2018 College Football Preview

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but like I mentioned in the past, I’m a very busy man now. In addition to doing some work for Pro Football Focus, I’ve also landed a position with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network as a Northeast Baseball Scout. So the blog has kind of gotten put on the backburner. However, with the college football season rapidly approaching (there will be some games on this weekend, including Colorado State vs Hawaii), I have found myself with a craving to get back into things. So let’s preview the college football season. I will be giving my preseason rankings, All Americans, Heisman winner, conference champs, and national champ. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Preseason Top 25

2018 University of Alabama Spring Football

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. Auburn Tigers

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

9. Washington Huskies

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12. Michigan State Spartans

13. Michigan Wolverines

14. UCF Knights

15. Stanford Cardinal

16. USC Trojans

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

19. TCU Horned Frogs

20. Florida State Seminoles

21. Oregon Ducks

22. Boise State Broncos

23. LSU Tigers

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

25. South Florida Bulls

A couple things to note about my rankings. Alabama mainly has the top spot again because they’re the reigning champs and I tend to lean towards the mantra of “you’re number 1 until someone proves otherwise.” But I actually think Clemson on paper is better. They’re basically returning everybody from the team that won the ACC and made the playoff last year. All they really lost were receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud along with linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. Other than that, they’re returning QB Kelly Bryant, RB Wayne Etienne, OT Mitch Hyatt, DE’s Austin Bryant and Clellin Ferrell, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They also landed 5-star QB recruit Trevor Lawrence, who has reportedly looked so good in training camp that Kelly Bryant’s starting job may not be all that safe. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see part 4 of Alabama v. Clemson but unlike Cavs-Warriors, this one wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion as to who the victor ought to be. But basically I’ve got Alabama and Clemson as 1A and 1B in my preseason rankings. I’ve got UCF as my top non-Power 5 team despite the fact they lost head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. McKenzie Milton is back at quarterback and if he has another strong season like he did last year, UCF could find themselves as not only the champs of the AAC, but potentially as the first non-Power 5 school to make the playoff. Florida State is coming off a horrid season and lost Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M (who barely missed the cut in this top 25), but they still have plenty of talent. Deondre Francois is returning from the ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 and Cam Akers was a revelation as a freshman last season. New head coach Willie Taggart’s task may not be as difficult as some may suspect.

Preseason All Americans

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QB: Khalil Tate-Arizona

RB: Bryce Love-Stanford, Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

WR: AJ Brown-Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry-Arizona State

TE: Noah Fant-Iowa

OT: Jonah Williams-Alabama, David Edwards-Wisconsin

OG: Martez Ivey-Florida, Michael Jordan-Ohio State

C: Ross Pierschbacher-Alabama

DE: Nick Bosa-Ohio State, Rashan Gary-Michigan

DT: Ed Oliver-Houston, Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

LB: Devin White-LSU, Devin Bush-Michigan, Cameron Smith-USC

CB: Greedy Williams-LSU, David Long, Michigan

S: Khaleke Hudson-Michigan, Lukas Denis-Boston College

K: Rodrigo Blankenship-Georgia

P: Mitch Wishnowsky-Utah

Return Specialist-Kavonte Turpin-TCU

Heisman Standings:

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU

1. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

2. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

6. Nick Bosa-DE-Ohio State

7. Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

8. Will Grier-QB-West Virginia

9. Trace McSorley-QB-Penn State

10. Rashan Gary-DE-Michigan

Bryce Love is the obvious favorite here. He was last year’s runner-up after exploding on the scene by rushing for over 2000 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. I actually anticipated Love to declare for the NFL Draft, which was why in my way-too-early Heisman rankings a few months ago, I picked Arizona QB Khalil Tate to take home the prize. But Love returned to Stanford and with Baker Mayfield now a member of the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be number 1 in most people’s initial rankings.

Conference Champs:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson University Defensive Line, 2018 College Football Preview Issue

 

As I mentioned before, Clemson lost very little from a team that made the playoff last season and they look primed for another National Championship run. I’m expecting a decline from Miami after the phenomena that was the Turnover Chain and while I do think Virginia Tech could sneak up on people, I don’t think they have the talent to unseat Clemson.

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 24 Big Ten Football Media Days

This one could be very tricky, especially considering all the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer right now. If Meyer gets canned as a result of the investigation about his potential knowledge of an assistant’s domestic abuse, the Big 10 gets a LOT more interesting. The last time Ohio State lost a coach due to investigation, Jim Tressel, they went 6-6 under Luke Fickel despite the extremely talented roster. Meyer is probably the second-best coach in college football after Nick Saban at Alabama so losing him could be catastrophic for this Ohio State team despite all its talent. And there isn’t a huge dropoff from Ohio State to the next-best teams in the Big 10 like Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State so Meyer could make all the difference.

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

UTEP v Oklahoma

Losing Baker Mayfield is going to hurt but Oklahoma’s got Kyler Murray as his replacement for at least this season. Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s and he has signed with the club, however they are allowing him to play out this season in Norman. Murray was a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and has an abundance of talent. While he isn’t the passer Mayfield is, he’s a much better runner and the tandem of him and Rodney Anderson in the backfield could be deadly. After them, though, I don’t see a whole lot coming out of the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost a LOT in Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman while TCU is losing Kenny Hill at quarterback (though they’re returning plenty on defense). West Virginia seems to be everybody’s dark horse pick to win the conference but I’m not sold on them just yet. Overall I think TCU is Oklahoma’s biggest threat but they still have some work to do offensively.

PAC-12: Washington Huskies

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

The PAC-12 is a crapshoot right now as there isn’t a clear best team in the mix. Washington on paper looks like the best but Stanford, USC, and even Oregon all have legitimate shots at taking home the title. Also keep an eye out for Arizona as we could see Khalil Tate have a similar impact on that squad that Lamar Jackson had on Louisville.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

While there are a ton of good teams in the SEC, it’s once again Alabama’s conference to lose. They did win the National Championship last season despite not winning the SEC (a poorly-timed loss to Auburn saw to that) but now they have an interesting quarterback situation on hand between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had played well for most of the season but was struggling mightily in the National Championship game against Georgia. Enter Tua and he not only throws a better ball, but leads the comeback for the Alabama win. In truth, I think it would be better for everyone if Hurts move to runningback, not only for the depth chart situation but for his potential in the NFL. He’s not as good a thrower as Tua is but he can do a lot of damage with his legs, something he’ll have more opportunities to do as a runningback. Check out what happened with Braxton Miller when he took his name out of Ohio State’s QB battle a couple years ago. He goes from probably an undrafted quarterback to a third round pick as a wide receiver by the Houston Texans (hasn’t quite panned out yet, though). Hurts could see something similar. But as for the rest of the SEC, Georgia has a lot of production to replace in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots, respectively, but Jake Fromm is back and so is much of the defense, though losing Roquan Smith is going to hurt.

