Injury News in Baseball

So there have been several injuries this season of note and while it doesn’t really FEEL like it’s a lot of guys going down, the talent of the players who have gotten hurt in recent weeks has been what is more of the story. Here are some guys who have gone down in the last few weeks and what their timetable is for return to form.

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-Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Japanese phenom for the Angels, has a partially torn UCL, which almost always requires Tommy John surgery, which would end his 2018 season and possibly his 2019 season as well. The Angels are holding out hope that it doesn’t come to Tommy John and they are even considering continuing to use him as a DH while he recovers from the surgery. That sounds like a REALLY bad idea. While I get that Anaheim might feel a little desperate since they have a legitimately good team this year that is contending for a playoff spot in a VERY tough AL West, you have to learn from the mistake the Washington Redskins made with Robert Griffin III in 2013. RG3 was rushed back from a torn ACL in the postseason to play week 1 and all of his elusiveness was sapped away and his flaws as a passer were amplified, thus destroying his once promising career. You could be facing a similar situation with Ohtani. Ohtani has been very successful in his first couple months in the States, slashing .289/.372/.535 with 6 homers and 20 RBI in 43 games as a hitter and carries a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA while striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings as a pitcher, both very good performances. There hasn’t been a player who was both a high-caliber pitcher and hitter since Babe Ruth. Don’t fuck this up, Anaheim. Let him recover. You risk destroying this man’s career by rushing him back before he’s ready. UCL’s are nothing to screw around with, swinging a bat can be just as damaging as throwing a baseball and since Ohtani bats lefty, it will be his right (throwing) arm that does the bulk of the swing and therefore takes the brunt of the pressure. Just bite the bullet and try and make a move at the deadline to compensate for the loss. I hear the Mets may make Jacob deGrom available. If you rush Ohtani back before he’s ready, you could risk an RG3 situation in which a phenomenal talent gets destroyed because you weren’t patient enough to let him recover. Do the right thing, Angels.

-Tigers first baseman and 2-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is out for the remainder of the 2018 season after undergoing bicep surgery, which upsets me for a number of reasons, the main of which being that Miggy is one of my favorite players in baseball even as his skills start to decline with age. However this could be a blessing in disguise for Detroit. Cabrera was slashing .301/.394/.451 in 37 games played (he had another DL stint earlier this season) with 3 home runs and 22 RBI. While the power numbers aren’t what we’re used to from the future Hall of Famer, he was still a productive hitter in this lineup. The Tigers are sitting in third place in the AL Central at 31-37 as I write this and aren’t nearly bad enough to be in serious contention for another high draft spot. If you’re going to rebuild, you have to be all-in and Miggy hitting well does not help a rebuild. They landed Auburn ace Casey Mize with the top pick in this year’s MLB Draft and he was one of the few prospects I felt had superstar potential. If they hope to land a talent like that again, they really need to hit the tank button. While it does suck to lose an impactful hitter like Miguel Cabrera, it can be potentially beneficial for the future of this franchise as they stockpile high draft picks.

-While Mookie Betts did return from the DL after missing 14 games due to a hip injury, the Red Sox superstar hasn’t looked quite at 100% in his first couple games back and I think that the team could afford to give him some more rest every now and then as he attempts to return to the form that was dominating baseball for the first two months of the season. Despite the recent DL stint, Mookie has garnered the most votes in the first All Star ballot update by slashing .354/.431/.735 and hitting 17 home runs and driving in 37 RBI while continuing to play the best right field in baseball. However in his absence, the Red Sox went a decent 8-6, showing that the team can win without their superstar. They still have guys like the deadly JD Martinez and the suddenly red-hot Andrew Benintendi, so I think giving Mookie more frequent breathers to make sure he gets to 100% would be most beneficial to this team’s long-term goals.

-Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka injured his hammy running the bases and had to hit the DL and I’m sorry, but his happens far too often when American League pitchers have to hit in National League stadiums. Yankees fans should be especially weary of this after what happened to Chien-Ming Wang a decade ago. Wang was absolutely dominant for the pinstripes but after hurting himself running the bases in Houston, he was never the same and it destroyed his career. If ever there was a reason to install the DH throughout Major League Baseball, this would be a big one. Pitchers aren’t focused at all on their hitting (unless they are Shohei Ohtani) and the AL ones only ever have to hit on the rare occasion they pitch in an NL ballpark, which is maybe two or three times a season for each starter. Even then they don’t expect to get on base so when they do they’re totally unprepared to actually run bases, which is an important part of the game if you hadn’t noticed so they can’t exactly dog it out there. This leads to leg injuries like the one suffered by Tanaka. I don’t know, man, I mean what other professional sport are you going to find that has such different rules depending on what league/conference they’re in? I get the tradition thing, really, I do. But MLB has already installed video replay systems to overturn calls, why can’t they just make the DH rule universal? I enjoy AL baseball more than NL baseball simply for the fact that I don’t have to watch these pitchers half-ass their at bats because they know they’re trash at the plate anyway and nobody expects them to get a hit.

That’s going to do it for this injury update, let me know what you think of the recent trends in injuries in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft: Full Recap

This is the last I’ll post of the 2018 NFL Draft, which is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and it never ceases to disappoint. With all 256 picks made, I’ve gotten a chance to scour them all and decide what I think of each team’s class, which players got screwed, which players god overdrafted, etc., etc. So let’s get to the recap.

Best Draft Class: Green Bay Packers

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The Packers had the most picks (12) going into this Draft and they made very good use of them. This class is getting bonus points for the wheeling and dealing they did. First, they acquired the Saints’ 2019 first round pick to move down, then they gave up one of their third rounders to move back up and get a cornerback in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Then they doubled down on corner in round 2 and got a first round talent Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who led the nation in picks last season. The secondary was such a huge need for the Packers that I don’t mind that they hit the same position multiple times, especially considering both players they got were first round-caliber prospects. Aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, that unit is garbage. I would have liked to have seen them get another safety, but if I’m a Packers fan, I’m more than happy with the corners they got. The Packers also got great value for their wide receivers in an effort to find a replacement for Jordy Nelson as they landed Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the 4th and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the 6th. Here’s every pick the Packers made.

18. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

45. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

88. Oren Burks-LB-Vanderbilt

133. J’Mon Moore-WR-Missouri

138. Cole Madison-OG-Washington State

172. JK Scott-P-Alabama

174. Marques Valdes-Scantling-WR-South Florida

207. Equanimeous St. Brown-WR-Notre Dame

232. James Looney-EDGE-California

239. Hunter Bradley-LS-Mississippi State

248. Kendall Donnerson-EDGE-Southeast Missouri State

Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

Worst Draft Class: Oakland Raiders

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Jon Gruden’s first Draft in 10 years didn’t go great in my opinion. First, he traded down to take Kolton Miller. I liked the trade down and I like Miller, but there were far more pressing needs for the Raiders than offensive line and there were some damn good players available. There were a ton of needs on the defensive side of the ball, pretty much every position could have used a pick dedicated to it. When the Raiders took Miller, the following defenders were available: Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans, all of whom would have started immediately on that defense. Then in the second round they took a defensive tackle named PJ Hall. At first I thought it was a typo and they meant NC State’s BJ Hill and I thought to myself “it’s good they addressed DT, and I like Hill, though I think this is a little rich for him.” Turns out it wasn’t a typo and they drafted some guy named PJ Hall from Sam Houston State, a player I had never heard of. They traded up for another tackle in the third, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, a guy I think I heard of in passing but never paid much attention to. I don’t know why they needed to trade up for a tackle from NC A&T of all places, but what do I know, I’m a blogger who lives in his parents’ basement. They took Arden Key in the third round, which I thought was a good value, but he’s a guy that has struggled with drug abuse and has failed to maximize his potential and I’m not so sure the Raiders would be the best place for him, especially with the eventual move to Las Vegas. They get bonus points for landing Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, though, so that keeps this Draft from being an utter shit show. There’s talent in this class, don’t get me wrong, and I think some of the guys taken later in this class could wind up being steals, but I thought the value of a lot of these picks, especially given who else at their positions were available, was pretty poor. I can’t in good faith give this class a good grade out of the gates. Here’s the rest of the class.

15. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

57. PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State

65. Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T

87. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

110. Nick Nelson-CB-Wisconsin

140. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

173. Johnny Townsend-P-Florida

216. Azeem Victor-LB-Washington

228. Marcell Ateman-WR-Oklahoma State

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

Best Bargain: Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan-Oakland Raiders (140th Overall)

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times during this draft process, but Hurst fell in this draft due to being diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. I expected him to fall out of the first round, but I didn’t expect him to fall all the way to the 5th. Oakland got a tremendous value with this pick. I at one point had Hurst as the 12th best player on my Big Board. His reaction to the snap is basically perfect. As soon as the center even flinches his wrist, Hurst is off. The only knocks against Hurst for me was that he was a bit undersized (which didn’t bother me so much because Aaron Donald is considered undersized) and I felt that he would often be so consumed with the guy who is trying to block him that he’s not looking in the backfield to see where the play is going. But that’s something that’s easily coachable. The Raiders got a goddamn steal with this kid, which significantly helps what was otherwise a weak class.

