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Draft: One prospect to watch in each bowl game this week

Four games this week with a full slate on Saturday

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Auburn
Malachi Corley
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the beginning stages of Bowl season which also means the NFL Draft is heating up for the Las Vegas Raiders and the rest of the league. This week, we’ve got the Famous Toastary Bowl (formerly Bahamas Bowl), Frisco Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl and Gasparilla Bowl on deck from today through Friday. So, let’s take a look at a few of the draft prospects who will be on the field.

Something to keep in mind, especially with these early bowl games, a few players may opt out of the game late and won’t be suited up. The goal here is to keep that to a minimum but a few could fall under the radar.


Famous Toastary Bowl

Game time and channel: Monday 12/18 11:30 a.m. PT, ESPN

Western Kentucky

WR Malachi Corley

2023 Stats: 11 games, 75 catches, 958 yards, 11 TDs

NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 68th overall (3rd round)

Scouting report via Pro Football Network (full report):

The last time we saw a receiver like Corley enter the NFL was with Deebo Samuel. Like Samuel, Corley has a lower center of gravity and can break tackles at an incredibly unusual rate for the position. And with the NFL embracing more quick passes, the value of someone like Corley rises.

Corley blends his strength with impressive acceleration to avoid direct hits and erase pursuit angles. Because of this, Western Kentucky has maximized his number of touches from the slot and on screens. Until the 2023 season, Corley was more of an offensive weapon than a pure receiver.

But that has come at a cost to Corley’s development. While Corley has the skill set to be effective in running routes, he lacks the experience to be confident he can play on the outside on Day 1. A team drafting Corley has to love his unique play style and strengths but be patient with the rest of his game.

Old Dominion

LB Jason Henderson

2023 stats: 12 games, 170 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL

NMDD rank: 278th overall (UDFA)

Scouting report via NFL Draft Buzz (full report):

He’s built like a defensive back but hits like a linebacker. Milano has sideline-to-sideline range and is a violent, wrap-up hitter.

Henderson can be used as a rangy run defender inside, instinctive when it comes to locating the ball with the quickness to get to it before blockers can react at the second level.

Has the combination of size and athleticism worthy of development.

He’s an instinctive and active chase-and-tackle 4-3 Will, with the speed to go sideline to sideline. He takes excellent angles. He also has an innate sense for shooting gaps as a run defender.

The talent is there as a sideline-to-sideline playmaker.

Henderson takes proper angles and shows impressive closing speed. He’s also outstanding in space and is one of the best coverage guys in this class.


Frisco Bowl

Game time and channel: Tuesday 12/19 6:00 p.m. PT, ESPN

Marshall

CB Micah Abraham

2023 stats: 12 games, 31 total tackles, 3 INTs, 13 PD

NMDD rank: 396th overall (UDFA)

Scouting report via NFL Draft Diamonds (full report):

A former wideout and track athlete in high school, competed in 100, 200, 4×100 and 4×400 meter relays. Micah Abraham possesses overall decent height & frame for position. He shows good match/mirror ability in both Man & Zone, shows good hips & foot speed to transition well in Man, and gets good depth and plays with good instincts in Zone. Possesses very good speed to run hip to hip with most receivers downfield. Has good transition quickness when planting and breaking on the ball. Displays good ball skills in coverage, possesses good hands to create turnovers as well as good timing to get hand in PBU opportunities. And shows overall good leverage ability vs run, takes good angles to the ball carrier. Uses marginal press technique at LOS, jam tends to be wild and lazy and overall ineffective. Shows adequate Route Rec ability in Man & Zone, plays impatient at release points and tends to bite on head and shoulder faints. Marginal block shed ability in run support, really struggles to disengage and often gets taken out of play. Adequate tackling ability in open space, struggles to wrap and finish tackles.

