The first 4 of 35 college bowl games kick off today. From now until they conclude with the National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn on February 6th, you can find a college bowl game on your TV on all but 3 days (Christmas, and two NFL Sundays). That is a lot of football over the next 2+ weeks.
With the disclaimer that yes, the Eagles' season is still very much alive and kicking, here are some players to watch in the first 6 bowl games if you happen to find yourself taking in some college football this holiday season.
• Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: Bucannon has 14 career INTs (5 in 2013) at Washington State, 3 of which came against Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks (2 in 2012, 1 in 2011). In addition to having good ball skills, Bucannon has good size (6'1, 215), and likes to hit. The Eagles drafted 3 Pac-12 players last season (Zach Ertz, Matt Barkley, and Jordan Poyer), and Kelly will absolutely be familiar with Bucannon. The Eagles' need for better safeties is rather obvious.
• Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: Richburg is one of the top center prospects in the country, and he earned an invite to the Senior Bowl. Richburg has very good athleticism and could be a good fit for Chip Kelly's system, although center isn't a big need with the talented and young Jason Kelce having the center position on lockdown for the foreseeable future. Here's the blurb on Richburg on the Senior Bowl website:
Has started all 49 games in his four years in Fort Collins and anchored an offensive line that has helped the Rams to the second-most productive offensive performance in school history (447.2 yards/game). In 2013, has graded above 90 percent in every game and leads offensive line with 42 knockdown blocks.
• Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State: At 6'6, 255, Gillmore has great size. He also had at least 1 reception of 20+ yards in 7 of Colorado State's 13 games this season. The Eagles might break a record this season for the most plays of 20+ yards since the league started tracking that in 1991. Gillmore could fit right in, depending on the futures of Brent Celek and James Casey, although TE is probably a low-priority position this year.
• Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Carr has a major league arm, and he put up big-time numbers at Fresno State:
That would be 111 TDs and 23 INTs over his college career. In 2013, Carr threw for 10 more TDs and 463 more yards than any QB in the country. Carr will be thoroughly evaluated at the Senior Bowl week of practices, and a good performance there could vault him into the top 10.
• Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: Adams' numbers are a little out of whack because of Fresno State's pass-heavy offense. As you can see above, Carr has attempted 605 passes this season, the 2nd most in the country. Still, Adams is only a redshirt sophomore, and his numbers are ridiculous. In just 24 collegiate games, Adams has 37 TD catches:
In the last 3 games, Adams has 31 catches for 678 yards, and 8 TDs.
• Derron Smith, S, Fresno State: Smith had 6 INTs in each of the last 2 seasons. He also added 4 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2013. Smith does a good job attacking downhill in the run game and timing out blitzes. Once again, the Eagles' need for safety help is obvious.
• Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State: Jensen is huge, at 6'6, 270. He'll compete at the East-West Shrine Game.
• Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Lee put up huge numbers his freshman and sophomore years, but as a junior he played injured and his production fell off a cliff. Prior to the season, Lee and Clemson's Sammy Watkins looked like they would be battling it out to be the first receiver taken in the draft. Lee may have fallen behind Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans, and possibly Davante Adams. He could wind up being a tremendous value to whoever takes him. Lee is quick, fast, gets yards after the catch, and there's a fairly decent chance he'll be on the board when the Eagles are picking in the first round. The Eagles could be tempted. This is absolutely a player to keep an eye on.
• Morgan Breslin, DE, USC: Breslin won't play, but he's worth a quick mention. He had 4.5 sacks in 5 games this season, and his 13 sacks last season were tied for 3rd in the country. Breslin has a nice repertoire of pass rush moves, including an outstanding inside spin.
• Dion Bailey, S, USC: Bailey is a versatile player that the Eagles seem to favor. He played both as an undersized LB and S at USC. In the last 2 seasons, he had 9 INTs. The appeal with Bailey is that USC loved using him to cover slot receivers. If the Eagles want to stay in their base defense and let safeties play the slot on occasion, Bailey would be an immediate upgrade over Patrick Chung in that regard. Bailey is savvy cover guy in the slot. He does a good job disguising man coverage, then coming off his receiver and surprising the QB by jumping into passing lanes. Asante Samuel made a career of doing that.
• Devon Kennard, OLB, USC: Kennard has decent size at 6'3, 255, and he led the Trojans in sacks, with 9. The Eagles showed that they were targeting high character players during the last draft, and Kennard fits the bill. He was a captain at USC, and he accompanied Matt Barkley to help re-build homes in Haiti.
• Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Mack is one of my favorite players in the country. Mack is simply an incredible talent and an elite prospect, who would be an absolutely perfect fit for Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme. He can rush the passer, he does a tremendous job setting the edge against the run, and he has more than enough athleticism to cover.
However, because of Mack's potential be a star pass rusher in the NFL, he could be a very high pick. As long as NFL teams are comfortable with his mental makeup, I would be surprised if Mack didn't get drafted in the top 15 picks.
In the first week of the season, Buffalo played Ohio State, and Mack was clearly the best player on the field. Just watch (again, via DraftBreakdown.com):
Mack could be a star player in the NFL, and would fit the Eagles' biggest need on defense as an impact edge rusher. Unfortunately, he'll probably be out of reach.
• Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane: Grant's numbers were OK over the last two seasons, but certainly not among the elite prospects across the country.
Grant will have a chance to impress scouts at the Senior Bowl.
• Cairo Santos, K, Tulane: Alex Henery ran unopposed in training camp this past offseason. He will likely not be handed the job in 2014. Santos is considered to be one of the best kicker prospects in the country. I don't think the Eagles would use another draft pick on a kicker, but they could make the position a high priority in the undrafted free agent period after the draft.
• Derrell Johnson, OLB, East Carolina: Slim pickings in terms of pro prospects at the world renowned Beef 'O' Brady Bowl this year. Johnson is the best of the bunch, and should be a mid-late round pick, although he does fit one of the Eagles biggest needs. Johnson had 6.5 sacks for the Pirates in 2013. He had 7 in 2012.
• Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: Lawrence was tied for 10th in the country with 10.5 sacks with other standout pass rushers like Missouri's Michael Sam and Buffalo's Khalil Mack.
• Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Brandin Cooks is awesome. Cooks led the nation in receiving yardage, but just as impressively, look at his consistency. He didn't have a single down game all season:
The only knock on Cooks is something he can't control... his size, at 5'10, 186.
Jason Avant is a great locker room guy and chain mover, but the Eagles could really benefit from a slot receiver who can make plays after the catch. Cooks has the potential to great in that role at the next level, and would be good value in the 2nd round.
• Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: Crichton had a very productive career at Oregon State. While his sack numbers aren't eye-popping, his tackle for loss and forced fumble numbers are excellent:
Crichton lined up all over -- inside, outside, left, right -- along Oregon State's defensive line. He's more of penetrating 1 gap player than what the Eagles like their defensive linemen to do in their 2-gap base 3-4, but he's an intriguing prospect to watch nevertheless.
• Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State: Reynolds had 6 INTs as a senior, and will be competing at the East-West Shrine Game.
• Ryan Murphy, S, Oregon State: Big safety at 6'3, 211, late round prospect.