Who will win the Heisman?

Who will win the Heisman?

The Heisman.

On the surface, it is the award given annually to the most outstanding player in college football. In recent years, we’ve seen names like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Lamar Jackson hoist the trophy after outstanding seasons. All have been dynamic, exciting and have led their teams to phenomenal performances.

One of the biggest questions every offseason is “Who will win the Heisman?”

Whether or not you believe the Heisman always goes to the best player in college football, there is no denying the hype and fanfare surrounding the award. Analysts and writers annually publish their preseason Heisman picks, many of which are just shots in the dark. But the fans lap it up, excited when their favorite team’s quarterback is picked to win the award before taking a single snap.

Betting on the Heisman is also a popular pastime in college sports.

This year, there are over 60 names that have been tabbed with preseason Heisman odds. From LSU RB Derrius Guice (+1500) to Michigan QB Wilton Speight (+17500), it seems that everyone and their mother was given odds this offseason. Granted, many of these players have extremely low odds and just serve as a platform for casual fans to put money on their favorite team’s players.

Currently, the preseason favorite is USC QB Sam Darnold (+525). You’ve probably heard of him, the redshirt freshman who led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win after starting the season 1-3. There is no doubt he is one of the best players in college football.

So who will win the Heisman this year?

To be fair, we have no idea this far in advance who will win. No one could have predicted Jackson emerging as one of the most dynamic players in college football last season.

However, there are some steps we can take to narrow down the list of candidates.

After looking the past decade or so of Heisman winners, as well as individual stats from the past ten years, I think we can safely eliminate some names from the 60+ list that is available online.

1. No defensive players.

This one is obvious. The last defensive player to win the Heisman was Michigan CB Charles Woodson in 1997, who also moonlighted as a return man and offensive player. Some of the most talented defensive players of the past decade, such as Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh and Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o, haven’t even come close to winning the award.

Sorry, but this (probably) won’t be the year a defensive player wins the Heisman.

Eliminates: Florida State S Derwin James (+10000), Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence (+20000), Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick (+25000), Houston DT Ed Oliver (+25000), LSU DE Arden Key (+25000), Michigan DL Rashan Gary (+25000), Texas LB Malik Jefferson (+25000)

2. No wide receivers

You have to go back even further than Woodson to find the last wide receiver to win the Heisman: Michigan WR Desmond Howard in 1991. The closest we’ve seen in recent years is Alabama WR Amari Cooper in 2014, but even he finished third in voting.

Eliminates: Oklahoma State WR James Washington (+15000), Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk (+15000), Clemson WR Deon Cain (+17500), Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray (+17500), Alabama WR Calvin Ridley (+20000), SMU WR Courtland Sutton (+25000)

3. No running backs.

Strange, right?

Even after seeing Alabama RB Derrick Henry win the award in 2015, it wouldn’t be smart to put money on another back winning the Heisman. Simply put, quarterbacks have dominated the awards circuit. Since 2000, quarterbacks have won 14 of the 17 possible Heisman trophies.

Eliminates: LSU RB Derrius Guice (+1500), Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (+1500), Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough (+2200), Georgia RB Nick Chubb (+4300), Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway (+4700), Ohio State RB Mike Weber (+7500), Washington RB Myles Gaskin (+10000), Oregon RB Royce Freeman (+11500), Stanford RB Bryce Love (+17500), Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson (+20000), Miami (FL) RB Mark Walton (+20000), TCU RB Sewo Olonilua (+20000), Florida State RB Cam Akers (+25000), Michigan State RB LJ Scott (+25000), USC RB Ronald Jones (+25000), Wisconsin RB Chris James (+25000)

4. No pocket passer QBs

Ah, we finally get to the quarterbacks.

In this day and age of college football, fans and analysts are fascinated by quarterbacks that can run. It’s no wonder that six of the last nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman were dual-threat players as well. From Jackson in 2016 to Tim Tebow in 2006, the running quarterback has taken over college football.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some data.

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The past nine QBs to win the Heisman and their pre-bowl game stats.
As seen by the table above, the past nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman have averaged over 700 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

If you’re going to bet on the Heisman, put your money on a quarterback that can run.

