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: 

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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.

 

 

2018 NFL Mock Draft #1

As promised, the series finale of my NFL postseason series, here is my first NFL Mock Draft. Now a lot is expected to change between now and April. Some of these guys I select to be drafted may even return to school and not even be in the Draft. The top 20 picks are pretty much set in stone (I think there’s a tie breaker between the Raiders and 49ers for the 9th and 10th picks that has yet to be decided). Also, for picks 21-32, since those aren’t solidified yet, I’m going to order them based on their current playoff seeding, but keep in mind that those slots are more than likely going to change based on how the playoffs work out. I will also not being projecting trades, though I may mention if a trade is a possibility. I’m going to provide explanations for each pick, so here goes nothing.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This could be a bit controversial because Rosen has gone on the record stating that he does not want to play for the Browns and that he would rather fall down the draft board a little bit and play for the right team. We could see wind up seeing a similar situation to what happened in 1983 with John Elway and the Colts or 2004 with Eli Manning and the Chargers if Rosen gets taken by the Browns. Knowing this, perhaps the Browns could continue to build draft capital and trade this pick to a QB-needy team desperate for one of the top 2 arms. In fact, I think the Broncos at 5 could try and move up and send the Browns an absolute haul. With their newly acquired pick, the Browns could take a chance on someone like Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield with the 4th or 5th pick. But for now, as it is, I think Rosen is the top pick, though I wouldn’t be surprised come April if it’s another team making that pick.

2. New York Giants-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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A lot of people have hopped on the “Sam Darnold is Overrated Bandwagon” after getting his ass kicked by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. I am not one of them. While I have been critical of his delivery and propensity for turnovers, I think Darnold will be fine given more talent around him. I don’t think returning to school to develop would have been the best idea because there really isn’t much of a supporting cast at USC right now to help him grow like there would be in the NFL. Especially a team like the Giants, where he’d have a healthy ODell Beckham and a continuously developing Evan Engram to throw to. I think Darnold made the right decision by declaring for the Draft. Granted the Giants will also need to solve their offensive line problems, but this isn’t the class to do it. I think free agency would be a better bet.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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This might be a bit of a reach because Connor Williams is merely the best of a weak tackle class, however the need for the Colts is so great that it trumps overall value. Williams is talented, sure, but he missed most of the year with a knee injury, which is something that has haunted the Colts the last few years. But Indianapolis NEEDS offensive line help. They gave up the most sacks in the NFL last year and have been a big reason why Andrew Luck has yet to reach his potential and missed the entire 2017 season due to injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade down to settle for a similar talent in Mike McGlinchey and build draft capital, much like I think the Browns could.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Browns need playmakers. Period. Aside from Josh Gordon, there is nobody on their offense that opposing defenses really need to worry about. Isaiah Crowell isn’t a bad runningback, but he’s not the difference-maker the Browns need to get them over the top. Saquon Barkley could be that back. I think wide receiver is a bigger need, as Josh Gordon needs a battery-mate to take some of the pressure off and Corey Coleman can’t seem to stay healthy, but I think the Browns would be better off waiting until the second round for a guy like DJ Moore or Simmie Cobbs. Barkley reminds me a bit of Ray Rice in that he’s not the biggest guy, but he packs so much punch and can be so quick in his cuts that it really doesn’t matter. Plus he hasn’t openly stated that he doesn’t want to play for the Browns, so that’s a positive.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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This could be a fallback option if the Broncos can’t strike a deal for the top 2 picks and are forced to remain at number 5. While I don’t think Josh Allen is a finished product by any means, I do think he has all the potential in the world. Whether the Broncos are going to be able to develop that talent remains to be seen. I think they’ve gotten the most out of Trevor Siemian but Paxton Lynch has been a major disappointment and we’ve all seen what Brock Osweiler can do in a starting role, so quarterback is really what’s holding this team back from returning to contention. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos also go for a free agent acquisition or some kind of trade (Kirk Cousins, perhaps?).

6. New York Jets-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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The Jets’ approach to the Draft has typically been “best player available.” Chubb isn’t my best available player at this stage, but that’s mainly because my highest ranked player from my initial big board, Minkah Fitzpatrick, is a safety; a position that the Jets have a plethora of young talent at. However, I’m of the belief that a team can never have too many pass rushers and the Jets could use a guy like Bradley Chubb to wreak havoc on offensive lines. They have a ton of holes on offense, but aside from the guys I have already being taken, there is nobody worth this draft slot on that side of the ball. I think they’ll start addressing the offense in round 2.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top player on my big board, yet I have him going 7th to the Buccaneers. That’s just the way the Draft shakes out sometimes. The Buccaneers ranked last in yards allowed in 2017 and can use an upgrade pretty much anywhere on the field. I could also see this pick being Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry, however I think Fitzpatrick’s versatility will earn him the Bucs’ preference. He can play both corner and safety and I’ve seen him play up on the line of scrimmage at times (and seen him cause problems in the backfield to boot!). Fitzpatrick could add a much-needed boost to this Bucs defense that’s a long ways away from the days of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch.

8. Chicago Bears-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry is one of the quickest and fastest defensive linemen I’ve ever seen, which is something the Bears need more of. Leonard Floyd is a nice player, but aside from him there isn’t much of a pass rush to speak of. Chicago’s secondary played reasonably well in 2017 but an improved pass rush could help them out immensely. Enter Landry, who led the nation in sacks in 2016 and actually managed to show improvement in 2017. I think he could be a big lift for the Bears defense.

9. Oakland Raiders-Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

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Arden Key’s a little raw, but he is oozing with talent. He kind of reminds me of Aldon Smith given his skinnier frame and elite athleticism. I watched some highlights on him and he has a tendency to disappear from games at times, but I think the right coach can get the most out of him. Enter Jon Gruden, who appears to be the next Raiders head coach. Gruden is a guy who has a history of firing up his team and getting the most out of his guys. Plus, Key will have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to learn from as this Raiders defense looks to improve on a very unimpressive 2017 season.

10. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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Watching Jimmy Garoppolo play well with the 49ers is like watching my son succeed. That’s why is pains me when I see him get drilled by pass rushers while trying to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. He needs a better offensive line so that he can go through his reads more easily. A lot of scouts think McGlinchey would be better at right tackle as opposed to left, where he played in college, and that’s probably where the biggest hole on the 49ers offensive line is. At least, when I watch Garoppolo highlights it is. McGlinchey can step in day one and protect Garoppolo for at least the next 10 years.

11. Miami Dolphins-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Derwin James showed a lot of promise as a freshman before getting injured and missing most of his sophomore season, then having a disappointing junior season in 2017. However that talent would emerge in flashes and I think given the right circumstances, he can reignite the spark that had scouts so excited for him when he was a freshman. James is a similar type of player to Jamal Adams of the Jets, who went 6th overall last year, in that he’s a traditional all-around safety in the mold of Brian Dawkins who can not only cover well, but bring the boom. The Dolphins need a guy like this roaming the secondary, as they really lack an enforcer away from the defensive line.

12. Cincinnati Bengals-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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Quenton Nelson is probably the safest pick in this year’s class, as he consistently goes up against top competition on the defensive line and puts up great performances. Plus, I find that top-end guards tend to transition to the NFL really well. The Bengals need someone like that badly. After the departure of Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati’s offensive line was a mess and was a big part of the team’s struggles offensively. Nelson won’t fix their problems by himself, but he could become this team’s version of Zack Martin.

13. Washington Redskins-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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This one was kind of tough because Calvin Ridley is also a very viable option here and I’m not 100% sold on Courtland Sutton’s ability to transfer from playing at SMU to the pros. I think he has the highest ceiling of any of the receivers in this class, as he reminds me a lot of Alshon Jeffery, but I also think he has the lowest floor, as he never really had to face any top-caliber corners. The Redskins need more receivers. Josh Doctson is still figuring out how to play in this league and Jamison Crowder can’t be your top guy if you hope to compete in the NFC East. If Sutton can have the type of impact I think he’s capable of, the Redskins will be right back in the hunt for a division crown.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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Overall I thought Derrius Guice was kind of a disappointment in 2017. As Leonard Fournette’s backup for the first couple years of his college career, Guice showed to practically be his counterpart’s equal, as he would torch defenses on days that Fournette couldn’t go. Perhaps it was for a similar reason to Todd Gurley in 2016 as to why Guice didn’t have the breakout year I hoped for, as he was his team’s only real option on offense, allowing defenses to stack the box to stop him. Nonetheless, he still finished with over 1000 yards rushing on the season and could provide a huge boost to a running game in Green Bay that has had its struggles since Eddy Lacy’s rookie year.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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With the retirements of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals may be in a state of panic, as they appear to be in limbo. They need a new quarterback and they need him now because the ACL-less Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert aren’t going to cut it for the long haul. Baker Mayfield is a guy I think has an extremely high ceiling but an extremely low floor. We saw a bit of both in Oklahoma’s Rose Bowl defeat against Georgia. When Mayfield was on, like in the first half and fourth quarter, the vaunted Bulldogs defense stood no chance at stopping him. When he was off, like he was in the third quarter, he played like how I would in that spot. There’s plenty of talent on offense in Arizona and I think this could be a great spot for Mayfield to land depending on who the Cardinals’ brass decides on for their next head coach.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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Calvin Ridley is a lot of peoples’ favorite receiver in the 2017 class, and he might even be mine, too. However he doesn’t do a whole lot that really stands out to me. He’s got good hands, good route running skills, and he’s reasonably quick. But there isn’t really anything that just makes you say “wow!” However, a team in need of a good receiver like the Ravens probably won’t care too much about “wow” factor as long as he can move the sticks. Ridley has kind of been kept under wraps since Jalen Hurts became the starting quarterback and Alabama became a more run-heavy offense (they’ve always been run-heavy, but under Hurts it feels like it’s gone up a notch). With a guy with an arm like Joe Flacco, I think Ridley can unlock his full potential.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Rashaan Evans-ILB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has battled injuries throughout the year but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best linebackers that have come out in a while. He’s not as polished as Reuben Foster was coming out last year, but he does a lot of things similarly to the young 49ers stud. For a team that missed out on the playoffs, the Chargers surprisingly don’t have that many holes. Ideally, I think they’d like to get someone opposite Keenan Allen, but I’d give Mike Williams a chance to get healthy before pulling the trigger on another guy this early. I think the Chargers can afford to go with the best on the board and for me, that’s Evans.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is a guy I’ve gone back and forth on. He didn’t impress me in the season opener against Indiana, but he was lights out against Wisconsin. Granted, he was on Simmie Cobbs much of the night against Indiana and Wisconsin doesn’t have anybody near that caliber, but still, holding any opponent to zero catches when targeting you is something special, which is what Ward did on the Big Ten’s biggest stage. Offensive line is still the biggest need for the Seahawks, but I don’t see any quick fixes in this class worth spending a high pick on so I think solidifying their secondary should be a priority. Shaq Griffin looks like he could be a solid player, but after him and Richard Sherman, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of long-term ability. The Seahawks’ secondary was super inconsistent after Sherman and Chancellor went down for the season and adding a guy like Ward could make Pete Carroll a little more comfortable with their depth.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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Maurice Hurst is a guy I want to highlight on future scouting segments so I won’t go into TOO much detail about why I like him so much, but just know now that he’s probably the best defensive tackle in the nation in my opinion and I think he could really help the Cowboys, who once again dip into the Michigan well after taking two Wolverines defenders with early picks in last year’s Draft (Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis). Dallas could be losing DeMarcus Lawrence to free agency and they’ll need other guys to pick up the slack in case Taco Charlton doesn’t develop the way they hope. This pick could be Clemson’s Clellin Ferrell if they aren’t confident in him, however.

20. Detroit Lions-Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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The Lions have no ground game whatsoever. Ameer Abdullah has struggled in the feature back role and I think he’s better suited as a change of pace guy. Theo Riddick is purely a pass catching option. They really lack that one guy that can carry the load. Ronald Jones II can do that and then some. He kind of reminds me of a bigger Alvin Kamara with his skills not only as a runner, but as a receiver running routes. Watch his performance against Texas early in the season to see what I mean. He could be the feature back the Lions haven’t had since Barry Sanders.

