It’s the first Saturday in college football where bowl games will be played and as we did throughout the regular season, the Pro Football Network Draft crew will be here today until 10 PM EST. The journey towards the 2020 NFL Draft continues, and the schedule for today includes seven bowl games that will affect the draft stock of many prospects.
Updates throughout the day are followed by initials. TP is me (Tony Pauline) NF is Nick Farabaugh, and BR is Bill Riccette. Bill will be first on the blog today starting at 1:30 PM EST. Running the PFN Twitter account is Matt Valdovinos. Don’t forget to visit and bookmark our 2020 NFL Draft Underclassmen Tracker.
Before scrolling down for the updates, be sure to check out our bowl previews for today’s games. Click here for the early game previews and draft grades, which includes the Celebration Bowl at 12 Noon (Alcorn State vs North Carolina A&T), the New Mexico Bowl at 2 PM (Central Michigan vs San Diego State), the Cure Bowl at 2:30 PM (Liberty vs Georgia Southern), and the Boca Raton Bowl at 3:30 PM (SMU vs FAU).
Click here for the late game previews and draft grades, which includes the Camellia Bowl at 5:30 PM (FIU vs Arkansas State), the Las Vegas Bowl at 7:30 PM (Boise State vs Washington), and the New Orleans Bowl at 9 PM (Appalachian State vs UAB).
Well traveled receiver Kirk Merritt finished on a high note for Arkansas State with 6 receptions, 43 yards and 1 TD, during the win in the Camellia Bowl.
Merritt, who played at Oregon and Texas A&M before settling at Arkansas State, entered the season graded as a potential late round pick by league scouts, but has been disappointing this year and never capitalized on the flashes he displayed as a junior. TP
You have to love UAB- the little program that could. It was four years ago they turned the lights out on the program yet here they are in their second consecutive bowl game after another appearance in the C-USA title game.
Blazers defensive lineman Garrett Marino embodies the program. Entering the season he was graded as a street free agent by scouts yet Marino is now receiving late round grades after a terrific senior campaign. He’s already made several big plays in the early going of the New Orleans Bowl. TP
As Appalachian State-UAB get going in the New Orleans Bowl, it’s important to note Mountaineers running back Darryton Evans, who I mentioned last month will consider entering the draft, is still in the information collection phase. It doesn’t seem like a decision either way is imminent. TP
I mentioned Omar Bayless earlier and it’s almost as though he’s trying to carry Arkansas State to victory. After making a terrific 45 yard reception down the right hand side of the field, only to have the play called back for a “defenseless block” by his teammate, Bayless made a 52 yard reception down the left flank. Both were sensational receptions.
The Red Wolves converted Bayless effort into a touchdown and presently lead by 8 points with two-and-a-half minutes left. TP
James Morgan is having his usual efficient game as Florida International is inching ever closer to Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl. Morgan is 17 of 28 for 257 yards with 1 TD as FIU is within a point of the Red Wolves, 27-26 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Morgan is another who should get late round consideration. He possesses the physical skills to play at the next level and would be much more productive if he had better targets. TP
James Madison quarterback Ben DiNucci is having another terrific game as the Dukes have taken a big lead over Weber State 24-7 in the second IAA/FCS semi-final of the day. As of this posting DiNucci, a riser much earlier this season, has completed 15 of 21 passes for 205 yards with 3 TD’s.
I’m surprised DiNucci has yet to be invited to the Shrine Game- which he deserves. I think he absolutely deserves late round consideration as DiNucci has played lights out football the past two seasons. TP
Omar Bayless is having another terrific game in what’s turning out to be a real close Camellia Bowl between Arkansas State and Florida International.
Bayless leads all pass catchers with 5 receptions, 88 yards and 1 TD. He’s already been invited to the Shrine Game and it will be interesting to see if he receives a combine invitation. The history has been players like Bayless who enter the season with a street free agent grade as he did, rarely get invited to the combine.
Bayless is a terrific pass catcher but his final draft grade and whether or not he slides into the late rounds, will depend how fast he runs prior to April. TP
During the last episode of The Draft Insider podcast with Andy Herman, I mentioned word was Carlos Basham Jr. was leaning towards returning to school, and today he made that official. As I said for months, Basham’s decision would come down to his grade from the advisory committee; if he received a first or second round grade he would enter the draft otherwise he planned on returning.
