NFL Draft: Hawai’i Bowl

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College football bowl season is under way. If you are like most NFL fans, you know some players on the top college football teams but that is about it. As a Bears fan, my NFL season has been over for weeks so I’ve gotten an early start on my scouting for next year’s NFL draft.

I love watching football even if it’s games I have no rooting interest in, so over the holidays I end watching a lot of random bowl games. One thing that makes the bowl games more interesting for me is to keep an eye on players who will be drafted next season. This year I will breaking down the players who have a shot at getting drafted for most of the remaining bowl games. If you end up watching the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.

More from Chicago Bears Draft

Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno St vs Rice

When: Dec. 24th, 8 PM (EST)

Fresno St Bulldogs

S Derron Smith, SR #13 (5’10, 200, 4.52) 

Scouting report – His numbers were down a bit in 2014 with only 1 INT, but Smith has been a reliable play-maker during his career as the Bulldogs free safety. He had 6 INTs as a sophomore in 2012, and 8 INTs as junior last season. Smith excels in pass coverage with above average instincts, range, ball skills and hands. He looks natural in zone coverage but can also lock down receivers in man coverage. Smith is a good hitter against receivers over the middle, but hasn’t been much of a factor in run support. He has the talent to sneak into the back end of the first round, but concerns over his height might drop him to day 2. Smith will play in the Senior Bowl and could lock down a 1st round grade with a strong performance.

NFL comparison – Jimmy Ward

Projection: 2nd round

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

WR Josh Harper, SR #3 (6’1, 180, 4.48)

Scouting report – His TD numbers dropped from 13 in 2013 to just 7 this year after Derek Carr left, but Harper still put up his 2nd consecutive 1,000 yard season (1,072) despite inconsistent play at QB. There are concerns about his lack of strength and blocking ability, but Harper is a smooth athlete with elite acceleration and the ability to make big plays after the catch. Early in his career Harper did most of his damage on screens and quick slants, but as a senior he showed the ability to get open down field and make plays anywhere. The match-up of Harper and Rice’s Callahan should be fun to watch. Harper will be joining his teammate Smith in the Senior Bowl this year and he could solidify a 2nd round grade with a good performance.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round

DT Tyeler Davison, SR #92 (6’2, 301, 5.16)

Scouting report –  Very productive DT with 15.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Davison is solid against the run with the ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier. He doesn’t have any physical traits that stand out, but he still found a way to be consistently productive. Good instinctive football player who should be at least a rotational DT at the next level, but could surprise and earn a starting job.

Projection: 3rd-4th round