21. Buffalo Bills-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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I’m not in love with Lamar Jackson as a passer, I’d be a lot more intrigued by his potential if he were to convert to wide receiver, where I think is where teams can best utilize his abilities for the long term. However the former Heisman trophy winner does bring a lot to the table in terms of athleticism and he did improve his passing game from 2016-17, so it’s not unreasonable to think he can continue to grow in an NFL system. The Buffalo Bills clearly don’t envision Tyrod Taylor as their future, hence why he was randomly benched for Nathan Peterman midseason. Jackson plays a similar type of game to Taylor so they won’t have to adjust their playbook too much to accommodate his skillset like they might have to with a less mobile quarterback like Mason Rudolph. Plus the Bills already have a guy like LeSean McCoy at runningback, who could form a DEADLY read-option combination with Jackson.

22. Atlanta Falcons-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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Da’Ron Payne was the star of Alabama’s Sugar Bowl semifinal win over Clemson, as he had an interception AND a touchdown reception as a 310-pound defensive tackle. That’s the big man’s dream right there. Payne is also an excellent run stuffer, which could be very useful for a team like the Falcons, who currently employ Grady Jarrett and had to release Ra’Shede Hageman amidst domestic violence charges. Jarrett is set to become a free agent after the 2018 season, so establishing a running mate or potential heir would be beneficial in clogging the middle of the defense for the foreseeable future.

23. Tennessee Titans-Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

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The Titans are fairly old on the pass rushing front, as both Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are hovering around the age of 30 (Orakpo is 31, Morgan is 28). Both are also set to become free agents after 2018, heightening the need for an heir. Ferrell isn’t a finished product, but he’s super athletic and can really benefit from learning from the veteran pass rushers.

24. Carolina Panthers-Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma

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The Panthers have always been in need of offensive linemen, though in 2017 they weren’t too bad, though Cam Newton was sacked 35 times, tied for 9th in the league. You’d like to bring that number below 30 if you can help it and if you’re going to grab an impact tackle in this Draft, you have to pull the trigger right now because after Orlando Brown there is a pretty steep drop-off in offensive line talent. Brown is pretty raw, but he is so freaking huge (6’7 340 pounds) that you can’t help but take a chance on him. He was Baker Mayfield’s chief protector at Oklahoma and helped Rodney Anderson rush for over 1000 yards.

25. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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Time to give Lamar Jackson a new toy to play with. Bills receivers had a pretty rough year in 2017, even after the acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, as Antonio Brown outpaced their entire group by himself. They’ve got some size to them, as Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, and Zay Jones are all at least 6’2, but they lack that quick route runner that can act as kind of a safety blanket. Enter Christian Kirk. What he lacks in size (5’11 201 pounds), he makes up for in quickness and agility. No matter who is quarterbacking the Bills in 2018, I’m sure they’d love to have this guy in the slot.

26. New Orleans Saints-Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

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Christian Wilkins was a guy a lot of people had in their preseason top 10 players, but he kind of fell off as the season went along, with some experts leaving him out of the first round altogether. I watched footage from the Auburn game and I can kind of see why Wilkins might have fallen off. He doesn’t really do anything particularly special. His technique is good, but I think he lacks the ideal strength you want out of your interior linemen, though I will admit, watching that tape, he improved in that as the game went along. But he is pretty quick and athletic and I think with a few more trips to the weight room, he could become a dangerous force. The Saints don’t have a single hole on their team that I can see so they can afford to draft and stash a guy like Wilkins and bank on his development.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

Quarterback is the biggest need for the Jaguars, but given that Blake Bortles is set to hit free agency after this season, you would need that quarterback to start immediately and none of the remaining QBs are day one starters. I think the Jaguars will franchise tag Bortles before looking for a potential replacement (though he has looked really good these last few weeks). They could also go receiver here, but I think they’ll get another defender to add to that ruthless defense like Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. Barry Church is up there in age and finding another enforcer-type in the secondary could help turn the Jaguars defense from a really exciting one to an all-timer. Harrison’s hit in the photograph above was one of my favorite plays from the Iron Bowl, as Kerryon Johnson was trying to make his way for the pylon before getting earholed by Harrison.

28. Los Angeles Rams-Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Joshua Jackson led all of college football with 8 interceptions and the Rams could use a ball hawk like that at corner. Trumaine Johnson has been in the perpetual franchise tag so finding a potential successor could be in the Rams’ benefit. Jackson played with Chargers rookie standout Desmond King at Iowa so one would be forgiven for thinking he could provide a similar boost to an already strong defense. Plus, like with pass rushers, I feel that one can never have too many good corners.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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I disagree with a lot of scouts on Malik Jefferson when watching footage. I read that he’s super athletic and he’d be best suited as an edge defender. Watching that footage, I didn’t think Jefferson looked that athletic, though I did like his technique a lot and he looked like he had a solid future as an off the ball linebacker. He rarely ever goes for the risky knockout hit, he consistently wraps up, and he’s pretty good in zone coverage (his man coverage leaves some to be desired). The Steelers could be in need of an inside linebacker soon. Vince Williams was a revelation this season, but the scary injury to Ryan Shazier could be career threatening and the Steelers may need to find a guy to fill the potential void.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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A guy built like Vita Vea should not be as quick as he is. He’s 6’5 340 pounds but he moves like a guy 100 pounds lighter. Analysts, myself included, seem to be all over the map about where his projected value is and I think how he does at the Combine could be a huge barometer as to where he might end up. My main beef with him is I think he has a slow get-off. When I watched some of his early-season highlights, it seemed like the ball would be snapped, a whole second would pass by, and then he’d break out of his 3-point stance. If he can work on anticipating the snap, he’ll be unblockable. As if the Vikings need another impact defender, though I think defensive tackle is a weak spot for them. Sharrif Floyd is a really good player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s often injured and the Vikings fear they may have seen the last of him in the NFL. Plus, current starters Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson will each be in their 30’s next season, so getting younger at that position seems to be the wise move.

