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2019 NFL Draft: Which prospects helped themselves during Bowl Week?

These prospects were smart in choosing not to sit out College Bowl Week

The talk of College Football’s Bowl Week recently has been how prospects have been choosing to skip it entirely. Prospects are choosing not to risk injury in a what could be seen as a “meaningless” game. While that mentality makes sense, those players that decide to skip bowl games miss out on a final chance to impress scouts, against premier competition no less. NFL scouts appreciate being able to evaluate players go against elite playmakers on the other side of the ball and excel. That is exactly what these six prospects mentioned below managed to do in their bowl games.

RB Darrin Hall (Pittsburgh)

Hall’s performance against Stanford in the Sun Bowl reminded the nation that while teammate Qadree Ollison is more well-known, Hall may end up being the better prospect at running back. Ollison left the game early, which gave Hall a chance to shine. The senior ran for 123 yards on only 16 carries, displaying acceleration, decisiveness and toughness along the way. Though Pittsburgh didn’t come away with a win, Hall will be able to carry this positive performance with him into the East-West Shrine Game.

QB Drew Lock (Missouri)

The Liberty Bowl turned out to be a track meet, and while Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius came away victorious, he was thoroughly outplayed by Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Throwing from a variety of platforms, Lock was nonetheless on target all night, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns and a completion percentage of 60 percent. The only thing Lock couldn’t do was run for a first down on the final play of the game, getting tackled a yard short on a zone-read keeper.

S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida)

The junior defensive back recently declared for the draft and after a two-interception Peach Bowl, you can see why. A type of hybrid defender in the secondary, Gardner-Johnson’s first interception was a textbook example of being able to read the eyes of the quarterback and having the length and leaping ability to come down with the ball. That play turned the game completely in Florida’s favor. His second interception was returned for a touchdown and a case of being Johnny-on-the-spot off of a tipped pass.

CB Lonnie Johnson (Kentucky)

Other than a few drives towards the end of the game, the Wildcats pretty much shut down the Penn State passing offense in the Citrus Bowl. Johnson’s play on the outside was a big reason why. He smothered Nittany Lions receiver Juwan Johnson and his interception late in the third quarter was an example of the benefit in employing a 6’3” cornerback. Johnson’s draft stock will rise like a rocket if he can carry this performance into the Senior Bowl.

WR Hakeem Butler (Iowa State)

Butler’s performance in the Alamo Bowl was a fitting microcosm of how utterly dominant the junior has been this season. Butler came down with nine passes for an insane 192 yards. While those numbers are justifiably impressive, what was even better was how the junior accumulated those yards. He wasn’t just using his 6’6” frame to out-muscle defenders—he was working the middle of the field with crossing routes, catching short passes and creating yards after the catch and even shaking loose from press coverage. There’s always been worry that Butler is just another big, slow receiver, but this game really proved that there’s a bit more to his game than his size.

DE Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech)

Ferguson was an all-around relentless game wrecker against Hawaii. His speed and length proved to be too much for the Rainbow Warriors, who couldn’t keep him from accumulating two-and-a-half sacks and two-and-a-half tackles-for-loss. Most impressive of all, thanks to the Hawaii Bowl, the senior was able to break the single-season Division I sack record—a record held by former Arizona State Sun Devil Terrell Suggs for sixteen years.