We are winding down the bowl season with the College Football Playoff championship game next week. Not only are college football team seasons are ending, but player's college careers are ending too. Some are hoping their play in their bowl game gave notice to NFL talent evaluators that could move them up the draft board and potentially, their future earnings.
So who are a couple of players that have stepped up during bowl season?
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook has already declared for the draft and why wouldn't he? He went off in the Orange Bowl against a really good Michigan defense. He's soared to possibly being the top running back off the board and a top ten pick.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Anything Western Michigan did in the Cotton Bowl was to prove that this MAC school that didn't really beat a ranked team this season. Davis is one of the best receivers in the nation and was going against one of the better defenses. He performed well, catching 6 passes for 73 yards and a TD. Now that may not blow your mind, but for a guy that scouts wanted to see perform against high-end talent this was a huge mark for him possibly being the top receiver taken in the draft.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
Dobbs has the talent but could he put it all together? He sure looked the part in the Vols' 38-24 win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl. Dobbs threw the ball well (23-of-38, 291 yds, TD) but also used his legs extremely well – rushing for 118 yards and three more touchdowns. Scouts love to see his passing stats a bit more than those stellar rushing numbers. In a rather light quarterback class, Dobbs will most likely be drafted in Day 3 but could have a shot to compete for a backup job with the right team.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
I've been all about Pumphrey all season long. He may be small, but setting the all-time FBS rushing record is impressive. In the Las Vegas Bowl, he set the record when he tallied 115 yards. He'll be in the Darren Sproles mold of a change-of-pace back that can create big plays for the offense. While his performance in Las Vegas may have not been a wow-worthy event, he finally got to show what he could do on a national stage against a big-name opponent.
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Jackson is projected to be a mid-round pick but he really stood out in the Pinstripe Bowl. All he did was carry the ball 32 times for 224 yards and three touchdowns against a Pitt team that had beaten both Penn State and Clemson earlier this year. Right now, Jackson is saying he'll return for his senior season at Northwestern but after putting up over 1,500 yards rushing this season there are some in his ear about making the jump. Even if he doesn't do so this year, he's opened the NFL's eyes.
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Thomas was all over the field for the Cardinal in their Sun Bowl win over North Carolina – including sacking North Carolina's quarterback Mitch Trubisky (possibly the first QB taken in the 2017 draft) on a would-be-game-tying two point conversion attempt. He's a guy that can rush from the edge or inside and has speed and the flexibility to move around a defense and do many different things. His domination against a high-octane Tar Heels offense was impressive.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Williams rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown against Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl. He's not going to be an high round pick, but can be someone who sticks in the NFL. He runs hard, breaks tackles and has a nose for the end zone. He's had some injury and off-field issues with underaged drinking but on the field he showed that he has an NFL body and NFL talent in San Diego.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
It isn't really anything Howard did in Bama's win over Washington in the Peach Bowl as much as it was Michigan's Jake Butt tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl. Howard and Butt were easily to top tight end prospects and with Butt's stock sliding with that tough injury, Howard may be more in demand and could start some teams trading up to get him.