I was told last week Wake Forest coaches were pushing hard for Basham to return and his mother also wanted him to return for his senior season. There are a number of area scouts and even some GM’s who openly said regardless of the grade he received from the advisory committee, they believed Basham had top 45 potential. I graded him as a 3rd round prospect off the 2018 film.
In other news I’m told quarterback Jamie Newman is considering the draft and will go through the information gathering process. The overall belief is Newman could vault into the first round if he returns to Wake and improves upon what was a good 2019 season. TP
With the Las Vegas Bowl kicking off, it’s important to note something I’ve been saying for the past month- I expect this to be the final game for Boise State underclassmen Curtis Weaver, the pass rusher, and left tackle Ezra Cleveland.
I would expect an announcement from both by the end of next week. I presently grade both players as second day selections. TP
If you want to take a look at a sleeper quarterback in the upcoming class, take a look at Lousiana Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith in the Independence Bowl on Thursday. I really like what Smith brings to the table as a potential sleeper. He has great mobility and lives outside of the pocket and out of structure. The magic he can make happen by breaking tackles and getting into space is awesome to watch. But when he is in the pocket, his pocket movement and presence are top-notch as well. He is comfortable working in there. The tools he has are really nice, and if he can round out his game I like him as a potential starter out of this class that no one is talking about. NF
It is a big game tonight for Washington quarterback Jacob Eason if he plans to declare for the NFL Draft this year. He needs this game to improve his stock. Eason has proven that he has great arm talent and that he can make some unreal throws at times into very tight windows, but his inconsistent accuracy, spotty decision making, and inability to read a defense after they change the picture post-snap as been his undoing this year. There are a lot of mental things that he has to simply improve upon moving forward if he wants to be anything more than a day two upside pick at this point because I believe given the season he has had, he is not in the conversation with the top quarterbacks of this class right now. NF
The Las Vegas Bowl between Boise State and Washington will be going on here in about 40 minutes, and I am incredibly excited to watch Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver and Washington tackle Jared Hilbers face off in a matchup that should have draft implications for both of them. Hilbers has managed to show that he has good natural athleticism and mobility. And those natural tools have converted into him proving that he can stand up with some of the best the PAC-12 has to offer. He is still a work-in progress, however with hand usage and pad level being issues. Weaver, on the other hand, is a technician with great hand usage, counters, and a good pass rush plan on him. He will not wow you with athleticism or bend, but he looks like he is going to be a potential Top-50 pick with his skillset as a polished, plug-and-play pass rusher right off the bat. NF
It is another Arkansas State game and another Omar Bayless touchdown is on the books in the early stages of the Camellia Bowl against Florida International. Bayless has really ramped up his hype recently after a breakout season that saw him become the most productive receiver in the nation this season. Bayless is big-bodied at 6’3″ and wins well above the rim, but Bayless can also run some really sharp routes and win in the short game as well as the deep passing game. Bayless does not have great athleticism, but with a good testing day, he could see his stock even rise more and land as a potential top-125 pick come April if his rapid ascent continues. NF
Speaking of other Flordia Atlantic defensive backs, Dotson’s running mate, Chris Tooley, deserves his own shoutout for a really good game today. He has done incredibly well against this very good SMU receiving corps by being in position all day long and simply making play and after play in coverage tonight. I have not watched him outside of this game, but if this game is any indication he can hang with all different types of receivers, and that includes speedsters. I am excited to dive into his tape given what he has shown tonight. NF
One of the best sleepers in the draft is Florida Atlantic cornerback Meiko Dotson. His NCAA leading nine interceptions are only one of the reasons that I began to take notice of just how good Dotson was playing this year. He suffered an injury earlier in the first half, and I really hope it was nothing too bad. You watch Dotson and you see a guy who is really fast and can keep up with the fastest guys in the nation. But he is also quick and a playmaker. There are a lot of hints of a guy who could thrive at the next level due to his playmaking ability and athleticism. And if he needs to find a spot on an NFL roster, Dotson should be a fine gunner for any team. NF
