virginia, wide receiver Gary Jennings Jr who has gone for 917 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. Saving the best until last, probably my favorite quarterback in this year’s draft, Will Grier. He isn’t everyone’s favorite by any stretch, but I think this guy is so talented and with a bit of help in the NFL could shape a decent career. He has thrown 37 touchdowns this season and 3,864 yards and should be a hot commodity in this year’s draft.
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Iowa State vs. Utah
Iowa State has two players who are both incredible. Running back David Montgomery who has had a quiet year this year in comparison to last year but was one of the pre-season picks to be in the running for the Heisman. Then there is the physical specimen, 6’6 225lb receiver Hakeem Butler. This guy is just ridiculous and has one of the biggest catch radius’ I have seen in college. He has gone for 1,059 yards this year and nine touchdowns. Suggesting he enters the draft this year, he will land straight on an NFL roster and should be useful at the next level.
Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C.
SEC vs. ACC
South Carolina vs. Duke
South Carolina have another top receiver who will be entering the draft this year. Deebo Samuel is supremely talented and will be another hot commodity in this year’s draft. He saved his best until last this year having a ten catch, 210 yards and three touchdown day against Clemson. Samuel is outright the most talented guy in this game, so it just isn’t worth mentioning anyone else.
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, Tucson
Mountain West vs. Sun Belt
Fresno State vs. Arkansas State
There is one guy I am looking at in this game who I haven’t seen much talk about, despite him having a pretty good year this year. Fresno State wide receiver, Keesean Johnson – he has had a good year up to now ranking 7th out of FBS receivers in yards with 1,267 yards and eight touchdowns. This would be a good opportunity for him to have a big game against an ‘okay’ pass defense who allow 175.9 yards per game and put himself in the mix to potentially get a combine invite.
Redbox Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif.
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Wisconsin vs. Stanford
This is a battle between two of my favorite college running backs. Wisconsin vs Stanford, Jonathan Taylor vs Bryce Love. Both of these guys are NFL running backs and Taylor leads all FBS running backs this year in yards with 1,989 (including 15 touchdowns). When you consider that both of these teams have pretty average run defenses, both of these players should have huge days in this game.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md.
ACC vs. American
Georgia Tech vs. Cincinnati
The only guy I really like in this game is sophomore running back Michael Warren II (Cincinnati). Since he isn’t draft eligible, let’s move on.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis
Big 12 vs. SEC
Oklahoma State vs. Missouri
I’m still unsure whether or not I am underrating OSU quarterback, Taylor Cornelius. I don’t like his game at all, but he has thrown for the 8th most yards in FBS football this year with 3,642 and that is with stud running back Justice Hill in the backfield. If Hill declares, I have no doubt that he will end up on an NFL team. Cornelius though I have no idea. He is probably good and I am just put off by the fact his hairline makes him look about 40 years old.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Iowa vs. Oregon
Justin Herbert is the only obvious pick here. I’m still not on board with him, that, and I strongly believe he will return to college to play out his senior year (apologies if he has already announced what he is doing and I have just missed it). Outside of him, there is nobody else really that I would look for on offense in this game.
TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla.
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Auburn vs. Northwestern
Despite my potentially questionable opinion on Justin Herbert, I am genuinely a fan of both quarterbacks in this matchup. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) has talent and has thrown for over 10,000 career yards and 58 touchdowns (and has also rushed for 26 career touchdowns). Jarrett Stidham hasn’t quite been as prolific as Thorson in college but does still have another year of eligibility so could well return to college for his senior year. I do however think both of these guys will be NFL players when they do declare so this should be a fun matchup to watch them both go against each other.
Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
ACC vs. Pac-12
Syracuse vs. Cal
I’m unconvinced with regards to Eric Dungey (Syracuse quarterback) so I won’t talk about him and there isn’t really any California players that interest me. Sorry, but I am going to have to pass on this despite this being a pretty good matchup.
Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla.
Big Ten vs. SEC
Michigan State vs. LSU
LSU has been churning out NFL running backs recently with Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice just since 2014. So I am looking at Nick Brossette to be the next one. He is being underrated for me as I haven’t seen much chatter about him, but he has a lot of talent and has managed 1,228 career rushing yards and 14 touchdowns (all 14 coming this year). When you consider that three of his four years he has been stuck behind Fournette and Guice, he had to do well this season, so I anticipate him having a big day in bowl week to get himself a combine invite leading up to the draft. Also, don’t forget about LJ Scott. He won’t be playing in this game due to injury, but he has been solid during his college career and looks pretty talented.
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Mississippi State vs. Penn State
This is a quarterback battle between two guys I am not fully sold on. Trace McSorley of Penn State is a relatively good dual-threat quarterback with 11 rushing touchdowns this year as is Nick Fitzgerald of Miss State with 12 rushing touchdowns on the year and over 1,000 yards rushing. I like them both to watch and if this matchup stands, this will be a fun game to watch. But in my opinion, the jury is still out on whether both of these guys are NFL caliber quarterbacks.
