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.

The Wide Receivers of the 2018 NFL Draft

I’ve already scouted the quarterbacks and runningbacks of this year’s class and I will be following the same format: six guys that I like a lot, listed in alphabetical order. This year’s wide receiver group lacks any elite prospect but has a lot of solid ones that I think could be solid contributors for teams, maybe potential pro bowlers down the line. It’s nowhere near the talent of the 2014 class, but I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year’s class based on depth. So let’s take a look at some receivers I like.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-Indiana

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I might be a little biased on this one because I actually had a racial studies class with Cobbs during the fall semester that he was torching opposing defenses. Therefore I may have him a little higher than some others, but there is a lot to like about the kid.

Strengths: Size, Jump Ball Ability, Body Control

Cobbs is a big, strong receiver at 6’4 220 pounds. When he takes over games, he REALLY takes them over. Just watch the Ohio State game. I did say in the past that I wasn’t impressed by Ohio State corner Denzel Ward because of how well Cobbs did. Well I owe Ward a HUGE apology, he only got beat by Cobbs once and that was on a jump ball in the endzone. It was Kendall Sheffield he was abusing. Plus Cobbs’ leaping ability and body control allow him to win seemingly every jump ball he’s involved in.

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Those long arms and large frame give him an unfair advantage when he’s able to get just a little bit of space. Basically all you have to do as a quarterback is throw it up and Cobbs is basically a lock to come down with it, especially since there’s a very small number of cornerbacks that can physically match up to him.

Weaknesses: Speed, Non-Complex Route Scheme, Health

Cobbs is not fast at all. I wouldn’t be shocked if he runs somewhere in the 4.6-4.7 range in the 40 yard dash at the Combine. You just watch him on film and he kind of just lumbers around. So basically if you do have a corner that matches Cobbs’ size, he’s pretty much going to be screwed because he won’t beat you with speed. The tallest active corners are 6’3 (unless you count 6’4 free agent Brandon Browner) so there are guys in the NFL who can more than handle him. Indiana also didn’t run a very complex route tree offensively so Cobbs really didn’t have to do much more than run flies and drags, not a whole lot of cuts involved, which is going to be vastly different once he reaches the NFL. However I think a lot of these problems stem from one thing: the ankle injury he suffered on his first play of the 2016 season. He was injured on a screen pass when his teammate fell onto his ankle while he was blocking and it cost him his entire season. I wonder if that ankle injury had anything to do with his lack of speed and cutting ability, which could explain the lack of variety in his routes.

Draft Thoughts: Cobbs is very raw and he’s got a lot of work to do to realize his full potential. But what he did against Ohio State was something to be very excited about and is just a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He’s going to be a project and at worst I think he’s going to be a dangerous red zone threat. I’d probably take him somewhere in the third round.

Pro Comparison:

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Devin Funchess. Both are 6’4 and Funchess is about 5 pounds heavier. Both have size as their biggest advantage and they like to use it. It’s taken Funchess a couple years but he’s starting to look like the type of guy we thought he would be coming out of Michigan and the Panthers seem to be comfortable with him as their #1 after trading Kelvin Benjamin.

Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

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Christian Kirk was an absolute stud at Texas A&M as he had 71 catches for 919 yards and 10 TDs. Throughout the season, he didn’t really have any games that particularly wowed me statistically up until the Belk Bowl, where he absolutely torched an under-rated Wake Forest defense with 13 catches for 189 yards and 3 TD’s.

Strengths: Athleticism, RAC Ability, Versatility

Kirk is a guy that really did it all for the Aggies. He could line up outside the numbers, in the slot, even in the backfield taking handoffs. He’s just that good an athlete. He runs a 4.46 40 yard dash but he looks faster than that, especially when he makes guys miss. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands and weaves through traffic very efficiently, which also helps him in the return game. Which brings me to my point about his versatility. The guy was all over the field and that included returning kicks and punts, as he had 6 return TD’s during his 3 years at Texas A&M.

