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The players skipping bowl games for the NFL draft

December 04,2018 04:15

Once considered the potential No. 1 pick in April's draft, Oliver has slipped a bit because of an injury-riddled junior season. During his three years with the Cougars, Oliver registered 193 total tackles, including 54 for loss and 13.5 sacks, in 33 ...

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The list of players skipping their college football bowl games to start preparing for the NFL draft is growing by the day. Here's a look at who already have their sights set on the next level:
Noah Fant, TE, IowaBowl game: Outback BowlNFL draft outlook: Mel Kiper's No. 1 tight endFant caught 39 passes for 519 yards and seven touchdowns this season, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from league coaches. A year ago, Fant set an Iowa tight end record with 11 touchdown catches, leading the FBS at the position.
They said it: "We are disappointed Noah will not be finishing the season with his teammates," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. "He is a tremendous athlete and we wish him the best as he pursues his goal of playing in the NFL."
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesRashan Gary, DT, MichiganBowl game: Chick-fil-A Peach BowlDraft outlook: Kiper's No. 9 player; Todd McShay's No. 5 playerThe former No. 1 overall recruit in the country totaled 10.5 career sacks as a focal point for one of the country's best defenses during what always seemed destined to be a three-year stay in Ann Arbor. Kiper has raised concerns about Gary's consistency and he played in only nine games this past season because of a shoulder injury.
They said it: "I would like to thank my higher power, my family, the University of Michigan, the students and the fans, but I will be forgoing my senior season to make a dream come true to declare for the draft," Gary said in a statement.

Alabama havoc-creator Quinnen Williams leaps up Todd McShay's updated ranking of the top prospects for April's NFL draft.

Ohio State's quarterback enters the top 25 of Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest ranking of the top prospects for next year's draft.

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Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC StateBowl game: TaxSlayer Gator BowlDraft outlook: Considered a potential first- or second-round choice Harmon caught 177 passes for 2,665 yards in his career, and his 1,186 yards receiving this year marked the fourth-best single-season total in program history. He joined Torry Holt (1997-98) and Jerricho Cotchery (2002-03) as the only receivers in school history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
They said it: "I have prayed and discussed the path forward with my family and we have decided that it is time for me to proceed to the next chapter in my football life," Harmon said in a statement.
N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona StateBowl game: Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas BowlDraft outlook: Kiper's No. 2 WR; McShay's No. 31 overall playerHarry had 73 catches for 1,088 yards and 9 touchdowns this past season, and NFL scouts love his elite size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and strong hands. He is ranked third in ASU history in career receptions (213) and receiving yards (2,889) and fifth in career touchdown catches (22).
They said it: "N'Keal is N'Keal. He's one of those guys who you have to find ways to get him the ball," ASU coach Herm Edwards said. "I felt like [offensive coordinator] Rob Likens did a great job of moving him around, whether it was moving him inside or outside. In the big moments, he came up with big plays. You need a play and he makes one that ignites the team. He catches it in moments of big games and when the momentum needed to be switched, he made those plays. That's the kind of guy he is."
Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma StateBowl game: AutoZone Liberty BowlDraft outlook: Not rankedOne of the faster running backs in the FBS, Hill was named All-Big 12 after running for 930 yards with nine touchdowns, despite battling injuries late in the season. Because of concerns about his size (5-10, 190 pounds) and durability, he's considered a potential second- or third-round selection.
They said it: "I'm concerned about him toting the rock 30 times a game," Pokes coach Mike Gundy said earlier this year. "It's a lot of wear and tear on him. Those guys take more direct shots than any other position."
Tim Warner/Getty ImagesEd Oliver, DT, HoustonBowl game: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces BowlDraft outlook: Kiper's No. 8 player; McShay's No. 2 playerOnce considered the potential No. 1 pick in April's draft, Oliver has slipped a bit because of an injury-riddled junior season. During his three years with the Cougars, Oliver registered 193 total tackles, including 54 for loss and 13.5 sacks, in 33 career games. He also defended 14 passes, forced six fumbles, recovered a fumbled and blocked a kick.
They said it: "It really gets to me," Oliver said. "There's only one thing that really motivates me more than anything about football, [and] that's being number one. ... So that's the only thing that really just drives me, is you say somebody is better than me, I know, in my heart, I don't think anybody is better than me. So that will really drive me until I convince you that I'm the best; that's really what drives me."
Deebo Samuel, WR, South CarolinaBowl game: Belk BowlDraft outlook: Potential second- or third-round pick Samuel led the Gamecocks with 62 catches for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns this season after his 2017 season was cut short due to a season-ending broken leg in the third game. He finishes his career with a school-record four kickoff returns for touchdowns, which also is tied for the SEC record.
They said it: "As much as I would love to suit up one last time for the Gamecocks, having those extra weeks to better prepare for the NFL will be crucial," Samuel wrote on Instagram.
Greedy Williams, CB, LSUBowl game: PlayStation Fiesta BowlDraft outlook: Kiper's No. 5 player; McShay's No. 3 playerKiper calls the third-year sophomore the "best lockdown corner in this class." He is LSU's active career leader in interceptions (eight) and pass breakups (20) and a finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the FBS.
They said it: LSU coach Ed Orgeron seemed surprised by Williams' announcement. "If that's what he wants to do, we wish him and his family the best," Orgeron said. "I didn't know it was posted yet. We did have a meeting. We were going to have a final meeting, but if that's what him and his family want. ... He's a tremendous young man, him and his family."
Larry Williams, G, Oklahoma StateBowl game: AutoZone Liberty BowlDraft outlook: Not rankedWilliams, who started his career at East Carolina and spent time at a junior college, was hampered by injuries in his first two seasons with the Cowboys. He was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA to return this season and started 12 games.

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