Eliminates: Washington QB Jake Browning (+2200), UCLA QB Josh Rosen (+3500), Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph (+3600), Washington State QB Luke Falk (+4900), Georgia QB Jacob Eason (+10000), Houston QB Kyle Allen (+14000), Clemson QB Hunter Johnson (+15000), Boise State QB Brett Rypien (+16000), BYU QB Tanner Mangum (+17500), Michigan QB Wilton Speight (+17500), Western Kentucky QB Mike White (+20000), Texas Tech QB Nick Shimoek (+25000)

5. No Group of Five QBs

While there are some talented Group of Five quarterbacks this year, power conferences have dominated this award in recent years. Since 2000, no Group of Five player has won the Heisman. The closest anyone has gotten recently is Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, who finished third in voting in 2013.

Eliminates: South Florida QB Quinton Flowers (+4500), Wyoming QB Josh Allen (+10000)

6. No repeat winners

Sorry, Lamar Jackson. No Heisman winner has won back-to-back trophies since Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.

Eliminates: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (+950)

7. No “old news”

While there is no concrete data to support this, recent trends in college football seem to suggest that media and voters love new and flashy players.

Tebow won the Heisman in 2007 in his first year as a starting quarterback. Cam Newton transferred from a junior college and won in 2010. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were the first two freshmen in history to win in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Finally, Jackson won it last year in his first major starting experience as well.

Of the last ten Heisman trophy winners, none have been seniors. The last senior to win the award was Troy Smith in 2006.

In this day and age of college football, we are always looking for the next big thing. That’s why we were so attached to Jackson and Darnold last year, because they were new.

While I’m not saying it’s impossible for an upperclassman to win the award, recent years suggest that it’ll be harder for them to do so.

Eliminates: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (+850), Ohio State QB JT Barrett (+1250), Florida QB Malik Zaire (+15000), TCU QB Kenny Hill (+20000)

Now that we’re finished with elimination, that leaves us with a dozen names.

  • USC QB Sam Darnold (+525)
  • Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham (+2000)
  • Alabama QB Jalen Hurts (+2200)
  • Florida State QB Deondre Francois (+2200)
  • Penn State QB Trace McSorely (+3500)
  • Texas QB Shane Buechele (+5500)
  • West Virginia QB Will Grier (+6600)
  • Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald (+10000)
  • Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush (+12500)
  • Oregon QB Justin Herbert (+12500)
  • Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson (+20000)
  • Syracuse QB Eric Dungey (+20000)

These twelve names fit the main criteria that we’re looking for when determining who really has a shot to win the Heisman. All are quarterbacks, all play for Power Five teams and all have some measure of dual-threat capability to their game.

Now, this is by no means a guarantee that one of these players will win the award. Several previous winners, including Winston and Jackson, didn’t even have betting odds until the season started. There’s a good chance that at least one or two players contend for the Heisman that are not on this list.

Hopefully, this list and the criteria given gave you a better look at who will truly contend for the award. I am not a betting man, but I’d put my money on one of these players if I were in a gambling mood.

Georgia is recruiting QBs better than anyone right now

Georgia is recruiting QBs better than anyone right now

Securing the commitment of a five-star quarterback recruit, someone who is wanted by every team in the nation, is not an easy feat.

Signing a second five-star in the class immediately afterwards is near impossible.

But signing a third? Well, that’s impossible, right?

The Georgia Bulldogs beg to differ.

Currently, Georgia does not have a quarterback committed for the 2018 recruiting class. However, they have put themselves in great position with uncommitted five-star recruits Justin Fields (Kennesaw, GA) and Matt Corral (Long Beach, CA). Both Fields and Corral have recently decommitted from Penn State and USC respectively and have the Bulldogs on their radars.

How, you might ask, can a school be entertaining two five-star quarterback recruits at one time? Well, the situation is fairly unique.

Fields is the No. 3 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class and is considering Georgia along with Florida, Florida State and Auburn. He is a Georgia native and the prospects of staying home to play college ball are certainly tantalizing. Analysts are split on where he will commit to, with various predictions being thrown out there for all four schools.

