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2021 NFL Draft: Prospects to watch in each Week 2 non-New Year’s Six bowl game

This week is a huge one for college football bowl games, so we broke down the top NFL Draft prospects in each of the non-New Year’s Six games.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Auburn at Florida Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first week of college football bowl games brought about plenty of entertaining games.

Zach Wilson tore up UCF’s defense, Buffalo and Marshall battled in a defense-oriented matchup, and Liberty upset No. 12 Coastal Carolina in an overtime thriller. With many of the top Group of 5 schools in action last week, there were numerous must-see games for college football fans.

The second week has several notable games in store, too, including the heralded New Year’s Six, featuring some of the top teams in the nation. Those aren’t the only games this week, though; there are nine other bowl games featuring top prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft, even with several players opting out.

We will take a look at the New Year’s Six matchups in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at the other bowl games and break down some of the top draft prospects in each game, many of whom the Bears would be wise to target.

Cheez-It Bowl: No. 21 Oklahoma State (7-3) vs. No. 18 Miami (FL) (8-2)

Tues., Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. CT on ESPN

Oklahoma State has a fearsome trio of offensive standouts in the skill-position category, but they will be without one of them in their bowl appearance. Though Chuba Hubbard won’t play in the Cheez-It Bowl, the Cowboys still have a well-rounded receiver in Tylan Wallace and a dual-threat quarterback in Spencer Sanders. Yet, Teven Jenkins is the player picking up heat in recent months, as a powerful and well-built tackle with a mean streak. They don’t appear to have too many defensive draft-caliber prospects to speak of for this season, especially with their physical, ball-hawking cornerback Rodarius Williams opting out of the bowl game.

With quarterback D’Eriq King staying in school for another year, the Hurricanes still have some offensive spark for their bowl game. They will be missing their top three edge rushers—all of whom projecting as Day 2 picks or higher, the latter being applicable to Gregory Rousseau—but they still have some talented players on the roster. Brevin Jordan is an uber-athletic ‘U’ tight end, and Bubba Bolden is a versatile and hard-hitting safety who brings value in run support and coverage. Keep an eye on kicker Jose Borregales, too: he completed 90 percent of his field goal attempts.

Prospects of note:

  • Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard*
  • Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
  • Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace
  • Oklahoma State CB Rodarius Williams*
  • Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders
  • Miami (FL) EDGE Gregory Rousseau*
  • Miami (FL) EDGE Quincy Roche*
  • Miami (FL) EDGE Jaelan Phillips*
  • Miami (FL) TE Brevin Jordan
  • Miami (FL) S Bubba Bolden
  • Miami (FL) K Jose Borregales

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 20 Texas (6-3) vs. Colorado (4-1)

Tues., Dec. 29 at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN

Texas is going to be incredibly depleted by several opt-outs for their match-up against Colorado. Both sides of the ball will see some of their top prospects sitting out of the Alamo Bowl to prepare for the draft, most notably offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi. He brings length, athleticism and intelligence to the position that projects him as a first-round prospect in the 2021 draft. Sam Ehlinger stands out as the most notable Longhorn to step onto the field on Tuesday, as he has still yet to publicly make his draft decision. His accuracy and mental toughness could make him a worthy draft pick on Day 3.

Colorado is somewhat thin on 2021 draft prospects, but they do have an intriguing defensive lineman in Mustafa Johnson. He is a stout interior defender who has natural leverage at the point of attack and is plenty athletic off the snap. Though he lacks in measurables, he could be a late Day 3 prospect to keep an eye on.

Prospects of note:

  • Texas OT Samuel Cosmi*
  • Texas S Caden Sterns*
  • Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai*
  • Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
  • Texas DL Ta’Quon Graham*
  • Texas S Chris Brown*
  • Texas WR Brennan Eagles*
  • Texas WR Tarik Black*
  • Colorado DL Mustafa Johnson

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wake Forest (4-4) vs. Wisconsin (3-3)

Wed., Dec. 30 at 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN

Though Wake Forest will be without their two best players for their bowl game on Wednesday, those two players are quite the talents to look out for. Sage Surratt’s size, ball skills, physicality and strong hands could make him an enticing late Day 2 prospect. Carlos Basham Jr. brings commendable athletic tools and hand usage off the edge, as well. Unfortunately for the Demon Deacons, that won’t help them this week in their final game of the 2020 season.

