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Rough Draft Championship Weekend with Revenge of the Birds

Each week, ROTB Lead Writer Justin Higdon provides a quick rundown of the latest NFL Draft-related news, notes and takes. Plus, a look ahead to the weekend’s most intriguing matchups

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NCAA Football: Toledo at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

In the Spotlight

Senior Bowl Update

After announcing 18 more accepted invitations this past Monday, the Senior Bowl rosters now include 47 total players. Here's a rundown of the latest additions to the late-January festivities in Mobile:

Chidobe Awuzie CB Colorado

Awuzie has been a personal favorite for the past two seasons. He’s aggressive near the line of scrimmage and in coverage down the field. I imagine he’ll be worked out at corner and safety this draft season. Awuzie has three interceptions, 16 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, and 18 tackles for loss in 25 games over the last two seasons.

Tarell Basham EDGE Ohio

Basham is the 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in sacks. He’ll be in action Friday night in the MAC Championship Game against undefeated Western Michigan.

Kyle Fuller C Baylor

Fuller is a three-year starter at center for the Bears.

Jeremy Sprinkle TE Arkansas

A couple of days ago, draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote that Sprinkle “offers enough in the passing game and running game to warrant a selection on the second day" I didn’t get that impression after watching Arkansas twice earlier in the year, but Sprinkle is a well-rounded tight end with NFL size. He caught 33 passes this season, but never more than four in a game.

Josh Reynolds WR Texas A&M

After spending a year in Juco, the 6’4” Reynolds has gained over 800 receiving yards in each of his three seasons with the Aggies, and has averaged 17.3 yards per catch and scored 28 touchdowns in 37 career games.

Obi Melifonwu DB Connecticut

Melifonwu is listed at 6’3” 217 and picked off four passes this season for a 3-9 Huskies team.

Montravius Adams DL Auburn

A former five-star recruit, Adams rebounded from a rather disappointing junior season to post career highs in sacks and tackles for loss this year. He’s even starting to get some first round buzz.

Desmond King CB Iowa

The reigning Thorpe Award-winner, King is often mentioned among the top seniors in all of college football. But while he’s a very good college football player, I’m not as bullish on his pro prospects as other analysts. At 5’10”, King lacks ideal height, and he doesn’t appear to have high-end speed or explosiveness. This doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid professional ballplayer, but unless my eyes are completely deceiving me, King looks more like a Day Two prospect than the top 10-15 projection I’m seeing in some of these early mock drafts.

Forrest Lamp OL Western Kentucky

Lamp is a four-year starter for the Hilltoppers, with most of his action coming at left tackle. He’s been a Pro Football Focus darling for two years now and, in a class light on offensive linemen, the fifth-year senior could gain serious traction with a strong week in Mobile.

Takkarist McKinley EDGE UCLA

McKinley broke through with a 10-sack season as a senior, but listed at 6’2”, teams will be anxious to find out his actual height and arm length on Senior Bowl weigh-in day.

Conor McDermott OT UCLA

I watched McDermott a couple of times earlier this season, and to be honest he did nothing to make me believe he was more than a Day Three prospect. I’m not sure why he got the call to Mobile, while Arkansas left tackle Dan Skipper is on the East-West Shrine Game roster. I suppose there’s still time for Skipper to be invited too.

Jon Toth C Kentucky

Toth is a four-year starter at center for the Wildcats

Matt Dayes RB NC State

Dayes took over as the lead back at NC State last season, but missed the final five games with a foot injury. This year, the 5’9” 203-pound runner eclipsed the 1000-yard barrier, but his yards per carry dipped from 6.5 to 4.7. Still, Dayes is a solid, all-around running back prospect who has also caught 97 passes in his college career. He is currently projected as a mid-to-late Day Three pick.

Jake Elliott K Memphis

Elliott connected on 20 of 24 field goals this season for the Tigers, including two of three from 50 yards.

Josh Harvey-Clemons S Louisville

Off-field issues brought Harvey-Clemons to Louisville from Georgia two years ago, and he’s stayed trouble-free for the Cardinals. After three interceptions last season, he hasn’t forced a single turnover in 2016. I suspect he will get looks at linebacker, as well as defensive back this draft season.

