2017 NFL Draft: December 28th Bowl Game Previews, Featuring James Connor and the Texas A&M Defense

Duke v Pittsburgh

Today’s Bowl Game previews include the Pinstripe Bowl, Athletic Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl and the Texas Bowl.

By: Eric Galko and Marcus Mosher

Pinstripe Bowl – Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern

The New Era Pinstripe Bowl features two offenses that can put up points in a hurry. The Pittsburgh Panthers have one of the best senior quarterbacks in the country in Nathan Peterman, but their offense runs through their star running back James Conner. For Northwestern, Quarterback Clayton Thorson and wide receiver Austin Carr should be able to have their way with the Panthers’ suspect defense. However, Northwestern and Pittsburgh have both struggled in bowl games of late.


James Conner RB 6’2 235 #24
A remarkable story, James Conner will be playing in his final game as a Pittsburgh Panther. Conner has the size to be every down back in the NFL with the combination of power and competitiveness. Conner is nimble for a player of his size, but doesn’t possess elite athleticism. Some teams even wonder if he will make the switch to linebacker in the NFL. He ideally would like to play linebacker at the next level

Ejuan Price DE 6’0 255 #5
At just 6-0 and 255 pounds, Price doesn’t meet the NFL threshold for his position. His most obvious (and likely best-case) comparison is Elvis Dumervil, who at 6-1, 257 pounds turned production at the college level into continued success through his pro career. Price does offer some of the same skills as Dumervil — he’s able to stay balanced while low to the ground, he’s super decisive with his hand quickness, he moves laterally as he penetrates and he works best with underneath pad level. But given his issues against the run and his inability to generate pressure when two blockers engage even a little, Price needs an NFL team to believe he can buck the NFL measurable requirements. Prior to the season, many teams had rejected him as a prospect altogether.

Other Players:
Nathan Peterman QB 6’2 225 #4
Adam Bisnowaty OT 6’6 305 #69
Dorian Johnson OG 6’5 315 #53
Scott Orndoff TE 6’5 255
Matt Galambos ILB 6’2 245



Austin Carr WR 6’1 200 lbs
Carr has been one of the best stories of the season. He wasn’t recruited by Northwestern and walked on, but he’s become one of the best receivers in the Big 10. Carr has caught 12 touchdowns this year and has went over 100 receiving yards in half of the Wildcats’ games. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has a 128 quarterback rating when throwing to Carr and expect Carr to be busy versus the Panthers’ suspect pass defense. Carr best projects as a slot receiver in the NFL.

Other Players:
Eric Olson OT 6’6 305
Anthony Walker ILB 6’1 245
Godwin Igwebuike S 6’0 205
C.J. Robbins DE 6’5 305


Athletic Bowl – West Virginia vs. Miami

The Athletic Bowl features two teams that failed to make big impacts in the 2016 college season. West Virginia dominated weaker competition in the Big 12, but once matched up with Oklahoma, a team thought to be on the same level as them, the Mountaineers were blown out. The same could be said about Miami as they started the season out at 4-0, but still can’t get over the hump against better teams such as Florida State.

West Virginia

Rasul Douglas CB 6’2 203
Douglas has been the Mountaineers’’ best defensive player this season. Douglas has a team high eight interceptions, but it’s been his play against elite competition that has helped West Virginia become one of the best pass defenses in the entire country. Douglas has excellent size and length and could sneak his way into day two of the NFL Draft

Other Players:
Daikiel Shorts WR 6’1 204
Tyler Orlosky OC 6’4 295
Adam Pankey OC 6’5 316
Skylar Howard QB 6’0 207
Rushel Shell, RB 5’10 220
Noble Nwachukwu DE 6’2 275


Miami (FL)

Brad Kaaya 6’4 215 #15

A junior, Kaaya has not said yet whether or not he plans on turning pro. But in a weak quarterback class, Kaaya could get some love from NFL teams in the middle rounds. Kaaya has ideal size at 6-4 and athletic ability, but many still question his accuracy and decision-making. A good performance against one of the best pass defenses in the country could help quiet some of those concerns.

Corn Elder CB 5’10 180 #29
Miami’s best defender who played extremely well in the team’s game against Florida State, Elder has displayed strong ball skills and finishing ability away from his frame, but his hip fluidity and reliance on anticipation without great recovery skills is an issue. He’s one of the better cornerbacks in the ACC and in the country, and he shouldn’t be tested all that much against West Virginia.

Other Players:
Danny Isidora OG 6’4 305
David Njoku, TE, 6’4, 250 #89 (RS Soph)
Stacy Coley WR 6’1 195
Rayshawn Jenkins FS 6’2 210



Foster Farms Bowl – Utah vs. Indiana

At one point, Utah was in the mix for a potential Pac-12 title, but after three losses in the final four games, the dream evaporated quickly. All three losses were close, but Utah’s inability to finish out games kept them out of any major bowl games. For Indiana, beating Michigan State and Purdue should’ve been major wins for that program. But after seeing how poor Michigan State has played all year that obviously isn’t the case. Their best win of the season came against Maryland at home. But the Hoosiers did enough to get to a bowl game, albeit the Foster Farms Bowl game. Indiana is going to have their hands full with Utah in this contest.


