2017 NFL Draft: Dollar General Bowl

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

College football bowl season is officially underway. If you are like most NFL fans, you know some of the top NFL draft prospects but that is about it. As a Bears fan, I’ve been looking forward to the draft for a few months now, so I’ve gotten an early start on my scouting for the 2017 NFL draft.

Like last season, I will be breaking down the potential NFL players in most bowl games to give you an idea who to watch. I’ve tried to list at least one player on each team who has a shot at hearing their name called in the draft or at least getting a training camp invite.

If relevant, I’ll discuss how the player may fit on the Bears in 2017. So if you end up watching the Dollar General Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.

Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs Troy

Friday, December 23, 8 p.m., ESPN


#93 DE Tarell Basham (6’4 | 262 | 4.75)

A former freshman All-American who had 7.5 sacks in just five starts, Basham fell of the NFL’s radar after just 10 sacks combined in his sophomore and junior seasons. In Basham’s defense, he was the only pass rush threat Ohio had so was consistently double-teamed.

Basham returned to form his senior season with 9 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and a first team All-MAC honor. His best game (two sacks) came against one of the Bobcats toughest opponents in Tennesee.

Basham combines a quick first step with above-average power and the ability to change direction without losing much speed. The skill-set is there for Basham to be an effective pass-rusher in the NFL and he could be surprisingly productive facing just one blocker for the first time in a few years.

His best fit is probably in a 4-3 scheme as a defensive end, so Basham doesn’t appear to be a good fit for the Bears but he may be athletic enough to be utilized as a pass rush specialist out of 3-4 sets. He’s going to be matched up against a legitimate tackle prospect who I’ll get

In the Dollar General Bowl, he’s going to be matched up against a legitimate tackle prospect in Antonio Garcia and whoever wins that battle could boost their draft stock significantly.

Projection: 4th-5th round


Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

#53 OT Antonio Garcia (6’7 | 302 | 4.94) 

Four-year starter at left tackle who is a two-time All-Sun Belt selection. Garcia has ideal length for a left tackle and moves very well with quick enough feet to neutralize speed rushers off the edge.

He hasn’t played against much top competition in the Sun Belt, but more than held his own in Troy’s near upset over Clemson early this season. Garcia showed significant improvements as a senior and faces a big test against Basham in the bowl game and then another one in the Senior Bowl.

Garcia has ideal size, arm length, and quick feet for an NFL left tackle, but he’ll need to prove that he can handle NFL caliber speed rushers. He’ll also need to improve his run blocking at the next level as he’s more of a finesse player right now.

NFL teams value pass blocking more than run blocking in left tackles and Garcia has a rare combination of traits that could be developed into a quality tackle on the left side. Linemen can always bulk up, but Garica’s length and quick feet are unique enough that he will get drafted at some point. Right now I’d project he’s a day three pick, but a strong draft season could push him up to day two.

The Bears have a solid left tackle in Charles Leno Jr but they have little to no depth outside and I could see them using a mid-round pick on a tackle like Garcia, who has the potential to develop into a starter on the left side.

Projection: 4th round

#7 DE Rashad Dillard (6’0 | 255 | 4.77)

The Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. Dillard was consistently productive with 35 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.

Dillard is undersized for an NFL defensive end, but he has an explosive first step off the edge and is relentless in his pursuit of opposing QBs. He’ll probably have to move to OLB at the next level but could find a role as a pass rush specialist.

The Bears have had a surprisingly good pass rush this year, but teams can never have enough players who can get to the quarterback. If Dillard is drafted it won’t be until day three but his burst off the edge could be worth a late-round flyer.

Projection: 7th-UDFA