NEW YEAR’S SIX BOWLS
As you may, or may not know, the New Year’s bowls are generally the bigger bowls with better teams. So yes, I will miss players off here that are very talented, but I will be limiting it just to who I think is most likely to impress both in this bowl and potentially in the NFL.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta
At-large vs. At-large
Michigan vs. Florida
Michigan is quite a young team and don’t really have any hugely impressive senior offensive players. So I will stick with Shea Patterson on the premise that he may end up declaring for the draft. The Ole Miss transfer has thrown for 2,364 yards this year and 21 touchdowns while only throwing five interceptions. He occasionally runs the ball and has amassed 268 rushing yards this season, but that wouldn’t be enough for me to class him as a dual threat. Florida are a pretty good pass defense so this should be a tough matchup for him. If he comes out on top; he will start getting seriously looked at if he declares for the draft this year.
I know I said I would do one player for each team, but there is nobody on the Florida offense that really excites me. I don’t know if that is just me being me, but I am struggling here to pick anybody out.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz.
At-large vs. At-large
Washington State vs. UCF
Washington State’s Gardner Minshew II is finally getting talked about having thrown for 4,477 yards this year and before their week 13 loss against Washington had started to enter conversations for the Heisman. But he had a nightmare throwing for 152 yards and two interceptions which ended that conversation. Still, he leads FBS quarterbacks in passing yards this year and looks pretty talented. He is fairly raw so would need to sit a year in the NFL, but I think this guy has talent and a big performance in this bowl game could see him getting his name called in next year’s draft.
Current self-proclaimed champions UCF have had another good year and that is down to McKenzie Milton. But unfortunately, he suffered a gruesome injury in week 13 against South Florida which pretty much confirms for me that he will return to college next year. It’s a shame, as it would have been a good quarterback matchup in this game.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif.
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Ohio State vs. Washington
The most talented and NFL ready receiver in this game plays for Ohio State and it is Parris Campbell. The way he plays, he reminds me a lot of Michael Thomas (obvious comparison) and despite his first two years in college being underwhelming, he has really kicked on this year and looks to have improved a lot. I think Campbell is one to watch in the draft as he seems to be underrated and could end up being a mid-round steal in the draft.
I’m torn here by who to go for, but I am going for Myles Gaskin from Washington. He has had a stellar career in his four years at college, racking up 5,131 yards and 55 touchdowns. He should be an NFL running back and will get the chance to show it in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State is quietly awful against running backs and average 161.3 yards per game against them so Gaskin will have a great opportunity to show what he is all about in this game.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
SEC vs. Big 12
Georgia vs. Texas
For Georgia, there can only be one guy to include in this and it is running back, Elijah Holyfield. He is the son of boxing legend Evander and he is an absolute beast. At 5’11 and 215lbs he is the true definition of a power back but also has decent speed to compliment it. He is still a junior so could decide to stay at college and play for another year but if he comes out, NFL teams will be looking at him. A big game here will put him on a lot of teams’ radars.
I legitimately can’t think of a single Texas offensive player that I want to include here. Lil’Jordan Humphrey is the closest I can get to a good player. Maybe somebody will stand out in the bowl game and make me take notice, but for now… meh.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Alabama vs. Oklahoma
This sounds almost ridiculous, but there aren’t any Alabama players for me to put on here. Tua Tagavailoa is a sophomore along with Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. So yeah, Alabama is going to be unbelievably good for the next few years, minimum. Damien Harris is a senior, but I struggle to trust Alabama running backs since Trent Richardson. Go ahead; shout at me for not including Harris. I’m not saying I don’t like him, I’m just very wary.
Baseball is denying us an unbelievably talented quarterback with Kyler Murray with the Oakland A’s drafting him last year, so I can’t really include him. However, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown is a very talented wide receiver. He had success last year with Baker Mayfield at the helm and he had success this year with Murray throwing to him. So with 2,359 receiving yards in two years, Brown is one of the keys in the Oklahoma offense. This game should be an absolute thriller.
Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla.
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Clemson is another team that is really young and have the majority of their talent at sophomore level or below (see Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, and Trevor Lawrence). But one guy who is criminally underrated in their offense is Hunter Renfrow. He is only 5’10 and his stats don’t stand out to you, but he makes big plays, including catching the winning touchdown when Clemson won the national championship back in 2017. He is one to watch in this game when the game is close; he is a clutch player who is really reliable out of the slot and it wouldn’t surprise me in any way to see him fit into an NFL team as a late-round pick.
My favorite player on Notre Dame’s offense has to be Miles Boykin. Like Renfrow, his stats don’t stand out at you, but he is useful. He has a big frame at 6’4 228lbs and is probably going to be a late rounder. But Clemson allows 198.4 passing yards per game so I would be interested to see how Boykin gets on here. This would be a huge opportunity in the Orange bowl for him to showcase his talent and look to get a combine invite.
For those of you who are still reading at this point, thanks for sticking with it! It’s been a long grind, but we got through every potential bowl game. Remember, these aren’t set in stone, this is purely predictions from Sports Illustrated so there is a good chance that some of these matchups change. If you enjoyed this or got anything from it please feel free to drop me a follow on Twitter @DFF_JamesH.