Garrett Bolles, OT, 6’6 310, #72 (JR)
The best left tackle in the country, Bolles is expected to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft and should see his value rise substantially during the draft process. He does have some baggage in his past and will be a 25-year-old rookie, but Bolles posseses near elite lateral balance, the kick slide to control speed and power rushers, and the athleticism to bend and work as a run blocker. He’s the complete package.

Marcus Williams, S, 6’0, 210, #20 (JR)
Arguably the draft’s top free safety prospect, Williams possesses tremendous range, anticipation of combination routes, and plus ball skills to finish downfield. A solid tackler, Williams breaks down and finishes with force against quicker receivers. He’ll be tested against a pass-heavy Indiana team, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t come away with at least a few passes defender in this game.

Joe Williams RB 5’11 205, #28
Williams “retired” earlier in the year, only to come back and dominate the Pac-12. In his six games back from his retirement, Williams has rushed for 1,110 yards on 162 carries with 9 touchdowns. One more impressive game and he could rise up draft boards with multiple underclassman runners heading back to school for their senior seasons.

Other Players:
Tim Patrick WR 6’5 210
Cory Butler-Byrd CB 5’9 180
Isaac Asiata OG 6’3 323
Hunter Dimick DE 6’3 272
Pita Taumoepenu EDGE 6’1 245
Reginald Porter CB 5’11 185


Dan Feeney OL 6’4 311
The best player in this game is a guard for the Hoosiers, Dan Feeney. Feeney possesses ideal size at 6’4 311 lbs. Feeney is an aggressive guard, but lacks the feet to kick out to tackle in the NFL. When he’s at his best is when he’s asked to down block. A nasty player who will play through the whistle and will irritate opponents. Feeney has shown the ability to play in both man and zone schemes and should be one of the first interior offensive linemen selected in April’s draft.

Mitchell Paige, WR, 5’7 180
This Indiana roster isn’t stacked with NFL talent at the skill positions, but Mitchell Paige is a player who could find himself on an NFL roster. Paige does it all for the Hoosiers. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and return yards. Although he is under-sized, Paige is tough and has a knack for making big plays.

Other players:
Ricky Jones WR 5’10 185
Ralphael Green III DT 6’5 305



Texas Bowl – Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
The Texas Bowl features the Texas A&M Aggies who once had their eye on the National Championship before losing to Mississippi State in a heartbreaker that ended their hopes of reaching the playoffs. Kansas State is a team that has played much better of late and head coach Bill Snyder always finds a way to get his team motivated against big time opponents. But all eyes will be on the Aggies best player Myles Garrett as he plays his last collegiate game before entering the NFL.

Texas A&M

Myles Garrett EDGE 6’5, 270 (JR)
Garrett is everything you could want from an edge rusher. Versatile, athletic and smart, Garrett has a chance to be the number one pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Coming into this game, Garrett only logged 8.5 sacks on the year, but he was playing with multiple injuries throughout the season. If Garrett can have a strong outing in his final performance, he will lock up his status as a top-five pick.

Daeshon Hall DL 6’5, 260
While he’s been somewhat of an afterthought with Myles Garrett leading the Texas A&M defense discussion, Hall is an awesome athlete with first-round potential himself. The former basketball player who’s still growing into a defensive end’s body has produced alongisde Garrett and showcases the explosive finishing ability and athletic upside that NFL teams covet in developing pass rushers.

Avery Gennesy OL 6’5 310 (JR)
The next offensive line with top-two round NFL draf potential, Gennesy may enter the 2017 NFL Draft thanks to his upside value as a guard or tackle coupled with the 2017 class’s lackluster offensive tackle unit. He’s still leaves much to be desired in his kick slide balance and hand placement, but the athleticism, mauling capabilities and movement control all speak to his upside as an NFL guard or tackle.

Justin Evans DB 6’0, 195
The team’s strong safety offers awesome tackle finishing strength and the range to work across the field with plus anticipation and footwork to plant and explode through contact. Evans is a fringe first-round prospect in a loaded safety class, especially at strong safety, but his mental makeup and growth as a prospect has NFL teams bullish on his upside.

Other Players:
Josh Reynolds WR 6’3, 190
Trevor Knight QB 6’0, 215
Shaan Washington LB 6’3, 235


Kansas State

Jordan Willis DE 6’5, 250
For Kansas State, senior defensive end Jordan Willis has emerged as a potential Big 12 defensive player of the year candidate after leading the Big 12 in sacks. He’s one of the conference’s most productive pass rushers and has the versatility to fit into almost any defense in the NFL. Active and possessing quick hands on the perimeter, his athleticism/hip fluidity may not match his college production, but he’ll have NFL fans during the process.

Other Players:
Charmeachealle Moore LB 6’0, 228
Deante Burton WR 6’2 205
Dante Barnett SS 6’1 193
Charles Jones RB 5’10 206

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