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Weaknesses: Size, Inconsistent Route Running

Kirk isn’t a big receiver. He stands at 5’11 200 pounds so he’s not going to win too many jump balls. The only receiver I know of roughly that size who was good at jump balls anyway was Steve Smith Sr and that’s because his leaping ability was so great that he made up for the fact that he’s 5’9. My main issue with Kirk is that his route running is a little inconsistent. On some routes, like comebacks and hitches, he does a great job of planting his foot and coming back. But on fly routes or drags, I never see him put on any move to try and shake a receiver, he just kind of runs the route, relying on him being faster than the DB covering him. That’s fine and all but pretty much every DB in the NFL runs a 4.4 nowadays so Kirk will need to be able to shake these guys off if he wants to get open. I think he’s totally capable of doing it because I’ve seen what he can do with the ball in his hands, but first he’s got to get the ball.

Draft Thoughts: Christian Kirk is one of the most talented athletes in this class and I think he has a really bright future in the NFL. He has an Antonio Brown-like skillset, he just needs to get a little more consistency in how he runs his routes, which is of the utmost importance to me when I’m evaluating a receiver. I think I’d take him late in the first round.

Pro Comparison: 

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I should clarify this. He’s a POOR MAN’s Antonio Brown. He does a lot of things Brown does, but to get to Brown’s level as the best receiver in the NFL, Kirk is going to have to work a little more on his technique.

Anthony Miller-Memphis

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Anthony Miller may not be as highly renowned as some of the other guys on this list, but he may be one of the most electrifying players in college football. He had 96 catches (5th in the nation) for 1462 yards (3rd) and 18 touchdowns (1st). He’s a pretty intriguing receiver to me, mainly because of what type of competition he faced. Miller is VERY similar to Christian Kirk in terms of skillset and play style, the main difference being Kirk was going up against SEC defenses every week, Miller was going up against Conference USA. HUGE difference in competition.

Strengths: Athleticism, Explosiveness, RAC Ability

Anthony Miller is perhaps the quickest receiver in this class. He does a great job weaving through traffic and finding the extra yards and a large chunk of his yards are RAC yards, as Memphis often threw screen passes to Miller to best utilize his strengths. He’s definitely at his best with the ball in his hands and looks like an ideal fit in a West Coast offense. He’s been clocked as fast as a 4.43 in the 40 which is about what you’re looking for in a receiver. He looks faster on tape. Just look at the way he’s able to accelerate in this game against UCLA.

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That’s really what I care about, explosiveness over actual speed, which is something that Miller definitely has.

Weaknesses: Size, Competition, Can be Careless with the Football

Miller is only 5’10 190 pounds so he’s not exactly intimidating and his overall speed isn’t fast enough to where his size doesn’t mean as much. I also think he may have a rough transition to the NFL mainly because the only quality corner he went up against was UCF’s Mike Hughes. He was held to only 3 catches for 37 yards in that game. He did bounce back VERY nicely the next game against UConn with 15 catches for 224 yards and 4 TD’s, but UConn also doesn’t really have any corners and ranked dead last in all of college football in passing yards allowed per game. And for a guy who is given a lot of opportunities to get RAC yardage, he sure is careless handling the football. Far too many times I saw him kind of flailing around the ball rather than carrying it high and tight and it did cost him on a few occasions.

Draft Thoughts: I think Miller has the potential to be a very solid slot receiver in this league. I’m not sure that his transition will be very smooth but I think in the right offense he could really thrive. I’d probably spend a middle round pick on him. If he’s there in the 4th, I’m jumping at that opportunity to take him but I think overall I’d value him as a third rounder, MAYBE a second rounder depending on how he does at the Combine.

Pro Comparison:

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Jamison Crowder. Neither guy is very big but they both thrive as slot receivers. Crowder has been pretty solid these last couple of years and seems to be improving year after year in his role.

DJ Moore-Maryland

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DJ Moore picked up a lot of steam as the season went along despite playing for a very mediocre Maryland Terrapins squad. He basically carried this entire Maryland team throughout the season and despite his quarterback being Max Bortenschlager for most of the season, he was able to put up some high quality numbers with 80 catches for 1033 yards and 8 TDs.