Wisconsin has had a very challenging schedule this year, and their 3-3 record is not a perfectly accurate representation of how they have played. They have talent on both sides of the ball, and none of them have opted out as of this writing. Cole Van Lanen fits the bill of the physical, nasty, polished offensive lineman to come out of Wisconsin. Jake Ferguson is a fluid ‘Y’ tight end who blocks with a nasty edge, too. On defense, the Badgers also have an intelligent and physical linebacker in Jack Sanborn. Though he won’t play in the bowl game, they also have an instinctive cornerback who can tackle well in Rachad Wilgoose Jr., who also has one of the coolest names in the 2021 draft.

Prospects of note:

  • Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt*
  • Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham Jr.*
  • Wisconsin LB Jack Sanborn
  • Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson
  • Wisconsin OT Cole Van Lanen
  • Wisconsin CB Rachad Wildgoose Jr.*

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: No. 24 Tulsa (6-2) vs. Mississippi State (3-7)

Thurs., Dec. 31 at 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN

Tulsa has been one of the best Group of 5 schools in the nation this year, and their best player has been linebacker Zaven Collins. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner for being the best collegiate defender in the nation, Collins is a great tackler with fantastic athletic tools and incredible size for a linebacker. Unfortunately for the Golden Hurricane, though, he won’t be playing in their bowl game on Thursday.

Mississippi State has struggled mightily since their upset win over LSU in their first game, and while this season collapsed after they were ranked No. 16 in the nation, they still have some talent on their roster. Kylin Hill is an athletic and well-built running back who can make defenders miss in space, and Marcus Murphy’s range, fluidity and length make him an underrated prospect to remember at safety. Both of them won’t be playing in the bowl game, though. K.J. Costello was highly touted in the first few weeks of the season, but has since gotten benched. With his mental and mechanic deficiencies, it’s unlikely he’ll be much more than a camp body in the NFL.

Prospects of note:

  • Tulsa LB Zaven Collins*
  • Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill*
  • Mississippi State S Marcus Murphy*
  • Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello

Offerpad Arizona Bowl: Ball State (6-1) vs. No. 22 San Jose State (7-0)

Thurs., Dec. 31 at 1:00 p.m. CT on CBS

While neither team is necessarily loaded in 2021 draft prospects, both Ball State and San Jose State are well-coached teams in the midst of quality seasons.

Caleb Huntley is the most notable prospect for the MAC champion Cardinals. Though not the most athletic runner in the world, he is a powerful and determined back with a mean streak in between the tackles with two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. Keep an eye on receiver Justin Hall, as well, as he is an athletic playmaker with special teams upside.

The Spartans have a talented offensive weapon of their own. Tre Walker is an athletic receiver who is a sharp route runner and can stretch the field vertically with impressive deep speed. He isn’t the most physical wideout out there, but his athleticism and consistent ability to get open makes him a threat on offense that NFL teams should be well aware of.

Prospects of note:

  • Ball State RB Caleb Huntley
  • Ball State WR Justin Hall
  • San Jose State WR Tre Walker

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia (5-4) vs. Army (9-2)

Thurs., Dec. 31 at 3:00 p.m. CT on ESPN

West Virginia isn’t the dangerous threat it was 10 to 15 years ago, but they have still produced some solid, draftable talents. Darius Stills is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, but he is an explosive and athletic player who offers pass-rushing value and can penetrate a backfield. Remember Tony Fields’ name, too, as he is an instinctive and athletic linebacker who is a bit undersized but fits the modern NFL game well.

Army hasn’t been known for producing NFL draft picks in recent years, and it’s unlikely they will have anybody drafted in the 2021 class. However, if any of their players were to be selected, Kwabena Bonsy could fit that bill as a productive and lengthy interior defender with raw physical talent to work with.