Honorable Mentions: Bo Scarbrough-RB-Alabama-Dallas Cowboys (236th Overall), Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida-Seattle Seahawks (141st Overall), Deshon Elliott-S-Texas-Baltimore Ravens (190th Overall), Josh Sweat-EDGE-Florida State-Philadelphia Eagles (130th Overall), Tyrell Crosby-OT-Oregon-Detroit Lions (153rd Overall)

Biggest Reach: Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Steelers (28th Overall)

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I had 8 safeties rated ahead of Terrell Edmunds, including one that went undrafted (Quin Blanding). Yet the Steelers still made him their first round pick, 28th overall. In fact, Edmunds was so surprised he was taken by the Steelers, he was in the bathroom when they called him. He had been sitting in the green room with his brother Tremaine, who was taken 12 picks earlier by the Bills and despite not technically having been invited to the green room, he still got to hold his jersey with the commissioner and Ryan Shazier because they had the Edmunds Steelers jersey lying around for his brother. It made for a nice story, but the Steelers could’ve gotten this guy in the third, maybe even the fourth round.

Honorable Mention: PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State-Oakland Raiders (57th Overall), Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T-Oakland Raiders (65th Overall), Joseph Noteboom-OT-TCU-Los Angeles Rams (89th Overall)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents and Where They’ve Signed

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Every year there are extremely talented players that get overlooked. Here are just a few.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-WR-Indiana-Washington Redskins

JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State-Indianapolis Colts

Josh Adams-RB-Notre Dame-Philadelphia Eagles

Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana-Los Angeles Rams

Akrum Wadley-RB-Iowa-Tennessee Titans

Allen Lazard-WR-Iowa State-Jacksonville Jaguars

Chase Litton-QB-Marshall-Kansas City Chiefs

Nic Shimonek-QB-Texas Tech-Los Angeles Chargers

Kurt Benkert-QB-Virginia-Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Allen-QB-Houston-Carolina Panthers

Kevin Toliver-CB-LSU-Chicago Bears

Jeff Holland-LB-Auburn-Denver Broncos

Davin Bellamy-EDGE-Georgia-Houston Texans

Riley Ferguson-QB-Memphis-Miami Dolphins

Hercules Mata’afa-DL-Washington State-Minnesota Vikings

Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State-San Francisco 49ers

Holton Hill-CB-Texas-Minnesota Vikings

And those are just the big names that didn’t hear their name called. There were hundreds of others. But as I said in yesterday’s blog, just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean your NFL dream is dead. Not by a long shot.

The Quarterbacks That Were Taken

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Football’s most important position is definitely quarterback and there was no shortage of signal callers in this year’s class. Here’s every QB that was selected.

1. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma-Cleveland Browns

3. Sam Darnold-USC-New York Jets

7. Josh Allen-Wyoming-Buffalo Bills

10. Josh Rosen-UCLA-Arizona Cardinals

32. Lamar Jackson-Louisville-Baltimore Ravens

76. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State-Pittsburgh Steelers

108. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond-New York Giants

171. Mike White-Western Kentucky-Dallas Cowboys

199. Luke Falk-Washington State-Tennessee Titans

203. Tanner Lee-Nebraska-Jacksonville Jaguars

219. Danny Etling-LSU-New England Patriots

220. Alex McGough-FIU-Seattle Seahawks

249. Logan Woodside-Toledo-Cincinnati Bengals

Of the 13 quarterbacks, all 10 from my rankings ended up getting drafted, a first for me (last year I had 9 out of 10, UPenn’s Alek Torgersen being the lone undrafted quarterback). Of the 3 that weren’t ranked, Lee, Etling, and McGough, none of them probably would’ve cracked my “first 5 out.” Lee is the most talented of the three but his play at Nebraska was far below his talent. I’ve seen Alex McGough (pronounced “Mah-GOO”) play a couple times, since Indiana and FIU have a home-and-home series and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know what Seattle sees in him. He just looked lost every time I watched him play (which, to be fair, was only against IU, which has a pretty solid defense). The Patriots and Saints were two teams I figured would be going after a quarterback in the middle rounds as hard as anybody, but the Saints didn’t take any and the Patriots took a guy that had defenders stacking the box to stop the run because they knew he wasn’t a threat. Perhaps both teams weren’t high on this year’s class and elected to try and find their Hall of Fame quarterbacks’ successors in next year’s Draft.

Most Confusing Draft Day Decision

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The Draft Day decision that confused me more than any other was the Cowboys not electing to take a wide receiver until the third round, and even then they took a pretty raw Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. They did trade a 6th rounder to the Rams for Tavon Austin, but Austin hasn’t lived up to his 8th Overall pick billing and has been a guy that you just get creative with rather than a real threat to the defense. They also didn’t address pass rusher until the 4th round with another raw player in Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. I know they took Taco Charlton in the first round last year but pass rusher is still a big need, especially if they can’t sign DeMarcus Lawrence long-term. Overall I thought the talent the Cowboys got in the Draft was good, I just think they had their positional priorities out of whack a bit.

Secretly Genius Draft Day Decision

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A move that didn’t make sense to me at first but has really grown on me is Bill Belichick’s decision to take Georgia runningback Sony Michel with the 31st pick. I was a little taken aback by the decision at first since the Patriots had a very crowded runningback room, but then I thought some more about it. Only one of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee is going to remain on the roster as the goalline power back. James White is just the pass catcher who never gets carries. Rex Burkhead is a wildcard who is only back on a 2-year deal. The Patriots were at their best last season when Dion Lewis was torching defenses in the second half with his all-around style of play. Michel is a very similar style of player and he was the most explosive player on Georgia’s offense that was a quarter away from a National Championship. There are people who are going to complain that the Patriots should’ve addressed the defense that got torched in the Super Bowl to which I say this: they kind of already did. The Patriots’ defense was riddled with injuries last year, particularly to Dont’a Hightower and 2017’s top Draft choice Derek Rivers (who was having a nice training camp before tearing his ACL). They’ll be getting those guys back and healthy They also signed Adrian Clayborn and traded for Jason McCourty to fill the holes for the meantime while also stockpiling on picks for next year’s Draft. The defense looks to be fine and in a win-now mode while the plethora of picks for next year’s class will likely be used to re-stock as this group gets older. So no surprise, but to me, the most genius Draft Day decision comes from the mind of Bill Belichick.

Some Prospects to Keep an Eye Out For in 2019

For scouting departments, when Mr. Irrelevant is announced, they get to work on next year’s class. Here are some guys that I think will go high next year.

Ed Oliver-DL-Houston

Nick Bosa-EDGE-Ohio State

Rashan Gary-DL-Michigan

Drew Lock-QB-Missouri

Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

AJ Brown-WR-Ole Miss

Dexter Lawrence-DL-Clemson

Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

Austin Bryant-EDGE-Clemson

Just a few guys to look out for next college football season (you’ll notice a lot of defensive linemen. Next year’s class might be the best ever class for that position group).

And that’s a wrap on the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Each Team’s Biggest Draft Bust in the 21st Century

We rave about these prospects as “can’t miss” or “once in a lifetime” type players come Draft season. But every year, without fail, somebody taken in the first round fails to live up to expectations. I’m going to take a look at each team’s biggest blunder since 2000 to remind everyone to humble themselves when it comes to getting excited about your team’s first round pick. Some things to take note of when it comes to my rules for this list: First rounders only, the 2017 draft class is excluded since we really don’t know shit about them yet (Hell, Jared Goff was looking like a colossal bust after his first season. Look what happened there), and we are only considering a player’s success with the team that drafted them. So for example, Cedric Benson is a bust candidate even though he had a successful stint with the Bengals. He was drafted by the Bears, where he was awful. Draft position also matters here. The first overall pick’s bust status is going to weigh more than the 32nd overall pick’s status, even if the 32nd pick was a way worse player. I’ll also be noting some players that played the same position as the bust in question that were taken later who had much more successful careers to add salt to the wound.

Cleveland Browns-Courtney Brown-EDGE-Penn State (1st Overall in 2000)

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The first pick of the millennium, Brown was a freak of nature athlete and, to be fair to the Browns, judging by the body of work at Penn State and his physical traits, it’s really hard to blame them for taking Brown. He was basically Myles Garrett before Myles Garrett. While Garrett looks like a budding star if he can stay healthy, Brown notched just 17 sacks in his 5 years with the Browns, never eclipsing 4.5 in a season. There were definitely worse players the Browns have taken (probably the most misses in the NFL since their revival in 1999), but Brown was the only one that went first overall.

Who they could’ve had: John Abraham-South Carolina, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila-San Diego State

New York Giants-Ereck Flowers-OT-Miami (FL) (9th Overall in 2015)

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Flowers’ huge frame made him enticing to the Giants, however he’s been one of the worst tackles in the game, as he was rushed into the starting role before he was ready and it showed. Every Giants fan I know consistently calls for his head and it doesn’t help him that the Giants just signed Nate Solder to a huge contract.

