NFL Draft: Allstate Sugar 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 Allstate Sugar Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.

More from Chicago Bears Draft

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Ohio St

When: Jan. 1st, 8:30 PM (EST)


Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

WR Amari Cooper, JR #9 (6’1 | 210 | 4.52)

Scouting report – Heisman trophy finalist who was the most dominant receiver in college football this season. Cooper isn’t flashy and doesn’t have one unique trait that stands out, but the sum of his skills is unmatched. There is no obvious weakness in Cooper’s game. He runs great routes and varies his acceleration to create seperation, he used elite body control and hands to snag anything in his vicinity, and is tough to bring down after the catch due to good strength and balance. Cooper is the total package at WR and should be a top 10 pick.

Projection: Top 10

SS Landon Collins, JR #26 (6’0 | 222 | 4.53)

Scouting report – Physical safety who excels as an in-the-box run stopper and is a big time hitter against both the run and receivers over the middle. Collins closes on ball carriers like a missile and will improve the run defense from day 1 wherever he ends up. He has text-book tackling form and usually takes the proper angle to the ball.

His coverage skills were considered somewhat of a weakness before this season, but Collins improved significantly this year and even played some snaps as a 1-deep free safety for the Tide. Collins should have no problem matching up with TEs and RBs out of the backfield, but probably isn’t quick enough to cover slot WRs in man. He’s solid in zone coverage as long as the play is in front of him, but has a tendency to let receivers get behind him which has led to him getting burned deep a few times (Auburn, Ole Miss) this year. Besides that there isn’t much not to like. Collins is a ball hawk with a knack for forcing turnovers (5 INT, 3 FF) and has been Bama’s best coverage guy on special teams the last three years. He should be an impact player as a rookie and is worth a top ten selection.

Projection: Top 10

RB T.J. Yeldon, JR #4 (6’2 | 221 | 4.42)

Scouting report – Underrated due to splitting carries with Derrick Henry and the publicity given to other top backs like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Yeldon is a very intriguing pro prospect with above average size, speed, and athleticism. Yeldon combines elite acceleration and shiftiness to his physical traits and has the potential to be a 3-down back at the next level. His height makes him a big target, but it also leads to defenders underestimating his speed and quickness. Yeldon is a reliable receiver out of the backfield but needs to improve his pass blocking. It’s one of the deepest RB groups in the last 20 years and some team could get a steal if Yeldon falls to the 3rd round.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round

OG Arie Kouandjio, SR #77 (6’5 | 315 | 5.31)

Scouting report – Punishing run blocker with great size and above-average mobility. His pass blocking was a question mark coming into the 2014 season, but he improved significantly. Kouandjio is one of the top 3 guard prospects in the draft this year and should be an early day 2 selection. He has the potential to start as a rookie and has Pro Bowl potential.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

ILB Reggie Ragland, JR #19 (6’2 | 254 | 4.71)

Scouting report -Stand-out special teams player for two season before earning the starting job at ILB in 2014. Ragland is a physical run-stopper between the hashes with good speed and the strength to shed blockers. He has flashed elite athleticism and football instincts this year as well and has the potential to be a difference maker as a 3-4 ILB in the NFL.

Projection: 3rd round

ILB Trey DePriest, SR #33 (6’2 | 242 | 4.73)

Scouting report – Highly rated recruit coming out of high school who never quite lived up to expectations. DePriest was outplayed at times and lost snaps to less heralded Reggie Ragland, but that doesn’t necessarily make DePriest less of a prospect. Ragland is a legit NFL prospect in his own right. The Bama defense is loaded with play-makers and DePreist just didn’t make many although he did have 82 tackles. His natural athleticism will get him drafted and he still has the potential to be a starting LB in the NFL. DePriest’s best position in the pros is at ILB in a 3-4.

Projection: 4th-6th round

OT Austin Shepherd, SR #79 (6’5 | 320 | 5.42)

Scouting report – Under-rated RT prospect who has been a powerful run blocker for the Tide since taking over for D.J. Fluker in 2013. Shepherd’s strength is his run blocking ability, but he has pretty good feet in pass pro and the agility to improve with coaching.  If Shepherd can become more consistent as a pass blocker, he has the potential to be a starting RT in the NFL. I’ve seen him projected anywhere from the 3rd round to an undrafted free agent, but Shepherd is a steal if he falls to day 3.

Projection: 4th-6th round

FB Jalston Fowler, SR #45 (6’1 | 248 | 4.84)

Scouting report – The #1 FB on most draft boards. Fowler has the versatility to be either a classic FB as he was this season or an H-back which he was in 2013. He’s a mauling blocker in the run game, has soft hands out of the backfield and should be a stand-out on special teams. Solid value pick on day 3.

Projection: 5th-7th round

QB Blake Sims, SR #6 (6’0 | 208 | 4.49)

Scouting report – Excellent pocket awareness and a cannon arm with nice touch, but at only 6 feet tall is a long shot at the next level. Sims is a pass-first QB, but when forced out of the pocket can really move. He’s only started for 1 season, so Sims is still raw and needs to improve his read progression and other finer points of the position. Sims has a shot to get drafted, but projects as a backup at the next level due to his lack of height.

Projection: 6th-7th round