31. Philadelphia Eagles-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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On paper, it seems that the Eagles’ weakest position would be runningback and Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrogh, or Damien Harris could all be the pick here. However they seem to have found a way to make it work so I don’t think they will go that route. Instead, I think they go with the big corner in Isaiah Oliver. I only watched footage of one game on Oliver, I don’t even remember who they were playing, but he never got beat once in coverage by any receiver. He doesn’t appear to be particularly fast, but that’s not really his game a la Richard Sherman. I think he could struggle against smaller, shiftier receivers, but in a division with bigger receivers like Dez Bryant, Josh Doctson, possibly Courtland Sutton based on this mock draft, and ODell Beckham, a big corner to match up is a must.

32. New England Patriots-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Patriots fans, settle down. I can explain. Quite frankly, I think the Patriots’ biggest needs are edge defender and potentially cornerback, depending on what happens with Malcolm Butler. If there isn’t a guy they like when they pick, I fully believe they will trade out of the pick. However I’m not projecting trades, so they have to stick here and in this mock I have them drafting a potential successor for Tom Brady. Bill Belichick is always grooming quarterbacks and they’ve all been used as trade pieces in the past. In fact, I thought Jacoby Brissett was far more raw than Mason Rudolph is when the Patriots took him in the third round of the 2016 Draft and he was able to start an entire season for the Colts. Rudolph has some pretty good arm talent, which I highlighted in my scouting quarterbacks blog, he just comes from a system that transitions pretty poorly to the NFL. However if he lands with the Patriots, I think he will be in the perfect situation to develop. Who better to learn from than Tom Brady and what better offense to work with than the Patriots? Plus, if Brady continues to play well into his 40’s and Rudolph impresses in practices and preseasons, the Patriots could have another trade chip on their hands.

That’s it for my first mock draft of the year. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Final Heisman Trophy Rankings

So with the Heisman trophy winner being announced on Saturday, I thought I’d revisit the rankings I did at midseason and see where things stand now. If you’ve been keeping up with the college football season and my blog, you will know that things changed DRAMATICALLY. For reference, here were my rankings at midseason:

5. Lamar Jackson

4. Jonathan Taylor

3. Baker Mayfield

2. Bryce Love

1. Saquon Barkley

As you may have seen, Barkley fell off HARD after inconsistent performances in the Big Ten schedule. Teams were able to limit his rushing ability and he would consistently be held under 100 yards while other guys would only elevate their play. In fact, despite all the Heisman hype Barkley has gotten this year, he is not amongst the finalists headed to New York for the trophy presentation. That would be Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love, and Baker Mayfield. So with that, let’s get into my final Heisman rankings.

5. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

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Previous Ranking: 4th

Stat Line: 273 carries, 1847 yards, 13 TDs

Jonathan Taylor has probably had one of the greatest freshman seasons in the history of college football. In fact, he is 78 yards away from Adrian Peterson’s freshman record of 1925 yards, a feat he can achieve in the Orange Bowl against Miami (FL). He is also 153 yards away from reaching 2000 yards, a mark never achieved by a freshman. The 153 yards is very feasible for him to obtain, as he has reached that total in 5 of his 13 games this season. Where Taylor’s Heisman candidacy hurts is that he’s a pretty one-dimensional player. He only had 7 receptions all season and 3 of them came in the Big Ten championship game. He also was really held in check in that game on the ground, as he only ran for 41 yards on 15 carries against the vaunted Ohio State defense. But if he continues to build on his success this season and improve his all-around game, I would expect him to rank at the top of this list within the next two years.

4. Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State

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Previous Ranking: Just Missed

Stat Line: 275 carries, 2027 yards, 19 TDs, 18 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDs

Where does San Diego State keep finding these guys? They had Marshall Faulk back in the day and they just lost college football’s all-time leading rusher in Donnell Pumphrey to graduation and they replace him with this guy. Rashaad Penny was a bit under the radar this season, playing in the lowly Mountain West Conference, which is the main hit against his candidacy. But he shouldn’t have been, as even in a backup role last season, he still ran for 1000 yards. Naturally, he flourished in a starting role, as his 2027 rushing yards led the nation. Had he put up these numbers at a Power 5 school, though, we could very easily be talking about him as the Heisman favorite. And for a guy as big as he is (5’11 220 pounds), he is pretty active catching the ball. Guys that weight 220 typically aren’t very involved in the passing game but Penny bucks the trend a bit. He also ended the season on an absolute TEAR. Following back-to-back games where he was held under 70 yards, Penny rushed for over 200 in each of the final four games of the season, including a 253-yard performance against Hawaii. It’ll be interesting to see what NFL scouts think of this guy because I think he could be an impactful player at the next level.

3. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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Previous Ranking: 5th

Stat Line: 241-399 (60.4%), 3489 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs, 208 carries, 1443 yards, 17 TDs

It’s hard to believe, but Lamar Jackson may have actually improved on his Heisman-winning campaign from last season. He got significantly better as a passer, forcing scouts to seriously entertain the idea of him being a successful NFL quarterback, he was able to cut down on the turnovers, and even got better as a runner, if that’s even possible. While yes, his 1443 yards are down from his 1571 last year, but that’s because he did it on 52 fewer carries, resulting in his yards per carry being almost an entire yard higher than last season (6.9 vs 6.0). What hurts Jackson’s bid to become the second ever 2-time Heisman winner is that Louisville wasn’t competing for a playoff berth this year like they were last year and while I do think that’s unfair, it does play a role in the eyes of the voters when you’re the quarterback and the player most linked to a team’s success.

2. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

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Previous Ranking: 2nd

Stat Line: 237 carries, 1973 yards, 17 TDs

Bryce Love is the only guy in my Heisman rankings who stays put from my midseason edition. At the time of my midseason rankings, I toyed with the idea of having Love in the top spot over Saquon Barkley because that’s just how good he’d been. He’s fallen off a bit but that’s in large part due to an ankle injury he suffered right before the Oregon State game, which he ended up missing (he’s the only player in my top 5 Heisman rankings who missed a game). However because it was against Oregon State, arguably the worst Power 5 team in college football, it doesn’t hurt Love nearly as much as it would if he were to miss a game against, say, USC. The only game that Love did play where he didn’t rush for 100 yards was his return from injury, where he ran for 69, so that should earn a Heisman nod right there. But, like Taylor, Love was very one-dimensional this season, as he only had 6 catches all year and only had a single game with multiple catches. But he should easily eclipse the 2000-yard mark during Stanford’s Alamo Bowl appearance against TCU, so that alone automatically puts you near the top of the Heisman discussion, especially when you play for a Power 5 team like Stanford.

1. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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Previous Ranking: 3rd

Stat Line: 262-369 (71%), 4340 yards, 41 TDs, 5 INTs, 85 carries, 310 yards, 5 TDs

I think we can all agree on the top spot here, right? Baker Mayfield has really pulled away from the rest of the pack and this race is pretty much over. I’d be SHOCKED if it weren’t him hoisting the trophy on Saturday night and will have an angry blog to post in the morning if that happens. Mayfield completed 71% of his passes, best in the nation among qualifying quarterbacks, threw for the second most yards in the nation behind in-state rival Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State, threw for 41 touchdowns, which was second to Missouri’s Drew Lock’s 43, and even added a running element to his game, as he was his team’s fourth-leading rusher. Oh and did I mention Oklahoma went 12-1, won their conference, and are the 2-seed in the college football playoff with a legitimate shot at their first national championship since 2000? Because that’s also important. Without question, Baker Mayfield ought to win the Heisman trophy, becoming the first Sooner to do it since Sam Bradford in 2008.

Just Missed: Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State, Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA, Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State, Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

Those are my final Heisman rankings for the 2017 college football season. After the Heisman is announced, I will give my favorites to win the award next year, because I have an interesting favorite in mind. Agree with my rankings? Is there somebody I missed? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Wyman’s Sports College Football All Americans

My apologies for there not being a blog yesterday. I did have some material but I was absolutely exhausted. I had to fight to keep myself from passing out in the middle of my Inside Nazi Germany class. Just had a terrible night of sleep the night before. But I’m very well-rested now and college football awards are starting to roll in, such as the Heisman finalists having been released (that blog is coming tomorrow) and I thought it would be a good idea to get into who I thought the cream of the crop in college football was this season. I will be breaking this up into 3 teams and will encompass all of FBS college football.

First Team:

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

Runningback: Bryce Love-Stanford

Runningback: Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

Wide Receiver: James Washington-Oklahoma State

Wide Receiver: Anthony Miller-Memphis

Tight End: Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

Tackle: Dalton Risner-Kansas State

Tackle: Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

Guard: Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

Guard: Will Hernandez-UTEP

Center: Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

Defensive End: Sutton Smith-Northern Illinois

Defensive End: Nick Bosa-Ohio State

Defensive Tackle: Maurice Hurst-Michigan

Defensive Tackle: Jalen Jelks-Oregon

Linebacker: Micah Kiser-Virginia

Linebacker: Roquan Smith-Georgia

Linebacker: TJ Edwards-Wisconsin

Cornerback: Joshua Jackson-Iowa

Cornerback: Denzel Ward-Ohio State

Safety: DeShon Elliott-Texas

Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

Kicker: Matt Gay-Utah

Punter: JK Scott-Alabama

All Purpose: Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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So for this team we have a few obvious names (Mayfield, Love, etc). One name that you might not recognize on here is Norther Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith. Well get to know that name, because he led the nation in sacks this season with 14 and added 28.5 tackles for loss. He was an absolute game wrecker for the Huskies. DeShon Elliott for Texas was a guy I picked up on when I was watching highlight tapes for his teammate Malik Jefferson. The guy was all over the field, always making plays and it showed, as he was amongst the nation’s leaders in interceptions with 6.

Second Team:

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson-Louisville

Runningback: Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

Runningback: Josh Adams-Notre Dame

Wide Receiver: Anthony Johnson-Buffalo

Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup-Colorado State

Tight End: Adam Breneman-UMass

Tackle: Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

Tackle: Will Richardson-North Carolina State

Guard: Kyle Bosch-West Virginia

Guard: Cody O’Connell-Washington State

Center: Billy Price-Ohio State

Defensive End: Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

Defensive End: Anthony Winbush-Ball State

Defensive Tackle: Ed Oliver-Houston

Defensive Tackle: Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

Linebacker: Joe Giles-Harris-Duke

Linebacker: Garrett Dooley-Wisconsin

Linebacker: Uchenna Nwosu-USC

Cornerback: Darious Williams-UAB

Cornerback: Jalen Davis-Utah State

Safety: Derwin James-Florida State

Safety: Lukas Denis-Boston College

Kicker: Eddie Pineiro-Florida

Punter: Michael Dickson-Texas

All Purpose: Ronald Jones II-USC

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You might find it weird to see a UMass player on this list. Well Adam Breneman is about as good a tight end as they come. He had the most targets in the nation at any position without registering a single drop. Get to know him as well, as he is on a lot of NFL radars. The defensive tackles on this team are two of the best football players in the country, Ed Oliver and Dexter Lawrence. If both were eligible, they’d likely be in the discussion for top 10 draft picks. But alas, we will have to wait for 2019, when the defensive line class will be STACKED (Oliver, Lawrence, Bosa, and Michigan’s Rashan Gary will all be in the running for top 10 picks).

Third Team:

Quarterback: Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

Runningback: Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Runningback: David Montgomery-Iowa State

Wide Receiver: Steve Ishmael-Syracuse

Wide Receiver: Trey Quinn-SMU

Tight End: Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

Tackle: KC McDermott-Miami (FL)

Tackle: Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

Guard: Hjalte Froholdt-Arkansas

Guard: Jacob Alsadek-Arizona

Center: Brian Allen-Michigan State

Defensive End: Mat Boesen-TCU

Defensive End: Hercules Mata’afa-Washington State

Defensive Tackle: Will Geary-Kansas State

Defensive Tackle: Taven Bryan-Florida

Linebacker: Ja’Whaun Bentley-Purdue

Linebacker: Josey Jewell-Iowa

Linebacker: Malik Jefferson-Texas

Cornerback: Brian Peavy-Iowa State

Cornerback: DJ Reed-Kansas State

Safety: Tarvarious Moore-Southern Miss

Safety: Armani Watts-Texas A&M

Kicker: Griffin Oakes-Indiana

Punter: Johnny Townsend-Florida

All Purpose: Marcell Ateman-Oklahoma State

<> on November 7, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.