Playoff/Championship Prediction:

1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Alabama’s defense will suffocate Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and will lead the Tide to a surprisingly easy victory.

2 Clemson Tigers vs 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Again, Ohio State’s involvement in the playoff will hinge entirely on the Urban Meyer investigation. If he’s cleared, though, I expect Ohio State to be back in the playoff. However Clemson destroyed them in the playoff a couple years ago and while I do think it’ll be closer this time, it’ll be another Tigers victory.

National Championship: 1 Alabama vs 2 Clemson

The fourth straight year these teams will meet in the playoff and the third time they face off for the National Championship. Alabama won the first and third time while Clemson won the second. Clemson sorely missed Deshaun Watson in last year’s matchup and got beaten relatively easily. However I think they exact revenge and win their second title in three years, evening the rivalry to 2 wins apiece as Dabo Swinney cements himself as one of the best coaches of the last decade.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

Clemson v Louisville

That’s going to do it for my college football preview. Please don’t save this to shove in my face in January, thanks. Let me know what your predictions for this season are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 5

-Albert Pujols got his 3000th hit on a dink into right field off of Mariners right hander Mike Leake. Kind of the opposite of what you would expect from a guy with 3000 hits and over 600 home runs, one of four guys to ever do so (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez are the others). Here’s the historic knock.

https://twitter.com/MLBONFOX/status/992609290123816960

It’s also interesting to note, as ESPN Stats and Info pointed out, this is the fourth consecutive season that saw a player get their 3000th hit. 2015 was A-Rod, 2016 was Ichiro, 2017 was Adrian Beltre, now Pujols in 2018. Baseball is weird. But I couldn’t be happier for Pujols. He was my favorite player when I was a kid and while he fell on hard times with the Angels, that has done nothing to diminish my memory of his greatness in St. Louis. I mean Hell, for each of the first 10 seasons of his career he hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. And he just missed out on an 11th in 2011 when he hit .299. A great moment for perhaps the greatest hitter of his generation.

-The Dodgers got a huge positive in a season full of negatives as their pitching staff threw the 12th combined no hitter in Major League history. The combination of Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore shut down the Padres lineup for a special series in Monterrey, Mexico for the first combined no hitter since 2014 when the Phillies used 4 pitchers to no hit the Braves. Fun fact, the first ever combined no hitter was started by Babe Ruth in 1917 when he was with the Red Sox. He walked the first batter, chewed out the umpire, got himself ejected, then his replacement Ernie Shore retired the next 27 batters, which included Ruth’s inherited runner getting caught stealing. There wasn’t another combined no hitter until 50 years later in 1967 when the Orioles used 2 pitchers to no hit the Tigers and LOST (starting pitcher Steve Barber went 8.2 innings and walked 10 batters. His reliever, Stu Miller, got just one out). Normally I’m not a fan of guys getting pulled in the middle of a no hitter, but in this case I think it was warranted. Walker Buehler turns 24 in July and he’s had a history of health issues with his arm during his young career. He was at 93 pitches after completing 6 innings of work so it was only inevitable he was going to get pulled. I felt like he could’ve gone another inning, but ultimately it didn’t matter. This isn’t the first time Roberts has done this sort of thing. A couple years ago, Ross Stripling was making his Major League debut and had a no hitter going into the 8th but got pulled by Roberts due to his pitch count being over 100. That time it backfired, as the Giants pummeled the relievers and won the game. But Stripling’s family actually thanked Roberts for pulling Stripling because they knew Roberts was concerned about protecting the kid’s arm. So if they’re cool with it, I’m cool with it. And once again, Roberts pulls a young starter with immense potential (his season ERA is just a little over 1) due to health concerns in the middle of his no-hit bid. This time it worked out. What a treat for the people of Monterrey, Mexico, though. They get Major League Baseball coming to town and the first game is a no hitter.

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-Matt Harvey was DFA’d by the Mets after refusing an outright assignment to AAA. This has been a pretty steep fall from grace for the guy who was looking like the next big ace for the Mets. Hell he was nicknamed “The Dark Knight” as a 24 year-old. He debuted in 2012 and started the All Star Game for the National League in 2013 when the game was at Citi Field. He struggled with injuries for much of his career but when healthy, he was one of the best right handers in the game, carrying a sub-3 ERA each of the first 3 years of his career. Then Game 5 of the 2015 World Series happened. Harvey was spinning an absolute GEM. The Royals failed to score all game against Harvey and the Mets were entering the 9th inning up 2-0 and Terry Collins was about to pull Harvey for closer Jeurys Familia. Harvey convinced Colins to leave him in the game and Collins listened. Then Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and served up an RBI double to Eric Hosmer to make it 2-1 before Collins finally pulled Harvey. Hosmer was able to score to tie the game up then the Royals scored 5 runs in the 12th and won the World Series. Ever since that game Harvey has been a shell of his former self, as he not only pitched poorly, but emotional problems began to take hold. In 2016 he had a 4.86 ERA and in 2017 it was 6.70. In 2018 Harvey was carrying an ERA of 7.00 before being DFA’d after being sent to the bullpen. Harvey’s issues were also off the field, as he missed a game last season after a night of drinking resulting from seeing his ex-girlfriend, super model Adriana Lima, with Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. This was one of many personal issues that Harvey allowed to affect his performance and now he’s being DFA’d by the Mets. If Harvey goes unclaimed by another team, he can accept a minor league assignment or be outright released. A part of me feels bad for the guy because he’s as talented as they come but he can’t get out of his own head. Hopefully a change of scenery is exactly what he needs to get his career back on track.

