Who Caught My Eye Bowl Edition 3.0

January 13, 2019

JOE LOWERY #65 OT OHIO 6’7/305
Way back before Christmas, Frank Solich and his Ohio Bobcats won another game with a 24-0 whitewashing of San Diego State in the Frisco Bowl. Now that Bill Snyder has retired, SOLICH is the senior coach in D-1 football. He plays old-fashioned offense where run first/pass second is the style. One of his building blocks in recent seasons, has been his LT JOE LOWERY, who has started for the past 3 years. LOWERY may end up switching over to RT as a pro, but he should become an NFL starter in short order. He has worn the Captain’s C on his chest, and has been a rock-of-Gibraltar at Ohio. He should be a solid addition for some NFL team that still believes in a strong running game, ala Washington, Buffalo, Chicago, etc. He is more than adequate in pass-pro, as long as he doesn’t end up with too many match-ups against speed edge-rushers. He is reasonably mobile, but more-so long and strong. His wingspan and arm length will be critical numbers when measured by scouts. He does a solid job firing out, to get second level blocks carried out. I am not quite ready to claim he’s a Top 3 Round candidate, but he should go early on Day 3, likely the Round 4/5 range. LOWERY is scheduled to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Yes, I promise you that I had MULLEN’s name on this list, even before he actually declared for inclusion in the 2019 Draft. How could I not, after watching him excel in the beatdown of Alabama, helping to land the Tigers a national championship. The long, athletic Corner had himself a game to remember. Quite often, I watch college games, and between zone schemes and deep cushion alignments, the DB’s are seldom even on the screen. But this multi-skilled player is NFL ready, IMO, and he did much of his damage early in the game, when the outcome was still in doubt. On the evening, he recorded 6 tackles, including a TFL, and a Sack. He also had a nicely timed 1st Quarter INT, which he returned for 46 yards. His combination of cover skills and tackling ability should make him one of the first DB’s taken come April, if not the first. For the season, in a very talented Clemson secondary, MULLEN had 36 tackles, 30 of them solo, with 2 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT and 3 PD. He can do it all, and I would expect some DB needy team to select him in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.

I had done a thumbnail, a while ago, on the other NELSON, DL for the Hawkeyes. My gut, combined with past history, made me feel the underclassman NELSON would return to school for his senior year. Fooled me again, ’cause here he comes for the 2019 NFL Draft. Anthony is the more athletic, active of the two Nelsons at Iowa. His length is, of course, one of his major assets. I think we will all be impressed with his arm length and wingspan when he is measured at the Combine. He has been a productive player all 3 seasons at Iowa. He had a very solid day harassing the opposing QB in the pocket during their Bowl Game. He recorded 4 tackles, 3 of them solo, while recording 2.5 TFL and a QBH. Keep in mind, that DL was one of Iowa’s deepest, and most talented, position groups last season. He also plays with a high FBI, and anticipates action very well. His best fit might end up being a 3-4 DE as a pro. In fact, he reminds me a bit of a very productive and long pair of 3-4 DE’s who played for the STEELERS last decade, named AARON SMITH and BRETT KEISEL. For the 2018 season, ANTHONY recorded 45 tackles, including 9.5 Sacks. I believe that he has 2nd Round talent and appeal. Another 10 lbs. on his frame should be possible, and assuming mostly muscle, it should not slow him down any.

2018 was a banner year for P/K/LS’s to join the NFL. The 2019 class of specialists, to be scrutinized by NFL scouts, does not look as promising, but there are some candidates with some potential to play at the highest level, and multiple teams are always in need of young blood to boot the ball around. NEWSOME has been handling punting chores for the Fighting Irish full-time, for the past 3 years. He’s a long one with a nice basic kicking routine. He has an acceptable time for getting off his punts, and has had few blocks. His hang time is average, and he does show the ability to place the ball inside the 20 on a regular basis, averaging about 30% of his punts being downed inside the opponents 20-yard line. Other than one shanked punt in 8 attempts, in their Bowl loss to Clemson, he helped the Irish maintain decent field position most of the game. He still averaged a gross of 45.9 for the game, including a 61-yard longest kick. On the season, he punted 53 times for a gross of 44.7 ypp. Not even sure that he will get drafted, but he should end up in the Training Camp of an NFL team that’s looking for some punting competition. NEWSOME is listed on the roster for the NFLPA game.

