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NFL Draft Watch Citrus Bowl

2021 NFL Draft Watch: VRBO Citrus 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 VRBO Citrus Bowl, featuring the Auburn Tigers and Northwestern Wildcats.

Auburn vs #14 Northwestern

The post-Gus Malzahn era officially begins tonight for Auburn. Unfortunately, interim head coach Kevin Steele will be without a few key players as wide receiver Anthony Schwartz and safety Jamien Sherwood have declared for the NFL Draft and will be skipping the bowl game.

Linebacker KJ Britt also announced his intentions to leave school, but he had thumb surgery a couple of months ago and likely would not have played tonight, anyway.

Nonetheless, the Tigers do have a couple of prospects who will be suiting up tonight in wide receiver Seth Williams and edge defender Big Kat Bryant.

Williams is a crafty route runner who thrives in the intermediate to deep areas of the field. The problem is, he struggles to adjust to balls behind him and shows limited ability to make plays after the catch. On draft day, the wideout should expect to hear his name called on Day 2.

As for Big Kat Bryant, not only is he in the running for best name in college football, but he is also an edge defender who can win with speed and has a high motor as a pass rusher. He can fit into a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker or as a 4-3 defensive end, which should help elevate his draft stock. Currently, Bryant projects as a third- to fifth-rounder.

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has built a strong program in Evanston. Since he took over in 2006, they have had three ten-win seasons, and have played in the Big Ten Championship game twice in the last three years. That is an impressive feat considering recruiting is very difficult at a highly academic university like Northwestern.

Despite that challenge, the Wildcats have four NFL prospects in this year’s class. However, two of them – offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and cornerback Greg Newsome II – will not be in action tonight.

The good news is four-year starter and defensive captain Paddy Fisher will be suiting up. Fisher is a physical linebacker who can make plays against the run. However, he lacks the athletic ability to be reliable in man coverage, which is holding back his draft stock as a potential fifth- or sixth-rounder.

Safety JR Pace has some impressive ball skills, as evidenced by his eight career interceptions and 15 pass breakups. The problem is athletically and physically he does not really stack up to NFL-level competition, putting Pace in the priority free agent category.