Cole Hikutini TE Louisville

Hikutini has had a career season for the Cardinals this year, with 49 catches for 656 yards and eight scores in 12 games.

Jamari Staples WR Louisville

Apparently is was Louisville Week in the Senior Bowl offices. Staples is a big-play threat, averaging almost 17 yards per catch in his career. But he’s also averaging just 2.9 receptions per game in 39 career appearances.

Justin Evans S Texas A&M

Evans came from the Juco ranks in 2015. This season, as a senior, he registered four interceptions, six pass breakups, and five tackles for loss - all career highs. Evans is also a skilled kick return man, who averaged 28.9 yards on 14 attempts this season.

Box Score of the Week

Kareem Hunt RB Toledo

20 ATT 200 YDS 1 TD rushing, 3 REC 73 YDS receiving

I wasn’t crazy about Hunt last season, but he looks to have reshaped his body, and has been one of the most improved players I’ve seen so far this year. Hunt was incredible last week against an unbeaten Western Michigan team. He displayed outstanding vision, balance and leg drive, and looked really slippery while knifing his way through traffic. He broke off a number of big runs, and showed soft hands as a receiver. For his career, Hunt has rushed for over 4800 yards, caught 71 passes, and scored 43 total touchdowns in 45 games. I’d expect him to appear on that Senior Bowl invite list in the coming weeks.

Hot Take of the Week

“We” always seem to be unsatisfied with the current draft class and looking ahead to the next one. It happens every single year, so I’ve become pretty numb to it. But this take is hot because I saw Allen throw five interceptions in a game against Nebraska earlier this season. The five picks reminded me of Jared Goff throwing five INTs against Utah last year - a fact that bothered me, but was explained away by every Goff-loving draftnik on the internet. Still, Goff’s five picks prompted me to do a little digging just for fun. These tweets are from October, 2015, so add Goff to the list, and let’s keep these names in mind when people start touting Allen. Dios mio.

Looking Ahead

Western Michigan vs Ohio (MAC Championship Game) Friday 7:00 PM ET

OU’s Senior Bowler Basham will get some head-to-head snaps against WMU’s Senior Bowl right tackle Taylor Moton. Broncos star receiver Corey Davis is probably weighing whether or not he needs a Senior Bowl appearance to boost his stock, and quarterback Zach Terrell is on the Shrine Game invite list.

Colorado vs Washington (Pac-12 Championship Game) Friday 9:00 PM ET

Buffalos senior QB Sefo Liufau faces off against talented Huskies defensive backs Sydney Jones, Kevin King and Budda Baker. Washington speed merchant John Ross will test Awuzie and the rest of the talented Colorado secondary.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Saturday 12:30 PM ET

Not an official conference championship game, but Bedlam features two 9-2 teams this year, and it may be the last chance to see quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield in a college setting. Oklahoma State receiver James Washington is expected to go pro, and Oklahoma running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are also draft-eligible. Sooners senior receiver Dede Westbrook has averaged 19.3 yards per catch, has scored 16 TDs, and has already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation.

San Diego State at Wyoming (Mountain West Championship Game) Saturday 7:45 PM ET

Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey has a shot to break the FBS career rushing record, and he and teammate, cornerback Damontae Kazee, should both be expecting Senior Bowl invitations. Allen and junior running back Brian Hill are the top draft-eligible names for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin vs Penn State (Big Ten Championship Game) Saturday 8:00 PM ET

With Ohio State second in the playoff rankings, and Michigan fifth, this becomes a battle for third-best Big Ten team. Even if Penn State wins, Michigan - who beat both of these teams - creates a shield of sorts for the Buckeyes, unless the Nittany Lions win by 59 like the Buckeyes did two years ago. In terms of draft prospects, Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel is a Senior Bowl invite, and running back Corey Clement should at least get a Shrine Game nod. Penn State junior receiver Chris Godwin has been on a touchdown binge, with seven scores in his last six games.