Plenty of great college football action has been played thus far in this year’s bowl games, which continues today. The Pro Football Network Draft crew will be here today from 4 PM EST until 11 PM EST. The journey towards the 2020 NFL Draft continues, and the schedule for today includes four bowl games, including two that are of primary focus, which are the college football playoff games. Those games begin at 4 PM, where Oklahoma takes on LSU in the Peach Bowl, and Clemson faces Ohio State in the Fiest Bowl at 8 PM.
Updates throughout the day are followed by initials. TP is me (Tony Pauline), and RR is Ryan Rosko. 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 playoff games. Click here for the Peach Bowl preview and draft guide. Click here for the Fiesta Bowl preview and draft guide.
What a performance by JK Dobbins.
Except for the miscue when he dropped a screen pass in the red zone in the first half, the junior has played a phenomenal game in all aspects and he’s done it on one leg. Its obvious he has lost a good amount of explosion and burst since injuring his ankle. Many of those 6 and 7 yard runs in this second half would’ve been long gainers were Dobbins running on two good ankles.
Another terrific play by Ohio State corner Jeffery Okudah.
I reported as far back as September word was Okudah will enter the draft when the season concludes and people have told me over the past week the junior has representation lined up. I would expect a pretty quick announcement from Okudah once OSU plays it’s final game.
In speaking and texting with people about the Oklahoma juniors expected to enter the draft since the end of the Peach Bowl, players I mentioned during the 6:55PM update, the consensus seems to be linebacker Kenneth Murray does not make it out of the first round.
I presently grade Murray as a late first round/early second round prospect.
The Ohio State receivers need to step up and make plays. Fields has been up and down all game but the OSU wide outs are really not helping him.
I was asked during the PFN mailbag about Travis Etienne being graded as a third round prospect by some and I completely disagreed. As he has shown all season, and just reminded us, his big play ability and speed is too good to get past the middle of round two.
Remember, it was his touchdown run when Etienne willed his way into the end zone in the middle of the second quarter that started the Clemson comeback.
NFL scouts grade Robert Landers as a street free agent and while I don’t believe the Ohio State defensive lineman will be selected in the draft I absolutely believe he has a place at the next level as a one gap defensive tackle. His quickness, tenacity and motor the past three years has impressed me.
You have to be impressed with the job Clemson’s defense has done since the middle of the second quarter. They were getting mauled the first 20 minutes and quickly turned it around. Ohio State inability to convert long drives into TD’s has also helped the Clemson cause.
That’s the type of drive Clemson needed and one that changes the momentum of games.
Ohio State had Clemson dead in the water on third down but a targeting penalty keeps the drive alive, a pass interference penalty pushes the ball down field then Travis Etienne wills his way into the end zone.
I am not a proponent of all these targeting penalties handed out in college football but that penalty was justified against Shaun Wade. No denying he purposely lowered his helmet at the point of contact and it was not incidental or a situation where he ran into an offensive player who was lowering his head.
I’m told Wade will enter April’s draft.
I gave Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell a third round grade entering the season and he probably deserves a round better. You have to like his size, feisty play and the way he challenges opponents and competes to break up throws. Terrell really needs to improve his ability making plays with his back to the ball; he does a bit too much face guarding and is very slow locating the ball in the air.
That said he has a large upside and starting potential at the next level.
Chase Young has been quiet thus far and by my count does not have a tackle in the game. It is interesting to note earlier this week when I was speaking with someone from the NY Giants they mentioned the concern Young seemed to disappear in the big games. He was referring to the Michigan contest and the Big 10 title game specifically, when Young finished with a combined 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL and 0 sacks.
I don’t necessarily buy into this thinking, but it is important to note people are pointing to this factor.
Everyone will talk about JK Dobbins two huge runs in this game. They will also talk about that terrific catch he made which was reversed. But go back and watch the first down play in the red zone on that recent drive- it was an incomplete pass but look and see what a great job Dobbins did picking up the blitz and protecting his quarterback.
Earlier this season, when I listed Dobbins as a riser, I mentioned he’s a complete player at the running back position as a ball carrier, pass catcher and blocker.
Safety K’Von Wallace having a real nice game for Clemson. Not the biggest or fastest but just a smart, instinctive defender with a nose for the ball. I grade Wallace as a 6th round prospect.
If Tee Higgins cannot return that means Diondre Overton must step up for Clemson. I graded Overton, a senior who was ignored by scouts, as a PFA entering the season based on his early play for the Tigers. TP
Again! Thayer Munford with a great seal block to spring J.K. Dobbins free for a 68-yard touchdown run. Great burst and open field speed from the junior running back, whom I grade as a first-round prospect. TP
Three points on that first Ohio State drive:
1) We saw the dominance of the Ohio State offensive line which I mentioned earlier. I thought left tackle Thayer Munford looked particularly good.
2) The Buckeyes always have a solid two-way tight end on the depth chart that catches the ball well and effectively blocks. Luke Farrell, who I grade as a sixth-round prospect, is that player.
3) Once again Clemson’s defense stiffens inside the red zone. TP
It’s almost kick-off for today’s headliner: the Fiesta Bowl featuring Ohio State and Clemson. On paper, there are a ton of great next level match-ups, which I highlighted during the Fiesta Bowl preview.
A lot of people are picking Clemson, but I think the difference in tonight’s game will be the dominant Buckeye offensive line which does not get the credit due, which results in a victory for Ohio State. TP
Two updates from the past week.
I reported the Hawaii Bowl, played on Christmas Eve, was likely going to be the final college game for tight end Matt Bushman, whom I was led to believe would enter the draft. The junior announced today he is returning to BYU for his senior season. I’m told Bushman received a lot of late-round and UDFA grades from scouts and felt it was in his best interest to return to college.