It was another up and down season for the Owls, who had QB issues to sort out early in the 2018 season, but their Defense came on strong to pick up the slack, and the team was 8-4 heading into their Bowl Game with Duke. Temple held the edge in play for the first half, and then Duke took them apart in the second half to win 56-27. RANDALL had a fine showing in that loss. He recorded 7 tackles, all solo, including 2 TFL, as well as an early INT on a play where he read the QB’s eyes, and jumped a short throw for the Pick. It ended up being a 52-yard pick-six. RANDALL is almost a perfect fit for today’s NFL, where defenses are looking for players to handle the Nickel-LB role, with it’s coverage requirements. For the 2018 season, RANDALL had 85 tackles, 2 FF’s, 4 INT’s, and 6 PD. Those numbers reflect what teams want, and that he can do. In time, I could see RANDALL play SS on early downs, then drop down to that Nickel-LB spot on passing downs. He is scheduled to play in the Shrine venue this week. A good showing there, and a solid Combine, could put him into the Top 100 list, with a chance at a 3rd Round selection in April.

There may not have been a player I felt sorrier for during Bowl season than Mr. Sills. When his teammate, QB/WILL GRIER, decided to skip his team’s Bowl game and head for his Performance Camp NFL prep work, SILLS was the guy who paid most dearly for having a back-up Soph QB running the Mountaineers Offense. ALLISON, that inexperienced collegian, was hesitant to target SILLS, in part because SILLS is often not wide open. GRIER would have lobbed or back shoulder throws, knowing that SILLS length and leaping ability would allow him to win 50/50 throws. Accordingly SILLS felt he was in good position on multiple occasions, but JACK ALLISON the new QB looked elsewhere, or ate the pigskin. So the team’s top receiver, who had recorded 33 TD catches in the last two seasons, was targeted only 9 times, and caught 4 balls for 90 yards. With Grier at QB, SILLS would likely have eaten up the very average Syracuse secondary. This is an example of how players sitting out games, can really hurt their college teammates in the process. For the 2018 season, SILLS caught 65 passes for 986 yards and 15 TD’s. His length, smooth strides, and acceleration speed, remind me a lot of a pretty fair receiver in his day, named CRIS COLLINSWORTH. If he can impress a bit at the Combine, I would expect SILLS to be an early Day 3 draftee. SILLS could be catching passes again from his former teammate WILL GRIER at the Senior Bowl.

I caught Syracuse in their season opener @ Western Michigan, and despite their 55-42 Win, I thought they looked pretty mediocre, and headed for another possible losing season. Silly me, again. I did watch SLAYTON carefully in that contest, and thought he looked lethargic and ineffective for the most part, so I wrote him off as just another guy. When they beat NC State in late October, I perked up on them. I actually watched them live as they recorded their 10th Win over WVU in the Camping World Bowl, and SLAYTON looked like a totally different player than the guy I saw early in the season. He looked more active, and showed good energy. His activity translated to a 6 tackle, 4 of them solo, performance, which is quite good for a guy playing primarily on the Nose. For the season, he recorded 24 tackles, 16 solo, 3.5 Sacks, and 1 FF. Quite frankly, he also looks bigger than his listed weight, and has that very wide base, (fat ass), to anchor with, against the run up the middle. He might have a chance to be selected late in the Draft, for a team with a serious need for interior DL depth. Watch for SLAYTON at the Shrine venue.

Pure and simply, I want to see what kind of speed and quickness numbers that SLAYTON puts up at the Combine. He looks and plays like a deep threat speedster, but his productivity at Auburn has been disappointing for much of his career. Granted, when things are going well, HC MALZAHN likes to run first, pass later, but I still expected bigger numbers from Slayton, given his size and purported speed. In the Bowl blowout of Purdue, he was targeted 6 times, and had 3 catches for 160 yards, including 3 TD’s and a long catch/run for 74 yards. That’s the explosiveness that will attract NFL teams. For the 2018 season, he caught 35 balls for 670 yards,19.1 ypc, and 5 TD’s. His size and speed just don’t seem to translate in his final stats. Teams will have to discern how much of a contributing factor the Auburn Offense was, to his relatively low productivity. Only then, can his draft position be determined. However, I believe the potential here, far outweighs his production down on the plains. This player could break into the Top 100 for the 2019 Draft, in my eyes.

It has never really been a question of talent, for the nice sized receiver with good/strong hands and nice pattern running work. It has been a challenge to keep him on the field for a full 12 game schedule. He was first team All-MAC, back in 2016, when good health allowed him to catch 64 passes. He has also stood out as a guy to count on in the Red Zone. He caught 48 balls in 2018, including 10 TD catches, bringing him to 30 career TD receptions. He also shows good vertical and nice footwork, to stay in bounds on the catch. In the Bahama Bowl, THOMPSON had 5 receptions for 55 yards. His best play in that game, you should be able to find on YouTube. It’s his back of the end zone, leaping, good foot placement, 2-point conversion catch. He might make a very solid No.3/4 wideout in the NFL. I think he gets drafted in the middle rounds, if his medicals check out OK. He is scheduled to attend Shrine Game activities this week.

That’s it for the Bowl Game editions of WCME. Heading over to the Shrine venue this week, then on to the Senior Bowl next week.


Pigskin Paul

Thanks once again to our own in-house detail, research and proof man LP for his help with making this article more presentable for your perusal.