Now two weeks into the bowl season, we've reached three-to-four game a day territory, and we're ready to turn the corner into the College Football Playoff.
While a couple of big name NFL draft prospects have opted to rest nagging injuries rather than play in their bowls, less-heralded players can use these games to jump into the national spotlight. Sure, NFL scouts have probably been paying attention already, but some media hype can do a body good during the long draft season.
Unfortunately, opting to play doesn't always net a positive result. Here's a look at five players who've helped themselves, and five who would probably like a do-over .
1. Jamaal Williams RB BYU
Bowl Game: 26 ATT 210 YDS 1 TD
2016: 1375 YDS 5.9 AVG 12 TD rushing, 7 REC 80 YDS 11.4 AVG receiving
Much of Williams' production last week came amid a downpour that stymied seemingly every other offensive skill player on the field. He overcame an early fumble to post the third 200-yard game of his career, and helped BYU hold on for its ninth win of the season. Williams has missed time as a collegian with injuries and suspension, but has always been a productive, three-down player. Detractors may point out his seven receptions as a senior, but Williams amassed 45 total during his first two seasons with the Cougars.
On the flip side, I've seen some analysts go overboard and hail Williams as a first round talent. He's a bigger back, but I'm not sure he has the dynamic speed and burst NFL teams crave in early-round running backs. Still, Williams won't turn 22 until May, and offers value in the middle rounds of the draft provided he stays healthy.
2. Carlos Henderson WR Louisiana Tech
Bowl Game: 10 REC 129 YDS 2 TD receiving, 3 KR 137 YDS
2016: 82 REC 1535 YDS 18.7 AVG 19 TD receiving, 133 YDS 9.5 AVG 2 TD rushing, 32.2 KR AVG 2 KR TD
Henderson lit up the scoreboard for La Tech with 23 total TDs this year, and he wasn't even the Bulldogs leading receiver. Listed at 5'11" 191, Henderson will probably check in a little bit shorter, but the 22-year old's low-to-mid 4.4 speed, open field elusiveness, and leaping ability make up for whatever he lacks in size. Henderson's game-breaking kick return ability adds to his résumé, and his overall value on offense and special teams should have him off the board by the end of the fourth round.
3. Trent Taylor WR Louisiana Tech
Bowl Game: 12 REC 233 YDS 2 TD
2016: 136 REC 1803 YDS 13.3 AVG 12 TD receiving, 10.5 PR AVG
While Henderson was the big play threat, Taylor was Bulldogs' security blanket, leading the team in receptions and yards, and earning an invitation to next month's Senior Bowl. I'm almost certain Taylor's complexion and his 5'8" 180-pound frame has already slotted him into dozens of New England Patriots mock drafts, and garnered the requisite Wes Welker comparisons. Cliches aside, Taylor is the consummate, sure-handed slot guy that every quarterback seems to love, but I don't expect him to be a combine or pro day dynamo; and given his size limitations, I'm guessing he falls into the fifth-to-seventh round.
4. Harold Landry DE Boston College
Bowl Game: 4 TKL (3 solo) 1.5 TFL 1.5 SCK 2 PBU 1 INT
2016: 51 TKL (34 solo) 22 TFL 16.5 SCK 7 FF 1 INT 4 PBU
NFL teams are preparing for Landry to skip his senior season and jump into the pool of early-round pass rush talents. The BC junior led all FBS players in sacks and forced fumbles this season, and finished his college career with an athletic interception and a dominant fourth quarter in Monday's win over Maryland. Landry appears to have bulked up since his sophomore season, but without sacrificing burst and closing speed. I would like to see some stronger play against the run, and some additional pass rush moves, but Landry plays assignment-sound ball and shows good awareness, so he should continue to improve. I expect him to test well in workouts, and he looks to be in the mix for a Day Two selection this coming spring.
5. KD Cannon WR Baylor
Bowl Game: 14 REC 226 YDS 2 TD
2016: 87 REC 1215 YDS 14.0 AVG 13 TD
After arthroscopic knee surgery in June, Cannon's status was in question for the early part of the season. But the junior receiver was ready for the opener, and went on to post career highs in every statistical category. Cannon is an exceptional athlete, with 4.46 speed, a 40" vertical, and a nearly 11' broad jump - similar to the numbers Corey Coleman posted on his way to becoming a top 15 draft pick. I don't believe Cannon will be off the board quite that early, but he could be in the mix on Day Two.