Who they could’ve had: Andrus Peat-Stanford, DJ Humphries-Florida

New York Jets-Vernon Gholston-EDGE-Ohio State (6th Overall in 2008)

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Gholston was a genetic freak but that didn’t translate whatsoever to the NFL, as he recorded as many sacks as I did in the NFL: Zero (I had 2 sacks in high school but I guess that doesn’t count). Anytime I see a rookie get their first NFL sack, I think to myself “better pick than Gholston.”

Who they could’ve had: Calais Campbell-Miami (FL), William Hayes-Winston-Salem State, Erik Walden-Middle Tennessee State, Cliff Avril-Purdue

Houston Texans-Travis Johnson-DL-Florida State (16th Overall in 2005)

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A lot of people will want to say David Carr for this pick, but to be fair to the guy, he played behind what was statistically the worst offensive line of all time. Carr got sacked an NFL record 76 times as a rookie and that destroyed his confidence and he never recovered. Travis Johnson was an okay player for the Texans, but he wasn’t worth the 16th overall pick. He was out of the league by 2011. There really aren’t that many busts in the Texans’ short history (since 2002).

Who they could’ve had: Jonathan Babineaux-Iowa

Denver Broncos-Paxton Lynch-QB-Memphis (26th Overall in 2016)

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You know it’s bad when you can’t beat out the 7th rounder your team took the year before for the starting job. We knew Lynch would need time to develop, but even now that he has an opportunity, the Broncos are already looking to move on. He’s only made 4 starts in his NFL career and has thrown just 4 TD’s.

Who they could’ve had: Jacoby Brissett-North Carolina State, Dak Prescott-Mississippi State

Indianapolis Colts-Bjoern Werner-EDGE-Florida State (24th Overall in 2013)

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Werner was this big European guy that everybody was foaming at the mouth over with his potential. However he lasted just 3 NFL seasons and recorded just 6.5 sacks in only 16 starts before getting cut by the Colts. He was not picked up elsewhere.

Who they could’ve had: Alex Okafor-Texas, William Gholston-Michigan State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Mark Barron-S-Alabama (7th Overall in 2012)

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Barron was a nightmare in coverage with the Buccaneers and lasted just 2 and a half seasons in Tampa before being shipped to the Rams. Since joining the Rams, though, they moved him to linebacker and he has been decent in his new role. At bare minimum he starts for one of the deadliest defenses in the league.

Who they could’ve had: Harrison Smith-Notre Dame, Coty Sensabaugh-Clemson, Robert Blanton-Notre Dame, George Iloka-Boise State

Chicago Bears-Kevin White-WR-West Virginia (7th Overall in 2015)

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I hate calling guys who can’t stay healthy “busts” because it’s not always their fault, but White has played just 5 games since being the 7th overall pick in 2015. It’s just one serious injury after another with this guy. It’s hard to overlook.

Who they could’ve had: DeVante Parker-Louisville, Nelson Agholor-USC, Devin Funchess-Michigan, Tyler Lockett-Kansas State, Jamison Crowder-Duke, Stefon Diggs-Maryland

San Francisco 49ers-AJ Jenkins-WR-Illinois (30th Overall in 2012)

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I was scratching my head when the 49ers made this pick (I had Jenkins as a 4th rounder) and he did nothing to dispel my confusions. Jenkins lasted just 1 year with the 49ers before being traded to the Chiefs. He was out of the league by 2015 with just 17 catches and 223 career receiving yards to his name.

Who they could’ve had: Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina, Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers, TY Hilton-FIU, Travis Benjamin-Miami (FL), Marvin Jones-California, Rishard Matthews-Nevada

Oakland Raiders-Jamarcus Russell-QB-LSU (1st Overall in 2007)

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Russell was a can’t miss quarterback prospect. Then he held out almost his entire rookie season because he wanted a bigger contract, went 7-18 as a starter, ballooned to 300 pounds, and was out of the league by 2010. He’s considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time, certainly the biggest of this millennium.

Who they could’ve had: Drew Stanton-Michigan State, Trent Edwards-Stanford (2007 was a REALLY bad year to pick a quarterback)

Miami Dolphins-Dion Jordan-EDGE-Oregon (3rd Overall in 2013)

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Issues with drugs caused Jordan to miss two entire seasons due to suspension. He only played 2 years with the Dolphins and has 1 career start. Currently a member of the Seahawks, he registered 4 sacks in 5 games last season so perhaps he’s turning a corner. But after the Dolphins traded up 9 spots to get him, they have to be fuming with the results they got.

Who they could’ve had: Ziggy Ansah-BYU, see Bjoern Werner’s section

Buffalo Bills-Aaron Maybin-EDGE-Penn State (11th Overall in 2009)

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Maybin had 6 career sacks and they were all for the division rival Jets in 2011. Maybin lasted just 2 years in Buffalo and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Orakpo-Texas, Clay Matthews-USC, Connor Barwin-Cincinnati, Paul Kruger-Utah, Michael Johnson-Georgia Tech

Washington Redskins-Rod Gardner-WR-Clemson (15th Overall in 2001)

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This was almost Patrick Ramsey, but Ramsey was taken 32nd in 2002 while Gardner went 15th in 2001 so Gardner edges him out. Gardner got off to a decent start, posting a 1000 yard season his second year, but he never eclipsed 700 again and was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Santana Moss-Miami (FL), Reggie Wayne-Miami (FL), Chad Johnson-Oregon State, Chris Chambers-Wisconsin, Steve Smith-Utah, TJ Houshmandzadeh-Oregon State

Green Bay Packers-Jamal Reynolds-EDGE-Florida State (10th Overall in 2001)

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Reynolds played just 3 seasons and had a grand total of 3 sacks in his career. Really can’t say much about his career because there was hardly anything to speak of. Really bad look for the tenth pick in the draft.

Who they could’ve had: Kyle Vanden Bosch-Nebraska, Aaron Schobel-TCU, Derrick Burgess-Ole Miss, Reggie Hayward-Iowa State,

Arizona Cardinals-Matt Leinart-QB-USC (10th Overall in 2006)

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It was hard to choose between Leinart and Jonathan Cooper (when you miss on a guard at #7 overall, you know you messed up). But the Cardinals have been scared to take a quarterback in the first round ever since the former Heisman Trophy winner, so he’s going to get the nod.

Who they could’ve had: Jay Cutler-Vanderbilt, Kellen Clemens-Oregon, Tarvaris Jackson-Alabama State, Charlie Whitehurst-Clemson

Baltimore Ravens-Breshad Perriman-WR-Central Florida (26th Overall in 2015)

at Nissan Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Similar situation with Perriman as Kevin White with the Bears. He has a lot of talent and is very fast for his size, but health has been a major issue. Perriman’s only made 4 starts and has just 43 catches in his two years of actually playing (2016 and 2017, he missed his rookie year).

Who they could’ve had: see Kevin White

Los Angeles Chargers-Larry English-EDGE-Northern Illinois (16th Overall in 2009)

at Qualcomm Stadium on August 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.

12 career sacks in 7 NFL seasons will not get the job done. English never had more than 3 sacks in a season and never started more than 5 games.

Who they could’ve had: see Aaron Maybin

Seattle Seahawks-Aaron Curry-LB-Wake Forest (4th Overall in 2009)

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Curry was considered the safest prospect in the class, however he just couldn’t figure things out in the NFL. He has since become a college coach at Charlotte.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Cushing-USC, James Laurinaitis-Ohio State, Rey Maualuga-USC, DeAndre Levy-Wisconsin

Dallas Cowboys-Bobby Carpenter-LB-Ohio State (18th Overall in 2006)

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A solid special teamer, but you don’t take a special teamer in the first round. Carpenter never made more than 3 starts in a season.

Who they could’ve had: DeMeco Ryans-Alabama, D’Qwell Jackson-Maryland, Stephen Tulloch-North Carolina State

Detroit Lions-Charles Rogers-WR-Michigan State (2nd Overall in 2003)

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Arguably the biggest wide receiver bust of all time, Rogers lasted just 3 seasons in the NFL and had a grand total of 440 yards in 15 games played.

Who they could’ve had: Andre Johnson-Miami (FL), Anquan Boldin-Florida State, Nate Burleson-Nevada, Brandon Lloyd-Illinois

Kansas City Chiefs-Glenn Dorsey-DL-LSU (5th Overall in 2008)

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Not gonna’ lie, I liked Dorsey so much in college that I bought his Chiefs jersey before his first NFL game. But he never amounted to anything with the Chiefs. He became a pretty good nose tackle with the 49ers, though.

Who they could’ve had: Pat Sims-Auburn, Red Bryant-Texas A&M, Ahtyba Rubin-Iowa State

Cincinnati Bengals-Peter Warrick-WR-Florida State (4th Overall in 2000)

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Warrick never managed more than 819 yards in a season, which wouldn’t be awful if he weren’t the 4th overall pick. Had he been a 4th rounder, we’d be considering him a steal. However, that production just won’t cut it for the value.

