The 2013 Las Vegas Bowl featured a dominant showing by USC as the Trojans left with a 45-20 victory over Fresno State. However, NFL draft scouts care more about the individual performances from the game's top players.
For a matchup taking place this early in the bowl season, the number of elite prospects that could be selected as high as the first round is impressive.
Of course, not everyone performed to his peak ability on the national stage. Here is a look at the biggest NFL draft prospects coming into the day and how they fared in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The best playmaker in this game showed why very early on with a 10-yard touchdown on the first drive. He then helped the Trojans pull away with this impressive 40-yard catch and run shortly before halftime:
Lee finished the game with 118 receiving yards on seven receptions to go with the two scores.
Arash Markazi of ESPN pointed out that the junior was enjoying himself before possibly declaring for the draft:
Marqise Lee is having a good time in what is likely his last game at USC. Dancing and hugging teammates after his TD.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 21, 2013
Lee later noted that a decision about his future will come in two weeks:
Dion Bailey told me he plans to make a decision on the NFL by Christmas and Marqise Lee told me he would make a decision within two weeks.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 22, 2013
If Lee does enter the NFL draft, he has a strong chance to be one of the top receivers off the board. Even though injuries limited him this season, he still has a unique ability to create big plays after the catch, and that translates well at the next level.
Based on what he showed against Fresno State, the NFL teams probably cannot wait.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Few players in the country had more on the line in their bowl game than Derek Carr.
The highly touted quarterback led the nation with 4,866 passing yards and 48 touchdowns in the regular season, although much of this was against inferior opponents in the Mountain West conference. This game was a chance to prove that he can get it done against an upper-level foe.
He did not make the most of this opportunity.
Carr only completed 29 of his 54 attempts for a total of 217 yards. He had a hard time finding open players, and when he did he seemed to just overthrow them.
On the other hand, he showcased great leadership in his postgame comments. According to Greg Beacham of the Associated Press (h/t NCAA.com), Carr said after the game, "Blame me. Blame me always. I've got to do a better job of leading, and I've got to do a better job of getting our guys in better spots. That's my fault."
Still, this performance is likely to hurt his draft stock. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had him going No. 5 overall in his latest mock draft, but this should change in the next version.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Despite the fact that his quarterback was unimpressive, Davante Adams still had a relatively strong showing against a tough USC defense.
He finished with nine catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, but virtually every play he made took a great deal of skill. On his one score, he had to jump over his defender to make the catch in the end zone.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com was impressed with the receiver's ability to make adjustments:
Another contested catch by Davante Adams. He wins a ton of 50-50 balls.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) December 21, 2013
Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon also had a favorable comparison for the young receiver:
Davante Adams = Crabtree, Kelvin Benjamin = Plaxico, Sammy Watkins = Polished version of CP84, Marqise Lee = Slower version of Torry Holt— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) December 22, 2013
Adams is only a redshirt sophomore, but he still inquired about a draft evaluation. According to Robert Kuwada of The Fresno Bee, his coach Tim DeRuyter believes this is a possibility:
I think anybody that has his kind of talent and has had the kind of year that he's had that is considering it needs to get all the information before making any decision and I support him in that. We'll see what the NFL advisory committee says, and Davante and I will sit down and we'll go through what makes most sense for him.
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