In about an hour, James Madison will take on Weber State with the opportunity to go and face North Dakota State in the FCS National Championship game and I am heavily keeping my eye on the Dukes cornerback Rashad Robinson. Robinson missed all of last year with an injury, but this year, he has rebounded nicely. He has great lateral agility and mirroring ability. Just watch him and you will see how fluid his transitions are and it allows him to use his good deep speed to get in position and make a lot of plays on deep balls. Robinson I believe is a sleeper Shrine Game invite down the line. And a strong performance tonight would help strengthen that case. NF
Tony mentioned him earlier today, but I am a big fan of Luq Barcoo. He has been a playmaker all season for this San Diego State defense. His 16 pass deflections lead the NCAA and he is tied for the lead with nine interceptions after his ninth interception today against Central Michigan. He just has really good ball skills and has great route recognition and football IQ to make a jump on some of these balls in zone coverage. He is slight in his frame, but he has length to him too. He could be one of those high upside guys if a team can mold his length into physicality and make him more of a technician. NF
The hard-hitting matchup between Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and Georgia Southern cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Monquavion Brinson has been an incredibly fun one to watch. Gandy-Golden has been held to only three receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown, but it was a gorgeous contested catch that he made over Brinson. Gandy-Golden already holds a Senior Bowl invite and will get the opportunity to show off more than just his size there when he faces some guys that will test his lateral quickness and route-running ability.
Vildor is another Senior Bowl invite and he has played Gandy-Golden really well despite being outmatched height-wise. Vildor has faced receivers such as Tee Higgins in his career and has gone toe-to-toe with everyone he has faced thus far in his college career. Gandy-Golden is just another name that he has shut down with his physicality and fluidity. Brinson, on the other hand, has struggled with bigger receivers, but he does a great job of being in the position to make plays and get splash plays. Brinson is also a really good tackler, which means he could be a solid nickel cornerback at the next level. NF
The Miami Hurricanes don’t play until next Thursday when they take on Louisiana Tech in the Liberty Bowl, but let’s get ahead of the news cycle on their underclassmen.
Defensive end Jonathan Garvin announced his intention to enter the draft earlier this week and I’ve yet to speak with one person inside the league who feels it was a good decision. Garvin is a solid college defensive end with no outstanding skill which translates to the next level.
I previously reported that the word was running back Deejay Dallas was expected to enter the draft. I’m told that is no longer certain after the left arm injury he suffered during the loss to FIU which puts his bowl appearance in question.
Finally, I’m told there is a good possibility cornerback Trajan Bandy enters the draft.
Coming into the season I graded Bandy as a potential third round selection; in fact, he was my highest rated next level prospect on the Hurricane roster. Bandy had a so-so year with 29 tackles, 7 PBUs and no picks, but opposing quarterbacks purposely threw away from him.
I like Bandy’s ball skills but the lack of height, he barely touches the tape at 5-feet-9-inches, will downgrade him on most boards. TP
I’m not surprised by the beat down San Diego State is putting on Central Michigan rather I was more surprised the Aztecs did not put up a bigger challenge for conference supremacy in the Mountain West.
As the third quarter winds down the Aztec defense is bearing down on 500 total yards. SDSU has a pair of late-round offensive line prospects including center Keith Ismael and guard Daishawn Dixon.
As I’ve mentioned in the past Ismael, a junior, is likely to enter the draft. If he does there’s a real good chance we see Ismael in the Senior Bowl. TP
As has been mentioned numerous times around the web and on podcasts, including The Draft Insider podcast from two weeks ago, the Antonio Gandy-Golden/Kindle Vildor is shaping up to be a real good one in the Cure Bowl as Gany-Golden’s Liberty Flames are up by nine points over Vildor’s Georgia Southern squad as the first half is closing out.
Vildor has a slight advantage thus far, though the Georgia Southern defense was getting a lot of pressure early in the game and making life difficult for Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert. That being the case, Gandy-Golden who has been mentioned frequently in this blog since the start of the season, has come up in big spots to help keep the chains moving for his team.