Who they could’ve had: Plaxico Burress-Michigan State, Laveraneus Coles-Florida State, Darrell Jackson-Florida

Los Angeles Rams-Jason Smith-OT-Baylor (2nd Overall in 2009)

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This very easily could’ve been Greg Robinson, as the credentials (tackle that was the 2nd overall pick) are basically identical. But Smith’s going to get the nod on the basis that he got beat out by the tackle the Rams took in the second round of the same draft (Indiana’s Rodger Saffold, who is still with the team to this day as a guard).

Who they could’ve had: Andre Smith-Alabama, Eugene Monroe-Virginia, Michael Oher-Ole Miss, Sebastian Vollmer-Houston

Carolina Panthers-Jeff Otah-OT-Pittsburgh (19th Overall in 2008)

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Very few busts for the Panthers, giving Otah the nod. Otah was decent when healthy, however he played just 29 games in his 4-year career and was out of the league by 2012.

Who they could’ve had: Duane Brown-Virginia Tech, King Dunlap-Auburn, Geoff Schwartz-Oregon

Tennessee Titans-Jake Locker-QB-Washington (8th Overall in 2011)

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Locker got off to a promising start, as he was pretty good in his first game, but he never got better. It’s also worth mentioning that all 7 guys picked ahead of him made the Pro Bowl in what was an absolutely stacked 2011 class. Locker retired after 4 seasons.

Who they could’ve had: Andy Dalton-TCU, Colin Kaepernick-Nevada, Tyrod Taylor-Virginia Tech

Atlanta Falcons-Jamaal Anderson-EDGE-Arkansas (8th Overall in 2007)

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Anderson registered just 7.5 career sacks, never more than 3 in a season, and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Anthony Spencer-Purdue, Lamarr Woodley-Michigan, Charles Johnson-Georgia, Brian Robison-Texas

New Orleans Saints-Johnathan Sullivan-DL-Georgia (6th Overall in 2003)

2003 New Orleans Saints Headshots

All Images Copyright Michael C. Hebert

Sullivan played just 4 years in the NFL, 3 with the Saints, started 12 games as a rookie but 4 the rest of his career. He was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Kevin Williams-Oklahoma State

Pittsburgh Steelers-Jarvis Jones-EDGE-Georgia (19th Overall in 2013)

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6 career sacks for a guy who at one point in the draft process was being slated as the #1 overall pick. He’s currently a member of the Arizona Cardinals but hasn’t played a snap for them.

Who they could’ve had: see Dion Jordan

Jacksonville Jaguars-Luke Joeckel-OT-Texas A&M (2nd Overall in 2013)

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There were a lot of guys that were really deserving but Joeckel is going to win out because he was taken 2nd overall. Joeckel has been a turnstyle on the offensive line and is currently a member of the Seattle Seahawks, starting 11 games at guard for arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line.

Who they could’ve had: Lane Johnson-Oklahoma, Justin Pugh-Syracuse, Terron Armstead-Arkansas-Pine Bluff, David Bakhtiari-Colorado, Ricky Wagner-Wisconsin

Minnesota Vikings-Troy Williamson-WR-South Carolina (7th Overall in 2005)

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Williamson was an absolute freak at the Combine, but those skills never translated to the NFL. He never had more than 455 yards in a season and was out of the league by 2010.

Who they could’ve had: Roddy White-UAB, Vincent Jackson-Northern Colorado

New England Patriots-Dominique Easley-DL-Florida (29th Overall in 2014)

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Easley’s tenure in New England lasted just 2 seasons before he was traded to the Rams after numerous injuries and what many considered to be a “cancerous” personality in the locker room. It didn’t help that he only started 3 games for the Patriots.

Who they could’ve had: Timmy Jernigan-Florida State, Beau Allen-Wisconsin

Philadelphia Eagles-Danny Watkins-OG-Baylor (23rd Overall in 2011)

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Watkins played just 2 seasons with the Eagles before he retired to become a firefighter. Never made a huge impact when he was on the field either.

Who they could’ve had: Clint Boling-Georgia, Daniel Kilgore-Appalachian State

There are going to be busts in every draft, however there are also steals, guys who slip through the cracks and outperform their draft slot. Tomorrow I’m going to do something similar and pick out each team’s best draft steal since 2000. Let me know what you think of these draft busts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft Primer

So I’m taking a brief break from my hiatus. This will be the one blog I post before one of my papers is done, though. My Hulk Hogan paper is most of the way done and the due date got pushed back a couple days so I feel comfortable briefly getting back to the blog for today. I won’t be regularly posting again until I’m done with both papers, however. I’ve got an interview for my other paper set up for Wednesday, though. He’s a guy who gives great insight so hopefully his interview will write a large chunk of my paper for me. So anyways, with the blog, the original plan with this week’s Draft thing was going to be just a Big Board, however I thought about it and I think I want to do a little bit more. Basically superlative stuff that will lead into the Big Board. I think that would be a little more interesting than just ranking 50 prospects with no explanations. So let’s get to the Superlatives. The one superlative I won’t do is “best prospect” because that would spoil my Big Board rankings.

Most NFL-Ready Quarterback: Josh Rosen-UCLA

Rosen is the one quarterback I’d be comfortable with starting Day 1. He does everything well on the field. The complaints about him are mainly questions about his love of football, but I doubt that it’s as profound as people are making it out to be. He’s just a guy who has lots of interests, football being one of them. He’s about as good a quarterback prospect as I’ve seen since Jameis Winston and Rosen doesn’t have the off-field baggage the former Florida State Heisman winner had.

Prospect I Just Don’t Understand the Hype For: Vita Vea-DL-Washington

Vita Vea is huge (6’5 340 pounds) and a really good athlete for his size. But every time I watch footage of him to try and understand why scouts love his game so much, I leave just as confused as before. Yeah he clogs space, but his get-off is so slow that any quality NFL offensive lineman is going to get the edge on him. He also kind of just plays patty-cake with offensive linemen when he does eventually get off the ball. Granted, he is my #2 interior defensive lineman, but that’s mainly because I do see potential with him. If he can work on his reaction to the snap, then I think he could be a beast and be impossible to run on.

Prospect I Like More Than Other People Do: Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

Elliott’s a guy that a lot of people have going in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft. I think he’s a high second-rounder, maybe even late-one if my defense needs a centerfielder-type safety. His instincts are really impressive to me and he always seems to be around the football, as he takes good routes to the ball-carrier. My one issue with him is that he looks like he lacks confidence as a tackler. He’ll make the tackle, but he seems hesitant to shoot the gap and deliver the hit. But he is as good a ball-hawk as there is in the nation. Just watch the USC game. He seemed to have Sam Darnold’s number all night. And one thing to note about guys that I like more than others. In the past, that honor has been held by the likes of Keenan Allen, Justin Houston, and Alex Collins. Just saying.

Most Impressive Prospect: Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

It kills me that I haven’t gotten a real chance to blog about this dude yet because he really is an inspirational story. He had to get his hand amputated when he was young due to a birth defect and for a lot of people, that would be the end of their usefulness. But Griffin instead became one of the top linebackers in the country and absolutely blew up the NFL Scouting Combine. He needed to use a prosthetic hand so that he could do the bench press, but he then went on to do 20 reps at 225 pounds. I have 2 perfectly functioning hands and the best I’ve done on the bench press is 5 reps at 165 pounds. Oh and there’s the whole thing about how he ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded by a linebacker at 4.38. I watched his Auburn tape after this and he pretty much took over that game. He’s so quick that he can make offensive linemen look really stupid when he’s rushing the passer. He’d probably be a top-5 pick if he had two hands based on the tape I’ve seen and his Combine performance. But the guy has 4 career interceptions for God’s sake. I really do think he could be the steal of the Draft.

Most Intriguing Prospect: DJ Chark-WR-LSU

I had heard nothing about this guy until the Combine. Then he measured at 6’4 and ran the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.34. Those are Calvin Johnson-like measurables. However his production at LSU was limited. He did have over 800 yards as a senior but poor quarterback play I think hindered his ability to reach his potential. He could be one of those lesser-known guys that really blows up once he hits the NFL.

And now, on to the Big Board.

