NFL Draft 2014: Prospects Sure to Keep Rising After Strong Bowl Showings

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2014

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 14:  Vic Beasley #3 of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2013 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The bulk of the collegiate bowl season is in the books, when NFL hopefuls had one last chance at a pro audition before a tedious offseason of interviews and workouts before the big day.

While some prospects saw their questionable stock crash and burn (Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron), others used the national spotlight to boost their worth.

That boost will incite a snowball effect for a select few, who not only needed the push but were already locks to impress in the process leading up to the draft.


Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) runs for a touchdown past Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Armani Reeves (26) in the first half of the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credi
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Tajh Boyd is perhaps the most polarizing quarterback in a 2014 draft class known for polarizing quarterbacks.

As ESPN points out, he made history as he led the Clemson Tigers over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl, 40-35:

Despite 3,851 yards and 34 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and an NFL-ready frame at 6'1" and 225 pounds, Boyd has his detractors. For example, the scouts over at CBS Sports rank him as the No. 10 player at his position with a third or fourth-round grade behind the likes of McCarron, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, Wyoming's Brett Smith and others.

But the news is not all bad for the senior signal-caller. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is much more optimistic about Boyd's stock:

As most will ultimately be. Pair Boyd's strong showing against the Buckeyes with the fact he will look great in workouts, and the recipe is in place for a fringe first-round pick.


Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerack Darqueze Dennard (31) reacts during the 100th Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The hype train for Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is nowhere near its last stop.

He is the definition of a shutdown corner, which he put on full display when he led the Spartans to a victory over the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl.

The senior's final collegiate responsibility? Shut down Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery, who caught 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 scores in 2013.

Montgomery's line in the Rose Bowl? Three catches for 21 yards with Dennard in blanket coverage. Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis was shocked that Montgomery even managed to catch a pass, as captured by Dan Greenspan of

He does things like that all the time. I'm even surprised he caught a pass, Darqueze is so good.

He has great technique. Watching him play, it seems like he knows what route is coming before they even run the play. I'm definitely going to miss him, playing with the other guys in the No Fly Zone.

Dennard is slowly making his way up boards. His final collegiate performance may be enough to put him over as the No. 1 corner come draft day—as long as he rides the momentum properly.


Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is sacked in the second quarter by Vic Beasley #3 and Stephone Anthony #42 of the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami G
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This draft class is so talented when it comes to pass-rushers, it's difficult for a guy like Clemson's Vic Beasley to stand out.

Players like Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are all legitimate first-round contenders.

A big performance may end up being the difference in such a loaded class. Before the Orange Bowl, Beasley was given a second-round grade by the NFL Draft Advisory Board, per's Mike Huguenin.

After the Orange Bowl, the board may have to offer Beasley a free re-assessment.

He was in the offensive backfield all night with disruptive plays and helped to limit the Buckeyes to 234 passing yards and a 2-of-13 mark on third down. The praise rained down after his big night from the likes of Miller, Rotoworld's Josh Norris and Joe Bussell of NFL Philosophy:

Beasley put the perfect exclamation point on a strong career. All that remains is to maintain a relentless work ethic on the path to the draft.


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