Another bowl game, another large group of NFL prospects on display throughout the day.
If you needed an excuse to get out of work the day before New Years Eve, well, now you have one.
Birmingham Bowl — Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3), Noon, ESPN
If you’re looking for an edge rusher, look no further than Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Lawson quickly showed this season that he was one of the top four edge defenders in this class by winning with a quick get-off, impressive agility and above-average strength on the edge.
The only knock on Lawson is his long injury history. He missed a handful of games this season with a hip injury and struggled to chase down plays from the backside after he returned.
With that said though, it wouldn’t shock me if he’s selected at the end of the first round. He’s a dynamic talent.
Along with Lawson on defense, be on the lookout for defensive end Cassanova McKinzy, defensive tackle Montravius Adams and cornerback Jonathan Jones.
McKinzy has flashes of dominance, but he can’t keep up that pace consistently enough. Despite that knock on him, McKinzy is a sound player who is constantly around the ball. He flies under the radar next to Adams and opposite Lawson.
Speaking of Adams, he’s quickly flying up draft boards as more and more tape becomes available.
He’s a penetrating defensive tackle who has a great first step at the snap, which allows him to beat blockers quickly with limited effort. That’s not a knock at all on Adams.
The junior defensive tackle still needs some work, but he’s rising quickly.
Offensively, tackle Shon Coleman has quickly emerged as one of the best tackles in the SEC, following in the footsteps of former Tigers stud left tackle, Greg Robinson.
For the Memphis Tigers, star quarterback Paxton Lynch looks to carve up an Auburn secondary that has had a rough year. Things could get easier for Lynch now that former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp moved on to the South Carolina head gig.
Lynch has all the tools you’re looking for in a quarterback. He has great touch, impressive accuracy, above-average anticipation and the desired arm strength for the next level.
He’s currently my No. 1 QB in the class and No. 9 prospect overall. He’ll likely wind up as a top five pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Belk Bowl — Mississippi State (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (7-5), 3:30 p.m., ESPN
This matchup is highlighted by two big name quarterbacks in Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett playing in their last game for their respective programs.
Neither are solid NFL prospects at quarterback, which could make this a boring game to watch if you’re looking for great quarterback play, but Brissett is an intriguing talent.
He’s not flashy, but he knows this system in and out and rarely drops his eyes as he feels the protection faltering. He’s not a deep-threat quarterback, but he can carve a defense up in the short and intermediate game.
As for Prescott, he’ll play in the Senior Bowl following this game. The Wolfpack defense provides the senior quarterback with another chance to showcase his progression as a passer.
He still struggles with accuracy and ball placement, but if he lands in the right situation he could develop into a solid spot starter in the NFL.
Prescott will be looking for his favorite target, wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson, who is so incredibly inconsistent. He has great size and looks like a tight end out wide, but his hands are spotty at best.
Defensively, Bulldogs defensive tackle Chris Jones is criminally underrated in this class.
He’s explosive, powerful at the point of attack and versatile enough to place in any spot along the line of scrimmage. The 6’6”, 308-pound tackle is flying under the radar, but by the time the 2016 Draft rolls around he’ll be getting buzz as a first round pick.
Music City Bowl — Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (8-4), 7p.m., ESPN
The Aggies were excepted to bring their explosive offense into this game against a strong Cardinals defense, but the unexpected transfers of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray leaves the Aggies ridiculously thin at QB heading into the bowl game.
That should bode well for Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins and Devonte Fields, who transferred from TCU two years ago.
Rankins is another fast riser but he’s not explosive like some of the other interior linemen in this class.
The 6’2”, 303-poumd is arguably the top run defender in the class who uses his strength and length at the point of attack who can win one-on-one battles. That will serve him well at the next level.
Fields hasn’t shown the level of play he did at TCU, but he’ll likely be an above-average rotational pass rusher at the next level who will be a bargain in the later rounds.
Holiday Bowl — No. 25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3), 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Where to start with prospects in this game?
Let’s start with two standout defenders in this class with USC’s Su’a Cravens and Wisconsin edge rusher Joe Schobert.
Cravens likely reminds Trojans (and Steelers) fans of the great Troy Polamalu, but they’re vastly different players despite having similar versatility and in-the-box highlight-reel plays.
Cravens can cover slot receivers and move tight ends while also being physical and strong enough against the run to make plays in traffic. He fits the mold of Arizona Deone Bucannon at the next level.
Schobert isn’t flashy, but he’s impressively consistent.
In 2015 the 6’2”, 236-pound defender racked up 18.5 tackles for loss and added 9.5 sacks for the Badgers.
He could be a valuable day two selection for teams needing serious edge help.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler is another big name to watch, but at this point he’s a game-manager who isn’t draftable due to his inconsistencies in the passing game. He’s a bit undersized and doesn’t make the best decisions under pressure, but he could be a guy who carves out a role in the NFL due to his preparation and ability to hold things together in a time of crisis.