Strengths: Route Running, Strong Hands, RAC Ability

Route running is probably the most important asset you can have as a receiver. You see guys who aren’t super athletic like pretty much any Patriots receiver, but they always get open because they’re great route runners. Moore has that ability as he’s able to stop on a dime. He excels on hitches and comeback routes as oftentimes the corner is still drifting backward by the time he’s catching the ball when he plants his foot.

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He also has pretty strong hands and does a good job in traffic. For a guy as thick as he is, he also does pretty well on screen passes, as Maryland threw a lot of tunnel screens his way. Like Miller, he’s also got great RAC ability.

Weaknesses: Speed, Jump Ball Ability, Lets Ball Catch Him at Times

For a guy who is 5’11 215 pounds, Moore doesn’t run that fast. He runs a 4.56 40, which is about average for a receiver. If you’re going to be under 6 feet at receiver, your life is going to be a lot easier if you’re running in the 4.4’s. It’s also because of this lack of height that Moore struggles in jump ball situations. Most corners in the NFL can match up with him size-wise so unlike Cobbs, Moore doesn’t have that advantage. There are also times where Moore kind of lets the ball catch him. What I mean by that is that he’ll occasionally try and catch the ball with his body rather than his hands like he’s afraid of jamming a finger. That’s going to lead to a lot of drops if he doesn’t get that taken care of.

Draft Thoughts: I think there’s a lot to like with Moore. He’s a very good route runner and that can mask a lot of deficiencies. I’ve heard some people that have him as a first rounder but I don’t agree with that. I think he’s overall too raw and he still has some things to work on before he gets in that conversation. A strong showing at the Combine can go a looooong way towards helping that, though.

Pro Comparison: 

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Randall Cobb. Cobb’s about a tenth of a second faster than Moore, but both are on the shorter side and are excellent route runners. Lately Cobb has had a hard time getting the ball but he still poses a great threat to opposing defenses.

Calvin Ridley-Alabama

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Calvin Ridley is essentially the consensus #1 overall receiver in this year’s Draft class and there’s a lot of good reasons for it. Despite the fact that he was Alabama’s #1 receiver and basically their only threat at that position, he still managed to get 967 yards on 63 catches with 5 TD’s. Ridley’s numbers were actually hurt by the fact that Alabama has basically been exclusively a running team these last couple of years, as the only time he topped 1000 yards was his freshman year when Jake Coker was the quarterback, but even then he led a national championship-winning team in that category.

Strengths: Route Running, Speed, Catch in Traffic, Improvisation

As far as route runners go, there’s not much better than Ridley. His cuts are so sharp every time and he has great acuity for finding the holes in zone coverage. Often times he’ll find the soft spot in the zone and kinda sit on it where Jalen Hurts could find him.

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He’s also very fast, as he ran a 4.35 40 during Alabama spring practices. He’s also not afraid to get dirty and make the catches in traffic. I’ve also seen a few plays where it appears that Ridley was covered, but he found a way to get open by breaking off the route and he developed such good chemistry with Hurts that it didn’t disrupt the flow of the offense.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Not as big a focal point as maybe he should’ve been

Being a good blocker isn’t really a requirement for wide receivers, it’s just a bonus if you’re able to do it well. Ridley is not. He tries though, which is all you can ask for, but defenders are able to shed him pretty easily. I also found it interesting that he wasn’t utilized more often in the Crimson Tide offense, especially considering the success he had as a freshman. Alabama’s offense of late has a tendency to make talented receivers disappear, a la OJ Howard, who struggled as a rookie with the Buccaneers. If Ridley is this good, why isn’t he utilized more? It honestly boggles the mind and I’m wondering if it’s just the offensive scheme or if there’s something about Ridley that we don’t know because based on the footage I watched, his numbers should be significantly better.

Draft Thoughts: I would take Ridley sometime between picks 10 and 15. He might sneak into the top 10 depending on how workouts go and if a team needs a receiver badly enough (hello Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers). But there’s really very little wrong with his game here and I think he’s probably the safest receiver in the Draft.

