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Sammy Watkins, Kony Ealy help draft stocks in Friday bowls

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Tim Sharp / Associated Press
Missouri's Henry Josey finished his junior season on a high note, but Gil Brandt advises that he return as a senior.

Fans of college football were treated to two really close, well-played bowl games Friday night, when Missouri and Oklahoma State met in the Cotton Bowl and Clemson and Ohio State met in the Orange Bowl. These were the 31st and 32nd bowl games of the season. I've seen just about all of them, and these were among the two better ones.

Of course, both bowl games had their share of impressive players. Below is a short list of notable prospects from Friday night's bowls, many of whom helped their draft stock with some strong performances.

Notable prospects in Cotton Bowl

Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: Josey missed all of 2012 with a severe knee injury that he suffered in 2011. Up to that point, the 10th game of the season, he had run for 1,168 yards. He has played well this year and capped a pretty good season with a three-touchdown game, giving him 16 for the season. A junior, Josey said after the game that he was thinking about coming out for the draft, but I hope he stays. I think he's got a better chance of succeeding with another year in school. He's a good college back with talent and decent quickness, but he's undersized at about 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and probably wouldn't be as good a runner in the NFL because of that.

Justin Britt, G, Missouri: Britt is a big, tall offensive guard. He's 6-6, and looks every bit that tall. He was hurt last year and had to miss the last handful of games, but he looked just fine in the Cotton Bowl, doing a strong job of blocking for a running game that gained 256 yards and scored three touchdowns. Britt was a big reason for those numbers. I don't know where he'll be drafted, but he really helped himself Friday.

Edwin Gaines, CB, Missouri: Gaines is another guy who helped his draft stock Friday. His only problem is that he's not really tall, about 5-10, but he has sub-4.5 speed as a corner, which is always something teams look for.

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Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: Sam received a lot of accolades this season, including All-America honors, but he was not really all that effective in the Cotton Bowl until late in the fourth quarter, when he forced a fumble that helped clinch the win for the Tigers. He's a bit small for a defensive end at about 6-2, 260 pounds -- smaller defensive ends with talent historically make teams but never really contribute a great deal. He has played well at Missouri and will get drafted, though, probably on the third day.

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: Ealy announced after the game that he would enter the draft. He's a two-year starter with really good size at 6-5, 275 pounds. I thought that he was one of the better players on the field Friday, and he enhanced his position yesterday by recording two sacks. He's a good, athletic pass rusher and is also good against the run.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: I like Gilbert a lot and think he's going to be a pretty good player in the NFL. A senior, he is probably among the three best corners in the draft, in the same class as Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, and will be a top 20 pick. Where he ends up going will depend a little on how well he runs. He's a thicker guy who doesn't really have great speed, but he'll be good in press coverage and against the run.

Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State: Moore had seven catches for 100 yards in the Cotton Bowl. He's a good-sized WR (6-2 1/2, 220 pounds) with long arms and really good hands.

Notable prospects in Orange Bowl

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Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: I watched portions of this game, and it wasn't hard to be impressed by Watkins. He set Orange Bowl records with 16 catches for 227 yards and scored twice. What separates Watkins from the pack is that he's got really good acceleration and great ability to pick up a lot of yards after the catch. He's a very strong receiver, not a narrow-bodied one who'll struggle against physical corners, and reminds me a little of another Clemson receiver -- Houston Texans rookie DeAndre Hopkins -- in terms of size and ability. Watkins is a junior and hasn't said yet whether he'll come out, but I think he'll be a first-round pick.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: Boyd, a true senior, had five touchdown passes against Ohio State. He's more of a runner than a passer, someone who's going to take off and run pretty good for you, but Friday night he was exceptional in the passing game.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson: Beasley hasn't made his draft decision yet, but my advice for him would be to stay in school and get a little bigger and stronger. He's a pretty solid pass rusher, but is probably too small and too light to be a down lineman in the NFL. He moves around really well, though, and I think he could probably play linebacker in the NFL.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: Hyde played well Friday night, but didn't necessarily improve his position. He's a big, strong running back who will probably be taken in the bottom of the first round or top of the second. I've heard a few comparisons between Hyde and Eddie Lacy, the Green Bay Packers rookie, and it's not a bad comparison, but Hyde is taller and catches the ball better than Lacy does.

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Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State: Anytime you're a multiple-year starter at a school like Ohio State, chances are you're a pretty good player. Mewhort has played at tackle for the Buckeyes, but I think his best spot will be at guard. He's a strong inside player who'll probably be picked somewhere near the bottom of the second round.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: I continue to believe that Miller would be so much better served by staying in school. It would help him a great deal. He needs to play more downs as a quarterback and learn how to pass better. Right now he's a much better runner than a passer.

And one more guy who impressed me

I spent part of my Saturday afternoon watching North Dakota State play Towson in the FCS championship game and was very impressed by North Dakota State's tackle, William Turner. Turner isn't known by a lot of people, but he's a good player with long arms and good size at 6-5, 310 pounds. I think that he'll be around a fourth-round pick and has a chance to be a third-rounder if he impresses at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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