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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49. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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48. James Daniels-C-Iowa

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47. Harrison Phillips-DL-Stanford

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46. Donte Jackson-CB-LSU

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45. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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44. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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43. Mike Gesicki-TE-Penn State

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42. Uchenna Nwosu-EDGE-USC

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41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

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40. Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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38. Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

37. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State

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36. Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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35. Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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34. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

at Neyland Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

33. Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida

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32. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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31. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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28. Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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27. Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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26. DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

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24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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23. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama 

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22. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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21. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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18. Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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16. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

during the first half of a game on December 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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13. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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12. Derwin James-S-Florida State

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11. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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10. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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9. Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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8. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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7. Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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6. Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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5. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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4. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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3. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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2. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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So that’s it for today’s blog. Again, I won’t be posting consistently until my papers are done. But I will guarantee that I will have my mock draft ready for next Thursday’s event. Let me know what you think of the primer in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Mock Draft #3

With about a month left until the 2018 NFL Draft, I figured it’d be a good time to do another NFL Mock Draft now that the Combine and Pro Days are pretty much concluded. I will do one more to publish the morning of the Draft on April 26. So look out for that. As for this mock, it’s going to follow the same rules they always do: I won’t be projecting trades and I base the selections on what I would do if I were making decisions. So let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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I’ve let it be known that Sam Darnold isn’t my #1 QB, but I think that he’ll be the Browns’ top selection in the Draft. Darnold had a really good pro day, if reports are to be believed, and a large portion of the Browns’ brass was present for it. My one knock against Darnold is his throwing motion and that’s something that needs to be worked on, but after the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor, whose contract expires after the 2018 season, Darnold is under no pressure to start right away and can get the prep work he needs. So it’s a rare case of actually being in a good position being drafted by the Browns for once.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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This very easily could be a quarterback or an edge rusher like Bradley Chubb after the Giants traded Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers. But I think Barkley’s the pick here as the Giants take the best player in the Draft. With ODell Beckham’s future in New York suddenly in doubt, the Giants’ need for a playmaker in the backfield intensifies. Barkley is the safest runningback prospect since Ezekiel Elliott and upon joining the Giants, there will be a RAGING debate over who is better between him and Barkley between the arch rival fans of the Cowboys and Giants.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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After the Jets traded 3 second round picks to the Colts to move up 3 spots, it makes me think that they are adamant about taking one of the top quarterbacks. Rosen is my top-ranked quarterback and really the only knock against him is off the field as there are concerns over his love of football and his being kind of a douche. But on the field he has everything you look for and I think is the only quarterback in this class I genuinely believe could start right away. The Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater and are bringing back Josh McCown so he doesn’t need to be rushed into a starting role if he is the pick here.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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Browns go best player available here and they fill the need of a playmaker in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is a very similar player to Jabrill Peppers, whom the Browns took 25th overall last year, but Fitzpatrick is better suited as a centerfielder-like safety while Peppers is better suited as a slot corner. This selection would allow both guys to slot in where they fit best as the Browns tried Peppers in that centerfielder role, where he struggled.

5. Denver Broncos-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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I’m going based on my rankings between the picks of Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. The Broncos signed Case Keenum so Mayfield doesn’t have to start right away, which is perfect for him as he played in an air raid system that translates poorly to the NFL. He, like Pat Mahomes last year, needs a year to learn how to run an NFL offense and his playmaking ability could make him a star in Denver. There are concerns over his character but I’m not worried about that. I see his on-field antics as intensity and passion rather than arrogance like it was with Johnny Manziel.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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If the Colts are still able to land Chubb after moving back from the third overall pick and acquiring 3 second rounders in the process, new GM Chris Ballard is going to look like a freaking genius. Chubb and Fitzpatrick are 1A and 1B in terms of best defensive players in this class and Chubb was a monster at the NFL Combine, further cementing himself as the top edge prospect. The Colts need help pretty much anywhere on the defensive side of the ball so getting a game wrecker like Chubb helps every unit.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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I can see the Buccaneers going for another edge rusher even after acquiring JPP from the Giants, however I think Marcus Davenport might be a bit of a reach at this point given how raw a player he is so I think getting some secondary help would be huge here. Vernon Hargreaves is a solid corner but his lack of size limits who he’d be able to cover. Denzel Ward is a decent size for a corner at 5’11 190 pounds and his coverage skills are tremendous so it’ll allow Hargreaves to focus more on the smaller, shiftier receivers while Ward takes the bigger guys.

8. Chicago Bears-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

Despite acquiring Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, you can never have enough weapons for Mitchell Trubisky. Calvin Ridley is the best receiver in the class and he had a decent combine. I think this is a bit of a reach at this slot and the Bears could easily go for Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson to help shore up the offensive line, but we’ve seen what having a ton of weapons to throw to has done for a guy like Carson Wentz (and eventually, Nick Foles) and new head coach Matt Nagy likes to run basically the same offense that Doug Pederson and the Eagles ran (both are former OC’s with the Chiefs).

9. San Francisco 49ers-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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I’ve seen some people have Quenton Nelson as high as second overall to the Giants, which is unheard of for a guard. Nelson’s really good but I don’t know if he’s second overall pick good. I saw too many instances where he looked caught off guard by complex blitz packages in pass protection. However he would be an immediate upgrade over anyone on the 49ers offensive line, which needs some serious help to protect Jimmy Garoppolo, who too frequently had to rush his throws.

10. Oakland Raiders-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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Tremaine Edmunds is a genetic freak at 6’5 250 pounds and playing middle linebacker. He runs a 4.5 40 yard dash as well, a blazing time for a linebacker and was only overshadowed because Shaquem Griffin ran a 4.38. But Edmunds’ only real concern is his occasional mental lapses. Otherwise he’s as good a linebacker prospect as you’re going to find. Jon Gruden’s defense NEEDS linebackers and why not start with a guy whose potential is as unlimited as Edmunds’.

11. Miami Dolphins-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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I like Roquan Smith but I think he gets pushed off the ball a little too easily by offensive linemen. If he gets stronger, then combine that with his instincts and pursuits, we could be talking about another Ray Lewis (who was considered undersized when he was drafted in the mid-90’s). The Dolphins are reportedly enamored with Baker Mayfield and I’m sure they’ll try and make a trade into the top 5 to take him, but if that fails, getting Smith should be the next best option. They lack linebackers outside of Raekwon McMillan.

12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals)-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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Josh Allen is the most polarizing quarterback prospect I’ve ever seen. He has everything you look for in a quarterback prospect in terms of dimensions and arm. The problem is all his physical gifts seem to go out the window when he plays. Perhaps it’s poor talent around him at Wyoming, perhaps it’s poor coaching, perhaps he’s not even that good, but it’s really confounding. I think the Bills will try and trade up to take him, but since I don’t project trades, they luck into him after making a trade with the Bengals to move up here. Allen needs some time to grow and the Bills signed AJ McCarron so he can have a couple years to sit and learn.

13. Washington Redskins-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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Davenport’s a monster and the only reason he’s not in discussion for number 1 overall pick is because he played at UTSA and the competition he was going up against was horse crap. Granted, he destroyed opposing tackles like you would expect a guy of his talent at that level of competition, so that’s encouraging. He got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl but was dominating by the end of it, which suggests that he may face a smoother transition to the NFL than we might think. The Redskins could use somebody opposite Ryan Kerrigan now that Trent Murphy is gone and Davenport could be the impact pass rusher they need.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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The Packers need DB help as aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, they don’t really have a whole lot to be excited about especially after trading Damarious Randall to the Browns. While any of the remaining corners would be a little rich at this point in the first round, getting a safety like James would not only help the secondary, but also the linebackers as he’s very effective in the box.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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After signing Sam Bradford to a 3-year deal, quarterback is no longer an immediate issue in the wake of Carson Palmer’s retirement. Now they need to move on to wide receiver as Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting any younger (though you’d think otherwise based on how he’s played these last couple years) and their other receivers have disappointed. Christian Kirk is one of the best athletes in this class and he would not only help the Cardinals’ receiving corps, but he’s also dynamite in the return game.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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Da’Ron Payne really helped his stock in the CFP games, as he was the most dominant player on the field in both the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game. The Ravens’ top need is no longer wide receiver after acquiring Michael Crabtree and John Brown so they can look to bolster their defensive line, which could use some 3-4 defensive ends like Payne.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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The Chargers need offensive linemen and Connor Williams is the top tackle on my board. They appear to have hit the mark on Dan Feeney at left guard and the jury is still out on Forrest Lamp, who missed his rookie year due to injury, but tackle is still a concern. Some think Williams may be better served as a guard but I think he’s fully capable of playing left tackle for this team. He’s coming off a rough knee injury but he did manage to make a return.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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After gutting their entire defense, the Seahawks could go a number of routes with this pick but I’m a firm believer in the necessity of a good offensive line. Duane Brown was good as their left tackle and Ethan Pocic showed some flashes that he could also be really good. They have nothing at right tackle and that’s where Mike McGlinchey is best suited to play. McGlinchey could also slide in at guard if need be (which the Seahawks also need).

19. Dallas Cowboys-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Josh Jackson has slid down some boards after a mediocre combine, but his tape is still some of the best amongst all corners and he has the numbers to back it up, leading the country in interceptions last season. The Cowboys got a solid season out of rookie corner Jourdan Lewis but there is still a need at the position and Jackson is the type of playmaker that they’re going to need in order to keep up with some of the other athletic receivers in that division.