Pro Comparison:

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Amari Cooper. This one might seem a bit of a cop out because both guys were Alabama receivers, but the similarities are hard to ignore. They’re both 6’1, Cooper’s about 10 pounds heavier, and they were both very complete receivers coming out of college. Let’s just hope that Ridley doesn’t develop the drops problem that befell Cooper this season.

Courtland Sutton-SMU

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Last but not least is Courtland Sutton. Sutton is about as gifted a receiver as I’ve seen in a long time, as he’s got the size (6’4, 216 pounds) and speed (4.51 40) combination that gets offensive coordinators salivating. In 2017 he finished with 68 catches (couldn’t get one more, could you?) for 1085 yards and 12 TD’s despite the fact there was another stud receiver lining up alongside him in Trey Quinn.

Positives: Size, Acceleration, Blocking

Sutton is huge. He’s 6’4 and almost 220 pounds and he plays even bigger than that. He’s a very physical receiver who can also run past you if you’re not careful, as he accelerates very well once he turns on the jets. He’s also an excellent blocker and he strikes me as a guy who actually takes pride in it, as pretty much anytime I saw him locked up on a corner, that corner was going nowhere. Teams would be wise to run their sweeps to Sutton’s side of the field.

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Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Penalties, Inconsistent Route Running

If there’s one thing that scares me about Sutton, it’s how he performed against good defenses vs bad defenses and these kinds of numbers just scream “bust” at me. His 100 yard games came against North Texas, UConn, Houston, Tulsa, Navy, and Tulane, none of which are considered top level defenses. In fact, only Navy ranked amongst the top half of college football in pass yards per game allowed, and they barely made that group at 62nd (130 teams in the FBS). Then when he did play better defenses, he got shut down. The game that particularly worries me is the TCU game. He had 1 catch for no yards. I watched footage from that game and despite the competition, his routes weren’t that great. Granted, quarterback Ben Hicks did not have a good game, but still, he’s got to be better. Also, I watched 3 games of Courtland Sutton. He got flagged for offensive pass interference in all three games. You’ll see some receivers go years without committing OPI, but sure enough, I picked three random games and he committed OPI in all of them. It’s not like they were nitpicky either, they were pretty blatant pushoffs. He didn’t even get the catch on any of them either.

Draft Thoughts: Sutton scares me. He’s got all the talent in the world but there are times where he looks completely lost. That being said this guy probably has the highest ceiling out of all the receivers in this class based on his physical traits and overall production. However he also has the lowest floor based on how he got that production. He’s got top-10 talent but if I’m going to be comfortable with taking him in the first round like a lot of people are saying, then I have to be wowed on him in his workouts.

Pro Comparison:

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Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery was a big receiver coming out of South Carolina who had a ton of talent but slid to the second round and didn’t do much as a rookie before breaking out in his second season. Both guys are extremely talented but it took some seasoning before Jeffery became the receiver he is today, which is what I think Sutton needs.

That’s going to do it for this one, let me know what you think of this wide receiver class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Bowl Picks

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

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

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

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

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

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

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

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

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

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

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

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

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

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

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

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

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

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

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

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

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

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

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

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

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

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

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

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

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

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

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

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

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

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

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

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

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

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

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

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

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

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

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

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

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

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

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

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

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

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

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

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

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

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

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

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

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

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

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

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

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

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

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

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

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

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

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

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

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

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

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

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

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

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

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

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

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

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

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

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

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

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

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

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

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

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

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

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

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

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

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

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

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

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

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

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

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

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

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

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

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

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

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

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

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

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

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

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

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

College Football Picks: Week 12

Last Week: 9-3                    Season Record: 69-27

I may end up sabotaging my own picks segment because I enter the week at exactly 69 wins. This is going to hurt to try and pick winners. Last week my misses were NC State against Boston College (so damn close to picking that upset), Auburn over Georgia, and Miami (FL) over Notre Dame. This is the second to last week of the college football regular season, but do not fret, I will keep doing this segment. I’m going to do an expansive picks blog for the Army-Navy game, every conference title game, and every bowl game. So with that, let’s get picking.