-I wanted to blog this yesterday but some school-related issues forced me to put this off until today. But Ichiro Suzuki’s career is basically over. Yes, his agent said he isn’t retiring, just moving to a front office position with the Mariners, but come on. Have you seen Ichiro lately? He’s not the hitter he once was by a LONG SHOT. He’s not the man who opened his Major League career with a record 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons nor the guy with the most hits ever as a professional hitter (Japan and Major Leagues combined). Hell he didn’t join the Major Leagues until he was 27 and he still managed to join the 3000 hit club. Now? He’s 44 years old, going to be 45 in October, and he was slashing .205/.255/.205 prior to the announcement. There were talks amongst Mariners Twitter whether or not the team should demote him because it was becoming apparent that his presence on the roster was becoming a liability. I doubt a Major League team’s going to pick him up given how apparent the deterioration of his skills has been. If he does want to continue playing baseball, I think his best bet is going to be a return to Japan where I guarantee he will get a hero’s welcome. The guy is as classy as they come and one of the greatest pure hitters of all time and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

-The Milwaukee Bucks are going to interview Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching position. Hammon made airwaves by being a female assistant coach in the NBA but from what I understand she’s very well-respected and must be a damn good coach because she’s held the position for 4 years, which is a long time for an assistant coach to be with a franchise. She takes over head coaching duties for the Spurs during the Summer League so it’s not like this is uncharted waters for her. Oh and there’s the whole nugget that she’d be the NBA’s first ever female head coach if she does land the job with the Bucks, who fired Jason Kidd midseason and had been running with Joe Prunty through their playoff exit against the Celtics. Hammon won’t be the only member of the Spurs organization the Bucks will be interviewing, though, as assistant coaches James Borrego, Ettore Messina, and front office member Monty Williams are all expected to be interviewed as well. Probably trying to recreate the magic that is Greg Popovich. It’ll be interesting to see how her interview goes because she will be under a LOT of scrutiny if she does land the position. But if you can work under Pop, you can work in any situation so I’m confident she’d be able to handle it.

-Ben Roethlisberger was seemingly not a fan of the Steelers taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in last week’s NFL Draft, saying he doesn’t think that a backup or third stringer in the third round was such a good pick to help the team win now. He also said (perhaps jokingly) that he wasn’t going to mentor Rudolph and if he had any questions, Roethlisberger would just “point to the playbook.” Whether he’s joking or not, I actually love this move. I think too often we just assume a quarterback is going to just go quietly. But not Ben. He wants to let everyone know this is still his team and he’s going to give it up when he’s good and ready. And to be fair, he’s earned that right. He’s a 2-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his numbers are actually getting better with age (having a receiver like Antonio Brown probably helps). I think it’s also good for Rudolph that he isn’t given anything. I think too often we just assume that when a guy might be a franchise quarterback that they’re going to be given everything they need to succeed. Well Big Ben wants you to earn what you get and I fully respect it. But now that you’ve made claims like these, you’ve got to go back it up with your play. You have to prove that this is in fact still your team and the fact you’re 36 years old isn’t an issue.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed 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.

 

NFL Draft: Day 2

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I’m not going to go pick-by-pick with this. That would be absolutely insane. It’s more going to be in the format of General Sports but it’s all going to pertain to what happened with Day 2 of the NFL Draft. So let’s get to it.

-Before the Draft even started, we got news that Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is retiring and will be joining the broadcast booth. The timing seems a bit unfortunate for the Cowboys as they likely had to dramatically change their draft plans now that tight end has become a need. However there was some insult to injury with what happened. The division-rival Eagles traded up in front of them and took South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and former Eagles kicker David Akers, who announced the pick, had a little fun with the Dallas crowd.

So not only do the Cowboys not get their tight end (who happens to be named “Dallas”) but they get the pick stolen right out from under them by their division rivals and then get put in a body bag by a retired kicker. Rough night. The Cowboys ended up taking Texas tackle Connor Williams, who was my top-rated tackle in this class. Some people think he could play guard and there’s an opening at left guard on this offensive line.

-Speaking of pick announcements, this was pretty awesome.

I’m not crying, I’ve just got something in my eye. You’re crying. Pussy. *sniff* Pancho Billa got to announce the pick of Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who appears to be the heir to Kyle Williams and quite frankly, I was shocked he was still there. I had him pegged as an early second rounder and he nearly lasted all the way to the 4th.

-The Patriots traded the 95th pick in the Draft for 49ers tackle Trent Brown, an absolute mammoth of a human being at 6’8 360, though his weight was an issue with the 49ers last season as he showed up to camp over 400 pounds. He played really well, though grading out as the 9th best tackle according to Pro Football Focus. This allows the Patriots to push the 23rd overall pick Isaiah Wynn to guard where he’s better suited. Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are the incumbents but Thuney struggled last season and the selection of Wynn in the first round might suggest that the Patriots are losing confidence in him. As a result of this trade, though, the Patriots only had 1 pick on Day 2 after a bunch of other trades and they ended up with Florida cornerback Duke Dawson. I like him, I think he’s really good in coverage, particularly as a press guy. But he sucks against the run. I watched some film on him against LSU and LSU kept running end-arounds right at him all game and they kept working. However he did a pretty good job in covering DJ Chark and shut down Christian Kirk, both of whom I had as top-5 receivers in this class. He’s probably going to be a nickel or dime corner for the Patriots on passing downs as a rookie.

-The Steelers may have drafted their future franchise quarterback in Mason Rudolph with the 76th overall pick. The Oklahoma State product is pretty raw and his offensive scheme from college translates pretty poorly to the NFL. But he has a lot of arm talent and a big frame that is pretty similar to current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has made it clear his days in the league are numbered, as he almost retired this season. It appears that the Steelers had been targeting Rudolph all along because they also selected his top target in James Washington. The two were a dynamic 1-2 punch with Oklahoma State and the Steelers hope they can translate that chemistry to the next level.

-Former LSU runningback Derrius Guice fell pretty hard in the Draft. In my mock, I projected that the Buccaneers would trade back into the first round with the Patriots to take him. Well that didn’t happen, the Pats took Georgia runningback Sony Michel, then the Buccaneers stayed put in the second round and took USC runningback Ronald Jones II. Apparently, as Mike Mayock reported while Guice was in his slide, there’s an investigation going on with Guice that could potentially be “embarrassing” for the team that drafts him. As to what that exactly is, we’re unsure, but the Redskins took a chance on him at 59 so perhaps they feel comfortable that he’s going to be cleared.

-Speaking of falling in the Draft, every year we see guys take a tumble simply because that’s the way the board falls. There’s no real reason behind it, whether it be character concerns, injury problems, or just something showing up on tape. But every year, there’s a guy who falls out of nowhere. This year, that player was Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. He doesn’t have any character concerns, no injury red flags, and he’s okay in coverage but we already knew that and we know he’s better against the run. I really like this guy and he’s an enforcer-type safety who can deliver some nasty hits. He was my 30th overall player on my Big Board and he ended up going 93rd to the Jaguars. As if that defense needed another playmaker. As of right now, this is the steal of the Draft in my opinion.

-Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown had possibly the worst NFL Combine ever, yet he didn’t fall too far, as the Ravens selected him in the third round, 83rd overall. The analysts noted when he was selected that Brown’s 40 time of 5.65 was the exact same time as his father’s, who passed away in 2011. Another interesting thing to note is that Brown’s father, Orlando Sr, also played for the Ravens and wore #77. That number is currently available on the Ravens roster. Could be something cool to look at.

So with 3 rounds done and the rest of the Draft on Saturday, here’s the remaining players from my Big Board that are still available, ordered by ranking along with possible reason why they fell.

39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan (diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine that has clearly scared teams away because he’s too good to still be available)

41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas (I liked him a lot more than other people anyway so I’m not surprised he’s still available. Mark my words he’s going to be a steal)

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida (Has one hand, otherwise he’s basically the perfect linebacker prospect)

And that’s it. I expect all three guys to be taken pretty early in the 4th round on Saturday. Let me know what you thought of Day 2 of the NFL Draft in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft Primer

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

Most NFL-Ready Quarterback: Josh Rosen-UCLA

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

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

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

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

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

Most Impressive Prospect: Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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

Most Intriguing Prospect: DJ Chark-WR-LSU

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

And now, on to the Big Board.

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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49. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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48. James Daniels-C-Iowa

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47. Harrison Phillips-DL-Stanford

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46. Donte Jackson-CB-LSU

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45. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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44. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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43. Mike Gesicki-TE-Penn State

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42. Uchenna Nwosu-EDGE-USC

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41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

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40. Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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38. Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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

37. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State

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36. Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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35. Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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34. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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

33. Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida

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32. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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31. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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28. Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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27. Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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26. DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

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24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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23. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama 

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22. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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21. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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18. Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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16. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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13. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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12. Derwin James-S-Florida State

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11. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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10. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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9. Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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8. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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7. Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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6. Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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5. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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4. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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3. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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2. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

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

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

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

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

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

Post Super Bowl 2018 NFL Mock Draft

It took me about 24 hours but I managed to get over the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss and overall I find that I’m more happy for the Eagles fans than I am sad about the Patriots. I mean, what other fan base celebrates their team winning a football game by eating horse shit? Go google it for yourself, I’m not linking it here. But as much as I’d love to blog about any sport other than football right now, there really isn’t anything going on that isn’t football-related to blog about. So I’m going to try and quell my sadness by doing a post-Super Bowl Mock Draft because I love doing those for some reason and it’s a good time to do it since the draft order is now set (with the exception of the 9th and 10th picks, which will require a coin toss but I don’t think they’re going to steal eachother’s picks so I don’t think that particular order matters too much). I did a mock draft earlier this year, which I’ll link here, which is now suddenly out of date because two players (Clemson defensive linemen Clellin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins) announced they’re returning to school. Clemson’s going to be loaded next year because they have basically everybody except Deon Cain returning. But without further ado, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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This doesn’t reflect how I’d rank the quarterbacks, I think UCLA’s Josh Rosen is better than Darnold. However the main thing is that Darnold isn’t on record as saying he doesn’t want to be a Brown like Rosen is. Granted, there was that time when he had to deny saying he’d return to school if the Browns had the number 1 pick, but again, we don’t have definitive proof he said it. That being said, I’ve said in the past that Darnold should’ve returned to school. I’m retracting that statement after watching the Ohio State bowl game. Not because Darnold played particularly well, his numbers weren’t that great and USC could only score 7 points. But the talent around him is holding him back. Ohio State was able to abuse him by rushing three. While the Browns are far from the most talented team (them going 0-16 being one indicator), they have a pretty good offensive line which can go a long ways towards helping a quarterback’s development, just look at Dak Prescott. So I don’t think it’d be the worst idea in the world for the Browns to take a chance on Darnold. I mean, they can’t really do much worse, can they?

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

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The Giants’ biggest need is on the offensive line, however I wouldn’t take any of the offensive linemen in this class at this stage. They could also use corners and linebackers, but again, I’m iffy about taking one this high. That leaves runningback. Orleans Darkwa is currently the best runningback on the roster and that’s just not going to take the pressure off the passing game. Saquon Barkley may be the most complete runningback I’ve ever seen and imagine what guys like ODell Beckham can do when the defense also has to focus on the guy in the backfield and vice versa. I think Barkley could help transform the Giants’ offense into a juggernaut.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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Like the Giants, I think Indy’s biggest need is on the offensive line, as they gave up the most sacks this season. However, the same thing applies to them as the Giants, as I think it’d be more useful to hit other needs here than reach for an offensive lineman. So I’m going to go with edge defender Bradley Chubb. Chubb terrorized ACC offensive lines all season to the tune of 10 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, which was his second consecutive season with 10 sacks and 20+ TFLs. I don’t think the Colts have ever had a good defense in the history of their franchise but adding a great edge rusher like Chubb can mask a lot of deficiencies.

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

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This is the second pick in the top 4 for the Browns after their trade with the Texans in last year’s draft. After getting their potential quarterback of the future, they can look to just take the best player available and for me that’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a guy you can pretty much line up anywhere on your defense and despite how skinny he looks, he’s no slouch as a tackler to go along with his skills in coverage. I think he could be a valuable asset to a Browns defense that really underachieved last season.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This is assuming the Broncos don’t land Kirk Cousins. If they don’t, they’ll be thrilled to see Josh Rosen land in their laps like this. Quarterback has been what’s held the Broncos back from being relevant since Peyton Manning retired. Rosen is my favorite quarterback in the draft because on the field I don’t see anything wrong with his game. Scouts think he’s a dick, that’s really his only flaw but he seems to have the backing of his teammates so I’m totally fine with his attitude. However people also said similar things about Ryan Leaf and we all know how that turned out.

6. New York Jets-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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Like the Broncos, this is assuming the Jets don’t land Cousins. But Baker Mayfield could provide some excitement in this Jets offense that we haven’t seen since the early years of Rex Ryan’s tenure. There’s very little talent on the Jets offense right now so Mayfield might be better served to sit behind Josh McCown for a year to develop with what they have rather than get thrown into the fire right away, but based on what I saw at Oklahoma, Mayfield has the ability to elevate the play of his teammates.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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I saw the name of a defensive end from UTSA on some big boards and I thought to myself “what the Hell?” Their mascot is the Roadrunners for god’s sake. Naturally I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I turned on a couple games for him and holy shit. This kid is a freak. He absolutely abused every offensive lineman he went up against. Now granted, the talent he faced was atrocious, but he beat the shit out of them like you’d expect a top talent to do. He got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl, but he finished strong which is encouraging for me. The Buccaneers NEED pass rushers in the worst way possible and getting a guy like Davenport would be huge for the growth of this defense.

