The bowl season is an excellent opportunity for college players with eyes on the NFL draft to shine. Vince Young's epic Rose Bowl performance in 2006 helped his already solid draft stock that year.
While no draft-eligible player has been quite that impressive in a bowl game so far this bowl season, there are still players that undoubtedly boosted their stock.
These five players are seniors or juniors that have the option of declaring for the draft early, and each of them played extremely well in their respective bowl games.
Le'Veon Bell RB, Michigan State
Le'Veon Bell was the hottest thing on the field at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The junior RB had 145 yards rushing and a touchdown against a TCU defense that was ranked No. 11 in the country against the run.
This performance only cemented the statement Bell had already been making to close out his junior season; he rushed for 266 yards and a touchdown in the regular season finale against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
In his final four games, Bell averaged 183 yards per game.
Perhaps that's why he declared for the 2013 NFL Draft on Thursday, per ESPN. The 6'2" 237-pounder is the second-rated RB according to ESPN Scouts Inc., but after his recent run, he could be on the move up the draft boards.
Tajh Boyd QB, and DeAndre Hopkins WR, Clemson
I admit I expected the LSU Tigers defense to wreak havoc on Boyd and the Clemson Tigers' passing game. That didn't happen at all.
Boyd was masterful in engineering the upset over LSU. He posted his third-highest completion percentage of the year at 72 percent and threw for 346 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The 6'1" junior is certainly short for the QB position in the NFL, but players like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have proven that height isn't everything.
Boyd may be a long shot to become an early-entry candidate, but I'm not sure the ACC Player of the Year's stock could get much higher than it is right now.
He stated in this interview (ACC.com) that he has already submitted his paperwork, but he hasn't made a decision on declaring for the NFL. It should also be noted that this interview took place before he led Clemson past LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Boyd had to throw those passes to someone, right? Well, junior receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught a whopping 13 of them, including both touchdown tosses.
Hopkins' 191 yards was his second-highest yardage total of the season, and the 13 catches marked the third time he had double-digit receptions.
The 6'1" 200-pounder had 1,405 yards receiving this season, and Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated tweeted:
Sources tell me tonight will be the final college game for DeAndre Hopkins/WR/Clemson as he will enter the draft....— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) December 31, 2012
Before the bowl game, CBS Sports had Hopkins projected as a second-round pick. It isn't crazy to think this performance moved him into the first round.
Boyd still has Sammy Watkins coming back to Clemson, but will the departure of his leading receiver entice him to leave Clemson as well?
Aaron Murray QB, Georgia
Murray's momentum from the SEC Championship didn't falter in the Capital One Bowl. He threw for 427 yards and five touchdowns against a pass defense that was ranked No. 13 in the country.
Nebraska's defense certainly seemed to take a step back in their last two games, but the fact that he threw for 265 yards against Alabama helps his case.
In his last six games, Murray threw 19 touchdown passes to only three interceptions. The 6'1" junior also has some concerns about his height, but he is deceivingly athletic, and he's played well against top competition on the collegiate level.
Murray indicated that he talked about the possibility of declaring with his parents for about "10 minutes," per DogBytesOnline.com. After playing well in the bowl game, he'll likely be discussing it a little longer now.
Montee Ball RB, Wisconsin
I was very impressed with Wisconsin's effort against a tough Stanford team in the Rose Bowl. It looked like they were going to get blown out of the water early on, but they kept it close and made a game of it.
You can credit a lot of that resilience to Montee Ball.
He was the only offense the Badgers had against a stout Cardinal defense. He didn't have a huge day, and of course the Badgers lost the game, but his 100 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries was still impressive.
His 1,830 yards on the year marks another stellar season in an awesome college career. CBS Sports has him projected as a second- or third-round pick, but that hasn't been updated since the Rose Bowl.
Ball's performance at the end of the season was great. He had 413 yards and five touchdowns in the final three games of the season.
The senior could have claimed a spot in the first round with his last game in a Badgers uniform.
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