Rutgers vs Indiana (-11)

Indiana needs this win if they are going to have any chance of remaining bowl eligible, as they currently sit at 4-6. Rutgers has given the Hoosiers problems in the past, as they’re 2-1 against Indiana since joining the Big Ten, including a 55-52 victory in 2015 where the Hoosiers held a 20-point lead late in the game. The Scarlet Knights are definitely better than they were last season, which isn’t saying much because they were easily the worst team in the Big Ten in 2016. Hell, Indiana played their worst game of the season last year against Rutgers and still won 33-27. I have the Hoosiers again though it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Rutgers beat the spread.

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Tegray Scales has been the leader of a resurgent Hoosiers defense (photo credit: Indiana Daily Student)

Projected Score: Indiana 31 Rutgers 24

#24 Michigan vs #5 Wisconsin (-7.5)

This game is huge in terms of Big Ten postseason implications. Not only could Michigan set itself up for a shot at the Big Ten Championship game with a win, but a Wolverines win would likely eliminate Wisconsin from CFP contention given how weak their schedule is. These are two pretty evenly matched teams as they play the same style of classic Big Ten football, in which offense is predicated on the run game and the defense is stingy and physical. Michigan has looked like their old selves again since switching from John O’Korn to Brandon Peters and I think they give Wisconsin a run for their money, but I think the Badgers escape this one and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Michigan 20

Texas vs West Virginia (-3)

Texas isn’t back yet, but they’ve shown some good things under Tom Herman, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, as they are probably the only Big 12 team that actually plays defense. Malik Jefferson has been as advertised and they will need to be at their best if they hope to top Will Grier’s West Virginia squad. The Mountaineers have been a tough offense to stop and that’s thanks in large part to Grier’s comfort in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s system. The Mountaineers are coming off two of their worst offensive performances of the season in their last two games, however both resulted in victories, showing that the defense can step up when needed. I’m taking West Virginia in this one.

Projected Score: West Virginia 30 Texas 21

Minnesota vs #23 Northwestern (-7)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have struggled in Big Ten play this season, as they’re only 2-5 in conference play, their two wins being lowly Illinois and Nebraska. Defensively they’ve been decent, however, as aside from being unable to tackle Michigan runningbacks, they’ve held their own. It’s on the offensive side of the ball where they’ve struggled, though they are coming off a 54-21 drubbing of Nebraska last time out. Northwestern has had similar success on the defensive side of the ball but they’ve been a lot more consistent offensively and that is thanks in large part to the growth of quarterback Clayton Thorson and the continued dominance of runningback Justin Jackson. I do think Northwestern wins this game, they just have more weapons on offense than Minnesota does.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Minnesota 17

SMU vs #21 Memphis (-12.5)

A rare non-Power 5 game in my picks, but this game intrigues me mainly because this is probably the best matchup of wide receivers we’re going to get all season. SMU receiver Courtland Sutton is my top receiver in the upcoming draft and Memphis’ Anthony Miller is my number 5 pass catcher. SMU’s Trey Quinn has also been extremely impressive this season, as he is approaching 100 catches on the year and is already over 1000 yards. So this may not look like much on paper, but if you like wide receivers, turn this game on. I do see this game being high scoring but I’m going to give the edge to Memphis. Quarterback Riley Ferguson has outdueled the likes of Josh Rosen this season and I would certainly give him the edge over SMU’s Ben Hicks.

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Anthony Miller is arguably the best player you’ve never heard of (photo credit: NDT Scouting)

Projected Score: Memphis 45 SMU 41

Kentucky vs #7 Georgia (-21.5)

Tough loss for Georgia. They went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and got ROCKED by the Auburn Tigers last week, dropping in the rankings from #1 to #7. Their playoff hopes are definitely still alive and well, but they will have to win out in order to become one of the final four. Their first test will be the Kentucky Wildcats, who have quietly been pretty good this season. They’re 7-3 and have beaten the likes of Vanderbilt and Tennessee this season so this won’t be a cake walk for Georgia. However I think Kirby Smart will have his guys ready after the beatdown they suffered at the hands of Auburn and they will get themselves back on track this week.

