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NFL Draft Watch Fiesta Bowl

2021 NFL Draft Watch: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

As a part of Expand The Boxscore’s NFL Draft coverage, we will be highlighting the draft prospects from each school for every bowl game. The players featured below will also be included in our NFL Draft Guide, which is set to release shortly after the combine. In today’s column, we will be taking a look at the Play Station Fiesta Bowl featuring the Oregon Ducks and Iowa State Cyclones.

#25 Oregon vs #10 Iowa State

Oregon has already made history this season by becoming the first team to win their conference without winning their division. Washington technically won the Pac-12 North but a COVID-19 outbreak at UW put the Ducks in the championship game. Granted, said outbreak prevented the rivals from playing each other so Oregon easily could have been in this spot regardless of the unusual circumstances.

As for the NFL Draft, there is a solid crop of prospects coming out of Eugene this year.

C.J. Verdell hopes to become the next Oregon running back to hear his name called in late April, and his vision, footwork and instincts will likely make that a reality. However, he is not very elusive in the open field and struggles in pass protection. Verdell currently projects as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Verdell missed the Pac-12 Championship with an undisclosed injury and his status for today’s contest is unknown at this time.

Defensively, the Ducks have defensive tackle Jordon Scott. He has very impressive strength to hold his ground and get off blocks against the run but offers little to nothing as a pass rusher. With that, Scott will likely be seventh rounder or priority free agent.

Cornerback Deommondore Lenoir is reportedly undecided about his future, but if he does declare for the draft, he will likely be a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Lenoir has the change of direction skills and play-making ability to play man coverage competently on Sundays. He does need to get some more reps in press coverage and show some better instincts, but the framework is there for him to be an effective corner.

Offensive tackle Penei Sewell, cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. and safeties Jevon Holland and Brady Breeze are all “higher profile” Ducks, but all have opted out for the season.

Iowa State is looking to cap off its best season in school history. The Cyclones sit at 8-3 and made the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time, and a lot of their success is due to the players listed below.

ISU quarterback Brock Purdy gained some notoriety in the NFL Draft community this offseason primarily because of his ability to navigate the pocket and extend plays. The downside of those traits is he does tend to leave the pocket early and does not have the accuracy when throwing on the run to compliment his scrambling ability.

Unless things change between now and April, Purdy will likely be a mid to late Day 3 pick.

One of Purdy’s top targets is tight end Charlie Kolar. As a true hybrid player, Kolar is a solid run-blocker and crafty receiver with reliable hands who can fit into any offense at the next level. He certainly will not be the most athletic tight end in this year’s draft class, but with his scheme versatility it will be a surprise if he slides past the fourth round.

Switching to the other side of the ball, safety Greg Eisworth II is a physical run defender who makes a major impact on the first and second levels. However, he does lack the range to play the single-high safety role and will likely be pigeon-holed as a strong safety and special teamer at the next level. Expect Eisworth to be a fourth or fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft.

JaQuan Bailey lines up at defensive end for the Cyclones and became the program’s all-time leader in sacks this season. Despite that impressive feat, Bailey does not have a lot of traits as a pass rusher that will translate to the NFL like quickness and bend, and he may be better suited sliding inside.

He does have good play strength and can be an effective run defender, but he will need to test well to climb out of the seventh round to priority free agent category.