Boise State has 16 players currently on NFL rosters, while Boston College has 13. When the two face off Dec. 26 in Dallas in the First Responder Bowl, more than a few more future NFL players will be on the field.
The Broncos have the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch in the NFL, and the Eagles have Matt Ryan and Luke Kuechly. So, who might be the next future stars from the two schools? Let’s take a look.
QB Brett Rypien: The Broncos have had just one quarterback ever throw a pass in the NFL, and that was the undrafted Kellen Moore during the 2015 season. Two quarterbacks have been drafted — Eric Guthrie (14th round, 1972) and Jim McMillan (14th, 1975) — but that was before the seven-round era.
At 6-foot-2, with a pro pedigree (his uncle Mark is a former Pro Bowler) and an impressive statistical resume, Rypien could be the first Boise State passer taken in the modern draft era. ESPN ranked him as the No. 12 pro QB prospect among the 78 starters in this year’s bowl games, saying “accuracy, decision-making and the eighth-highest percentage of positively graded throws give him a chance to stick in the NFL.”
“We’ve had a lot of great QBs here that were somehow not drafted, so it would really mean a lot to me,” Rypien said in a recent interview.
RB Alexander Mattison: At this time, it is unknown if Mattison will enter the draft. The junior has put up a monster season, aided by an outstanding finish to the year. He leads the nation with 302 carries, and he’s No. 7 with 1,415 yards rushing and tied for fifth with 17 rushing touchdowns. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Mattison has submitted paperwork to the NFL’s draft advisory committee to get feedback on his prospects if he were to enter the draft. Mattison was named second-team All-America by SI.com.
The Broncos’ last two backs that had excellent junior seasons, Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols, left afterward and both were drafted in the fifth round. That’s about where Mattison would be projected now, but strong workouts could move him up quickly.
STUD Jabril Frazier: At 6-4, 238 pounds and productive (18 career sacks), he could fit into a 3-4 system as an outside linebacker. He currently is a late-round pick at best, but with his size and athleticism, he certainly could impress a few teams.
CB Tyler Horton: His awareness, nose for the ball and ability to handle opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers game in and out will get him on the draft radar. At 5-11, 190 pounds, he isn’t the biggest, but not undersized. He’s recovered four fumbles this season and has four career interceptions. He’s scored three touchdowns this season, too.
STUD Curtis Weaver/OL Ezra Cleveland: We’ll lump them together since they are both redshirt sophomores and thus would be draft-eligible, but have given no indication it is their intent to leave after this season. Harsin said last week he did not think they had even turned in the advisory paperwork. Weaver already has 20.5 sacks, a number the NFL surely appreciates, while Cleveland (6-6, 310) may be the best pro prospect on the Broncos with his size, athleticism and talent — he was a Pro Football Focus honorable mention All-American this year.
DE Zach Allen/DE Wyatt Ray: Allen is big (6-5, 285 pounds) and productive (199 tackles, 18.5 sacks the last three seasons). That combination screams NFL defensive end, and most agree he could be an immediate starter — CBSSports.com’s Chris Trapasso has him going 12th in the first round in his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has him the 44th overall prospect and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him the No. 7 defensive end.
Ray (6-3, 255) has benefited from the attention Allen gets and leads the team with nine sacks. He’s viewed as more of a later-round pick.
“They’ve got a couple defensive ends that are as good as we’ve seen. ... (Allen) gets a lot of the attention because he’s a big dude that doesn’t move like a big dude,” Harsin said. “He’s got this savvy about him. Very impressive. (Ray) is equally as good. Not as big, but he’s got his own set of skills and very successful at what he does.”
C Jon Baker/OG Chris Lindstrom: Miller ranks Baker his No. 4 center in the NFL Draft, and Lindstrom his No. 6 offensive guard and “biggest sleeper” at the position. Baker (6-3, 290) redshirted last season with an injury but has started the last 37 games he’s played and Lindstrom (6-3, 305) has started 48. CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson’s latest mock draft has Lindstrom going 18th in the first round.
S Lukas Denis/S Will Harris: Both are ranked in Miller’s top 10 at safety, with Denis fifth and Harris 10th. Denis isn’t big at 5-11, 185 pounds, but he’s productive (83 tackles, seven INTs as a junior, one INT for a TD this season as a senior). Harris is more prototypical-sized at 6-2, 210 pounds. He has 225 career tackles with five interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
▪ Boston College also has two standout underclassmen in sophomore RB AJ Dillon (1,108 yards, 10 TDs in 10 games) and junior CB Hamp Cheevers (tied for No. 1 in the nation with seven INTs). Dillon isn’t draft-eligible because he’s only been out of high school for two years.
First Responder Bowl
Who: Boise State (10-3) vs. Boston College (7-5)
When: 11:30 a.m. MT Wednesday, Dec. 26
Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas (92,100)
TV: ESPN (Lowell Galindo, Ahmad Brooks, Kris Budden)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Who: BYU (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
When: 2 p.m. Friday
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise (36,387)
TV: ESPN (Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey, Alex Corddry)