Projected Score: Georgia 35 Kentucky 21

Kansas State vs #13 Oklahoma State (-20)

Oklahoma State is still alive to get a rematch with Oklahoma in the first ever Big 12 title game, but they will need to win out and they need TCU to lose one of their next two games (TCU faces Texas Tech and Baylor). The Cowboys offensively have been an absolute juggernaut with Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill leading the way. Kansas State has had their share of struggles this year but they were competitive to the very end against Oklahoma and their defense held tough in their loss to TCU. I think Oklahoma State will win, but I don’t think it will be by nearly as much as the spread might indicate.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Kansas State 24

Navy vs #8 Notre Dame (-18)

Notre Dame is pretty much eliminated from playoff contention after getting shellacked by Miami (FL), handing them their second loss of the season. With no conference title game to play for, that pretty much spells the end for the playoff hopes of the Fighting Irish, barring complete insanity. They face an always scrappy Navy team that has given Notre Dame a lot of problems over the years and I actually think this game will come down to the wire. I do think the Irish will pull away and win this game, but the Midshipmen will give them quite the scare.

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The Notre Dame ground game has caused opposing defenses lots of problems this season (photo credit: UHND.com)

Projected Score: Notre Dame 27 Navy 24

#19 NC State vs Wake Forest (-1.5)

NC State narrowly escaped Boston College last week with a 17-14 victory despite the fact that the Eagles were without star edge rusher Harold Landry (whom I had hyped up for that matchup without knowing he was dealing with a bum ankle. Such is life.). Wake Forest is a scrappy team, as they have kept the game close in all of their losses this season, which includes Clemson and Notre Dame. I’m actually going to go on a limb and say Wake Forest takes this game. It’s a gut feeling for this one because they’ve come close to beating ranked teams on multiple occasions this season, I think this is the week they get it done.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 20 NC State 17

UCLA vs #11 USC (-16)

All the eyes of NFL scouts will be on this game. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold could be the top 2 picks in the draft this season and they’ve both played some stellar quarterback. Both quarterbacks rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards and this is despite Rosen missing the Utah game due to injury. He is very healthy now, coming off a 381-yard showing against Arizona State last time out. Darnold has struggled with turnovers this season, he leads all of college football in that category, but that hasn’t kept him from being a top-tier quarterback this season. I really hope this game ends in a shootout and I think we’ll get it. These quarterbacks are too gifted for it not to end as such. I have USC winning because they have more weapons on defense to get a stop against Rosen.

Projected Score: USC 49 UCLA 42

California vs #22 Stanford (-15.5)

Another edition of the rivalry most famous for that time Stanford’s band was on the field during Cal’s game-winning run. Both squads have been pretty inconsistent this season, with Cal blowing out a top-10 Washington State team one week, then losing to Arizona the following week (though it has since been discovered that Arizona is actually pretty good). Bryce Love had a bounceback game in the win over Washington last week, rushing for 166 yards after being limited to just 69 (nice) the week prior against Washington State. I think Love carves up the Cal defense and Stanford wins handily.

Projected Score: Stanford 42 California 21

Utah vs #18 Washington (-18)

Utah has been ice cold since beginning Pac 12 play, as they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 and their one victory was over a UCLA team that was without superstar quarterback Josh Rosen. Washington is pretty healthy and I think Myles Gaskin will have a field day with this Utes defense. He is at 1038 yards on the season on just 166 carries (6.3 YPC) and Utah has just been okay against the run this season. Jake Browning hasn’t been the stud he was last season, but he won’t need to be in order for Washington to get the victory over Utah.

Projected Score: Washington 35 Utah 17

Those are my picks for this week in my second-to-last shot at a perfect week. Agree? Disagree? Are there other games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.