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

More from Chicago Bears Draft

Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs Florida

When: Jan. 3rd, Noon (EST)

East Carolina

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

WR Justin Hardy, SR #2 (6’0 | 188 | 4.49)

Scouting report – Not big or exceptionally fast, but Hardy consistently gets open despite being the #1 option in the Pirates offense. He runs very crisp routes, uses his body well to shield defenders, has elite body control to adjust to the ball in the air, high-points the ball, and fights for every contested catch. Despite his average size, Hardy has very long arms and strong hands that allow him to make plays even when covered. He has been extremely productive for the Pirates with 212 receptions for 2,478 yards and 16 TDs over the last two seasons. Hardy runs like an RB with the ball in his hands and is also an aggressive blocker who gives max effort in the run game and has multiple decleater blocks in his college career. One reason for concern is that he was shut down by Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller in one of his only games against an NFL caliber corner. His lack of size and elite measurable will drop Hardy to the middle rounds, but he is a polished receiver who can contribute right away in the NFL and could be a steal early on day 3.

Projection: 3rd-5th round

QB Shane Carden, SR #5 (6’2 | 221 | 4.92)

Scouting report – Very productive QB who has thrown for 84 TDs with just 28 INTs and a 67% completion percentage over the last three seasons. Carden has great poise in the pocket with good mobility and the ability to make plays under duress. He doesn’t have elite arm strength but can make all the throws despite throwing from a 3-quarters arm angle similar to Teddy Bridgewater’s. He leads receivers well and does a good job anticipating open spots in the defense. Carden hasn’t played against many top-tier defenses, but put up good numbers against Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and South Carolina in a 3 game stretch this season. Right now he’s a mid-round prospect with plenty of upside who could boost his stock with a good performance at the Senior Bowl.

Projection: 3rd-5th round

OLB Maurice Falls, SR #48 (6’3 | 247 | 4.67)

Scouting report – Awesome athlete who has supposedly been clocked as low as 4.47 in the 40, has a 37″ vertical, can bench 425 pounds and squat 645 pounds. Falls hasn’t been able to translate that athleticism to production yet, but he occasionally shows flashes of being a dangerous pass rusher. Falls is raw, but NFL teams love elite athletes and he does have special teams experience which will help his draft stock.

Projection: 6th-7th round

WR Cam Worthy, SR #9 (6’3 | 220 | 4.59)

Scouting report – Gained some national attention with a 6 catch, 224 yard game in an upset vs Virginia Tech. Worthy is an NFL athlete with great size, a 43″ vertical leap, and an 11′ broad jump. For the season he finished with 47 catches for 886 yards and 3 TDs, with an impressive 18.9 yards per catch. At times Worthy looked like a poor man’s Anquan Boldin, but his inconsistent production is a bit of red flag. Receivers with Worthy’s size and athleticism are fairly rare, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drafted on day 3.

Projection: 6th-7th round