Seven student-athletes who played in the first two Popeyes Bahamas Bowls will get their opportunity to make NFL rosters after being selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, held April 28-30 in Chicago, Illinois.
All four universities that participated in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – Central Michigan (2014), Middle Tennessee (2015), WKU (2014) and Western Michigan (2015) – had at least one player selected during the NFL’s seven-round draft. Inaugural 2014 champion WKU led the way with three selections, and 2015 champion Western Michigan had two players taken.
In the third round (No. 64 overall), Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard was selected by the Tennessee Titans. Byard had five tackles, including two solo stops, and a pass breakup for the Blue Raiders in the 2015 bowl against Western Michigan, and he was the highest selection of a Blue Raiders player since the 2003 NFL Draft.
In the fourth round, two bowl alumni were selected as WKU tight end Tyler Higbee went to the Los Angeles Rams at No. 110 overall and Western Michigan T Willie Beavers was the No. 121 overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings. Higbee had one catch for four yards for the Hilltoppers against Central Michigan in 2014, and he is the highest-drafted offensive player in WKU history. Beavers anchored a Broncos offensive line that opened the holes for a bowl-record 282 rushing yards and 613 total offense yards in 2015 against Middle Tennessee. Beavers started every game at left tackle was a first-team All-MAC selection in 2015.
In Round Six, Central Michigan safety Kavon Frazier was taken No. 212 overall by the Dallas Cowboys. Frazier had five total tackles, including four solo stops, and a quarterback hurry for the Chippewas against WKU in the inaugural bowl in 2014.
In the seventh round, three more bowl alumni had their names called by NFL teams as WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty, the bowl’s 2014 Offensive Player of the Game, was picked at No. 223 overall by the Miami Dolphins, Western Michigan wide receiver Daniel Braverman went at No. 230 overall to the Chicago Bears and WKU cornerback Prince Charles Iworah was taken at No. 249 overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Doughty, one of the most prolific passers at the FBS level in the last two seasons, completed 31 of 42 passes for 486 yards and five touchdowns in the Hilltoppers 49-48 victory in 2014 over Central Michigan. Braverman caught five passes for 101 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ 2015 victory over Middle Tennessee, which capped a season in which he tied for second in the FBS in receptions with 108 catches for 1,367 yards and 13 TDs. Iworah had three assisted tackles for the Hilltoppers in the 2014 bowl, and his impressive 2016 pro day workout caught the eye of NFL scouts.
The seven selections give the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl eight total alumni chosen in the last two drafts as Central Michigan nose tackle Leterrius Walton was taken in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The NFL Draft is not the end of the process for players not selected as each NFL team will sign undrafted free agents to rosters in the next few weeks in anticipation of the 2016 season.
2016 NFL Draft Selections of Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Alumni
Round 3, No. 64 overall: Middle Tennessee S Kevin Byard (Tennessee Titans)
Round 4, No. 110 overall: WKU TE Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams)
Round 4, No. 121 overall: Western Michigan T Willie Beavers (Minnesota Vikings)
Round 6, No. 212 overall: Central Michigan S Kavon Frazier (Dallas Cowboys)
Round 7, No. 223 overall: WKU QB Brandon Doughty (Miami Dolphins)
Round 7, No. 230 overall: Western Michigan WR Daniel Braverman (Chicago Bears)
Round 7, No. 249 overall: WKU CB Prince Charles Iworah (San Francisco 49ers)
For more information on the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, visit PopeyesBahamasBowl.com.