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. Since the Bears season has been over for awhile, I’ve been looking forward to the draft for a few months now and have 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 in the Bears future plans. So if you end up watching the Motel Six Cactus Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.
Motel Six Cactus Bowl: Baylor vs Boise St
Tuesday, December 27, 10:15 p.m., ESPN
#55 C Kyle Fuller (6’4 | 310 | 5.29)
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Three-year starter who has been a rock inside in a tumultuous season for Baylor. Fuller has ideal size and strength for the center position at the next level. He’s an excellent run blocker, who has done a great job of opening holes inside for Shock Linwood all season.
His pass blocking is solid, but not at the same level of his run blocking skills. Fuller did show improvement in 2016 and could be good enough right now to step in and play as a rookie. His versatility to play either center or guard will help his draft stock and could get him into the back end of day two.
The Bears are in good shape at center with promising rookie Cody Whitehiar and the return of Hrnoiss Grasu from injury. I’d be pretty surrpised if the Bears used a draft pick on another center, but if they think Fuller can succeed at guard it’s not out of the question.
Projection: 3rd-4th round
#28 S Orion Stewart (6’2 | 205 | 4.58)
Hard-hitting strong safety who led Baylor with 71 tackles this season. Stewart has always been a plus run defender, but improved his coverage skills significantly with five interceptions this year.
Stewart struggles at time in man coverage but excels as a zone safety, showing good awareness in space and an explosive closing ability when the play is in front of him. He’s been a reliable tackler, consistently taking the proper angle to the ball and wrapping up with good fundamentals.
Stewart is more of a strong safety than a free safety, but this season he’s flashed the ability to play both with should boost his draft stock. Especially for a team like the Bears who value safeties that can play both roles.
The Bears are definitely in the market for talent at the safety position and Stewart shows the traits necessary to make him a good fit for their scheme. Stewart is projected as an early day three pick and would be good value if the Bears can draft him in that range.
Projection: 4th-5th round