Bowl season isn’t just for college football fans who can’t get enough of watching marathon games. NFL fans can also get a good look at some future pro stars playing their final games for shows.
The 2021 college playoff game streak offers some intrigue, starting with a busy opening bowl weekend. Here are the best prospects to watch throughout the action, including two quarterbacks ranked in the top 100 on Sporting News’ great updated 2022 NFL Draft dashboard:
MORE: SN’s Latest NFL 2022 First Round Mock Draft
Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo (Friday, noon ET, ESPN)
Reed Blankenship, S, Middle Tennessee (6-1, 204 pounds)
Blankenship probably would have been a last-round pick in 2021. He is a robust, active defender with good natural toughness and leadership skills. He makes too many plays with solid fundamentals especially not to see himself as a valuable swing endorsement in the NFL.
Cure Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina (Friday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina (6-4, 240 pounds)
He probably had a great season on the Chanticleers offense, catching 52 passes for 816 yards and 10 TDs. He’s gaining traction as a Day 3 strong trip because he’s a versatile receiver that can shine running the entire road tree, but is also comfortable working online.
Jeffrey Gunter, EDGE, Carolina Coast (6-4, 260 pounds)
Gunter is working to gain consideration in the final round as a dynamic situational pass rusher. He has 5.5 sacks in the matchup. Like Likely, its appeal is the ability to line up in multiple positions with a variety of movements.
Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Apalachian State (Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky (6-1, 220 ponds)
Zappe had a prolific first season with the Hilltoppers jumping into FBS competition. It keeps doing its best to rewrite great pass-through records for volume, precision, and quick release in an “Air Raid” -like system. He will seek to draw more attention for his precision and arm to sneak into consideration on Day 3.
Celebration Bowl: South Carolina State vs. Jackson State (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
Shedeur Sanders, QB, Jackson State (6-2, 215 pounds)
There are a lot of college and NFL rumors for a notable nephew, Arch Manning. But that’s fast forward to Deion Sanders’ son, also the frontman of his impressive HBCU show. Sanders is a first-year sensation, so he’s ineligible for the draft in 2022, but award-winner Jerry Rice is fun to watch, and he’s headed for big things like a potential high-draft pick just around the corner. .
New Mexico Bowl: UTEP vs. Fresno State (Saturday 2:15 pm ET, ESPN)
Ronnie Rivers, RB, Fresno State (5-9, 195 pounds)
Rivers is a smaller, more elusive running back and a good pass catcher, making him ideal for a third-down, change-of-pace role in the NFL to be effective on a committee with a larger power back.
Jalen Cropper, WR, Fresno State (6-0, 173)
Cropper has been an exceptional possession receiver for the Bulldogs with great hands, road runs and work in the red zone, with 11 TDs on his 76 catches. He can ascend further into Day 2 consideration by better showing off his underrated speed on the field.
Independence Bowl: UAB vs. BYU (Saturday 3:30 pm ET, ABC)
Gerrit Prince, TE, UAB (6-5, 240 pounds)
Prince is an advantageous last-round prospect due to his big playstyle and some hybrid wide receiver appeal.
Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU (5-11, 220 pounds)
Allgeier is receiving mid-round consideration for his powerful compact run, but he also has the versatility to stay on the field in passing situations.
LendingTree Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (Saturday 5:45 p.m. ET ESPN)
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
Willis racked up a few errors with his great passing and running stats for the Flames, but the physical abilities of a strong arm and dazzling athleticism continue to display pleasant flashes for the pros. He’s a first-round player, but he has a wide range of results from best off-the-board QB to fifth.
Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: Utah State vs. Oregon State (Saturday 7:30 pm ET, ABC)
Deven Thompkins, WR, Utah State (5-8, 155 pounds)
Thompkins is coming off a prolific regular season with 96 receptions, 1,589 yards and 9 TDs. He will try to get more attention as a versatile diminutive heartthrob in prime time.
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana vs. Marshall (Saturday, 9:15 p.m. ET ESPN)
Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana (6-6, 297 pounds)
Mitchell is an exceptional athlete who uses his footwork well to excel at pass protection. The rising Ragin ‘Cajun will participate in the Senior Bowl and its practices to help jump-start their actions. He has a good work ethic and dedication and should keep improving in every aspect.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.