Post-NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft

I haven’t gotten a chance to REALLY break down what each top prospect can and can’t do yet so my explanations for this are going to be brief and I’m only going to focus on the Lottery Picks, which is really about as much depth as I’ve gone into on this rookie class so far. So with that intro, let’s get to the mock.

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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The Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery last night in the last year where the team with the worst record in the league has the best odds (starting next year, the three worst teams will have equal odds). Devin Booker is a good scorer but he’s going to need some help out there. Enter DeAndre Ayton, who is probably the most polished player in this class. Alex Len is their only big man of note as Dragan Bender has yet to make a serious impact. Ayton reminds me of DeMarcus Cousins in that he’s a big, muscular, genetic freak who you can pretty much pencil in for 20 points 10 boards every game. He’s also a decent mid-range shooter to boot. His defense isn’t great but he’s athletic enough that he can use that to overcome some of his defensive inefficiencies.

2. Sacramento Kings-Jaren Jackson-C-Michigan State

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Jackson is 6’11 240 pounds and is more projection than finished product, but damn is his ceiling high. The Kings could really use a boost. If you only ever watched college hoops, you’d think that the Kings were the best team in the league on paper given the success their players had in college. But aside from De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a budding star, there really hasn’t been a ton of production from their recent slew of draft picks. Jackson might not be the safest pick in the world, as he’s pretty skinny for his size and struggles when engaged with physical players, but he’s an excellent shot blocker and he did shoot 39% from 3.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Luka Doncic-G-Slovenia

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Doncic is this year’s “can’t miss” foreign star, which has included guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja of late (very hit or miss) and this is a guy I admittedly have not gotten to see much of. But he’s 6’8 with handles and is a matchup nightmare. He’s not super explosive but he’s an excellent distributor and is one of those guys that elevates the play of those around him. The Hawks have been rolling with Dennis Schroder as their primary ball-handler and while he doesn’t suck, per se, he is probably better suited coming off the bench. Doncic at the very least can become the team’s primary distributor.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Marvin Bagley III-F-Duke

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Bagley was the preseason consensus number 1 player but questions arose about his jump shot and his being very lanky. I got to see him live and he very quietly had a 20-10 double-double. The Grizzlies were at their best when Zach Randolph was dominating the low post and if Bagley can put on a few pounds of muscle he can become that type of player.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I was actually more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley when Duke visited Indiana. Carter was just bullying IU defenders below the hoop and that type of physicality make him troublesome for opponents at the next level. The Mavericks have a nice point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, now they just need someone for him to pass to, especially considering Dirk Nowitzki is up there in age.

6. Orlando Magic-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Mo Bamba has one of the most fun names to say in all of sports and he’s a Hell of a basketball player to boot. He’s 7′ with a 7’9 wingspan and he plays with a lot of intensity. He’s still a work in progress but he could become the big man the Magic have lacked since losing Dwight Howard.

7. Chicago Bulls-Michael Porter Jr-F-Missouri

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A back injury derailed Porter’s season and potentially cost him being a top-3 pick. Nonetheless, as long as his back checks out, the Bulls will be chomping at the bit to land a talent like him. He was the #1 recruit in the nation and unfortunately for Missouri, they never really got to reap the benefits of his all-around game. The Bulls could have a potential star on their hands.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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This is the Nets pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. For Villanova’s championship-winning team, Jalen Brunson was the guy who got a lot of the credit (his winning Player of the Year would be a good indicator of that) but Mikal Bridges is actually the better prospect. Bridges might be the best defender in the class and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. His ceiling is limited but he’s a guy who can contribute right away and be a quality starter for years to come. The Cavaliers lack any really great defenders right now and Bridges can do that and perhaps keep Cleveland from being blown out in playoff games.

9. New York Knicks-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Trae Young is perhaps the most boom-or-bust player in this class. He put up absolutely STAGGERING numbers for Oklahoma but by the end of the season he was looking so streaky that teams began to wonder if he didn’t just get hot early in the season. He’s a good shooter and a good passer but he’s not an elite athlete. However it’s a weak guard class so a guy with his upside will easily make him more enticing to teams. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis and if he and Young can develop good chemistry, it could become a Durant-Westbrook type relationship (until one eventually leaves the team).

10. Philadelphia 76ers-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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I think Collin Sexton could be a dark horse to be a really good player in this class. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Elfrid Payton (and no, it’s not JUST because of the hair). He’s a good distributor and basically carried Alabama to the Round of 32 all by himself. He’d be a luxury pick for the 76ers, who still don’t really know what they have in last year’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz but they can get creative with their lineups with a guy like Sexton around.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Robert Williams III-C-Texas A&M

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Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t heard of this guy prior to writing up this mock, but scouts seem to be really high on him. He’s an excellent rebounder and a very physical defender, which is something the Hornets sorely lack outside of Dwight Howard, whose effort can be inconsistent at times. His offensive game could use some work but he’ll be an enforcer under the basket.

12. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges is pretty raw but he can take over a game if you’re not careful. He’s an exciting dunker and a pretty good defender. The problem is that his best position is probably power forward but he plays more like a shooting guard which kind of makes teams unsure of what to do with him. If put in a system like the Clippers with Doc Rivers, Bridges could find a role that best suits him.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Another pick for the Clippers, who sorely need more playmakers after we saw how they struggled without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Knox is really raw and he never really realized his full potential with Kentucky. However he has a good shot and he can be a real mismatch if he can continue to develop it.

14. Denver Nuggets-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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The Nuggets are a team that suddenly feels like they’re on the cusp, they just need to knock a couple picks out of the park. Gilgeous-Alexander is a good distributor, which is good because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s a very unselfish player whose confidence grows with every game. As long as you have a good scoring option to go along with him, Gilegeous-Alexander could be the distributor to take him to the next level.

So that’s going to do it with the Lottery Mock Draft. I’ll do another mock the day of the Draft at the end of June, I haven’t decided if I’ll do the entire first round or just stick to Lottery Picks like I did today. Let me know what you think 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.

 

Revisiting the 2017 NFL Draft Class

With Thursday’s 2018 NFL Draft quickly approaching, it got me to thinking back towards last year’s event. During this week of draft coverage that I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing my best to abstain from going into too much depth over the 2017 class because we just don’t know what we have with each player as of yet. In 2016, Jared Goff, who was taken #1 overall by the Rams, was looking like a colossal bust. He didn’t win a single game as a rookie and he looked totally overwhelmed by NFL competition. Enter a new head coach in Sean McVay and Goff became one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks and helped lead the Rams to a division title. There’s also Robert Griffin III in 2012. He set the league on fire as a rookie but a knee injury in the playoffs followed by being rushed back to play before he was ready sapped him of his explosiveness and his weaknesses as a passer were exposed. So quite frankly, we really don’t know what we have in the young stars like Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt or with the unknowns like Mike Williams and John Ross. But let’s take a look at how the first round went last year and see how these guys did and what it means for their futures in the league. The number in parentheses is where they ranked on my Big Board.

1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-EDGE-Texas A&M (1)

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Garrett struggled with injuries as a rookie but when he was on the field, he was a beast. He played 11 games and recorded 7 sacks, including 2 in his first game. If he can stay healthy, he looks like he’s going to be a beast off the edge for the Browns.

2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers)-Mitchell Trubisky-QB-North Carolina (19)

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Trubisky basically just played like a rookie. He had some good moments but he also made his share of mistakes. He ended up going 4-8 as a starter and threw for 2193 yards with 7 TD’s and 7 picks while completing just 59% of his passes. Not great, but there’s something there with him. He’s getting a new head coach in Matt Nagy, who likes to run RPO’s and we saw how well Nick Foles did with those in the playoffs. He’s also actually getting a supporting cast of receivers, as the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears)-Solomon Thomas-DL-Stanford (5)

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Thomas didn’t do a ton as a rookie, but he didn’t really need to. He played 14 games but he started 12 of them and only recorded 3 sacks. He did flash some of the ability that made him the third overall pick, though, and we’ll have to wait and see how he grows in year 2.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-RB-LSU (3)

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Fournette basically did exactly what I expected him to do, which is to be the Jaguars’ bellcow and he was the focal point of their offense. He rushed for 1040 yards with 9 TD’s and while his YPC wasn’t great (3.9), that can be attributed to the fact that he was the only real weapon on Jacksonville’s offense and teams were stacking the box against him.

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)-Corey Davis-WR-Western Michigan (17)

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Davis spent much of the season injured and didn’t record his first NFL touchdown until the playoffs against the Patriots, where he had a very impressive game in the Divisional Round. He caught two TD’s and started looking like the receiver we expected him to be.

6. New York Jets-Jamal Adams-S-LSU (2)

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Adams immediately became a leader in the Jets’ locker room and was an enforcer on the field. He and fellow 2017 rookie Marcus Maye formed a pretty good safety tandem that should have Jets fans very excited.

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams-WR-Clemson (14)

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Williams basically did nothing as a rookie. He was limited by injuries, playing 10 games and starting just 1, however he only managed to catch 11 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. It’s still early, but this hasn’t been a promising start for the former Clemson star.

