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Top NFL Draft prospects to watch in NCAA bowl games originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears have been eliminated from playoff contention for several weeks, so it’s time to turn our attention to the future. How will Justin Fields play over the final two games of the season? Will we get a good look at Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom on the edges of the offensive line? Who can come in to help fill roster holes next season?
If you want to get a head start on answering that last question, a great place to start is the slate college bowl games that run from the end of December through the new year. If you do tune in to the wide array of NCAA games, here’s a guide of players that could be on the Bears’ draft board, for you to check out:
CLEMSON VS. IOWA STATE - CHEEZ IT BOWL - DEC 29
Andrew Booth Jr., Tigers cornerback
Booth is an athletic and physical corner, who’s popped on highlight reels with splashy pass breakups and interceptions. He also might not be available in the second round. But if he falls to the Bears’ first pick of the draft they could take a look his way. Booth finished the year strong with three interceptions in Clemson’s final two games, and earned First Team All-ACC honors in 2021.
Greg Eisworth, Cyclones safety
Ever since Ryan Pace let Adrian Amos walk, the Bears have employed a series of veteran safeties on one-year deals to play beside Eddie Jackson. The plan has worked out fairly well, but if the team wants to get a young safety to grow into the position, they could look at Eisworth. He’s a strong tackler who can make plays in pass coverage as well, with at least one interception in all four years at Iowa State. He also earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
OKLAHOMA VS. OREGON - ALAMO BOWL - DEC. 29
Brian Asamoah, Sooners linebacker
Similarly to how the Bears have complemented Jackson, the team has fielded veterans beside Roquan in the middle of the defense. But if the team decides to draft another young linebacker, Asamoah could be an option. He showed the ability to shed tackles at get to the ball carrier in the backfield, while also having enough speed to go sideline to sideline to guard wide receivers in pass coverage. Asamoah also led the Sooners with 90 tackles in 2021.
T.J. Bass, Ducks offensive guard/tackle
As the Bears continue to build their offensive line of the future, they cannot have enough young pieces at Halas Hall. Bass is versatile, having played both left guard and left tackle in 2021. Over 20 games at Oregon, Bass has only surrendered two sacks and was named First Team All-Pac 12 in 2021.
WISCONSIN VS. ARIZONA STATE - LAS VEGAS BOWL - DEC. 30
Kellen Diesch, Sun Devils offensive tackle
This game could’ve featured a look at two promising offensive line prospects, but guard/center Dohnovan West will miss the Las Vegas Bowl with thumb surgery. Diesch was a key member of the Sun Devils line which helped block up one of the top run games in the country, however.
MICHIGAN VS. GEORGIA - ORANGE BOWL/CFP SEMIFINAL - DEC. 31
Daxton Hill/Brad Hawkins, Wolverines safeties
It’s unclear if Hill will play, after reports surfaced he didn’t travel with the team to Florida. Either way, it’s worth watching the backend of Michigan’s defense in the College Football semifinal. Hill has played both safety and nickel, just like Eddie Jackson at times for the Bears, and that versatility is incredibly valuable. Hawkins has proven his mettle in pass coverage as well, with four passes defended, plus two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 2021.
Jordan Davis/Devonte Wyatt, Bulldogs defensive linemen
Another strong duo to key on at one position group, and another area of need if the Bears decide against re-signing Akiem Hicks. Each man earned coaches First Team All-SEC honors this year. Wyatt finished 2021 with 19 QB hits, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. Davis had 28 tackles, including seven for a loss. Wyatt also finished as a Bronko Nagurski finalist, which recognizes the top defensive player in college football.
ALABAMA VS. CINCINNATI - COTTON BOW/CFP SEMIFINAL - DEC. 31
Jameson Williams, Crimson Tide wide receiver
There’s a good chance Williams will be gone by the time the Bears pick. If not he could be the playmaking wide receiver they need on the outside. Williams showed a penchant for making big plays, with 11 touchdowns of 30+ yards and four touchdowns that went for 70+ yards. Possibly even more important however, is his previous relationship with Justin Fields, as Williams played at Ohio State in 2019 and 2020.
Coby Bryant, Bearcats cornerback
Bryant could be the best fit for the Bears in terms of filling a positional need by the time they’re selecting. They need to find a solid corner to play opposite Jaylon Johnson, and Bryant has shown aptitude to defend both the run and the pass. In 10 games this season, Bryant racked up four interceptions, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble and 35 tackles. For his efforts he won the Jim Thorpe Award which goes to the nation’s top defensive back.
IOWA VS. KENTUCKY - CITRUS BOWL - JAN. 1
Tyler Linderbaum, Hawkeyes center
Linderbaum won the 2021 Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the top center in FBS college football. He may not be available when the Bears finally pick, but if he is there’s a chance he could be the best player on the team’s big board. Interior line isn’t a spot of serious need for the Bears, like cornerback or wide receiver, but more competition and depth on the offensive line is always important.
Darian Kinnard, Wildcats offensive tackle
Kinnard is a big man, listed at 6’5” and 345 pounds. Despite his size, he moves quickly and was graded PFF’s top run-blocking lineman heading into the 2021 season. Kinnard earned First Team All-SEC honors this year, and would add another dominating force to the Bears’ offensive line mix that has been open about wanting to play with more grit.
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