20. Detroit Lions-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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The Lions just franchise tagged Ziggy Ansah but that doesn’t solve their pass rushing woes. They still need someone opposite him to draw pressure away from their star pass rusher. Harold Landry is one of the best athletes in this draft class. He’s not great against the run but the Lions are in greater need of his pass rushing abilities, especially if they can’t lock up Ansah long term.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-James Daniels-C-Iowa

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After acquiring Cordy Glenn in a trade with the Bills, the Bengals’ left tackle situation seems to be in good shape. However they lost center Russell Bodine in free agency, making an already weak offensive line even weaker. James Daniels is a guy whose stock has skyrocketed in recent weeks. Not only is he a better athlete than what you traditionally find with a center, but he also has a very high football IQ and his presence alone could be a huge boost for this Bengals offensive line.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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Kyle Williams is in his mid-30’s and the Bills traded Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline so defensive tackle will quickly become a big need. Vita Vea is about as athletic as you’ll find in a 350-pounder. My one issue with him is his slow get-off. I feel like whenever I watch tape of him, it’s as if a whole second passes before he reacts to the snap, which could be really problematic at the next level. If he can improve on his reactions, he could be a deadly force on the interior defensive line.

23. Los Angeles Rams-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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After trading Alec Ogletree, there’s suddenly a hole in the middle of the Rams’ defense. Rashaan Evans is an athletic linebacker in the mold of CJ Mosley and he set the tone of the National Championship-winning Alabama defense. Evans has been dealing with injuries, but when on the field, he’s an impact player at one of the most important positions on defense.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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This is a little bit of a reach for my tastes, but the Panthers lack wide receivers after the trade of Kelvin Benjamin. DJ Moore is a guy I like but don’t love, however he put on a show at the Combine, which quelled some of the fears I had about him (such as his overall speed, which turns out is 4.4). Maryland used him on screens a lot and Moore could fit right in to this Panthers offense with that role as they already have the big red zone threat in Devin Funchess. Curtis Samuel underwhelmed as a rookie and I think Moore better fits the slot receiver role than Samuel does.

25. Tennessee Titans-Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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On tape, Maurice Hurst is my favorite interior defensive lineman in this class. His snap reaction and getoff are incredible. The big concern is the heart condition he was diagnosed with at the Combine that caused him to have to miss the event. He has since been cleared by doctors, however the fact it popped up in the first place has me concerned and is the reason he drops out of the top 20 for me. That being said, the Titans will be thrilled to have him line up alongside Jurell Casey and wreak havoc up the middle. The bigger need is edge rusher right now but there isn’t anybody available at this point that merits this high a selection. Having a good interior can set up one-on-ones for the edge rushers, though, and allow them to create more pressure.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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The Falcons need some interior line help after the departure of Dontari Poe and quite frankly I think it’s the team’s only weakness right now. Taven Bryan is one of the more underrated players in this Draft class and I think his raw strength could be valuable to this Falcons defense that relies a lot on speed. Bryan is also athletic for his size and I think the Falcons could move him all over the defensive line.

27. New Orleans Saints-Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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Dallas Goedert might not be well known to most who follow college football, having played at South Dakota State, but he’s got a similar build to Rob Gronkowski at 6’5 255 pounds and he dominated at the FCS level. The Saints are clearly in the market for a tight end as they tried to bring back Jimmy Graham in free agency before he signed with the Packers. Right now the Saints’ top tight end is Coby Fleener so an upgrade could be in order with the addition of Goedert.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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Ryan Shazier has already been ruled out for the 2018 season due to his spinal injury and his football career is in question, which makes middle linebacker a sudden need for the Steelers. I flip flop between Leighton Vander Esch and Malik Jefferson for this spot in the linebacker rankings as they’re pretty similar players. However Vander Esch gets the slight nod because I think he fits the Steelers’ scheme a bit better and I’m going to go with him at this spot. He’s a big, physical linebacker and while he’s not quite as athletic as Shazier was (hard to be much more athletic than him as a linebacker), he brings a certain level of fight to his game that I enjoy watching.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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I don’t know if anybody on the offensive side of the ball helped his stock more than former Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill. O’Neill outran some linebackers in the 40 yard dash and looked good in drills and I think he propelled himself from mid-second rounder to late first. I’ve got him going to the Jaguars and lining up on the right side in this situation. The Jaguars’ biggest need is tight end but with Goedert gone, there aren’t any first round-caliber tight ends available at this slot so I think the Jags would be wise to get some O-Line help. SMU receiver Courtland Sutton could be the pick here, but the Jaguars reached the AFC title game with an undrafted rookie as their leading receiver so I’m not so sure they’ll put a high priority on the position.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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The Vikings have very few holes, if any now that they signed Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson so they can afford to go for a luxury pick. Isaiah Oliver is a corner I’m a little higher on than most, as he’s a bigger corner whom I’ve never seen truly get beat. He’s a little underwhelming in terms of overall athleticism but given the big receivers in the NFC North like Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Marvin Jones, the Vikings could use a guy who can match up with them.

31. New England Patriots-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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Left tackle is the biggest need for the Patriots after Nate Solder signed a huge deal with the Giants, but I think this spot’s a little rich for UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, who I think will still be there when New England picks next at 43. I think they’d be smart to invest in a linebacker like Malik Jefferson after the patchwork linebacking group the Patriots sent out there after Dont’a Hightower’s injury. Kyle Van Noy played well in Hightower’s absence but after that the linebackers left something to be desired and it showed in the Super Bowl. Jefferson is a good athlete who has solid sideline-to-sideline speed and can line up pretty much anywhere a la Jamie Collins.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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I think Carlton Davis could be a steal in this Draft. He’s a big corner who runs pretty well and can cover, which is something the Eagles are lacking and it really showed in the Super Bowl as they were the first defense in Super Bowl history to let up a 500-yard passer in the big game despite the fact they came out on top. A safety could also be an option here but my next best safety, Ronnie Harrison of Alabama, doesn’t really fit the type of safety the Eagles need, which is a ballhawk rather than an enforcer. I think Davis better fits what the Eagles are looking for.

So that’s it for the third edition of my mock draft. Like I said in the intro, I’m going to do one more to publish the morning of the Draft. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do multiple rounds or just stick to the first just yet but again, I’ve got a whole month to decide. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Runningbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

A little while back I scouted the quarterbacks class and I’m going to do something similar for the runningbacks. This is me highlighting a few of my favorites where I talk about what I think they do well and what I think they need to work on as well as where I would take them in the Draft as well as what current or former NFL players I think their game most resembles. These can run a bit long so without further ado, let’s get into my backs. These are going to be in alphabetical order, so don’t think of these like rankings. I’ll have a whole blog for that in the future.

Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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I say these aren’t rankings, yet I put Barkley first. That’s just a coincidence, settle down. But yeah, Barkley is the best runningback in this Draft class and I’ve seen many people suggest that the Browns should take him #1 overall. Barkley’s good, really good, but I wouldn’t go that far. He was destroying college football for the first half of the year, then started fading down the stretch a bit. But there are a lot of things to love about the junior out of Penn State.

Strengths: Size, Explosiveness, Versatility

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Saquon Barkley is thick in the legs, which he should be when you’re 5’11 and 230 pounds like he is. He doesn’t really have the reputation of a bruiser, but he’s built like one and he can cut on a dime about as efficiently as LeSean McCoy. He’s also fast as Hell. One report has clocked him running as fast as a 4.33 40-yard dash. A guy at that size should not be anywhere near that fast. So here’s a 230-pound back who runs a 4.3 40 and is as elusive as they come. Oh and did I mention he’s a pretty good receiver and return man as well? Because he can do those things, too. Last year Barkley rushed for 1271 yards and had 632 yards receiving as well and even took a kick to the house against Indiana. So with all that, what weaknesses are there?

Weaknesses: Route Running, Hop Step

I mentioned that Barkley was a good receiver. However when he has to run actual routes out of the backfield, not just drifting towards the flat, he tends to get a little lax in his route running. This kind of surprised me because when he’s running with the football, his cuts are so sharp. But when he’s running routes, he tends to kind of bend on his turns instead of planting his foot and turning. Also, when he’s about to be handed the football, he does this little hop. This can be both beneficial and detrimental. On the one hand, it looks like that hop gives him an extra burst of speed. On the other, it’s costing him a split second that allows defenders to close in on him at the start of the handoff. But that’s really all I could come up with for weaknesses, I was really digging to be honest, Barkley’s great.

Draft Thoughts: I think Barkley is worthy of going in the top 5 picks. I’m not so sure I’d take him number 1 just because I think that spot should be reserved for the more crucial positions such as quarterback, left tackle, and edge rusher and in many offenses it doesn’t matter who is at runningback. But when you’re this freaky an athlete with so few flaws, it’s hard not to at least consider it, especially considering this year’s class as so many question marks and Barkley feels like one of the safest picks in the draft. He would be EXTREMELY beneficial to a team like the Giants, who do have other weapons on offense like ODell Beckham Jr and Evan Engram that could have their play elevated by there actually being a threat in the backfield.

Pro Comparison: 

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Ezekiel Elliott. He and Barkley both have similar frames and were damn near perfect draft prospects at the runningback position. I think a lot of the reason that Barkley kind of faded down the stretch was that opposing teams were gearing more resources towards stopping him, which allowed quarterback Trace McSorley to shine through.

