Led by junior quarterback Blake Bortles, AAC champion Central Florida will head to the Fiesta Bowl to take on Bryce Petty and Big 12 champion Baylor. Bortles has been on our radar since early September and after an excellent season, the hype train has caught up to him enough that he is being discussed as a potential top 10 pick if he enters the NFL Draft.
Petty is a good prospect in his own right, but has already announced he will return to school for his senior season after just one year as the starter in Waco. With the exception of Bortles the top NFL prospects in this game belong to the Bears, who can very well place three players in the top 100 in May.
(JR) Blake Bortles, QB, UCF (#5), 6’4, 230
There seems to be a consensus top 4 among quarterback prospects this year that includes Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel. I’m on record as saying Bortles should stay in school but with Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley returning to school among others, he may be wise to strike while the iron is hot if he can be a top 10 pick. Bortles has the arm to make every NFL throw and shows good accuracy on the move, even rolling to his left. His strength against the pass rush inside the pocket is reminiscent of Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger and Bortles certainly fits the physical prototype of an NFL quarterback. His mechanics are questionable at times which affects his accuracy and he needs to make better decisions against the blitz, but Bortles has the physical tools to be a good NFL starter as long as he takes to professional coaching.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor (#68), 6’5, 340
The top senior guard in our rankings in this year’s draft, Richardson plays with great leverage and comes out of his stance low to get movement in the running game. His size and strong hands allow him to push defenders around with what seems like minimal effort and he seals lanes effectively, as opposing linemen find it nearly impossible to get around him. Richardson fights well in pass protection and doesn’t lose ground to rushers, staying home on stunts while occasionally getting beat outside to the B gap. He has enough mobility to get to the second level but needs to work harder to finish blocks, as many of his plays end with him standing up. Richardson is our only guard with a first-round rating and the team that drafts him will be hoping for a Larry Warford-type impact.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor (#6), 6’0, 205
Our second-ranked senior safety, Dixon flies around the field making plays sideline to sideline and charges hard downhill in run support. The Bears’ third leading tackler, Dixon is comfortable in the box and often lines up over slot receivers in man coverage, playing tight coverage on short routes. His aggression can get the best of him sometimes against both play action and read option fakes and he doesn’t always take the most efficient angles to the ball, but Dixon shows good quickness to avoid getting squared up by blockers in the box. He’s used to blitzing off the edge as well and will be used in multiple ways by an imaginative NFL defensive coordinator.
(JR) Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (#25), 5’10, 210
Seastrunk remains undecided on his NFL future despite requesting an evaluation from the draft advisory board but as one of the top backs in a perceived weaker draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave Baylor considering the depth of the 2015 running back class. The comparisons to LeSean McCoy won’t stop at just the jersey number for Seastrunk, who is a shifty runner with impressive change of direction ability. His jump cuts are very reminiscent of McCoy and he sinks his very fluid hips well to stay balanced in and out of his cuts. Seastrunk’s burst and acceleration are impressive too but his lack of involvement in the passing game at Baylor (9 receptions last season, none this year) is worrisome for his pro prospects. He comes off the field on some passing downs and needs work as a blocker, two things that may give NFL teams pause when looking at him on Day 2 if he enters the draft.
Other Players to Watch
(JR) Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (#14), 6’3, 230
(SO) Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor (#2), 6’9, 275
Glasco Martin, RB, Baylor (#8), 6’0, 220
Jordan Najvar, TE, Baylor (#18), 6’6, 260
(JR) Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor (#5), 5’10, 225
(JR) Levi Norwood, WR, Baylor (#42), 6’1, 195
(JR) Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor (#44), 6’2, 235
Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor (#16), 5’11, 170
Chris McAllister, OLB, Baylor (#31), 6’3, 261
(JR) Storm Johnson, RB, UCF (#8), 6’0, 215
E.J. Dunston, DT, UCF (#95), 6’2, 302
Chris Martin, OT, UCF (#70), 6’5, 303
(JR) Brandon Alexander, S, UCF (#37), 6’2, 191
(JR) Clayton Geathers, S, UCF (#26), 6’2, 207