There's one game left in the college football season -- the College Football Playoff national championship game -- but with the bowls officially in the books, College Football 24/7 asked its panel of experts the following question: Which prospect helped his draft stock the most with his bowl performance?
Over the next few months, NFL teams will hold spirited draft meetings and debate all of the top players at each position. Melvin Gordon will be in the discussion to occupy the top RB spot on each team's draft board. Todd Gurley will also be in that discussion. Gurley has put up monster numbers playing in the SEC, and while the conference has had a rough bowl stretch, it's still viewed as the premier conference by NFL evaluators. Gordon has now faced three SEC defenses over the last two years. He put up big numbers against South Carolina in last year's bowl game and also put up an impressive total against LSU to start the 2014 campaign. For his closing statement, he rushed for 251 yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl. For scouts who favor Gordon over Gurley, you can bet those numbers will be brought up in draft meetings.
His stock was already sky high, but Florida DE Dante Fowler cemented his status as a top-level prospect with his three-sack performance in the Birmingham Bowl. Many players shut it down and sometimes find ways out of bowl games to protect their bodies, and on the surface it's understandable -- but it's not desirable. Teams love players who compete, no matter the situation, and Fowler competed and excelled for a 6-6 Florida team that had fired its head coach, had a very disappointing season and was playing in the Birmingham Bowl. Fowler's draft report will certainly include "loves to play -- no matter what," high praise that will probably lead to an early call on draft day.
- Lance Zierlein College Football 24/7
Buzz growing on Georgia Tech's Waller
Two types of players have the best shot at helping their draft stock this late in the game -- smaller school prospects playing up in competition and late-season ascenders such as Georgia Tech's Darren Waller, who is building draft momentum. Waller, a 6-foot-5 receiver with speed, beat Mississippi State on a 41-yard touchdown reception as well as a 39-yard catch, finishing the Orange Bowl with five catches for 114 yards. He strung together strong back-to back games against Florida State and Mississippi State after taking over for the injured DeAndre Smelter and is sure to entice general managers hoping to find the next Kelvin Benjamin.
- Bryan Fischer College Football 24/7
Fisher stood out among left tackles
Several left tackles had standout postseason performances, but I'm not sure anybody improved his stock as much as Oregon senior Jake Fisher did in the Rose Bowl against Florida State. Fisher (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) stonewalled future pros Mario Edwards Jr. and, occasionally, the speedy multipurpose star Jalen Ramsey to the point where it appeared Edwards in particular just gave up. It wasn't just a great effort in terms of run blocking either. Fisher was effective in pass protection and did a good job in space on screens and getting to the second level to take out linebackers when needed. If he can keep things up against Ohio State's Joey Bosa in the title game, there's no doubt he can make his way toward the top of the tackle group in this year's draft.
- Chase Goodbread College Football 24/7
Beasley excelled against NFL-caliber OTs
Given the head-to-head competition he faced, there is no doubt Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley made some draft-day money with his performance against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando Dec. 29. A senior, Beasley went up against arguably the top offensive tackle tandem in college football in Sooners fifth-year seniors Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. Both were both first-team All-Big 12, and both are in the 6-foot-5, 330-pound range -- the kind of size Beasley will face more regularly in the NFL. Beasley still delivered three tackles for loss, a pass breakup and the 33rd sack of his decorated Clemson career in a 40-6 Tigers win.
- Mike Huguenin College Football 24/7
Fowler a force in bowl performance
Dante Fowler was dominant, especially in the fourth quarter, in Florida's Birmingham Bowl win over East Carolina. He had three sacks and generally harassed ECU QB Shane Carden throughout. Versatility is one of his main selling points, and he drove that point home against the Pirates, lining up all over the field and both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. He lined up as a hand-down end and also as a standup outside linebacker, and was unblockable at times.