2017 NFL Draft: St Petersburg Bowl

BY Fansided and Mike Flannery/FanSided via Bear Goggles On • December 25, 2016

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

College football bowl season is officially underway. If you are like most NFL fans, you know some of the top NFL draft prospects but that is about it. As a Bears fan, I’ve been looking forward to the draft for a few months now, so I’ve gotten an early start on my scouting for the 2017 NFL draft.

Like last season, I will be breaking down the potential NFL players in most bowl games to give you an idea who to watch. I’ve tried to list at least one player on each team who has a shot at hearing their name called in the draft or at least getting a training camp invite.

If relevant, I’ll discuss how the player may fit on the Bears in 2017. So if you end up watching the St Petersburg Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.

St Petersburg Bowl: Miami (OH) vs Mississippi St

Monday, December 26, 11 a.m., ESPN

Miami (OH)

#91 DE JT Jones (6’3 | 263 | 4.76)

Productive pass rusher for the Redhawks who has 16.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. The 2nd team All-MAC player has been the Redhawks best weapon off the edge this year.

At the next level, Jones has the size, strength, and speed to play as either a down linemen in a 4-3 scheme or a stand-up edge rusher in a 3-4. He can beat blockers with both speed and power, but needs to prove that he can do it against top competition. The bowl matchup against an SEC team will be a good test for Jones as will the all-star game circuit.

Jones reminds me a little of Bears OLB Pernell McPhee. He has enough power to be an impact player against the run, but enough speed to be a pass-rushing force off the edge.

Jones is projected as an UDFA right now, but with a strong draft season could move into mid day three range. I think he’s underrated due to the fact that he plays in the MAC and could eventually develop into a weapon at the NFL level.

The Bears have had their best pass rush in over a decade this season, but teams can never have enough edge rushers. Jones needs to get stronger and fine-tune his technique, but has legitimate potential as a pass rush prospect.

Projection: 7th round-UDFA

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi St

#8 WR Fred Ross (6’2 | 207 | 4.48)

Two-time All-SEC wideout who was Dak Prescott’s main target in 2015 with 1,007 yards and five touchdowns. Despite the loss of Prescott and a run-first offense in 2016, Ross still put up solid numbers with 69 catches for 890 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns.

Ross doesn’t stand out in any specific category, but is a solid all-around prospect. He’s not a burner with a smooth gait that looks slow at times, but has a surprising extra gear that he uses to create separation in routes and the open field. His hands are reliable, but he uses his body to corral passes more than he should. Playing in a run-first scheme has also helped Ross develop into an above-average run blocker.

On paper Ross looks like a dime-a-dozen receiving prospect but with almost 2,000 yards over the last two seasons in the SEC, his production shouldn’t be discounted. He’s a sharp route-runner who understands how to get open against both zone and man coverage and can make something happen after the catch.

Ross isn’t a #1 WR prospect, but could be even more effective as a secondary or slot option after facing opposing team’s top cover guys for the last two seasons. With his size, ability to set up DBs, and make people miss after the catch, Ross reminds me of a more-polished Cameron Meredith.

The Bears will be looking to add receiving talent this year and if Ross is available on day three as projected by most sites, he could be a steal for the Bears.

Projection: 4th-5th  round

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

#97 DE Johnathan Calvin (6’3 | 263 | 4.80)

First-year starter who had a surprisingly effective season as a pass rusher for the Bulldogs. Calvin led the team with seven sacks, after just 1.5 in 2015 and also added 12 tackles for loss. He’s played a hybrid type role for the Bulldogs this season, moving between DE and OLB.

Calvin is more effective with his hand in the dirt and might lack the speed to be an OLB at the next level. His best attributes are his explosive first step and his power, but it was impressive that he could play in space this year despite having no prior experience in that role. With time Calvin may be verstaile enough to play as either a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB at the next level.

With only one year of tape for NFL teams to digest, Calvin will need a good post season to secure a day three draft selection. That could work in a team’s favor as Calvin’s power, versatility, and natural pass rush skills could be developed into something impactful and he won’t cost more than a late day three pick.

Projection: 7th round-UDFA

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