Image Credit: Miami Student
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
I said last week that the second week of the bowl season was some of the best football we would see all year, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The best thing about the bowl games is that they force two teams, typically having different styles than what the teams are used to, to play one another in a game where talent and discipline tend to win out. This is fantastic from a scouting perspective, as those are two things you really want to see on the field.
Here are my biggest observations from this week:
Chuba Hubbard is for Real
Big 12 offensive prospects are always questioned for playing in a defense-optional conference. When they play teams from other conferences and are shut down, it can tank the player's draft stock, as scouts can attribute the production to the lack of competent defense they play. Hubbard did not suffer that fate, running for 158 yards on 19 carries against an SEC opponent. Hubbard showed the same speed, vision, and explosiveness he has shown all season, but did it against a quality defense. Hubbard might just be my personal favorite at the running back position.
With the First Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow, Quarterback, Louisiana State University
I have been touting Burrow as the likely first overall pick come April. After a 493-yard, 7-touchdown passing performance against Oklahoma in the Playoff Semifinal, you can write that down in pen. Burrow is an Ohio kid, having one of the most prolific seasons we've ever seen, and has very translatable traits. There is no way that the Bengals pass on him.
Speed will be in No Short Supply
It is insane how fast this class is going to be. In addition to Hubbard, we will have J.K. Dobbins, Travis Etienne, Jonathan Taylor, Henry Ruggs, Devin Duvernay, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jerry Jeudy, and a number of other players that all have speed as a weapon in their skill set. The best part is that none of these players are just fast. They all have other traits that will spell success for them in the pros. Fast players are good, but fast and skilled players are the best.
Tyler Johnson: Slot Receiver?
Tyler Johnson from the University of Minnesota has been one of the most volatile prospects this season, with scouts placing him in the first round, as an undrafted guy, and everywhere in between. At 6'2" and 205 pounds, Johnson has been used mainly as an outside receiver for the Gophers, and has been solid in that role all season. Against Auburn, Johnson was again used as an outside receiver, but was shut down by the stingy Auburn defense. P.J. Fleck moved Johnson into the slot, and Johnson ate. He ate and ate and ate and left nothing on the table for anyone else, coming down with 12 of his team's 19 completions for 204 of their 278 yards through the air and both receiving touchdowns in Minnesota's upset over Auburn. While the NFL may want to see what he can do on the outside, the fact that he can also succeed from the slot at least increases his versatility.
I was pretty harsh on Wyoming during my season writeups. After watching their bowl game, I realize I was too harsh. They do have one player worth watching should he declare, and that's redshirt sophomore running back XazavianValladay. Taking away the fact that it was done against lesser competition in Georgia State, Valladay owned the entire game. Valladay had 295 yards from scrimmage (204 rushing, 91 receiving) and two touchdowns to cap off his sophomore campaign where he finished 22nd in the nation in rushing without much of an offensive line to open holes for him. Valladay may return to school, but he is a name to keep an eye on.
Iowa Hawkeyes 49. USC Trojans 24. Suck it, Pete Carroll.
The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for the third week of bowl games (all times Eastern, playoff rankings in parentheses).
As a reminder, we have a new format for the TV Guide this season. I’m going to list all of the draft eligible players that will impact the games themselves, meaning the lists will be pretty long. Then, I'll summarize each team by showing the players seriously in contention to be drafted at this point in time. However, it's important to know that one exceptional season can cause an impactful player to become a draftable player, so these names are still good to monitor.
Friday, January 3
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, ID - University of Ohio vs. University of Nevada, 3:30 PM, ESPN
Nathan Rourke, Senior Quarterback, #12
Austen Pleasants, Senior Tackle, #60
Javon Hagan, Senior Safety, #7
The third week of the bowl games do not have much talent to speak of. That includes nobody on this Ohio team worth keeping an eye on.