1. Brian Hill RB Wyoming
Bowl Game: 26 ATT 93 YDS 1 TD rushing, 1 REC 19 YDS receiving
2016: 1860 YDS 5.3 AVG 22 TD rushing, 8 REC 67 YDS 8.4 AVG receiving
Almost all online hype surrounding Wyoming's program has been directed at quarterback Josh Allen, but Hill, the Cowboys junior running back, is the player who has officially declared. Still, in last week's bowl game, Hill was overshadowed by BYU's Williams, and lost amid arguments over whether or not Allen is a legitimate prospect. The 6'1" 220-pound Hill looked decent, average, forgettable, in a class that promises to produce some top-notch pro runners. It's not that he's bad, he's just a grinder in the mold of Utah product Davontae Booker. Probably not quite as shifty. Hill had a chance to outshine a fellow 2017 runner, and a more highly-touted teammate, but he turned in a nondescript performance.
2. Fred Ross WR Mississippi State
Bowl Game: 4 REC 44 YDS
2016: 72 REC 917 YDS 12.7 AVG 12 TD receiving, 5.7 PR AVG
In general, I won't be too hard on a receiver for dropping passes here and there, especially if the guy is a burner or a big time red zone threat. But for a guy like Ross, with class-average size and speed, every opportunity can be crucial, and he let a couple of gimmes slip through his hands Monday against a 6-6 MAC team. On the plus side, Ross has accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, and will have an entire week to redeem himself in front of NFL people.
3. Luke Falk QB Washington Statez
Bowl Game: 30/51 264 YDS 1 TD 1 INT
2016: 443/633 70% 4468 YDS 7.1 YPA 38 TD 11 INT
Washington State coach Mike Leach suggested before the game that his quarterback would return for the 2017 season, but Falk was annoyed by questions about his NFL future after being held to a meager 5.2 yards per attempt and 8.8 yards per completion in a loss to Minnesota.
In terms of college production, Falk has little to prove at the college level, but he may benefit physically from another year. For instance, he appeared to have more velocity behind his throws this season than last, but much like fellow Air Raid product Jared Goff, Falk's zip is inconsistent, and his placement suffers the more oomph he tries to put on the ball. Just 30 of Falk's total pass attempts - fewer than 5% - resulted in a completion of 25 yards or more, and he converted just 30% of first downs on third-and-seven or longer (32/60 passing with 18 first downs). If Leach is correct, and Falk is returning to school, it's probably a wise decision, as I wouldn't expect him to be drafted before the late third-early fourth round at this point
4. Jeremy McNichols RB Boise State
Bowl Game: 19 ATT 46 YDS rushing, 5 REC 24 YDS receiving
2016: 1709 YDS 5.4 AVG 23 TD rushing, 37 REC 474 YDS 12.8 AVG 4 TD rushing
Like Hill, McNichols is another early entry, volume-producing, Mountain West runner who underwhelmed this week. Against Baylor, McNichols' rocked-up physique was the only impressive thing about his game, and though I promise to give him another chance, this first impression wasn't favorable at all.
5. Myles Garrett DE Texas A&
Bowl Game: 1 TKL (0 solo) 1 BLK PAT
2016: 32 TKL (18 solo) 15 TFL 8.5 SCK 2 FF 1 PBU
Kansas State game-planned around Garrett for most of the night, running away from his side and assigning help to his primary blockers. But Garrett was blocked one-on-one plenty of times, notably by the Wildcats' redshirt freshman left tackle. On an early TD run by QB Jesse Ertz, Garrett was driven to the inside and taken out of the play. I'm still not sure he's fully recovered from an early-season ankle injury, while other analysts are wondering if he was playing "not to get hurt." Regardless, it was a so-so game and a down season overall for a player many draftniks have suggested is the unquestioned number one overall player in this class. Of course, that hasn't stopped Garrett's diehard fans from writing fan fiction about their hero:
Myles Garrett got doubled team and pushed both lineman over.. pic.twitter.com/DoSDM1ZiTU— Down With Damon (@DownWithDamon) December 29, 2016
Yes, way to make those guys all collide and trip over each other. There are better ways to tout a player. Just sayin'.