Staying at the cornerback position, San Diego State’s Luq Barcoo, whom I spoke about earlier this week with Chris Tripodi during our BLEAV podcast, is off to a great start during the first half of the New Mexico Bowl. Thus far he’s totaled 4 tackles and picked off 1 pass.
Barcoo, a junior college transfer who was not graded by scouts before the season, posted 51 tackles, intercepted 8 passes as well as 16 PBUs for what was a terrific campaign in 2019. He measures over 6-feet tall and the Aztec coaches have been singing his praise to next level decision-makers.
As we get ready for the kick-off of the Boca Bowl between home team Florida Atlantic and SMU, I’ll start off with a bit of breaking news.
I reported a month before he made his announcement official Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson would enter the draft and I can report his teammate Javelin Guidry is close to following suit. The junior corner, whom I graded as a last day pick before the season began, finished with 42 tackles and 6 PBUs in 2019.
Guidry is an undersized defensive back with solid ball skills and projects as a nickel/dime back at the next level. Speed is one of his greatest assets and I would expect him to be one of the fastest corners at the combine once his receives an invitation. He’s a track sprinter who has timed 10.13s in the 100m, 6.59s in the 60m and had previously run 4.35s in the forty on grass. TP
On the other side of the Boca Raton Bowl, all eyes will be on SMU WR James Proche, who enters today with 102 catches for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns, which is tied for third in the nation. Proche is also set to take part in the Shrine Bowl and should have a good chance to get the call up to the Senior Bowl a week later. A fun player to watch, without a doubt, and one that will give a lot of intrigue to this game, along with FAU TE Harrison Bryant. – BR
North Carolina A&T RB Jah-Maine Martin has been having himself a terrific day today. As of now, he has 12 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown. The FCS leader in yards per carry has really made a name for himself today and could be in line to be a late-round choice and the fourth straight Aggie drafted into the NFL. Hopefully, he gets a chance to shine in some more postseason games and at the NFL Combine. – BR
We’re getting ready for another kickoff, this one down in Boca Raton.
The Boca Raton Bowl is basically a home game for Florida Atlantic. It’s also one last opportunity at the college level to see one of the best tight ends in the country in Harrison Bryant, who posted a 1,004-yard season with seven touchdowns on 65 catches; all career-highs. Bryant highlights what will be a fantastic tight end class at the Senior Bowl. – BR
A few other players that have shined during the Celebration Bowl so far include A&T RB Jah-Maine Martin, who is a bruiser. He just keeps his legs moving. He could be the latest NC A&T back in the NFL, after Tarik Cohen was drafted in 2017 by the Chicago Bears. We also saw a beautiful touchdown catch by Elijah Bell, beating two defenders for a 53-yard score in the second quarter. – BR
As the Celebration Bowl rolls on, we start looking ahead to the New Mexico Bowl.
There are a couple of players to check out during the New Mexico Bowl between Central Michigan and San Diego State, with one player in particular; Aztecs’ offensive lineman Daishawn Dixon. Dixon has played three seasons at left guard, starting every game, and has been the leader of the group as the only senior on the offensive line. Dixon is 6-5 and about 330 pounds. He’ll get a chance to showcase his work at the Shrine Bowl in a few weeks. – BR
The start of the Saturday bowl games has been pretty solid, with a tight game between North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl.
One player that has really flashed thus far in this game has been North Carolina A&T CB Mac McCain III. He has been showing excellent open-field tackling and quickness to get to the ball. PFN highlighted him during the summer and he has done nothing to darken that spotlight. He could be an intriguing nickel option on Day 3. – BR
As mentioned above, this is the first Saturday of bowl games. The bowl season is here! Yesterday, though officially kicked off the bowls with Buffalo blowing out Charlotte and Kent State taking home the win over Utah State in a high scoring contest. Now, for Utah State’s Jordan Love, it is draft prep time. Missed the games or the analysis the PFN draft crew provided on those games? Not a problem as the preview and insight can be seen here.
The PFN Draft Crew has published previews of today’s six bowl games detailing insight and analysis on today’s action. Be sure to check it out while taking a look back as to who performed well and who didn’t.
We’ll be back at 1:30 PM EST and will continue until 10 PM EST with all the latest news, analysis, and breaking news from today’s slate of games. – RR