We have one of the most intimidating names on this list, Hercules Mata’afa, and one of the least intimidating names, Josey Jewell. A name like “Hercules Mata’afa” just screams “power” and that was exactly what you got out of him, as he registered 10 sacks this season while facing a lot of double teams. Don’t be fooled by his girly name, Josey Jewell is one of the best linebackers in the country, in fact he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in a conference with the likes of Nick Bosa, TJ Edwards, and Maurice Hurst to compete with. That should tell you something right there.

So those are my All Americans for the 2017 college football season. It was an entertaining season and there is a lot of talented kids out there, so it is more probable than not that some deserving players got left off. Agree with my teams? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Draft Big Board 1

I know it might seem a little bit early to do an NFL Draft Big Board, but look at it this way: some teams’ seasons are over and they need to look towards the draft. How can they know who’s good and who’s not if I don’t post this thing? The college football regular season is over anyway so why not? When football season ends, I’m going to end up doing a bunch of Draft-related stuff because I love this event more than a 21-year old dude probably should. I don’t know what it is that gets me so excited for the Draft, but I almost made my family late for a wedding to try and squeeze in one more pick during the 2009 Draft (that pick ended up being the Broncos taking Knowshon Moreno. Not super exciting I guess). I’ll probably post a new Big Board at select intervals, the next one will probably come after the National Championship Game next month. My Big Boards will consist of my Top 50 players, regardless of position. So without further ado, here are my Top 50 favorite Draft prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name still have eligibility remaining and could return to school.

50. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville*

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49. Anthony Averett-CB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

48. Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas

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47. Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana

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46. Mitch Hyatt-OT-Clemson*

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45. Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE-Virginia Tech*

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44. Shaun Dion Hamilton-LB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

43. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville*

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42. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia*

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41. DeShon Elliott-S-Texas*

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40. James Washington-WR-Oklahoma State

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39. Braden Smith-OG-Auburn

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38. Dre’Mont Jones-DT-Ohio State*

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37. Dorance Armstrong-EDGE-Kansas*

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36. Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State*

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35. Marcus Allen-S-Penn State

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34. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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33. Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma*

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32. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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You know you go to a small school when Getty Images doesn’t have a single picture of you (photo credit: HERO Sports)

31. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC*

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30. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State*

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29. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State*

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28. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas*

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27. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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26. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU*

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25. Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma*

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24. Vita Vea-DT-Washington*

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23. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M*

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22. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama*

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21. Christian Wilkins-DT-Clemson*

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20. Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa*

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19. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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18. Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson*

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DT-Alabama*

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16. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama*

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

15. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado*

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14. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU*

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13. Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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12. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame*

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11. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama*

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

10. Connor Williams-OT-Texas*

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9. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU*

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8. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming*

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7. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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6. Derwin James-S-Florida State*

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5. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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4. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State*

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3. Sam Darnold-QB-USC*

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2. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA*

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1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama*

Alabama at Vanderbilt

So that’s my first edition of my Big Board for the 2018 NFL Draft. I expect a lot to change by the time I do this again. I’ve only been able to get around to watching footage (mainly Youtube highlight videos) on some of these guys so many of these aren’t set in stone. Is there anybody I forgot about? Did I rank somebody too high or too low? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Playoff Projections: Week 10

So Tuesday is going to be the first release of the College Football Playoff Committee’s Top 25 of the 2017 season and we’ll finally get a look at how they value the performance of the top teams in college football. I like the format we have right now and it has given a lot of debate, especially as it pertains to the #4 seed. I figured this was going to be a really easy projection when I started thinking about this over the weekend, however there were so many upsets this past week that it has really muddied up the waters for this prediction. Before I get into my personal rankings, I want to get into some ground rules for this segment. I’m only doing the Top 6 teams: The 4 teams that make the playoffs and the two that just missed. I’m also doing this based on who would vote for in the playoffs, not what I think the committee will do. The factors that came into play were win-loss record, quality of opponents, and quality of victories and defeat (notice that “defeat” is singular and not plural. Two-loss teams can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye). So with that, let’s get into the rankings.

#1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: #3 Florida State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M

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Minkah Fitzpatrick and this Alabama team have been unstoppable this season (photo credit: RollTide.com)

This was probably the easiest team to place. Alabama has been doing Alabama things this season and they are clearly the team to beat in all of college football. Their closest game was their 27-19 win over Texas A&M. The next closest game was 24-7 over Florida State (who was ranked third at the time but lost quarterback Deondre Francois for the season in that game and has since gone into a tailspin) and a 41-23 win over Colorado State. Their margins of victory include scores of 59-0 (Vanderbilt), 66-3 (Ole Miss), 41-9 (Arkansas), and 45-7 (Tennessee). It’s not like these are Sun Belt teams that Alabama is destroying. All four of those teams I just listed are SEC opponents and some pretty decent ones at that (wouldn’t call any of them elite, but they’re good enough to put up a fight and beat a good team on any given day). Alabama doesn’t have that signature win against an elite team yet, but they’ve beaten the teams they have faced so handily that I think it evens out.

