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 Hawaii Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.
Hawaii Bowl: Middle Tennessee St vs Hawaii
Saturday, December 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
Middle Tennessee St
#8 CB Jeremy Cutrer (6’2 | 170 | 4.49)
A former four-star recruit for LSU, Cutrer spent some time in JUCO before ending up on the Blue Raiders. He’s got an athleticism edge on most players in his conference and it showed with his play on the field the last two seasons.
Cutrer was named first team All-Conference USA this year and 2nd team last season. His length is ideal and he has good speed and quickness for his size. Cutrer lacks ideal bulk for the next level, but he’s been effective as a run stopper so far with 86 tackles in two seasons.
His primary skill at the next level will be shutting down tall receivers and Cutrer has shown to be adept at that so far. He’s broken up 22 passes, has six interceptions, and three blocked kicks in two seasons. Cutrer also played well and recorded an interception against Alabama last year, proving he could hold his own against top competition.
Cornerback will be a top priority for the Bears next season and tall corners even more of a target. Cutrer fits the profile the Bears should be looking for as a tall corner with ball skills and a willingness to support the run. I’ve seen Cutrer ranked anywhere from the 2nd to the 7th round, but I don’t think he’ll make it past day two of the draft.
Projection: 3rd round
#4 RB I’Tavius Mathers (5’11 | 197 | 4.47)
After being a rotation back at Ole Miss (189 carries in three years), Mathers transferred to MTSU and has had a dominant 2016 season. He finished the season with 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
Mathers finished 11th in the FBS with 1,504 rushing yards on 6.8 ypc in 2016 and also added 62 catches for 589 yards. He’s a balanced back with the ability to run between the tackles or be a third-down receiver at the next level.
He’s slightly undersized, but runs with authority and has shown the ability to both make people miss and break tackles in the open field. MTSU doesn’t play many top squads, but they did play an SEC opponent in Missouri and Mathers had one of his best games of the year with 263 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
At the NFL level, Mathers is probably best suited as a third-down back and he could excel in that role. His explosiveness through the hole, reliable hands, elusiveness in the open field, and enough toughness to run through contact, could make him a valuable weapon on passing downs.
The Bears are deep at running back, but Jeremy Langford’s disappointing season and Ka’Deem Carey’s inability to stay healthy could force the Bears to add some more depth at the position. Mathers should be available at some point on day three and could be a steal that late.
Projection: 6th-7th round
*Hawaii doesn’t have any draftable prospect at this time