8. Chicago Bears-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I’m a huge fan of Calvin Ridley except he has one major flaw that I learned about after I scouted him: he’s 24 years old. That actually hurts a lot more than you might think because that puts him about 2-3 years behind the other players in this class. However I think his overall talent is going to win out over how long he’s actually able to play and I think the Bears will reap the benefits because this guy does pretty much everything well. Mitchell Trubisky showed some flashes as a rookie but he didn’t perform as well as he could have because he didn’t have anyone to throw to.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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A healthy Connor Williams probably lands in the top 5, maybe even to the Giants at #2. However some people have him falling out of the first round altogether in light of his knee injury during this past season. It’s possible he may not even play his rookie year, or at the very least be limited, which is why he may fall. But I think the long-term value will be worth it as the 49ers need some more help to protect Jimmy Garoppolo. Joe Staley isn’t getting any younger and the rest of the offensive line is pretty much garbage.

10. Oakland Raiders-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has dealt with injuries in the past but I think he’s the most complete linebacker in this class. He’s not quite as good as his former teammate Reuben Foster, who was excellent as a rookie with the 49ers, but I think he compares more to CJ Mosley of the Ravens while Foster compared more to Dont’a Hightower of the Patriots. Both guys are the leaders of their defenses and I think Evans has that capability, which is something the Raiders need badly because their linebacking core is easily the weakest in the NFL.

11. Miami Dolphins-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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The Miami Dolphins really need a middle linebacker. Lawrence Timmons just hasn’t panned out after being signed away from the Steelers. There are a lot of solid pieces on the Dolphins defense but they need that one centerpiece that holds everything together. Enter Roquan Smith. While Smith is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker and I think he could stand to get stronger, there’s no denying his instincts and high football IQ. Plus when he does square players up, he can really lay the lumber. He’s just pushed off the ball a little too often for my tastes.

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

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The Bengals desperately need help all over their offensive line. Usually a left tackle would be ideal but the only tackle worth taking at this stage currently available is Mike McGlinchey and he profiles better as a right tackle. Either hit left tackle in free agency or give Cedric Ogbuehi another year to improve. But I think if you can get a stud elsewhere, then do it. Quenton Nelson is probably a top-5 talent, but the low value of guards causes him to drop here and the Bengals will reap the benefits for the next ten years if they make this pick. Nelson does everything well.

13. Washington Redskins-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is the cream of the crop for this solid cornerback class and I think he could potentially go as high as fifth overall depending on how his workouts go. But the Redskins suddenly have a need at corner either opposite Josh Norman or in the slot after they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith trade. I think Ward is talented and athletic enough to play both on the outside and in the slot so he can be plugged in wherever Jay Gruden wants him.

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

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Morgan Burnett is set to hit free agency this offseason and I don’t anticipate the Packers resigning him due to his age (29) and the fact that he’s been trending downward these last couple of years. The secondary for Green Bay is overall pretty weak and Derwin James can be a huge upgrade. He’s an enforcer against the run and does really well in coverage. Injuries are a concern, though, but as long as he checks out medically, I don’t see any reason for the Packers to pass on him.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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There’s a lot to be excited about with Josh Allen and there’s equally as much to be concerned about. He’s got all the physical tools you can ask for but his accuracy is inconsistent and he played against lesser competition. However based on the weapons that he’d have at his disposal, namely Larry Fitzgerald and a healthy David Johnson, I think Josh Allen may have a smoother transition than people think. It will just depend on how well he gels with first year head coach Steve Wilks.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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The Ravens need receivers. Mike Wallace is really only good for deep balls and Breshad Perriman hasn’t been on the field enough to be productive. Enter Christian Kirk, a guy who can really do it all. The Ravens have shown in the past that they can get creative with some of their offensive schemes with the likes of Danny Woodhead and they can use Kirk in a similar manner. He can also have an impact in the return game as well. I won’t go into too much depth with the receivers in general, as I already scouted the ones I like.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Chargers shored up the interior of their offensive line in last year’s draft by taking Forrest Lamp (who missed the entire year due to injury but was my #1 offensive lineman last year) and Dan Feeney (who became the starting left guard midway through the season and played well. I also sat next to him in my Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics class, no big deal). Now they need to shore up the tackles and they’re very fortunate that McGlinchey falls into their laps in this scenario. McGlinchey wasn’t great this past season but he’s still arguably the best tackle in an overall weak class. He profiles better on the right side, which works just fine for the Chargers as they were sending out Joseph Barksdale in that spot all year.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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In this scenario, the Seahawks are probably pissed that McGlinchey was taken right ahead of them. I don’t project trades in my mocks, otherwise I think Seattle will try and sneak ahead of the Chargers to try and snag the Notre Dame product. However I’m sure they’ll be more than happy with Derrius Guice, as right now their best runningback is Mike Davis, which hardly strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. Seattle hasn’t had much of a run game since Marshawn Lynch left and Guice could be the guy to revive it.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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While Courtland Sutton does scare me in terms of his inconsistencies, he’s too talented to drop much lower than this. The Cowboys need more receivers as Dez Bryant’s injury issues have started to take their toll on his productivity while Terrance Williams is just okay. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are nice options in the slot but with Bryant not being healthy, they really miss that major threat that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Sutton has that potential.

20. Detroit Lions-Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE/LB-Virginia Tech

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Edmunds is an interesting player because he played middle linebacker at Virginia Tech last year despite the fact that he’s about 6’5 250 pounds, which is the prototypical size for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He shows great athleticism which makes me think he could excel as an edge rusher in new head coach Matt Patricia’s defense. But I suspect Patricia will use Edmunds the same way he used Jamie Collins a few years ago, as a big and athletic linebacker that can play pretty much anywhere on the field.

21. Buffalo Bills-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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After trading Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline to the Jaguars and with Kyle Williams being 35 by the start of the 2018 season, the Bills will have a need at DT. Payne played very well on the biggest stages in the CFP and I think he could be a huge asset to this Bills defense as the team looks to improve on their first playoff run in the 21st century. Payne has the ability to take over games if he gets in a groove and that kind of game wrecker can free up their edge rushers like Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander to wreak even more havoc.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Tyrod Taylor is going to be a free agent after the 2018 season and it’s been pretty apparent that the Bills won’t bring him back beyond that so one has to imagine they’ll look for a quarterback that they can develop and mold to be their franchise savior. Mason Rudolph has a lot of arm talent but there’s going to be a steep learning curve as he transitions from the air raid scheme at Oklahoma State into a more traditional NFL offense.