#2. Georgia Bulldogs 

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: #24 Notre Dame, #17 Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida

Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith (3)(Photo by Jim Hipple)

Roquan Smith is the leader of this dominant Georgia defense (photo credit: Gridiron Now)

Georgia at number 2 was another easy selection. Despite quarterback Jacob Eason being out, Jake Fromm has gotten the job done in his stead and the run game has been unbelievable. And don’t even get me started on the defense. They’ve only allowed 20 points in a game once all season (28 against Missouri) and in that same game they dropped a season-high 53 points. Roquan Smith has been an animal for this defense that matches up well with any team in the country. Probably the best all-around performance out of this team was when they went into Knoxville and embarrassed Tennessee 41-0. They also whipped Mississippi State 31-3 after the Bulldogs trounced LSU the week prior. It’s going to make for a very interesting SEC title game. What happens to the loser of an Alabama-Georgia SEC title game? Should the loser miss out on the playoffs? This is the fourth year of the playoff and we’ve never had two teams from the same conference make it. These two teams don’t face each other in the regular season so I’d say chances are good that both teams are undefeated heading into this matchup. If it were me, I think it would depend on the quality of the performance in the SEC Title game. If one team were to get blown out, then I’d be in favor of removing them from the playoff. If it’s a tightly-contested game, then I’d be all for having the loser be the 4 seed with the winner being the 1 (though I don’t know if the committee would do that, having two teams play each other in back-to-back games). The committee may have their first really hard decision on their hands with Alabama and Georgia.

#3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 7-1 (5-0)

Loss: #5 Oklahoma 31-16 in Week 2 

Reason for Loss: Baker Mayfield was inhuman in that game

Notable Wins: #2 Penn State

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JT Barrett is closing out his college career with a bang this season (photo credit: Sporting News)

The notable wins category is a little light here for Ohio State, but the argument in their favor is similar to that of Alabama’s: while the schedule isn’t that great, they’re beating their opponents badly enough to where it evens out. They do have a loss on their record, however I consider it a good loss because they were competitive with an Oklahoma team that was fifth-ranked at the time (moved to #2 after beating OSU) and is currently sitting at #8 in the AP Poll. It was also the infamous Flag Game, where after Oklahoma won, Baker Mayfield (who was unbelievable in that game) ran out to the middle of Ohio State’s field and planted Oklahoma’s flag right on the logo. Like Alabama, Ohio State has wins of 38-7 (Army), 56-0 (Rutgers), 62-14 (Maryland), and 56-14 (Nebraska). Their win over Penn State was a huge signature victory, as they overcame a 21-3 deficit to steal a victory from the Nittany Lions with a minute to go. They only have 2 good opponents remaining on their schedule (Michigan State and Michigan) but I don’t see them losing to either team, allowing them to coast into the Big Ten Title Game.

#4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Record: 7-1

Loss: #15 Georgia 20-19 in Week 2

Reason for Loss: Georgia just outlasted them in a defensive slugfest

Notable Wins: #11 USC, #14 NC State, Michigan State

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Josh Adams and the Fighting Irish have returned to form in 2017 (photo credit: Chicago Tribune)

So I have a 1-loss Notre Dame team getting into the playoff over an unbeaten Wisconsin team for one main reason: quality of wins. Wisconsin has faced nobody good while Notre Dame has beaten every team they’ve played by at least 20 points with the exception of their 1-point loss to the team that currently sits at #2 in the nation. I’ve been very impressed with how well Notre Dame’s defense has bounced back from their abysmal 2016 showing, where offenses could send out a pee wee team and still score 28 points. They’ve turned it into a smash mouth defense and the most points they’ve given up this season is 20 (Georgia and Boston College). A lot of credit has to go to first year D-Coordinator Mike Elko, whom they hired away from Wake Forest after last season, for turning this defense around. We may have one of the next top head coaching candidates when heads start rolling (Florida, anyone?). They’ve also had one of the top rushing attacks in the nation as Josh Adams has thrown his name into the Heisman mix while quarterback Brandon Wimbush has also added some good rushing yards into the mix.

First Team Out: Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: Not Available

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Wisconsin hasn’t beaten anybody good, but Jonathan Taylor and this Badgers team have gotten the job done this season (photo credit: Madison.com)

Wisconsin’s schedule is the easiest I’ve seen since Baylor’s schedule while they still had a relevant football program. I looked down their remaining schedule and the only team left worth noting is Michigan, whose defense has been extremely impressive sans the Penn State game but has had no offense whatsoever. Though, Brandon Peters looked really good in relief of John O’Korn against Rutgers, which isn’t saying much. Wisconsin has a similar style to this year’s Notre Dame team in that they have a tough defense and a strong running game, led by true freshman Jonathan Taylor. The reason they’re this high for me with a cupcake schedule is that big goose egg in the loss column. Say what you will about their easy schedule, they’ve gotten the job done. Clemson lost to Syracuse, Oklahoma and TCU lost to Iowa State, and Washington lost to Arizona State. Wisconsin has gone in and done their job each time out. I think they get into the playoff if they win the Big Ten, which would have to include a victory over most likely either Ohio State, Penn State, or Michigan State.

Second Team Out: Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 7-1 (4-1)

Loss: #6 Ohio State 39-38 in Week 9

Reason for Loss: Late comeback effort by JT Barrett in the final minute

Notable Wins: #19 Michigan

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Saquon Barkley and Penn State aren’t out of this yet, but their road to their first CFP appearance got a lot rockier (photo credit: SB Nation)

Penn State is a team I’ve been high on all season and had they been able to hang on against Ohio State last week, I think I would have them at #2 ahead of Georgia. But JT Barrett’s late-game heroics have put the Nittany Lions in a REALLY difficult spot to get back into the playoff discussion. They probably won’t get into the Big Ten title game because not only does Ohio State have a better conference record (5-0 vs 4-1), but they hold the tie-breaker in case they end up with identical conference records. Penn State would not only need to win out, but they would also need Ohio State to lose TWICE in the next four games. Not likely. My reasoning for putting them here even though I think their playoff chances are pretty much dead is because I do feel that they are the best team remaining. As I said, they are a late JT Barrett drive away from being #2 on these rankings. Saquon Barkley is still the Heisman frontrunner despite his stats not being great against the Buckeyes (there’s been a downward trend of late), but they can still put up points against any defense.

