Projecting 2019 NFL Draft Stock of CFB's Biggest Stars of New Year's Bowls

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2019

Projecting 2019 NFL Draft Stock of CFB's Biggest Stars of New Year's Bowls

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The 2018-19 college football bowl season has been filled with surprising outcomes and several exciting finishes. The best of the slate is yet to come, though, as New Year's Day features five promising matchups.

    Each of the following games has potential NFL stars. Some highly touted prospects will sit out their final games, but that means there's more opportunity for others to shine on a big stage.

    We're going to project the 2019 NFL draft stock for each of these games.

    The Outback Bowl will kick off at noon Eastern Time, and it features a gritty, physical battle between Joe Moorhead's Mississippi State Bulldogs and Kirk Ferentz's Iowa Hawkeyes. 

    Two 1 p.m. ET games simultaneously start, as the Fiesta Bowl and Citrus Bowl both have intriguing matchups. UCF will have another chance to prove itself against an SEC team, this time against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. Kentucky will try to grind out a win and complete its excellent season against James Franklin's Penn State Nittany Lions.

    The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl cap the evening off with four tremendously talented teams. Washington and Ohio State will try to light up the scoreboard with their stacked rosters at 5 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, Texas vs. Georgia brings possibly the most interesting game of the day, as the two contrast each other stylistically. 

    By team, let's break down the star prospects eligible for the 2019 draft you'll see throughout New Year's Day.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Dwayne Haskins, QB

    The best quarterback prospect projected for the 2019 NFL draft is Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, and that's true regardless of what Kyler Murray decides and if Justin Herbert had opted to leave Oregon. Haskins has a premier arm, boasting elite accuracy on short and intermediate passes that maximize yards-after-the-catch opportunities. His decision-making was also on display, as he threw an interception on just 1.6 percent of his throws in 2018.

    Haskins' end-of-season stretch also showed his improvement in the red zone and his ability to extend plays when pressured. Those were two key question marks for him to answer. With no clear competition for him to be the first QB picked, expect Haskins to be drafted among the first few selections in 2019 if he declares.

    Projection: Top-5 pick


    Dre'Mont Jones, DT

    Interior pass-rushers who can collapse the pocket are a difficult find in the NFL. Kansas City's Chris Jones went under the radar because he wasn't stout against the run, and it's possible Dre'Mont Jones falls into the second round because of the same disparity between his pass rush and run defense. That would be a mistake if it happens.

    With 8.5 sacks in 2018 despite Nick Bosa missing half the year, Jones proved his first-step explosiveness and quick hands are dangerous traits. Any team looking for a 3-technique who can contribute early on should be interested.

    Projection: 1st-2nd round


    Parris Campbell, WR

    It's debatable who the Buckeyes' No. 1 receiver was this year, but there's no question that Parris Campbell was their most explosion option. Similar to Curtis Samuel, Campbell is a player you simply want to get the ball to in open space because of his game-breaking speed and comfort making defenders miss.

    Campbell is not a precise route-runner or possession option yet, but the upside of his touches is huge. It's a loaded receiver class, which could make Campbell fall. Expect him to post a great combine to help himself.

    Projection: 3rd round


    Other Ohio State prospects:

    WR Terry McLaurin, WR Johnnie Dixon, WR K.J. Hill, RB Mike Weber, RT Isaiah Prince, C Michael Jordan, LG Malcolm Pridgeon, DE Nick Bosa (out)

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Riley Ridley, WR

    The brother of 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley, Riley Ridley could make the jump to the NFL after his junior season. The 6'2", 200-pound playmaker only had 509 yards in the regular season, but his nine touchdowns speak to his movement ability and upside. He possesses high-end speed and separation ability like his brother.

    Projection: 2nd-3rd round


    Elijah Holyfield, RB

    The player with the most to gain is running back Elijah Holyfield. The junior is a powerful runner at 5'11", 215 pounds. But he's had limited workload (147 carries) and therefore not as much exposure. If he can perform well against Texas and answer questions about his explosiveness and receiving upside, he could vault up from this projection.

    Projection: 3rd round


    D'Andre Walker, Edge

    Senior pass-rusher D'Andre Walker is a game-time decision with a groin injury. The Bulldogs' leading pass-rusher doesn't quite have the athleticism or size of previous highly drafted Georgia pass-rushers, but he's effective as an energy player. His ability to be a complementary rusher will attract suitors.

    Projection: 3rd-4th round


    Other Georgia prospects:

    CB Deandre Baker (out), C Lamont Gaillard, WR Mecole Hardman, WR Terry Godwin, DE Jonathan Ledbetter

Washington Huskies

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Byron Murphy, CB

    The best overall prospect on the Huskies is cornerback Byron Murphy. Just a third-year sophomore, Murphy doesn't need to declare this season, but the 5'11", 182-pounder is coming off a tremendous season. He's silky smooth in coverage and shows excellent technique that keeps him close to his assignment throughout routes.

    The two potential knocks on Murphy are his weight and speed since he doesn't appear to be a 4.4 guy. He received a second-round grade from the NFL College Advisory Committee, per Christian Caple of The Athletic. But his speed and size won't suddenly improve in a year, so leaving early would make sense.