Derrius Guice-LSU

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Derrius Guice burst on the scene last year when Leonard Fournette spent much of the season injured and really came into his own. 2017 was expected to be a huge year for Guice but he really didn’t explode the way I hoped. However, he was still the most important piece of the LSU offense and still managed to put together some solid numbers despite a decline in overall performance (his yards per carry dropped over 2 whole yards between 2016 and 17). However I still think he can be an excellent back in this league.

Strengths: Running Style, Speed, Receiving Ability

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When I looked up Guice’s measurables, I was SHOCKED to learn that he plays at just 212 pounds. He plays like he’s so much bigger than that. His running style is so aggressive, too. It’s almost as if he enjoys getting hit and punishes any defender who is brave enough to try and tackle him. He’s also a lot faster than you might expect. He’s just as fast as Barkley, as he was clocked at 4.32 seconds in his 40 yard dash during LSU minicamp. He’s also a decent receiver, as he had 18 catches for 124 yards on the season. Not nearly as good as Barkley but there was better quarterback play at Penn State than there was at LSU.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Running Style

Yes I included Guice’s running style as both a positive and a negative. This is because the manner in which he invites contact at his size is a recipe for injury. The defenders are a Hell of a lot bigger at the next level and if Guice is throwing his body around at them, that could lead to some IR trips if he’s not careful. He also kind of brings his aggressive running style into play when he’s blocking. Instead of absorbing defenders, he tends to go for the knockout block on seemingly every play. When he lands it, he de-cleats the defender. However if the defender puts on a slight move, Guice is lying facedown in the dirt and the rusher is disrupting the pass. He needs to play more disciplined when he’s back in protection.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t mind taking Guice in the first round as long as I was comfortable in my stable of backs behind him. He has all the makings of a feature back but his running style can kind of scare me at times. While I love his aggression, he’s a lot more valuable to me on the field than in the training room.

Pro Comparison: 

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Tevin Coleman. Coleman is a guy who is kind of stuck behind DeVonta Freeman in Atlanta but I feel if he is given the reigns to be the man, he could be a really electrifying back in this league, like Guice. Both have great athleticism and can shine as a receiver when given an opportunity. However both have pretty violent running styles that could result in potential injury. Coleman played on a broken foot at Indiana.

Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

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Kerryon Johnson was an intriguing prospect for much of the year but very few scouts really entertained the thought of him being a potential first rounder until he took over the Iron Bowl in Auburn’s victory over eventual national champion Alabama. Johnson was all over the place and was a part of seemingly every impactful play in that game. Scouts started taking notice and as a result, Johnson’s stock has skyrocketed.

Strengths: Vision, Agility, Patience

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Johnson can hit some holes that I didn’t even know were there. His peripherals are a marvel to behold. He’s also pretty slippery and it’s almost like he’s covered in grease when guys try and tackle him because of the way he kind of slips through people. He also clearly models his running style after Le’Veon Bell because he’s definitely waiting for his blocks to develop before attacking.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Hitting the Hole, General Explosiveness

I wouldn’t say Johnson is a bad blocker, just an inconsistent one. There are some plays where he makes really nice blocks that bought quarterback Jarrett Stidham at least another second or two to throw. There are others where he’s an absolute turnstile. There really wasn’t any in-between. Also, I mentioned his patience as a strength, but at times it appears to be a weakness because I think he’s so caught up in trying to be patient and waiting for his blocks to set up that he forgets he’s got to blast through them. He kind of hits the hole like a dainty butterfly and he lacks that one-step explosion that a lot of teams like to see out of their backs.

Draft Thoughts: Quite frankly, I think Johnson is getting a bit overhyped. He seems like an instinctive player, sure, but he’s the same size as Derrius Guice but seems so much slower despite the generally leaner frame. It’s more his intangibles that I think are the real positive rather than what he really brings to the table physically because watching some film on him, I wasn’t particularly blown away by anything he did. I’d probably wait until the 4th round before I started thinking about taking him.

Pro Comparison: 

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Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon is versatile kind of like Johnson and both have experience running out of some sort of wildcat formation. However neither really blows anybody away with their overall athleticism and in the grand scheme of things, I think they’re just decent backs.

Ronald Jones II-USC

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Ronald Jones II was a guy I hadn’t heard a whole lot about coming into this season, but I watched the Texas-USC game and was blown away by what this kid can bring to the table. I was watching that game looking to see what Sam Darnold can do, I left the game thinking about how great a back Ronald Jones is.

Strengths: Athleticism, Receiving, Blocking, Ability in Space

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Ronald Jones is at his best when he’s in space. He’s shifty and a great athlete and sometimes his cuts are so brutal he leaves defenders on skates. He’s also a good receiver, though I don’t think USC utilized him enough in this fashion. His blocking is an odd type of good. I thought he was decent as a blocker in the backfield, but in formations where USC had him line up out wide then throw a screen to a receiver, I thought he was fantastic. Again, Jones is at his best when he’s got space around him.

Weaknesses: Running Between the Tackles, Power

Jones was very unimpressive to me when he had to run up the middle. It seemed like he isn’t totally looking for the holes when asked to run straight. When he is running stretch plays outside the tackles to the edge, his vision seems to be great, but it’s when he’s forced to run into traffic where he tends to struggle. He’s also not going to knock anyone over with his 200-pound frame, but that’s not really his game anyway so it’s not TOO much of an issue, I just have a preference towards power backs.

Draft Thoughts: Ronald Jones could be downright dynamite when put in an offense that allows him to play to his strengths. I don’t think he fits in with everybody, which I think will hurt his draft stock. However if the right team picks him, look out because when this guy gets the ball in space, good luck. I think a team like the Lions would be perfect for him, as they’ve shown with Theo Riddick that they’re willing to play to each individual’s strengths, which is where I think he could shine. I think he could be worth a late first round pick as long as you have a specific plan set for how you want to use him because he’s not going to plug into just any system.

Pro Comparison: 

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Alvin Kamara. Both guys excel in their own systems and are at their best when in space as well as being talented receivers. Jones is a little bigger than Kamara but they both play similar games.

Bryce Love-Stanford

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Out of all the guys on this list, Bryce Love was the big breakout star. After backing up Christian McCaffrey for the last couple of years, Love was phenomenal upon being thrust into the starting role after McCaffrey was drafted 8th by the Panthers in the 2017 Draft, rushing for over 2000 yards and finishing 2nd in the Heisman voting. A lot of scouts are curious as to how well he will transition to the NFL and are wondering if his breakout season was a fluke.

Strengths: Speed, Shiftiness

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I don’t know if anybody in this draft class changes direction better than Love. Maybe Barkley. But when Love plants that foot in the dirt and cuts the other way, good luck catching him. And he’s fast, too. He’s been clocked at a 4.35 40 but there have been times where he was looked even faster. Once he gets to the second level, you’re done. He’s hard to tackle in open space and you’re going to need some serious athletes if you’re going to keep him in check. In fact, the one game where he was kept in check was the game where he was coming off an ankle injury. And even then he ran for 69 yards (it was the one time all year where he was held under 100).

Weaknesses: Size, Receiving

Out of all the backs I’m scouting in this blog, Love is easily the smallest. He’s 5’10 196 pounds, so he’s not built to handle the bulk of the carries in an NFL offense. And for a guy as quick as he is, I’m surprised to see that he’s not very involved in the passing game. He only had 6 catches for 33 yards on the season, which really works against you when you’re a smaller back. A lot of coaches like using their scat backs as receivers out of the backfield and Love hasn’t shown that he’s capable of doing that.

Draft Thoughts: I like Love a lot, but he has his limitations. He may be the most athletic runningback in this class, rivaling even Barkley, but his lack of size and receiving ability is a big knock against his draft status. I think if he were to add 10 pounds of muscle and work on his routes, he could be a DANGEROUS player in this league. But as things stand right now I think we’re looking at a third rounder.

Pro Comparison: 

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Dion Lewis. Lewis was drafted in the 6th round by the Eagles a few years back and was used mainly on kick returns before bouncing around the league and finally finding a home in New England, where they were able to use his skillset in a way that allowed him to thrive. This year he added on some muscle and he’s become a complete back, which is a similar path I think Love could find himself going down if he works at it.

Sony Michel-Georgia

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Sony Michel was part of arguably the deadliest runningback duo of all time with Nick Chubb (who I thought about including in this blog, but his injury history scares me so much I wouldn’t touch him until round 5). Michel was particularly dominant during the playoff, as he nearly led Georgia to a national championship single handedly. He scored the walkoff touchdown against Oklahoma and was the only consistently good member of Georgia’s offense in their championship loss to Alabama.