So that’s my playoff outlook right now. If you want my thoughts on other teams that you think have a shot at the playoff, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Midseason Heisman Trophy Rankings

Before we get started, I just want to apologize for not posting anything the last couple of days. I’ve been getting swamped with midterms and coping with the sudden death of John Dunsworth. Now that that’s out of the way, this is something I originally wanted to do weekly, but I came to the conclusion that it would get REALLY obnoxious if I did that, plus not enough would change week to week that would justify writing new stuff. So instead I’m going to do one at midseason (now) and one more the morning of the trophy presentation. These are my personal rankings, which will reflect my beliefs on the best players in college football and also factor in a little bit of how I think the voters will think (for example, no love for defensive players). If you read my weekly college football picks blog, you probably have a pretty good idea of who my top 2 is going to be.  So with that, let’s begin.

5. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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Lamar Jackson’s 2017 season is on pace to break the records he set in his Heisman-winning 2016 season (photo credit: USA Today)

Lamar Jackson is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and is quietly putting together another fantastic season. He’s completing 60% of his passes for 2322 yards (4th in the nation and leagues beyond his pace from last season) with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 690 yards (15th among all players, 3rd among QBs) on 113 attempts for 10 TDs. He’s up to his usual dominant stats and his passing has actually improved significantly over last season. The main knock on Jackson doesn’t have as much to do with him as it does the fact that his team isn’t winning like it was last year. Louisville currently sits at 4-3 with losses to Clemson, NC State, and Boston College. They also struggled against Purdue and got taken to the limit by a 1-6 North Carolina team. While I am not of the belief that your teammates should have a big impact on your Heisman campaign, history tends to show that the voters think otherwise and that’s going to be the main reason that Jackson doesn’t become the second ever two-time Heisman winner.

 

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

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Jonathan Taylor looks to become the first ever True Freshman to win the Heisman Trophy (photo credit: Madison.com)

Jonathan Taylor currently sits at 986 yards rushing on 127 carries with 10 touchdowns, both 6th best in the nation. He’s doing this for a Wisconsin team that is just outside of a playoff spot in the rankings (they currently rank 5th) and are looking to win the Big Ten West for the second consecutive year on his back. Oh and did I mention he’s a true freshman? Should Taylor win the Heisman, he will become the first ever true freshman to do so (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were redshirt freshmen when they won). Coaches rave about Taylor’s maturity and he was given a lot of responsibility seemingly the moment he set foot on campus. One thing that might deter Heisman voters, however, is his nonexistence in the passing game. He literally has one catch on the season for 17 yards and it came in their most recent game against Purdue. However he will certainly garner votes as he is what makes this Badgers offense go and the fact that he is as young as he is will suggest that he will have a couple more cracks at the trophy in the next couple years or so.

3. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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Baker Mayfield will try and plant his flag in the minds of Heisman voters (photo credit: The Big Lead)

Baker Mayfield finished in third place for the Heisman last season, losing out to Jackson and former Clemson quarterback and current Houston Texans phenom Deshaun Watson. Mayfield may be having an even better season in 2017, which is hard to believe considering the early success he’s had with the Sooners. He’s thrown for 1937 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 1 interception and has an efficiency rating of 207.3, best in the nation while also completing 72.7% of his passes, third best in the nation. He’s led Oklahoma to some big victories, including the infamous flag-planting game against Ohio State and holding off Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The loss to Iowa State is going to hurt, but it wasn’t due to Mayfield. He led the offense to 31 points in that game while throwing for over 300 yards. I still think the Heisman eludes him in his senior season mainly because the next two guys have simply been better, there’s nothing really wrong with Mayfield’s game this season. But a Maxwell is certainly in the cards.

2. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

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Will catching Barry Sanders be enough for Bryce Love to take home the Heisman? (photo credit: The Ringer)

So anytime I do Stanford’s games in a picks segment, I find that I always seem to talk about how Bryce Love is making Cardinal fans forget Christian McCaffrey with the way he’s playing. But can you blame me? The guy is at 1387 yards on the season on just 135 carries (10.3 average), which is tops in the nation by almost 300 yards. In fact, if he keeps at his current pace, he’ll be challenging Barry Sanders’ all-time rushing record set back in 1988. Love has been the most explosive player in the game this season, I mean Hell, how many guys can say they average gaining a first down every time they’re handed the ball? His worst game came in Stanford’s most recent bout with Oregon this past week, where he rushed for 147 yards on 17 carries with 2 TDs. The junior tailback’s main flaw is the same as Taylor’s: a lack of receiving presence. Love only has 4 catches on the year for 19 yards. In fact, his receiving numbers have declined dramatically every season that he’s been at Stanford. But the 1387 rushing yards in only 7 games is impossible to ignore. However, if Christian McCaffrey couldn’t win the Heisman despite breaking Barry Sanders’ total yards record, I can’t envision Love winning despite only breaking the rushing record, if he even reaches that point. But I also felt that McCaffrey should have won it over Derrick Henry in 2015, so I wouldn’t rule out Love just yet. Give Love a chance, as they say.

1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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Saquon Barkley has been a human highlight reel week after week (photo credit: Youtube)

This seems to be the consensus pick right now and for good reason. Barkley is the best player on the number 2 team in the nation and finds ways to contribute in every facet of the game. He’s rushing for 649 yards on 102 carries with 6 TDs, which when compared to Taylor and Love aren’t that impressive, in fact Love has more than double Barkley’s rushing yards. However, he’s also caught 29 passes for 395 yards and 2 TDs, an element that Taylor and Love have been sorely lacking. And even in games where Barkley’s been bottled up on the ground, such as against Indiana and Northwestern, he still finds a way to contribute. Against the Hoosiers, Barkley took the opening kickoff to the house and threw a touchdown pass despite only rushing for 56 yards on 20 carries. Against Northwestern, he ran for 75 yards but threw some key blocks for the Nittany Lions in their win over the Wildcats. Even if his rushing totals might not be where his competitors are, he still finds a way to leave his mark on a game.

Just Missed the Cut: Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA, Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State, Bradley Chubb-DE-NC State, JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State, Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

Those are my Heisman rankings for the midway point of the season. Crazy to think the season’s already halfway gone. As I was writing this, I started talking myself into Bryce Love instead of Saquon Barkley for the top spot. I feel like if I were to do this list again next week, Love would win, that’s how close these two guys are in my opinion right now. Should be a much more fun Heisman race this year than last, which Lamar Jackson had pretty much locked up by Week 3.