    Projection: 1st-2nd round


    Taylor Rapp, FS

    A three-year starter for an impressive Washington defense, safety Taylor Rapp is another secondary player from the school poised to make an impact in the NFL. Rapp's a high-character player, praised for helping the culture at Washington evolve. His on-field play has been as impressive.

    With his ability to play single-high and two-high coverages, Rapp shows both ballhawk traits and provides quality run support. He's an ideal fit in the modern NFL.

    Projection: 2nd round


    Myles Gaskin, RB

    Huskies running back Myles Gaskin has been incredibly productive throughout his four-year career. He enters the Rose Bowl with 5,202 rushing yards, 55 rushing touchdowns and an additional 466 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He appears to be an ideal third-down back for the pros.

    Gaskin's shiftiness helps overcome average size. Defenders rarely get a clean shot on Gaskin directly, allowing him to gain extra yards after contact. He's not a freak athlete, but he has enough athleticism to produce in a limited role early in his career.

    Projection: Day 3


    Other Washington prospects:

    QB Jake Browning, LB Ben Burr-Kirven, DL Greg Gaines

Texas Longhorns

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Kris Boyd, CB

    Cornerback Kris Boyd is another skill player who boasts NFL size for his position. His 6'0", 195-pound frame allows him to challenge receivers at the catch point while staying fluid enough to stick to quicker targets. The senior has shown growth over the last two years, and his 35 career pass defenses stand out.

    His biggest question mark will be his discipline in coverage. Boyd draws too many flags and can be quick to bite on nuanced routes. He's a classic Day 2 value for a team willing to develop his natural talent.

    Projection: 2nd-3rd round


    Lil'Jordan Humphrey, WR

    Slot receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey was one of the key performers in Texas' re-emergence in 2018. The 6'4", 225-pounder is unique because of his comfort in the slot at his size, and he also dominated defenders on fade and go routes. He broke out with 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.

    Humphrey is a clutch performer and will land most 50-50 balls. A solid combine should give him a bump into Day 2 should he declare early.

    Projection: 3rd round


    Collin Johnson, WR

    Like Humphrey, Collin Johnson's immense size has been a nightmare for collegiate defensive backs to defend. His 6'6", 220-pound frame comes with obvious speed and suddenness limitations, though, and the NFL has shifted priorities in recent years to quicker playmakers.

    Common sense still says that a team would look at his gigantic frame, catch radius and reliable nature on jump balls and find value.

    Chip Brown of 247Sports reported Johnson received "stay in school" feedback from the NFL advisory committee. Like Humphrey, running faster than a 4.6 40 would likely increase his stock significantly.

    Projection: 3rd-4th round


    Charles Omenihu, DE

    A late bloomer at Texas, Charles Omenihu came into his own as a senior in 2018. The 6'6", 275-pound defensive end broke out with 9.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss as a weak-side defensive end. His length and get-off project well in a 4-3 and 3-4 front.

    A good combine performance can help him leap into the first round.

    Projection: 1st-2nd round


    Other Texas prospects:

    S Brandon Jones, LB Gary Johnson, NT Chris Nelson

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Trace McSorley, QB

    Two of the most accomplished quarterbacks playing on New Year's Day project to be drafted late or not at all. That includes Penn State's Trace McSorley and Washington's Jake Browning. Though McSorley has had an incredible three-year run with the Nittany Lions, scouts will criticize his physical limitations.

    McSorley has a decent arm but often resorts to floating deep 50-50 passes along the sideline. His toughness, mobility and decision-making all help him project as a potential backup, and he has a chance to win more fans at the 2019 Senior Bowl.

    Projection: Late Day 3


    Amani Oruwariye, CB

    As soon as evaluators see "cornerback over six feet tall who can run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash," you can bank on that player being circled on a draft board. Athletes like Amani Oruwariye aren't common, and his three years of experience helps his projection as someone who can play early in his career.

    Oruwariye nabbed eight interceptions and 20 defensed passes in his career but is still not fully comfortable finding the ball when in press assignments. As his technique improves, he'll hopefully be less grabby and more of a playmaking threat. 

    Projection: 2nd-3rd round


    Miles Sanders, RB

    A former 5-star recruit, Miles Sanders took full advantage of his first chance to start after Saquon Barkley departed. He tallied 1,355 total yards and nine touchdowns as the Lions' passing game lost some effectiveness. He could leap to the NFL with hopes of landing as a high-quality backup.

    Projection: 3rd-4th round


    Other Penn State prospects:

    LB Koa Farmer, S Nick Scott, WR DeAndre Thompkins

LSU Tigers

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Rashard Lawrence, DT

    Known primarily for his impressive athleticism more than a refined skill set, junior defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence is one to watch against UCF's limited offensive line. He moves like an undersized tackle despite being 317 pounds, and he collapses pockets effectively.

    His pad level and hand usage have a ways to go in terms of projecting to be an NFL starter, but another year at LSU or a good defensive line coach in the NFL could allow him to blossom.