Strengths: Size-Speed Combination, Explosiveness, Shiftiness, Vision

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I was surprised to see that Sony Michel is 215 pounds because he runs like a gazelle. Granted, he only runs a 4.45, but he plays a lot faster than that. He hits the hole so hard that if you don’t square him up, he’s going to blow right by you. And when he’s in the open field you stand no chance. He does a great job of reading blocks as well. There’s a lot of untapped ability with this kid and I think sharing a backfield with Chubb kind of held back what he can really do when given the reigns.

Weaknesses: Power, Blocking, Receiving, Running Style

I put receiving down as a weakness mainly because he was barely utilized as a receiver throughout most of the season. He was used a lot more as a receiver in the Rose Bowl, as he got 4 out of his 9 catches on the season in that game, and I think he did pretty well so I think there’s some untapped potential there. But as it stands, we just don’t know enough about his abilities as a receiver to justify listing it as a strength. Also, he’s not a power runner in any sense of the word. He’s not going to barrel over anybody and he might struggle against NFL-caliber pass rushers. He also runs very upright, which might hinder his speed some and can cause injury if hit a certain way.

Draft Thoughts: I think Sony Michel could creep into the first round depending on how his combine goes. If he can run a sub 4.4 40, then I think he’s automatically in the discussion. He’s very good in space and I think there is so much untapped potential with this kid that I think we could have something really special here.

Pro Comparison: 

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David Johnson. Johnson is a guy that had a lot of raw and untapped potential at Northern Iowa that was unlocked when the Cardinals were able to utilize what he does best and got him involved in the passing game. I think Michel could have similar success if given similar attention.

That’s a wrap on my scouting report on some of my favorite runningbacks in this year’s draft class. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

 

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

What Would an 8-Team CFP Look Like?

So for a while now, this year more than usual, people are calling for the heads of the CFP committee for their decision on who gets into the playoff. Last year people were upset that Ohio State got in despite not playing for their conference championship and this year the same thing happened with Alabama. Both teams have the same thing in common: they lost to the wrong team. Had both 2016 Ohio State or 2017 Alabama lost to somebody other than Penn State or Auburn, then they would have certainly been playing in their conference title games. I first heard a proposal by an SEC coach (I think it was Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, who is now their former coach, but I’m basing that on very little, don’t quote me on that citation) about an idea for an 8-team playoff. All Power 5 champs get in and 3 at-large teams. I’m actually a huge fan of that idea. While I am also a fan of the current format, I think an 8-team playoff would ease peoples’ bitching and take the whole “they didn’t win their conference” argument out of the picture, which I think is the biggest crutch facing the committee right now.

So for this blog, I’m going to take a look at what the Playoff picture would look like if we did have an 8-team playoff. As you may have seen, here is how the CFP voted in the current 4-team format:

1.Clemson

2.Oklahoma

3.Georgia

4.Alabama

5.Ohio State

6.Wisconsin

Of course, people are irate about the #4-#5 rankings. A lot of people are saying that you can’t leave the Big Ten champs out. Before I go into any more depth I got to get this off my chest: Ohio State is the fifth best team in the country. I’ve gotten a chance to watch them live twice this season: their first game of the year against Indiana and their last game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship. Now both were Buckeyes victories, but one thing I noticed is that they got away with sloppy play in both games. Against Indiana, their secondary was swiss cheese against Richard Lagow, who was benched midway through the season for a redshirt freshman who can barely throw a ball 30 yards. Lagow threw for over 370 yards on them. I noticed SIGNIFICANT improvement between that game and the Big Ten Title game, particularly with cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward had a lot of hype going into the season and I was NOT impressed by his play against Indiana. However, I felt the exact opposite about him against Wisconsin, where he didn’t allow a single catch and won a jump ball against tight end Troy Fumagalli for an interception. But Ohio State won the game 27-21 and they should have won by a LOT more. Their defense had been shutting down Wisconsin’s offense all day, making Alex Hornibrook look like a D3 quarterback. Yet the Badgers were in this game to the very end because of self-inflicted wounds. JT Barrett threw a pick-6 when he stared down his receiver in his own endzone. Mike Weber fumbled inside their own 20 (however it’s debatable if his knee was down or not, the view the stadium jumbotrons gave us did not give conclusive evidence), and Barrett threw another pick on a ball that was dropped by his receiver into the arms of the Wisconsin linebacker. You don’t see these mistakes out of Alabama. When they’re better than you, they step on your throats. I know the CFP says they don’t consider margin of victory, but their leader in an interview with ESPN immediately after the rankings were released straight up said that they couldn’t in good conscience include Ohio State with a 31-point loss to an unranked team on their resume. If all losses are equal, then why the Hell would he say that? Alabama’s only loss came against an outstanding Auburn team at the worst possible moment. So I do believe the committee got it right with their selection of Alabama over Ohio State. Rant over.

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So here are the Power 5 conference champs that would automatically earn playoff berths in an 8-team system:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

PAC 12: USC Trojans

SEC: Georgia Bulldogs

Those 5 teams are in and are likely the higher-ranked teams. I’m assuming that seeding would be determined based on each team’s position in the rankings. So based on that, it would be:

Clemson vs #3 At Large Team

Oklahoma vs #2 At Large Team

Georgia vs #1 At Large Team

Ohio State vs USC

The two lowest ranked conference champs, which in this case are Ohio State and USC, would square off while the top 3 are rewarded for their excellence by receiving the at-large teams. So who would their opponents be?

Georgia’s opponent would be the Alabama Crimson Tide, an SEC-on-SEC matchup, however these two teams did not meet in the regular season, so it’s basically like the other matchups on these lists. This very nearly was the SEC title game and if we had an 8-team playoff, we would get the matchup anyway.

Oklahoma’s opponent would be the Wisconsin Badgers, based on the committee’s rankings, though I wonder if they were voting on it, how much weight their loss in the Big Ten championship would carry. Would they still be in the playoff if their loss was so recent? My gut tells me yes, though that loss would likely change who they would face.

Clemson’s opponent would be the Auburn Tigers, a rematch from earlier in the season when Clemson won 13-6. Auburn is ranked 7th by the committee, yet they have 3 losses, so that would spark even further debate. The debate goes from “should a 2-loss get in” to “should a 3-loss get in,” which I think would be a lot more damning considering how many good 2-loss teams there are. Because here are a list of some notable 2-loss teams: Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Miami (FL), Washington, Memphis. You mean to tell me you’d prefer a 3-loss Auburn team to get in over these guys? The debate would be a lot fiercer and I think it would really affect the rankings because at this point, once you’re out of the Top 4, your ranking really doesn’t mean anything anymore.

So here is the seeding in a theoretical 8-team playoff based on the committee’s final rankings:

1.Clemson Tigers (vs #8 Auburn)

2.Oklahoma Sooners (vs #7 Wisconsin)

3.Georgia Bulldogs (vs #6 Alabama)

4.Ohio State Buckeyes (vs #5 USC)

5.USC Trojans (vs #4 Ohio State)

6.Alabama Crimson Tide (vs #3 Georgia)

7.Wisconsin Badgers (vs #2 Oklahoma)

8.Auburn Tigers (vs #1 Clemson)

And here it is in Bracket Form:

1 Clemson vs 8 Auburn

4 Ohio State vs 5 USC

3 Georgia vs 6 Alabama

2 Oklahoma vs 7 Wisconsin

Draw the brackets yourself, I don’t have an illustrator function on this WordPress thing. I seriously doubt that if we did have this format that Auburn would get in with 3 losses. The honor of the 8-seed would likely end up going to either Penn State, Miami, or Washington, or Hell, even the undefeated UCF. And if the Knights were legitimately in the playoff discussion, does head coach Scott Frost leave for Nebraska? We may never know. Personally, I’d love to see this format in action. I disagree with the argument that it would “devalue” the regular season. That’s bullshit, you need to perform in the regular season to get to these seeds. If anything, it amps up the importance.

You want to devalue the regular season? Do a 128-team playoff. Everybody gets in (though I think the NCAA is at 130 FBS football programs right now, could be wrong). Then the committee REALLY has to work and rank every single team and the lone two teams that don’t make the playoff have a fight to the death to see which program gets demoted to the FCS in favor of the FCS champion coming up to take their place. A Sacko Bowl, if you will. 128 teams play in the playoff and the 2 that don’t make it have to play in a bowl game for the right to stay in the FBS. I need to tone down my hypothetical excitement. And just so we’re clear, no, I’m not projecting that in a blog. I’ve only had a single dollar donated to my Patreon so unless I’m making that scrilla (I promise I will never use that word again), I’m not putting in all that effort.

Now yes, I know it is Monday, which I’m trying to make into my weekly story day. But this is too topical at the moment for me not to blog about it on Monday. Don’t worry, that blog is still coming this week, I do have a story in mind from my JV baseball days. Probably won’t be until Wednesday because based on what I’m reading, Tuesday’s blog may end up being another Giancarlo Stanton blog, because reportedly the Marlins have deals in place with the Giants and Cardinals and they just need to ask Stanton which one he wants to go to. So he could be traded at any moment now. If he’s not traded today, then Tuesday’s blog will be the story. I promise. So what do you think of the 8-team playoff? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.