Malik Henry, Junior Quarterback, #16
Kelton Moore, Senior Running Back, #23
Kaleb Fossum, Senior Wide Receiver, #3
Jake Nelson, Senior Tackle, #71
Gabe Sewell, Senior Linebacker, #7
Daniel Brown, Senior Cornerback, #25
You might remember Malik Henry from his time on the Netflix show “Last Chance U” as the hot-headed, ultra-talented quarterback. After a revolving door at the position to start the season, Henry has wrestled the job away. And just as quick as he got the starting job, he was removed from participation by the program so that he could focus on himself. Oh well.
Saturday, January 4
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, TX - Southern Mississippi University vs. Tulane University, 11:30 AM, ESPN
Quez Watkins, Junior Wide Receiver, #16
Jordan Mitchell, Senior Wide Receiver, #80
Jaylond Adams, Redshirt Sophomore Wide Receiver, #2
Drake Dorbeck, Senior Tackle, #79
Ty Pollard, Senior Guard, #76
Ty Williams, Senior Cornerback, #7
Ky'ElHemby, Junior Safety, #19
Adams is one of the biggest names to keep an eye on, even though he may return to school for his junior season. Adams is scary fast. And I don't just mean "he's pretty fast." I mean he may challenge Henry Ruggs for the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine. Adams is one of the best return men in football, and he very well might break one here. On defense, Hemby has a first name that reminds me of Superman, and thankfully plays enough like him to have day-3 consideration.
Corey Dauphine, Senior Running Back, #6
Darius Bradwell, Senior Running Back, #10
Darnell Mooney, Senior Wide Receiver, #3
Jalen McCleskey, Senior Wide Receiver, #1
Christian Montano, Senior Center, #58
Keyshawn McLeod, Senior Guard, #53
Patrick Johnson, Junior Defensive End, #7
Malik Lawal, Senior Linebacker, #45
Lawrence Graham, Senior Linebacker, #35
Thakarius Keyes, Senior Cornerback, #26
P.J. Hall, Senior Cornerback/Safety, #2
Will Harper, Senior Safety, #25
Patrick Johnson was my small school sleeper on the defensive line for his prototypical size and physical traits. His stats are quite a bit lower this season, but I chalk that up to the increased attention he is getting as the only viable pass rusher on the Green Wave. On offense, the best prospect is Jalen McCleskey, the highly-recruited transfer from Oklahoma State.
Monday, January 6
LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, AL - University of Louisiana - Lafayette vs. University of Miami (Ohio), 7:30 PM, ESPN
Elijah Mitchell, Junior Running Back, #15
Raymond Calais, Senior Running Back, #4
Trey Ragas, Junior Running Back, #9
Ja'Marcus Bradley, Senior Wide Receiver, #2
Robert Hunt, Senior Tackle, #50
Kevin Dotson, Senior Guard, #75
Ken Marks, Senior Guard, #67
Rico Robinson, Senior Guard, #66
Bennie Higgins, Senior Defensive Tackle, #15
Joe Dillon, Senior Defensive End, #3
Jacques Boudreaux, Senior Linebacker, #59
Michael Jacquet, Senior Cornerback, #11
Kamar Greenhouse, Senior Safety, #9
Louisiana might not have a ton of talent, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have one of the best team names in the country. The only draftable player here is Hunt, an interior line prospect that will ultimately be a day 3 or undrafted guy.
Maurice Thomas, Senior Running Back, #31
Andrew Homer, Junior Tight End, #46
Tommy Doyle, Junior Tackle, #54
Jarrett LaRubbio, Senior Guard, #75
Doug Costin, Senior Defensive Tackle, #58
Zedrick Raymond, Senior Cornerback, #14
Mike Brown, Junior Safety, #3
You know I'm all about the sibling connections, and this team features one of my favorite. The starting quarterback for the Miami Redhawks is none other than true freshman Brett Gabbert, brother of 49er legend Blaine. We still have some time before he is draft eligible, but I was impressed with how Brett performed against Iowa in his first ever start. Otherwise, there really isn't anyone worth monitoring here. Still, please visit Miami's roster page to see a group of large, athletic men that look like they are wearing turtlenecks because they had to zip up their track jackets to the very top. The Rock would be proud.
You can follow Zach on Twitter here!
Stay tuned to 49ersHub for more great 49ers and Draft analysis!