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Amari Cooper and the 2015 Sugar Bowl
image credit to Matt Velazquez
image credit to Matt Velazquez

It’s bowl season, which means it’s time to get your last look at players eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft and your first look at promising young prospects. Team RotoViz will be bringing you previews of all bowl games with the players to watch at the fantasy-relevant positions. If you want to see the previews for other college bowl games, be sure to check out the 2014-15 RotoViz College Bowl Games Playbook. Also, if you want to hear discussion about some college bowl games and NFL draft prospects, be sure to listen to upcoming episodes of RotoViz Radio. Without further adieu, let’s look at the . . .

2015 Sugar Bowl – Semifinal #2 of the College Football Playoff

January 1, New Orleans, LA., 8:30pm ET, ESPN

Alabama (12-1, 8-1 in the SEC)

Besides this being the second semifinal of the inaugural college football playoff, the reason to watch this game is WR Amari Cooper. As I detailed on October 30, he is among the best college wide receivers of 2014, if not THE best. In his age 20 season, Amari Cooper has accounted for 45% of receiving yards and 47% of receiving touchdowns, which, from an age-adjusted perspective, gives him his second top-25 performance on the most precocious receiver seasons of the decade list, to go along with his 2012 debut season. For as much as Team RotoViz loved Jordan Matthews as a prospect, Cooper has basically matched Matthews’ career production in 13 fewer games. Amari is utterly ridiculous and, for my money, is the #1 receiving prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft. I see him on par with similarly-built receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.

When Alabama isn’t throwing it to Amari Cooper, they’re handing it off to 6’2 220+lb runner TJ Yeldon. If the size isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider that for his career Yeldon has accumulated 3,275 rush and 494 receiving yards, putting him in rare company. Here’s a full list of all SEC backs since 2000 to go over 3,000 rush and 400 receiving for their career:

yeldon 3000 400I’d say that’s a pretty respectable list of guys who have proven to be NFL useful. I think if there’s one reason for concern with Yeldon it’s the possibility that he’s another Alabama “system running back“. Whatever the case may be, he will almost certainly be a force in the Sugar Bowl and get a long look in the NFL.

Ohio State (12-1, 9-0 in the B1G Ten)

QB Cardale Jones will be the story of the game as he fills in for the Heisman-worthy J.T. Barrett. Jones was spectacular in the B1G Ten championship game, but playing in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama is a whole different beast.

If Jones is to have any success, he’ll need help from the ground game in the form of sophomore Ezekiel Elliott. The 19 year old runner stands 6′ 215lbs and has amassed 1610 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage this season. Similar to Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine, Elliott is in spectacular company for young-dominance at the running back position with the likes of big backs like Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden. Still a year away from NFL Draft eligibility, Elliott will be the key to the game for Ohio State.

The Ohio State passing game runs through 22 year old Devin Smith. The 6’0 197lb senior is a fantastic athlete (2X all-B1g Ten high jumper) who averaged a remarkable 26.6 yards per catch on 30 receptions this year, hauling in 11 touchdowns. When looking for similar receivers from an age-adjusted perspective, guys like Stedman Bailey and Brandon Tate come to mind, leading me to think Devin Smith is a serviceable NFL talent, but seems unlikely to become a star.

A player I’m fascinated to see is WR Michael Thomas. Standing 6’3 215lbs, the 20 year old has accounted for 21% of receiving yards and 21% of touchdowns this year en route to a 680-8 season. Although eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, I have no expectation that he’ll leave, but I could foresee a breakout in 2015 similar to what fellow B1G Ten receivers Cody Latimer or Nick Toon did later in their careers.

Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a cohost of Rotoviz Radio – A Football Podcast.  Continue this conversation with him on Twitter or Google+.

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