Prospects of note:

  • West Virginia DL Darius Stills
  • West Virginia LB Tony Fields II
  • Army DL Kwabena Bonsy

Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Auburn (6-4) vs. No. 14 Northwestern (6-2)

Fri., Jan. 1 at 12:00 p.m. CT on ABC

Auburn started off the 2020 season on a high note, but they struggled in big games and finished barely over .500 in a campaign that got head coach Guz Malzahn fired. Still, they have a handful of talented draft-eligible prospects. Their wide receiver tandem of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz is a dangerous duo to go up against, as Williams is a physical, big-bodied weapon, and Schwartz showcases elite speed on tape. Though linebacker K.J. Britt opted out of the Citrus Bowl, the Tigers do have another notable defender in Big Kat Bryant, a versatile defender who brings very good length and solid quickness off the snap.

Though they couldn’t upset Ohio State in the Big Ten championship, Northwestern has been one of the biggest stories of the 2020 season. Their success came out of seemingly nowhere, but don’t be caught thinking they’re a fluke: they are well-coached and have talent on their roster. Rashawn Slater is the biggest name on their roster, and though he opted out of the year in its entirety, he should end up selected in the first round. Greg Newsome II is a lengthy, fluid and instinctive cornerback with plenty of enticing tools, but he, too, will not be playing in the Wildcats’ bowl game. The team does still have Paddy Fisher, who is an old-school thumper in the box with a high football IQ and a muscular frame.

Prospects of note:

  • Auburn WR Seth Williams
  • Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz
  • Auburn LB K.J. Britt*
  • Auburn EDGE Big Kat Bryant
  • Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater*
  • Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II*
  • Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: No. 23 North Carolina State (8-3) vs. Kentucky (4-6)

Sat., Jan. 2 at 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN

Despite being somewhat thin on NFL Draft prospects for a ranked Power 5 school, NC State has put together a strong year in 2020. Their star player is defensive lineman Alim McNeill, a stout interior defender who packs an impressive combination of power and speed into a 320-pound frame. The 6-foot-7 tight end Cary Angeline also stands out as a massive red-zone threat with good athletic tools for his size.

Kentucky has faced an incredibly tough schedule this season, and while they aren’t exactly world-beaters, they aren’t pushovers, either. They have two nasty offensive linemen in Drake Jackson and Landon Young, the two of them anchoring a talented unit up front. Though he opted out of the Gator Bowl, remember Kelvin Joseph as a fluid, lengthy and ball-hawking cornerback who can play both on the boundary and as a field-side corner. Don’t forget their punter Max Duffy, either: though he’s already 27 years old, the former Australian rules footballer won the Ray Guy award as the nation’s best punter last year.

Prospects of note:

  • NC State DL Alim McNeill
  • NC State TE Cary Angeline
  • Kentucky C Drake Jackson
  • Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph*
  • Kentucky OT Landon Young
  • Kentucky P Max Duffy

Outback Bowl: Ole Miss (4-5) vs. No. 11 Indiana (6-1)

Sat., Jan. 2 at 11:30 a.m. CT on ABC

Prospects of note:

Ole Miss finds themselves light on talent heading into the Outback Bowl, as their three top draft prospects have all opted out of the game. Two of their athletic weapons, Elijah Moore and Kenny Yeboah, have declared for the draft, as has nasty and versatile offensive lineman Royce Newman. Though he probably won’t declare for the 2021 draft, Matt Corral is a productive quarterback with a strong arm and a deep ball who is draft-eligible as a redshirt sophomore.

Indiana may not have the raw talent that many Big Ten powerhouses have, but they are a very well-coached team who show up when it matters most. Marcelino Ball is the prospect most likely to declare for the draft, despite tearing his ACL before the 2020 season. He is an intelligent and athletic safety who brings a well-rounded skill-set to the table. Ty Fryfogle is a big-bodied receiver with good ball skills, and while Michael Penix Jr. likely won’t enter the 2021 draft, he has played a big role in the Hoosiers’ success this year.

  • Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore*
  • Ole Miss TE Kenny Yeboah*
  • Ole Miss OL Royce Newman*
  • Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
  • Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr.
  • Indiana WR Ty Fryfogle
  • Indiana S Marcelino Ball