8. Carolina Panthers-Christian McCaffrey-RB-Stanford (12)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

McCaffrey didn’t put up gaudy rushing stats, as he only ran for 435 yards on 117 carries, but he was utilized far more frequently in the passing game, catching 80 passes for 651 yards. With Jonathan Stewart no longer with the organization, expect an uptick in carries for the former Stanford star.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-John Ross-WR-Washington (23)

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Ross, who was famous for posting the fastest 40-yard dash time in Combine history at 4.22, was a nonfactor for the Bengals last season. He played just 3 games due to injury, but even in those games he didn’t amount to anything. He failed to catch a pass and his lone touch was a carry that he fumbled. A pretty poor start to Ross’ career if I do say so myself (and I do).

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills)-Pat Mahomes II-QB-Texas Tech (47)

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I was not a fan of taking Mahomes in the first round because I felt he had the steepest learning curve of any quarterback in recent memory, coming from Texas Tech. However he landed in the perfect situation in Kansas City and got a chance to make a start in Week 17, leading the Chiefs to a victory over the Broncos. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith so this is Mahomes’ team now. We’ll have to see how he does with it.

11. New Orleans Saints-Marshon Lattimore-CB-Ohio State (7)

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One could argue that Lattimore was 2017’s best rookie. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year and is already considered to be one of the top corners in the game, which says a lot considering he had to cover the likes of Julio Jones and Mike Evans twice each.

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)-Deshaun Watson-QB-Clemson (26)

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People are ripping the Browns for not taking Watson here and trading this pick to the Texans, but to be honest, given how poor they were run last year, I don’t think Watson has the same success in Cleveland that he did in Houston. Before his untimely ACL injury, Watson led the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns and was running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. He looks like he’s the quarterback of the future for the Texans.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Haason Reddick-EDGE-Temple (9)

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Reddick was one of my favorite players in the 2017 class but he didn’t really do much as a rookie. He played in all 16 games but made just 3 starts, recording 2.5 sacks but he did force a couple fumbles. It’s a big step up in competition going from Temple to the NFL so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this stage.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)-Derek Barnett-EDGE-Tennessee (13)

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Derek Barnett’s stats were okay overall, however a lot of that was due to just how deep the Eagles were at defensive end, as he had to compete with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry for snaps. However Barnett and Graham teamed up to make one of the most critical plays for the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, when Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady and Barnett recovered. He flashed a lot of potential and could be a force for this Eagles defensive line.

15. Indianapolis Colts-Malik Hooker-S-Ohio State (6)

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The Colts finally addressed the defense in last year’s draft and Hooker looks like a good pick. I had him as a Top-10 talent but he slipped to pick number 15 and looked like an absolute ballhawk for the Colts. However his season was cut short due to injury but he still managed to rack up 3 picks in just 7 games.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marlon Humphrey-CB-Alabama (25)

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Humphrey got off to a slow start but he really came on by the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, the Ravens were trusting him to cover the likes of AJ Green with a playoff berth on the line. Humphrey will likely get more opportunities at opponents’ number 1 receivers in due time.

17. Washington Redskins-Jonathan Allen-DL-Alabama (10)

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Like Hooker, Allen was a top-10 talent that fell, though this was due to concerns over his shoulder. The concerns were very real, as that shoulder caused him to miss most of his rookie season. However when he was on the field, Allen was absolutely dominant, particularly against the run. Hopefully an offseason of rehab will help him because the Redskins desperately need a run stuffer.

18. Tennessee Titans-Adoree’ Jackson-CB-USC (N/A)

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I thought this was a massive reach by the Titans because I had Jackson as a late-second/early-third round pick due to his lack of size but, credit to him he held his own out there. He was a starter from day 1 and with the Titans’ addition of Malcolm Butler, Jackson can kick inside to the slot to face the shiftier receivers, which is where he will be best utilized.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-OJ Howard-TE-Alabama (4)

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Howard had an up-and-down rookie season, though he finished it with 432 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not eye-popping by any means, but tight ends typically have the toughest transition to the NFL given how much they’re asked to do nowadays so I’d say watch out for Howard next season.

20. Denver Broncos-Garrett Bolles-OT-Utah (31)

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Bolles had one of the sweeter draft moments when he brought his infant daughter on stage with him to greet Roger Goodell when his name was called. Bolles was a Day 1 starter for the Broncos and while he did suffer through injury problems, he was decent when he was on the field. Probably not going to be an All Pro, but he’ll be a more-than-competent tackle for Denver.

21. Detroit Lions-Jarrad Davis-LB-Florida (28)

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Eyebrows were raised when the Lions took Davis over Alabama’s Reuben Foster, but given Foster’s legal situation, this looks like the right choice, especially considering how well Davis played as a rookie. He’s a guy Matt Patricia will have a lot of fun with in his first season as a head coach.