    Projection: 2nd-3rd round


    Devin White, LB

    As the face of the LSU defense the last two years, middle linebacker Devin White is primed to be an impact starter in the NFL. He was also the first LSU linebacker to win the Butkus Award. With 278 career tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, it's easy to see White's impact.

    The 6'1" playmaker is fast despite appearing heavier than his listed 240 pounds. He may not be as good in coverage as some teams want, but he has everything needed to be a first-round pick and immediate contributor in 2019.

    Projection: 1st round


    Greedy Williams, CB (out)

    Greedy Williams is sitting out the Fiesta Bowl but is worth mentioning, as the Tigers are mostly built on draft-ineligible underclassmen. He is a tall (6'3"), long corner with great straight-line speed.

    There's concern about his ability to cut sharply and hang with the quicker receivers that now dominate the NFL, but his playmaking and measurables make him a premier talent.

    Projection: Top 20


    Other LSU prospects:

    TE Foster Moreau, S John Battle

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Johnathan Abram, SS

    Johnathan Abram is a rock-solid safety who benefitted from moving closer to the line of scrimmage the last two seasons. At 6'0", 215 pounds, he has a chance to be a riser with a strong combine showing.

    We know he can tackle and make plays in the backfield, but he'll have to run fast to earn comparisons to 2017 first-rounder Jabrill Peppers.

    Projection: 3rd round


    Jeffery Simmons, DT

    On the field, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons has the look, first step and physicality of a first-round pick. The NFL is looking for three-down linemen who can rush quarterbacks while still staying beefy against the run. Simmons can do that, and he registered 30.5 career tackles for loss.

    But an ugly video from 2016 of him allegedly striking a woman several times remains a major red flag.

    Projection: 2nd round


    Montez Sweat, DE

    At 6'6", 245 pounds, Montez Sweat has the size that defensive coaches dream of. His impressive length and chiseled body allow him to be firm in run defense as he locks out blockers and controls the point of attack, forcing ball-carriers to cut inside to waiting linebackers. His pass rush is what will land him in the first round, though.

    With 22 sacks at Mississippi State, Sweat has dominated with his strength and solid burst off the line to get into the backfield. Though he's not as flexible as smaller bodies, he has the ideal look of a strong-side edge in a 4-3 defense.

    Projection: 1st round


    Other Mississippi State prospects:

    Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, center Elgton Jenkins, cornerback Jamal Peters, safety Mark McLaurin

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    T.J. Hockenson, TE

    Though Iowa more notably has Noah Fant at tight end, Fant is sitting out in preparation for the NFL draft. That means it's T.J. Hockenson's time to earn more recognition. He is more of a traditional tight end than Fant, boasting 6'5" size and 250 pounds on his frame with solid athleticism that allows him to create chunk plays.

    He still has two more years of eligibility, so it's more likely he returns to boost his profile even more. But he's definitely a notable playmaker in this matchup.

    Projection: 3rd round


    Nate Stanley, QB

    There was some optimism that Nate Stanley would take a leap forward in his second full season as a starter, but it wasn't a year of exponential growth.

    Stanley is a decent prospect but lacks the consistent accuracy and situational play of someone worth a major investment. He'd be better off returning for his senior season and building upon his two years of experience than declaring early.

    Projection: 4th round


    Other Iowa prospects:

    TE Noah Fant

UCF Knights

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Pat Jasinski, LB

    A different role in 2018 led to 42 fewer tackles than 2017, but Pat Jasinski still continued to show a knack for ending up around the football. He totaled four passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one interception on the year. He's an ideal candidate for an early backup and special teams role as a rookie.

    Projection: Late Day 3


    Dredrick Snelson, WR

    UCF is loaded with underclassmen, so its best prospects aren't quite ready yet. Junior receiver Dredrick Snelson should stay in school, but he has the raw talent that looks moldable into a depth piece who can create big plays. He's averaged 15.1 and 16.2 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons.

    Projection: Late Day 3


    Other UCF prospects:

    OT Wyatt Miller, OL Tyler Hudanick, LB Titus Davis, P Mac Loudermilk

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Josh Allen, DE

    There's little doubt that Kentucky defensive end Josh Allen was a good player who would've been drafted had he come out after a solid 2017 season. But he's seen a massive increase in stock this season as he completely dominated the competition. An astounding 84 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks will catapult him into the top-five conversation.

    Allen appears to have great bend in his hips and athleticism as he turns the corner as a pass-rusher. That's a massive plus in his projection. If he does well at the combine as expected, he should be the second pass-rusher off the board behind Nick Bosa.

    Projection: Top 10


    Benny Snell Jr., RB

    Benny Snell Jr. is a powerful runner, but he lacks the speed teams desire out of three-down backs. Few teams carry a short-yardage back anymore, but Snell brings extraordinary value, as he can crush defenders underneath him.

    With 3,729 yards and 46 touchdowns on his resume, a team will get a good value with Snell.

    Projection: Day 3


    Other Kentucky prospects:

    CB Derrick Baity, LB Jordan Jones, LB Kash Daniel, TE C.J. Conrad


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