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NFL Prospects To Watch: Bowl Season Part 1

Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State (#20) vs. USC (#25)

QB Derek Carr (6’3, 218)

This is without a doubt one of the most interesting matchups of the Bowl season, mainly because it will feature two of the most exciting prospects in the country.

Fresno State QB Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, is coming of a remarkable season in which he helped the Bulldogs secure the No. 20 BCS rank to go along with a ten-win season.

Carr is a well-built quarterback who possess physical tools that are off the charts including fantastic arm strength and the ability to complete almost any throw.

Carr and the rest of the Bulldogs offense will face a Trojans team that is in the midst of a coaching change. USC features one of the quickest and most aggressive pass rushing defensive units in the country that has only allowed an average of 214 passing yards per game.

This will be a very important audition for Carr, as a good performance against a solid defense would really help his status as a possible first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

This season Carr has thrown for 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns. We have Derek Carr currently listed as the No. 45 prospect in our 2014 NFL Draft Big Board.

USC WR Marqise Lee (6’0, 195)

Marqise Lee came into the year as a consensus top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. However, this year he has been hampered by knee injury as well as a nagging issue related to an ankle injury he sustained during the summer.

Lee is one of the quickest and most elusive receivers in the nation. On top that, he has displayed great top-end speed to go along with great ball skills, and the ability to beat any type of coverage throughout his college career.

Lee will matchup against a very erratic Bulldogs defense that allows 321 yards per game through the air in road games. With that being said, I would expect Lee to have a superb game in what will probably be his last game as a Trojan.

This season, Lee has hauled in 50 receptions for 673 yards and two touchdowns. We have Lee listed as the No. 14 prospect in our 2014 NFL Draft Big Board.

Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo vs San Diego State

Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack (6’3, 248)

Khalil Mack is one of the top pass rushers in the country and there will be no shortage of interest from NFL teams come May. He’s really a complete linebacker prospect who has displayed great athleticism to go along with an extremely impressive pass rushing skill set. In fact, Mack has drawn some comparisons to Broncos OLB Von Miller.

These two offensive units are pretty evenly matched, with both teams being very inconsistent throughout the season, so the difference could very well come down to who is capable of playing better defense.

With so many teams in the NFL using 3-4/4-3 hybrid schemes, Mack’s versatility will be a hot commodity on draft day. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the first defensive players off board in next year’s draft.

This year Mack has recorded 94 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles. You stay classy Mr. Mack!

We have Mack listed as the No. 10 prospect in our 2014 NFL Draft Big Board.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs Oregon State

Brandin Cooks (5’10, 186)

Brandin Cooks has put together an incredible season as the Beavers No. 1 receiving threat. He broke the Pac-12 record with 120 receptions during the regular season, and his 1,670 receiving yards is just 51 yards short of breaking the conference record.

Despite his size (5’10), Cooks is surprisingly physical and has an amazing ability to catch the ball in traffic to go along with great speed. His route-running skills could make him one of the most coveted receiving prospects in next year’s draft class, assuming of course that he elects to forgo his senior year at Oregon State.

The Beavers offense will have a very favorable matchup next week, as they will face a very erratic Boise State secondary that is allowing 334 passing yards per game playing outside of Boise. Cooks is really the guy to keep your eyes on in this game and throughout the draft process.

Little Caesars Bowl: Pittsburgh vs Bowling Green

Aaron Donald (6’0, 285)

Aaron Donald happens to be one of the most underrated defensive lineman in the nation, mainly because he lacks ideal size for his position. Even so, Donald is a very strong and athletic lineman who has s great initial burst that allows him to shed blockers and penetrate the line of scrimmage with ease.

Donald has a pretty tough matchup ahead of him, as he will face a Bowling Green offensive line that allows just 1.15 sacks per game, so it will be interesting to see if the defensive player of the year can live up to the challenge.

On the year, Aaron Donald has 54 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.

San Diego County Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs Northern Illinois (#23)

Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch (6’0, 216)

This should be an interesting matchup to watch. In one hand, you have one of the best defensive units in the entire nation in Utah State that held the high-powered Fresno State offense to just 24 points. In the other hand, you have a very underrated quarterback in Jordan Lynch who had more than 4,550 total yards combined for the Huskies this season.

Lynch is a very explosive play-maker who boasts a very unique skill set that makes him a constant nightmare for opposing defenses. He’s a well-built athlete that is capable of impacting the game with his legs, which really helps to offset his lack of arm talent.

He projects to be a mid-to-late round pick, but is still a very exciting player to watch.

This season, Lynch completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 23 passing touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also contributed 1,881 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns on 274 carries.