During my 6:55 PM update, I put the chances of Cesar Ruiz entering the draft at 50/50. Sources have since told me it’s more like 80/20 the talented center leaves Michigan for the NFL after the team’s bowl game. TP
This game has been a disaster for Oklahoma and while I thought they would lose big to LSU, I thought the Sooners would be able to score.
As far as the OU underclassmen are concerned I’ve reported for months receiver CeeDee Lamb and linebacker Kenneth Murray are both headed for the draft.
Right now I’d say it’s about an 85% likelihood that center Creed Humphrey also joins them and makes the jump.
That leaves three highly-rated junior centers, all from the Big 10, we are waiting to hear from; Tyler Biadasz of Wisconsin (whom I’m sure will enter the draft), Cesar Ruiz of Michigan (I’m told it’s about 50/50 right now) and Matt Allen of Michigan State (I’ve heard nothing on Allen). TP
Justin Jefferson is presently graded as a second-round pick on my board but he’s playing more like a top-15 prospect. With five minutes left in the half, his stats line reads 9 receptions, 186 yards, and 4 TDs; a career game for most receivers.
Jefferson is yet another LSU junior set to enter the draft. His ultimate landing spot in the draft will depend on how fast he runs at the combine. Regardless- as is the case with most receivers that come out of LSU- I expect Jefferson to be a better receiver on the NFL level than he was on the college level. TP
Kary Vincent Jr., who just made a beautiful interception which LSU converted into a TD, is highly considered in the scouting community, and most I’ve spoken with feel he lands in day two of the draft if he enters.
I’m told Vincent, whose father played wide receiver for Texas A&M and was drafted in the sixth round by the New Orleans Saints, has people vetting agents and will make his draft decision after the playoffs. If he enters the draft expect a blistering forty time in the mid 4.2’s at the combine. TP
I never thought OU would be in this game and said during numerous podcasts LSU by 21. That being the case this sets up an interesting situation for Jalen Hurts. His back is against the wall, he now has to carry the Sooners on his shoulders and make play after play while staying away from mistakes.
Let’s see how he responds. TP
As the first quarter of the Peach Bowl comes to an end, it’s time to turn to some NFL news.
Rumors have been running rampant all day as to what may happen in Cleveland with the Browns next week. PFN was the first to report a rift was developing between the front office, specifically John Dorsey and the Haslam family, over head coach Freddie Kitchens. Dorsey is loyal to Kitchens while the Haslam’s feel Kitchens could be replaced.
Throughout the day, I’ve learned of several updates from a number of sources including:
- Dorsey’s return next year is not a guarantee, and several people feel he could be a casualty of the 2019 season and get the ax next week. And while this is a possibility, everyone I spoke with feels it would be a mistake to fire Dorsey, something I agree with.
- If Kitchens is retained, he will have to relinquish the play-calling duties. Several scenarios, including bringing in a new offensive coordinator to call plays, were laid out to me.
- Another scenario is a compromise between Dorsey and Haslam, where Kitchens is fired, and the team hires a new head coach. Several people threw around the name of Mike McCarthy as a definite possibility. TP
I stamped Parnell Motley as a seventh round pick entering the season, right in line with the grade handed to him by scouts, yet the corner has played much-improved football as the season has progressed. He’s a thinly built corner who is likely best backed off the line of scrimmage.
We will see Motley at the Shrine Game- coverage of Shrine practices begins at Pro Football Network on January 13. TP
I was a bit concerned how Jalen Hurts would respond to the LSU defense but so far so good. He’s made terrific decisions in the early going, handled the pressure well, and has done well reading the Tiger defense. His pick-up of the mismatch of a safety covering CeeDee Lamb was mastery. TP
I mentioned several weeks ago, LSU is expected to lose a ton of underclassmen to the NFL Draft, the norm for the program. I’m told safety Grant Delpit, and linebacker Jacob Phillips are two of those underclassmen who intend on making the jump.
I grade Delpit as a top 15 prospect and Phillips as a second-day pick. TP
Still early in the game, but as I mentioned in numerous podcasts, I thought Oklahoma would be hard-pressed to stop the LSU offense. The Sooners better come up with a game plan to pressure Burrow and cover the Tiger receivers, or the Heisman Trophy winner will slice them up.
If I’m game planning the OU defense, I dare the LSU running game to beat me and not worry about the ground game. TP
As we await kick-off of the first CFP semi-final game, let’s brush up on a few underclassmen notes.
I previously reported the word from Stanford was most of the highly-rated underclassmen from the program were expected to return to The Farm for another season. The initial report initially looked good when offensive tackle Walker Little announced he would return. Then tight end Colby Parkinson went against the grain and announced he was entering the draft.
Scouts I’ve spoken with all feel the decision was a mistake and all grade Parkinson as a 5th/6th round prospect.
I’m told cornerback Paulson Adebo is also now expected to enter the draft, another decision scouts feel is premature. Adebo is coming off a terrible season, which began early on when he was torched by UCF receiver Gabe Davis in week three. There are also concerns about Adebo’s long speed.
I’m told two more PAC 12 corners are leaning towards entering the draft; Thomas Graham Jr. of Oregon as well as Lorenzo Burns of Arizona. Graham is a solid corner who I graded as a 6th round prospect before the season began. TP
There have been a little bit of everything up through now in this year’s bowl season. We have seen blowouts, games going down to the last play of the game, high scoring affairs, and everything in between. In just hours, we will know both where the playoffs games fit into what we have seen thus far as well as what led to the victors advancing to this year’s national championship game.
Tony has published previews of today’s playoff 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 4 PM EST and will continue until 11 PM EST with all the latest news, analysis, and breaking news from today’s slate of games. – RR