23. Los Angeles Rams-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Josh Jackson led the nation with 8 interceptions last season including 3 against Ohio State. He showcased excellent coverage skills and was a real playmaker for the Hawkeyes. The Rams may lose Trumaine Johnson in free agency and even if they do retain him, they’ll need someone to line up opposite him. Jackson can fill that role and make a potentially deadly defense even tougher.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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I think this would be a bit of a reach, but I trust Moore a little more than I trust Carolina’s other real option, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown. After Devin Funchess there really isn’t much in the Carolina receiving core for Cam Newton to throw to and while that hasn’t stopped him before (he won an MVP and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance with Ted Ginn as his top receiver), it’d make life a whole lot easier with more help.

25. Tennessee Titans-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry has been slipping a bit due to concerns over his ankle and his inconsistency against the run. However the Titans probably won’t care as much about that last bit as others might because they already have plenty of run stuffers but they’re set to be in big trouble in the pass rushing department, as Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are approaching free agency. Landry is one of the fastest defensive ends I’ve seen and he can blow up plays like no other when he times the snap right.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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Vita Vea is a crazy athlete for his size (340 pounds) and I suspect he’s going to blow up the NFL Scouting Combine in a couple weeks. We’re not sure what the Falcons are going to do in regards to Dontari Poe and after him there really isn’t any defensive tackle depth so if Vea is still available at this stage, then they ought to swoop right in and snatch him up. My only beef with Vea is that his get-off isn’t great, which could be a huge detriment if not improved upon.

27. New Orleans Saints-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

This is a slight reach at this stage but the Saints need safety help and the next best safety on my board is Harrison. They may also look at a linebacker like Malik Jefferson, but I think a safety that is capable of playing in the box like Harrison could be more valuable, especially given his coverage skills. He’s more of a thumper, but he has better coverage skills than most linebackers and really it was coverage skills that ended the Saints’ season.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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We don’t know if Ryan Shazier will be able to play football again after his spinal injury, though good news is he’s regained feeling in his legs. The Steelers will need to find his replacement, though because even if he does return, it may not be for much longer given the severity of his injury. Jefferson isn’t anything special, however he does all the little things right and he makes the smart plays that you look for and won’t be the guy that goes for the big flashy play. He’s the type of guy the Steelers need right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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The Jaguars’ biggest need is at quarterback but I think they’re going to stick it out with Blake Bortles for one more year. My next highest-rated quarterback is Lamar Jackson and I think that’d be a huge reach for the Jaguars, especially considering Jackson may not fit their offensive system very well. Hernandez is a heck of a guard and can not only help keep Bortles upright and keep pressure off of him, but he could also create more holes for Leonard Fournette to improve on his 4.0 YPC.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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Defensive Tackle is a weak spot for the Vikings with Linval Joseph’s age and Sharrif Floyd’s injury history. Taven Bryan is a great physical specimen that’s pretty raw at this stage but with enough seasoning under Mike Zimmer’s tutelage he could become the next Cameron Heyward.

31. New England Patriots-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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If you saw what I saw in the Super Bowl, then you’ll agree that A. Malcolm Butler is not returning to the Patriots and B. They need corners to replace him. Luckily for New England, this is a solid class for corners and I think Isaiah Oliver is a guy that can step in and contribute from Day 1. He’s got good size (6’1 190 pounds) and he does really well locking down receivers. I really think he can be a quality starter in this league, which is really all the Patriots will be looking for.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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The Eagles’ secondary got absolutely destroyed by Patriots receivers and that was without Brandin Cooks for most of the game. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards and quite frankly, if Brandon Graham doesn’t poke that ball out, I don’t think they stop Brady driving down the field and winning the game. Like I mentioned with the Patriots’ pick, the Eagles are fortunate that this year is a good year for corners and they’re going to get one of the more athletic ones in Carlton Davis, who is about the size of Oliver but he’s also been clocked at running as fast as 4.33, which is insane and means he can keep up with anybody while not sacrificing on size. He may rise up this board once I get around to really scouting the corners.

That’s going to do it for my second mock draft, let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

The Quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

As much as people like to say that the 2018 draft class is the weakest since 2013 (which it kind of is), there is still at least one redeeming factor: the quarterback class. I think this group has the potential to be as good, if not better, than the 2012 group that saw the likes of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Robert Griffin III (for one season) emerge. I’m going to go through a few guys that I like that have the potential to go in the first round. These aren’t necessarily rankings as much as they are just going down the list of guys and saying what I like and don’t like about them and what type of future I see in them.

Josh Allen-Wyoming

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So far, for the underclassman quarterbacks, Allen is the only one who has declared for the Draft. There were talks that he could’ve come out last year and potentially been a high pick, but he elected to return to school to develop, which I thought was a smart move. However his season didn’t go that great, though a bum shoulder can certainly be a contributing factor. But he did deliver his best performance of the 2017 season in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (what a stupid fucking name) yesterday against Central Michigan. He didn’t throw the ball much, only 11 completions on 19 attempts, but he made the most of his throws, including 3 touchdowns in the first quarter. Wyoming ran the ball a TON in that game (42 times) but it was what they needed as they scored an easy victory over the Chippewas.

Strengths: Size, Arm, Mobility

Just look at this throw from Allen as you try not to vomit from looking at the uniform/field combinations.

That, folks, is what we call a laser. Allen has an absolute cannon and as you saw right up there, is accurate enough to squeeze the ball into tight spaces. He’s got the prototypical size you look for in a QB, as he stands at 6’5 233 pounds, which puts him at about the same size as Carson Wentz. He’s also deceptively quick for a guy his size, as Wyoming would often have him running the football, which he did as many as 18 times in a game this season.

Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Poor Showings Against Power-5 Teams, Health

As far as physical traits go, Allen is about as perfect a specimen as you could ask for. It’s the other stuff that might make you nervous. He played in a very weak conference in the Mountain West and the Cowboys couldn’t even win it, as they went 7-5 prior to their bowl win. He also had a chance to show what he could do against tougher competition like Iowa and Oregon, but both games were disasters for him, as he combined to go 32-64 (50% completions), 238 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. That’s just awful. To be fair to Allen, the talent around him is pretty bad, so perhaps he can be forgiven for those showings, but for being as highly touted a quarterback as he is, he needs to be able to elevate the play of his teammates. These aren’t fair comparisons to make, I know, but you see guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers make their teammates significantly better by just being on the field. I don’t see that from Allen. Health is also a concern, as he missed the final two games of the regular season while nursing that bum shoulder. He also missed basically all of his 2015 season with a broken clavicle, a bone located in the shoulder region.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t draft Allen in the first round unless I had a veteran who was on the way out that he could sit behind and not only learn from, but adapt to the higher level of competition as well as a strong supporting cast around him. This kid has all the ability in the world but he really hasn’t shown it to the extent that one would think of with a kid who has been in the discussion for number 1 overall pick. Some potential landing spots could be the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pro Comparison: 

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Carson Wentz. Both came from small schools where they played against inferior competition but showcased some high level skills and prototypical measurables that get scouts excited.

 

Sam Darnold-USC

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Before the season began, Darnold was the consensus number 1 overall pick in the Draft. He had won the starting job for USC midseason and led the Trojans on an absolute tear en route to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. However, his encore left a lot to be desired. He struggled MIGHTILY with turnovers this season, leading all players in that category, whether it be interceptions or fumbles. Darnold’s throwing motion also became widely criticized as being “funky.” Nonetheless, he showed some really good things as well, such as his ability to make big time throws and great mobility.

Strengths: Size, Arm, Mobility, Elevating Teammates, Winner

When Darnold took over the starting job in 2016, USC was 1-3 and head coach Clay Helton’s job was in SERIOUS danger. Once Darnold took over for Max Browne, however, USC’s fortunes flipped and they didn’t lose another game the rest of the season. He’s got excellent arm strength and can put balls in spots that a lot of quarterbacks can’t. I watched a couple of games this year and a few of his 12 interceptions were the result of his receivers dropping the ball and it landing in a defender’s arms. I think Darnold really missed Juju Smith-Schuster this past year because the only quality receiver on the Trojans was Deontay Burnett and he’s a marginal NFL prospect at this stage. This is also something Darnold does that Allen doesn’t: he makes his teammates better. Guys like Burnett really aren’t that great of talent, but they perform beyond their talent because Darnold gives them the opportunity to make plays with where he puts the ball at times. Also has very good footwork in the pocket, as he’s always in a position to scurry away from the rush when needed.

Weaknesses: Delivery, Decision-Making

Watch how long it takes Darnold to throw the ball after beginning his motion.

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Now look at how Tom Brady throws it, which is widely considered to be the ideal throwing motion.

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What’s different is where the ball is when they begin their throwing motion. Darnold basically has the ball at his hip where he starts, Brady’s is practically at his shoulder. Darnold’s also kind of winding up like a pitcher in baseball instead of just slinging it like what the best quarterbacks do. That’s something that can be worked with though, as a good coach can help tweak that. But the reason Darnold’s isn’t great is because that extra split second is the difference between the pass rusher getting a sack or just getting pressure. Or a receiver open and a safety cutting him off. His elongated throwing motion very easily could have led to a lot of his interceptions or strip sacks. Perhaps on some picks the guy was open when he started his motion, but he took so long to get the ball there that the defender was in position by the time the ball was out.

Draft Thoughts: I personally think that returning to USC for one more season could be really beneficial for Darnold to have a full season to refine a new throwing motion before getting thrown to the wolves like he would be in the NFL. But I think he’s going to declare for the Draft and he’s so gifted and played against such good competition, he’s not going to make it past the top 5 picks. How he performs against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl will be a huge barometer for how well he might transition to the pros. That’s about as close to an NFL defense as he’ll face all year and if he performs really well, he could justifiably be the top pick. I think quarterback-needy teams such as the Browns, Giants, and Broncos should all be in on this kid.

Pro Comparison: 

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Philip Rivers. Both guys have similar thick builds and have similar throwing motions and have a tendency to make the best of what they have. Rivers rarely ever has Pro Bowl-caliber receivers (Keenan Allen has been the one exception the last few years) but he gets them to play beyond their ability (Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, among others).

Lamar Jackson-Louisville

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Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and actually improved in 2017. At first, I thought no chance is he an NFL quarterback, but after watching some throws he was making, I started re-evaluating things. I still think he would make a better wide receiver in the NFL, where his elusiveness can be better utilized, but if he can continue to grow as a passer the way he did between 2016 and ’17, then we could be looking at the next Michael Vick

Strengths: Running Ability, Arm Strength

If a defense isn’t careful, Jackson can take over games with his legs. I mean, human beings shouldn’t be this athletic.

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But Jackson is. Not only that, but in 2017 his passing numbers skyrocketed while his rushing totals kept pace with his monstrous 2016 season. Just look at this throw right here.

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This is a beautiful job of reading the safeties and hitting his receiver in stride.

Weaknesses: Size, Gimmick Play Style

You might notice that Lamar Jackson is PAINFULLY skinny, especially at a position where it’s become of heightened importance to have some build to you due to how much damage you take. Add in the fact that Jackson is a running quarterback that by nature will take a lot of hits, and you have the potential of a guy who may have a shortened career. Also, when was the last time a run-first quarterback had long-term success in the NFL? The only one I can think of is Michael Vick and he was a once-in-a-generation talent. You could argue Russell Wilson, but his passing game has developed so well that he’s kind of shed the mold of a run-first quarterback. Jackson will need to follow Wilson’s developmental model if he wants to have a long career in this league.

Draft Thoughts: Again, I would prefer it if Jackson were to move to wide receiver, as I think that would be where he’d have the most success in this league. I wouldn’t take him in the first round just on the reputation of running quarterbacks and their lack of sustained success alone. However I do think that there will be a team that will be interested enough to take a chance on him in the first round, though I think as a quarterback he’s a third rounder. I think a team like the Buffalo Bills could be a landing spot for him, as he plays a similar style of game to the incumbent Tyrod Taylor, who has been handled about as poorly as an organization can handle a quarterback.

Pro Comparison: 

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Colin Kaepernick. They basically have identical frames with great athleticism and strong throwing arms. Kap is one of the aforementioned run-first quarterbacks that fizzled out as their careers went along.

Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

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Baker Mayfield is about as polarizing a quarterback prospect as I can find. On the one hand, I see a lot of Russell Wilson in him. He’s short for a quarterback (6’0) but he plays with a lot of intensity and is able to use his legs to make plays, whether that be scrambling for a first down or moving out of the pocket to buy his receivers time to get open. On the other, he shows some Johnny Manziel traits that scare me. Mayfield is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and has led Oklahoma to a CFP berth for the second time in the last 3 years.