UTSA

WR Joshua Cephus

2023 stats: 12 games, 82 catches, 1,049 yards, 9 TDs

NMDD rank: 356th overall (UDFA)

Scouting report via NFL Draft Diamonds (full report):

Senior. Starts at slot WR where he projects at the next level. Good versatility as an inside WR – used on motions/toss run plays, also used frequently on trick plays where he can pitch it to another player after the handoff and create some razzle-dazzle for the offense. Has average speed and below-average blocking skills, but possesses good hands, versatility, and vision after the catch to add value to a pro team. Has good hands – looks the ball in and can make midair catches. Does a good job of adjusting high and low and tracking the ball midair. Can come down with the ball and win contested catches. Shows good vision and patience to follow blocks after the catch. Lacks top-end speed and isn’t very shifty but can make first defenders miss and elude initial tacklers in space. Displays good on-field awareness and keeps the play alive for the QB. Is a willing blocker but below-average in form, technique and toughness; doesn’t go up after defenders or drive them off the ball. Has decent burst off the line of scrimmage but lacks the explosiveness typically desired of a slot WR. Can make defenders miss but lacks top-end speed to be a game-breaker. Very linear receiver who isn’t asked to run a lot of different routes.


Boca Raton Bowl

Game time and channel: Thursday 12/21 5:00 p.m. PT, ESPN

USF

No players listed on NMDD’s consensus big board

Syracuse

LB Marlowe Wax

2023 stats: 12 games, 82 catches, 1,049 yards, 9 TDs

NMDD rank: 233rd overall (UDFA)

Scouting report via NFL Draft Diamonds (full report):

RS Junior has started all 4 years of his career at NYSY putting up solid play and numbers. Off-ball LB who has seen productive action in 36 games within his first 3 seasons at NYSY. Holds a team best 25-straight starts. Solid strength with good size at LB, with good height and balanced frame, filled out with good muscle and thickness. Good AA displaying quality explosiveness/burst, COD, lateral quickness, speed. Solid run stopper, as he displays good instincts identifying run, and staying square when closing distance, with good closing speed and explosiveness to burst to the ball carrier and shoot the gap. Adequate ability to disengage/shed blocks at the LOS due to adequate hands, and limited shed moves. Solid strength causes him to get knocked back against bigger OL. Excels outside the hashes in the Run/Pass game. Demonstrates quality endurance and high motor, with good speed and pursuit to take good angles to the outside and hunt down ball carriers. Solid in the pass game as he can fly around with good range and fluidity and make tackles all over the field. Solid in Zone Coverage as he does a good job of dropping into QB throwing windows and clogging, however is a tad late identifying incoming routes and breaks late. Relies on good closing speed and burst to break on the ball, due to adequate processing of the ball being released. Good ability to close on screens and throws to the flat due to good flat speed, and burst, while displaying good COD and fluidity to elude blocks, not losing strides to the ball carrier. Good on the blitz when playing Off-Ball, due to good COD, and lateral quickness to make OL miss their initial punch on him. Adequate pass rusher when On-Ball due to solid strength and bend. Good competitive toughness and high motor lead to not giving up extra yards, as he fights to get ball carriers to the ground quickly.


Gasparilla Bowl

Game time and channel: Friday 12/22 3:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

Georgia Tech

S LaMiles Brooks

2023 stats: 12 games, 62 total tackles, 1 INT, 6 PD, 0.5 TFL

NMDD rank: 219th overall (7th round)

Scouting report via Pro Football Network (full report):

LaMiles Brooks is one of the more intriguing potential 2024 NFL Draft prospects on Georgia Tech’s roster. The 6’2″, 192-pound safety shined as a first-year starter in 2022, amassing 52 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, three interceptions, and seven pass deflections.

Brooks is still far from perfect, as he can be prone to faulty pursuit angles, and he lacks quantifiably elite recovery speed and burst. But he has good range in both phases and is authoritative at the catch point.

UCF

DL Rickey Barber

2023 stats: 9 games, 14 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL

NMDD rank: 358th overall (UDFA)

Scouting report via Pro Football Network (full report):

A smaller defender considering he was often used as a nose tackle, Barber is flat-out fun to watch. He has great quickness off the snap, as expected for someone 6’1″ and 292 pounds. Barber’s naturally low pad level is used as a strength to get into the body of blockers, where he’ll then work past their hip with his speed.

Barber sheds blocks well with a notably good rip move and holds his own in the run game. His size may limit his draft stock, and his production hasn’t yet caught up to his film, as he’s produced only 12 sacks over four seasons. But I have a third-round grade on Barber entering this fall as someone who can be a disruptive rotational player in the NFL.