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NFL draft prospects to watch in Friday's bowl games

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Bear likes Buckeyes to take care of business vs. USC (1:50)

The Bear and the Bot predict Ohio State will beat USC in the marquee matchup during Friday's bowl games. (1:50)

It's becoming a trend in college football for top draft-eligible players to sit out their bowl games to avoid the risk of injury with a significant payday looming. The overwhelming majority of the players who will enter the NFL as rookies in 2018, though, will suit up for their team in a bowl game.

Here's a look at some of the players NFL scouts will be paying close attention to Friday:

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, Belk Bowl, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App

DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

  • Kiper position rank: No. 9 defensive end

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 113 overall

Ejiofor was invited to the Senior Bowl after finishing the regular season with 38 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He was a second-team All-ACC selection.

S Armani Watts, Texas A&M

  • Kiper position rank: No. 5 safety

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 57 overall

A third-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC selection, Watts finished the season with 82 tackles, 4 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.

WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

  • Kiper position rank: No. 4 wide receiver

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 16 overall

Kirk’s production dipped to 58 catches for 730 yards this year after catching at least 80 passes the past two seasons, but he is still a strong candidate to enter the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining.

No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State, Hyundai Sun Bowl, 3 p.m. ET, CBS

DE Bradley Chubb, NC State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 1 defensive end

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 5 overall

A likely first-round pick, Chubb is not expected to play in the game. He recorded 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in the regular season.

FB Jaylen Samuels, NC State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 1 fullback/H-back

Samuels enters the game with 195 career catches and needs just six to break the school record. He caught 69 passes for 551 yards and four touchdowns this year.

G Sam Jones, Arizona State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 6 offensive guard

Jones didn’t generate much buzz in Pac-12 circles – he was an honorable mention all-conference pick – but is viewed more favorably as an NFL prospect.

Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App

OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky

  • Kiper position rank: No. 5 outside linebacker

In 12 games this year as a junior, Allen finished with 58 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.

No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State, Goodyear Cotton Bowl, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App

QB Sam Darnold, USC

  • Kiper position rank: No. 2 quarterback

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 3 overall

A year after bursting onto the scene as a redshirt freshman, Darnold led USC to the Pac-12 title. He threw for 3,787 yards with 26 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, and he remains the potential No. 1 pick. Darnold still has two years of eligibility remaining but is likely to depart.

RB Ronald Jones II, USC

  • Kiper position rank: No. 4 running back

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 30 overall

Remarkably, Jones has remained under the radar somewhat despite putting up big numbers at one of the country’s premier programs. He ran for more than 100 yards in nine games this year and has 3,555 rushing yards in his career.

DE Rasheem Green, USC

  • Kiper position rank: No. 3 defensive end

Green led the Trojans with nine sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

LB Cam Smith, USC

  • Kiper position rank: No. 5 inside linebacker

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 107 overall

Smith has been a fixture in the Trojans' starting lineup since he stepped on campus but feels like a good bet to return for his senior year. He has 102 tackles and 10 tackles for loss this season.

LB Uchenna Nwosu, USC

  • Kiper position rank: No. 7 outside linebacker

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 115 overall

Nwosu was one of the less-heralded recruits when he arrived at USC but developed into arguably the team's best defensive player this season.

WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 9 wide receiver

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 186 overall

Campbell has 39 catches and averages a team-high 48.2 receiving yards per game.

T Jamarco Jones, Ohio State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 10 offensive tackle

Jones was a first-team All-Big Ten pick.

C Billy Price, Ohio State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 1 center

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 26 overall

A two-time All-American, Price has a chance to be the first center off the board.

DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

  • Kiper position rank: No. 7 outside linebacker

  • Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 78 overall

Lewis accepted a Senior Bowl invitation after finishing the regular season with 14 tackles and five sacks.