Strengths: Playmaking Ability, Athleticism, Accuracy, Intensity

Look at this play from Oklahoma’s bowl game last year.

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Notice how he never took his eye away from downfield but was still able to react accordingly to the unblocked defender that his guard absolutely WHIFFED on. A lot of quarterbacks in that situation will panic and chuck it away or into coverage, including Tom Brady. But Mayfield is so confident in his running ability that he doesn’t panic and uses his peripherals to his advantage, then drops a dime to Dede Westbrook. Which brings me to another point of strength with him: his accuracy. Mayfield led the nation in completion percentage this season and being accurate is something that translates to the NFL extremely well. Also that play above was on a fourth down, showing how cool under pressure he can be.

Weaknesses: Height, Decision-Making (not interception-related)

My main concern with Mayfield is that despite having the potential to be the next Russell Wilson, I could also just as easily see him being the next Johnny Manziel. Mayfield’s had three instances this season where his maturity was called into question. The first came in the offseason when he was tackled by campus police after trying to flee while publicly intoxicated. The next time was planting the OU flag at midfield after their win against Ohio State. Finally, the whole grabbing his nuts and cussing at the Kansas bench. The first his just him being an idiot college kid, but Manziel had a host of incidents like that. The other on-field incidents could result in fines and some unwanted media attention were they to occur in an NFL game.

Draft Thoughts: As much as it seems like I might be criticizing Mayfield’s antics, I actually chalk this up more to just him being really intense and getting really amped up during games rather than him just being a prick, which was the vibe I got when Manziel would do his antics. I think it’s more likely that Mayfield becomes the next Russell Wilson than the next Johnny Manziel but I’d like to see him sit a year behind a veteran before being thrust into a professional offense, as he was in an air raid system at Oklahoma, which translates about as poorly to the NFL as any offense in college football outside of the wishbone. I personally would take him in the second round, but I think someone will take a chance on him in the first. I think some potential landing spots could be the Jaguars, Bills, and Cardinals.

Pro Comparison: 

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Russell Wilson. I’ve already made the comparison enough in this so I’m just going to leave it at that.

Josh Rosen-UCLA

at Rose Bowl on November 24, 2017 in Pasadena, California.

This is my favorite quarterback in this class and if I were the Cleveland Browns, I’m taking him #1. He literally has everything, the only issue I’ll get into later. I was extremely impressed by some of the throws he made when he squared off with Darnold to the point where I couldn’t believe they were even being compared to each other. Rosen has been the starting quarterback at UCLA since he set foot on campus. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman, but was lost in his sophomore season due to injury. Then his junior season he picked up right where he left off from his freshman season, opening the season with an incredible comeback against Texas A&M.

Strengths: Arm Talent, Pocket Presence, Experience

Are you kidding me with this ball placement right here?

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If this is thrown in any other spot, it’s picked off and based on how few Bruins are in the vicinity, it likely would’ve resulted in great field position for the Aggies. But he’s able to thread the needle and put the ball in the spot where only his receiver could get it. He’s also great in the pocket, as he seamlessly navigates the pocket and avoids pressure.

Weaknesses: Personality, Winning Percentage

The main knock I keep hearing from NFL scouts is that Rosen is a huge turnoff, with one scout going so far as to call him an “entitled prick.” They didn’t go into much detail about why that was, but it wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Rosen also hasn’t generated a ton of wins for UCLA, as his career record is only 17-13 (Darnold’s is 20-2 for comparison). However I think that has more to do with the talent around him, as his defense was pretty bad this season.

Draft Thoughts: I would take Rosen with the top pick in the Draft. I think he has all the measurables you could ask for in a quarterback and despite complaints from scouts about his personality, he has gotten the backing of his teammates, who seem to like him, which matters significantly more to me than whether scouts think he’s a dick or not.

Pro Comparison: 

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Matt Ryan. Both have similar builds and similar play styles with great pocket presence.

Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

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Mason Rudolph was the orchestrator of some of the most exciting games in college football this season, particularly his duel with Baker Mayfield in the Bedlam Game. Despite losing the game 62-52, Rudolph was spectacular against his Heisman-winning counterpart. Rudolph also seems to develop great relationships with his receivers, as both James Washington and Marcell Ateman had tremendous seasons catching passes from Rudolph.

Strengths: Arm Talent, Size

Rudolph is basically the exact same size as Allen, 6’5 230 so the benefits between these two are basically identical. Rudolph played in an offense that elevated your stats, but he took advantage of that better than anybody outside of Pat Mahomes. He may have run an air raid offense, but his ball placement and arm talent often made up for the lack of playbook. Look at this throw right here.

Mason-Rudolph

Yes his receiver missed the catch, but that ball went right through his hands and that ball could not have been thrown more perfectly. You’ve got to catch that if you’re the OK State receiver. Also, notice where that ball was thrown from: the 50. He was able to hit a touch throw 50 yards downfield and he didn’t even have to get much of a crowhop under there. Rudolph’s arm will be very enticing to NFL Teams.

Weaknesses: Type of Offense Run, Mobility

The type of offense run is a big one, mainly because he hasn’t had to make very many different kinds of throws. The routes the Cowboys receivers run are about as simplistic as they come and he’s never had to learn a playbook, which is what he’ll need to be able to do in the NFL. He’s probably going to have the biggest learning curve out of all the guys on this list but the talent is there. He’s also slow as dirt and his pocket presence and his ability to avoid pressure could use some work.

Draft Thoughts: Rudolph has a lot of talent but he might need a year or two to learn how to operate an NFL offense before being thrust into a starting role. I wouldn’t take him higher than the second round but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a desperate team falls in love with him and takes him earlier than they probably should. I think the Saints would be the perfect landing spot for him, as that would probably be the smoothest transition for him, the Saints offense being the closest we have to an Air Raid offense in the NFL. Plus their success on the ground could take a lot of pressure off him when Drew Brees decides to hang them up.

Pro Comparison: 

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A better version of Bryce Petty. Both guys had similar skillsets and flaws coming out of college, however I think Rudolph is a bit more refined than Petty, who has shown the occasional flash in the NFL but the entire body of work hasn’t been great. I think if Rudolph is thrusted into the starting role too soon, then his career will be disastrous.

Those are my thoughts on a potentially stacked 2018 quarterback class. Agree? Disagree Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 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.