As long and sometimes grueling and unnecessary the NCAA bowl season can be, it’s at least worth a look at some of the NFL prospects who showed up and have played so well that their draft stock is rising. On a national stage, these five players made a difference.
Eric Page, a Toledo junior, showed the nation what he can offer an NFL team at the next level — a lot. In Toledo’s dramatic victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl, Page showed the kind of assets some NFL team is going to notice late in April’s draft. He’ll be one of the golden gooses in the field from the third round and back. Page hauled 13 receptions, although only for 59 yards. His lone touchdown came on an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown. He averaged 38 yards per kickoff return — a number NFL scouts would cry little tears of joy for.
Jermaine Kearse, a Washington senior, had his biggest game of the season — as you could’ve guessed — in the highest scoring bowl game against Baylor. Kearse had a down season, yes, after his 1,000-yard receiving season last year, but in the bowl game he showed the world his explosion as a wide receiver with an 80-yard touchdown grab-and-go. He, like Page, is certain to be a late round pick
Alec Ogletree, a Georgia sophomore, is sure to be one of the top linebackers in next season’s entire draft class, especially after the dominant performance he put up in a loss to Michigan State. Ogletree had 13 total tackles, 12 all by himself. Add to that one sack and two pass deflections, his mobility north-south and east-west was unmatchable in the bowl game and was one of the most impressive parts of his game. He’s got to tools to be a stud NFL linebacker with power, pursuit, shiftiness, awareness and all that comes and goes with it.
Justin Blackmon, a Oklahoma State junior, is already in the top three players of most experts’ draft boards but his performance against Stanford in the bowl game solidified himself as the top wide receiver in the game. He’s just a beast, grabbing eight passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. That just two quarters worth of game, as he seemed to be absent in the first and third quarters. Sure, it’s worth noting that he may disappear in games as he did in those quarters but it is mystifying that when he wanted the ball, he got it and it was as though not even a circus of tacklers who bring him down.
Mark Barron, a Alabama senior, may not have had the stats in the national title game — without only two tackles and a sack — but he meant so much more to that defense that people may not have realized before the title game. Barron is the king on that defense, always around the ball even if he’s not the guy getting the tackler. His instincts from the safety position are incredible and he showed that running all over the field against LSU.