2014 NFL Draft: 5 Players Whose Stock Rose During Bowl Season
5 Players Who Improved Draft Stock During Bowl Season
Bowl season is many pro prospects' last chance to show scouts what they can do in a game situation. For some of the more-well known seniors, there is the Senior Bowl or Shrine Bowl during January, but for the underclassmen who enter the draft, they must have a solid bowl game to ensure their stock doesn’t drop.
While it’s not smart to put too much stock into just one game, bowl games often pin good players against good teams, something that may only happen a few times during the season. The National Championship game presented Heisman winner Jameis Winston with his biggest test of the year, and while he’s just a redshirt freshmen, you can bet numerous teams were watching him closely.
The most notable player to have a disappointing bowl was Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 216 yards and completed just 53 percent of his passes against the USC Trojans. While many took that as a wake-up call for the small school QB, it must be taken into account that the Bulldogs ran the ball a total of six times all game, making it easier for the Trojans to protect against the pass.
The following five players, however, had standout bowl games and either solidified themselves as a sure-fire talent, or helped their cause by moving their names up draft boards across the league.
5. Tre Mason, RB Auburn Tigers
Tre Mason wasn’t on many teams' radars coming into the 2013 season, despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2012. He exploded this year by rushing for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns, and capped it off by rushing for 195 yards against Florida State in the National Championship game. Mason is now expected to be one of the top running backs taken if he declares, as he possesses a nice blend of speed and power in his 5-foot-10, 205 pound frame.
4. Blake Bortles, QB UCF Knights
Blake Bortles has been a late riser in many mock drafts, but after he torched the Baylor Bears’ defense for nearly 400 yards of total offense, he’s seen his stock be solidified as a top-10 talent. Bortles flashed his running skills early by rushing for 93 yards and the most crucial touchdown of the game, but he did it with his arm as well by throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Questions still remain about his accuracy and if he can improve upon it in the NFL, but with ideal size and a solid bowl game Bortles should be a hot name around Combine and draft time.
3. Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State Buckeyes
Like Mason, Carlos Hyde wasn’t thought of very highly heading into the 2013 season. He bulked up a lot during the offseason, however, and brought a real punch to a run heavy Ohio State squad. Hyde didn’t play in the teams first three games, but he still finished the season with more than 1,500 rushing yards and ran for 113 yards and a touchdown against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Hyde is a between the tackles runner, but has the vision and quickness to cut it outside if he must; come draft day ,Hyde very well could be one of the top running backs taken, and he may even hear his name called as early as the second round.
2. Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson Tigers
Tajh Boyd failed to come up big against Florida State and South Carolina during the regular season, so it’s a good thing he finished his college career by throwing for 378 yards, five touchdowns, and completing 77.5 percent of his passes against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Boyd started the year as a possible first round talent, but was unable to live up to the hype and fell as far as the fourth round, according to some draft experts. I’ve always thought highly of Boyd, and an impressive bowl game against a talented defense should solidify him as a third round talent at worst, barring a terrible Senior Bowl or Combine performance.
1. Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh Panthers
Aaron Donald hasn’t gotten much attention because he plays for an unspectacular Pittsburgh team, but the defensive tackle has continued to climb mock drafts in recent weeks. Donald is a bit undersized at just 6-feet, 285 pounds, but he proved against Bowling Green in the Little Ceasars Bowl that both his speed and strength will allow him to be successful at the pro level. Bowling Green centered much of their blocking scheme trying to stop Donald, but that opened up other players to flourish on the Pitt defensive line. Donald still managed to record a sack in the game, and may even be considered a first round talent if he has a good Senior Bowl and Combine.