22. Miami Dolphins-Charles Harris-EDGE-Missouri (20)

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Harris wasn’t much of a factor for the Dolphins as a rookie, playing in all 16 games but registering just 2 sacks. With Cameron Wake already up there in age, now would be a good time for Harris to start showing he was worth the first round selection.

23. New York Giants-Evan Engram-TE-Ole Miss (24)

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Engram wasn’t much of a blocker for the Giants but he was an excellent receiver, which is kind of what was expected of him coming out of college. Engram led all rookie tight ends in receiving yards at 722 and also caught 6 touchdowns for the Giants. He looks like a good complimentary piece to ODell Beckham Jr.

24. Oakland Raiders-Gareon Conley-CB-Ohio State (N/A)

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This pick was REALLY controversial because Conley had been accused of rape just weeks before the Draft. I had taken him off my board altogether just out of fear of the allegations being true. However the Raiders took Conley anyway and the charges were later dropped. He only played 2 games due to injury but the Raiders must have liked what they saw because he’s currently slated as their #1 corner.

25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Jabrill Peppers-S-Michigan (18)

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Peppers struggled as a rookie but he was also playing at a position that didn’t best utilize his abilities. He was playing a lot of free safety where he has to cover a lot of ground rather than nickel corner where he can chase guys around the field, which is what he’s best at. If the Browns can find a centerfielder-type safety (like Minkah Fitzpatrick), then it would allow Peppers to do what he does best.

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks)-Takkarist McKinley-EDGE-UCLA (16)

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Takk McKinley got a bit controversial when he got really hyped and passionate after he was selected 26th overall in the Draft, going so far as to drop an F-bomb into Deion Sanders’ mic on live television (which I saw coming a mile away given how much emotion he was showing). I actually found the moment kind of endearing because it shows just how passionate this guy is. He was a situational pass rusher for the Falcons as a rookie and he looked pretty good, registering 6 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in a limited role. He’s going to have more opportunities this season so watch out for him.

27. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Tre’Davious White-CB-LSU (27)

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What a trade by the Bills. They move back from 10 to 27, get an extra first rounder in 2018, and use the pick they do get on Tre’Davious White, who was the highest-graded rookie corner by Pro Football Focus (even higher than Lattimore, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year over him). White has already earned the Bills’ #1 corner job and was a big part in Buffalo making the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century.

28. Dallas Cowboys-Taco Charlton-EDGE-Michigan (44)

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Charlton was drafted as an insurance policy in case DeMarcus Lawrence left in free agency after the 2017-18 season. Lawrence got franchise tagged so Charlton will have another year to develop alongside the stud pass rusher. He’ll need it, too, because he was mediocre as a rookie, registering just 3 sacks. He did flash some potential, though, but more work needs to be done.

29. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers)-David Njoku-TE-Miami (FL) (21)

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The Browns traded up with the Packers to land Njoku and while his overall stat line wasn’t that great (32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TD’s), it seemed like every time the Browns popped up on the screen when I was watching NFL Redzone the play somehow involved Njoku. I think he’s primed for a big Year 2.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers-TJ Watt-EDGE-Wisconsin (29)

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JJ’s little brother had about as good an NFL debut as you could ask for, recording 2 sacks and registering an interception in his first game. He finished the year with 7 sacks and looks like he’s going to be a stud for the Steelers for some time.

31. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons)-Reuben Foster-LB-Alabama (8)

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This one’s a little tricky. Foster was excellent on the field, however his days with the 49ers may be numbered due to an off-the-field incident. Foster has been accused of domestic violence, where he allegedly punched his girlfriend 8-10 times, which ruptured her ear drum. He was also found in possession of numerous illegal firearms. If convicted, he could face up to 11 years in prison. 49ers GM John Lynch has publicly stated that if Foster is convicted, he will be cut immediately. However they want to wait for the judicial process to conclude because they cut Tramaine Brock before his domestic violence case was over and he was cleared of all charges. But despite great on-field performance, Foster’s NFL career may be in jeopardy if these horrific allegations are true.

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)-Ryan Ramczyk-OT-Wisconsin (22)

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This is the pick the Saints acquired from the Patriots for Brandin Cooks and it was one of several home runs the Saints had in this draft class. Ramczyk was seen as a raw talent and people were concerned when he had to enter the starting lineup in week one due to an injury to Zach Strief. However he played excellently at right tackle and is going to start there for the foreseeable future for New Orleans.

So that’s how the first round played out last year. Injuries played a factor for a lot of these guys but you cannot deny they showed a lot of ability. Not a lot of guys who are already looking like busts (Mike Williams and John Ross are the only guys that I can really consider to be in danger of falling into that category). Of course, two of the biggest talents in this class, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, went in the third round. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the 2018 class. Of course, you can get your next-day coverage here at Wyman’s Sports. Let me know what you think of the 2017 Draft Class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.