Meanwhile, Corral is all the way out west in California, but recently took a visit to Georgia. After he decommitted from the Trojans, many analysts have predicted that the pro-style passer will end up in Athens when all is said and done, despite him also listing Florida and Alabama as other possible contenders.

With two five-star quarterback considering Georgia, you’d have to imagine that there is a lack of quarterback depth in Athens, right?

Wrong.

In 2016, Georgia signed five-star quarterback Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, WA), the No. 5 overall prospect in his recruiting class. Eason started the majority of last season for the Bulldogs as a true freshman and performed fairly well despite being in his first year of eligibility. At 6-5, 230-pounds, Eason has NFL-ready size and could have a breakout campaign this year.

In 2017, this most recent recruiting cycle, Georgia also signed Jake Fromm (Warner Robins, GA) who just barely missed out on five-star status as the No. 47 overall prospect in the class. By all accounts, Fromm has hit the ground running at Georgia and could seriously challenge Eason for the job.

In short, there are two young quarterbacks in Athens who could be considered the future of the program, yet the Bulldogs are still able to attract the attention of two uncommitted five-stars in this current class.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon either. In 2013, Georgia signed Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, GA) who was the No. 100 overall prospect and a four-star recruit. In 2014, they signed Jacob Park (Goose Creek, SC), the No. 114 overall player and another four-star recruit. This trend can further be traced back to signing four-star Christian LeMay (Matthews, NC) in 2011 and five-star Aaron Murray (Tampa, FL) in 2009.

So why are the Bulldogs landing all these upper echelon quarterback recruits, despite going through a major coaching change in recent years?

One of the biggest factors is geographic location. The state of Georgia produces a lot of elite quarterback recruits. Seeing as the Bulldogs are the only major program in the state, they normally have the pick of the litter when it comes to quarterbacks.

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Every blue-chip QB recruit since 2008 and where he has gone to college.

The above image shows every blue-chip quarterback recruit since 2008 and where he has signed to play college ball. California and Texas stand out as states that have produced a lot of talent, but Georgia has also produced some elite recruits as well.

Of course, Georgia loses some battles. In 2014, five-star recruit Deshaun Watson spurned the hometown ‘Dogs and jumped across the border to Clemson. Just recently, five-star recruit Trevor Lawrence made a similar move to commit to the Tigers.

Still, the fact that they’ve kept high-profile recruits like Fromm and Ramsey in the state, while also going out west to attract a five-star like Eason is a feat that has to be commended.

Going back to the current class, Georgia seems to be in good position to sign one of either Fields or Corral. The situation looks pretty simple as well. Fields is their primary target, but if he commits elsewhere they turn up the heat on Corral. The fact that they can keep a five-star player like Corral on the back burner is simply phenomenal.

I think the biggest question now is: Will Georgia be able to continue this trend on the quarterback recruiting trail?

If Georgia signs one of Fields or Corral, their three year span of Eason-Fromm-Fields/Corral might be one of the greatest three-year stretches of quarterback recruiting in the modern age of college football.

The state of Georgia has proven that it can constantly pump out elite-level quarterbacks, but the problem might arise when other programs creep into Georgia’s backyard to recruit these players. Historically-elite Alabama is right around the corner, as well as programs like Florida State, Auburn and Clemson that constantly recruit at a Top-5 level.

Right now, head coach Kirby Smart is in a great position to succeed. He returns Eason at quarterback and a bunch of talent on the roster in a weak SEC Easy division. If the Bulldogs are going to keep up this momentum on the recruiting trail, they need results on the field. Getting back to the SEC Championship and beyond will be key.

But for now, Bulldog fans can take solace in the fact that their program has some elite quarterbacks on the roster and is in a great position to add another one this year.

Meet Malik Zaire, Florida’s Newest QB

Meet Malik Zaire, Florida’s Newest QB

Another year, another high-profile grad transfer quarterback in the offseason.

This time, it’s Malik Zaire who recently announced his transfer to Florida. The former blue-chip spent the past four years at Notre Dame, but his career there was anything but normal. He took over for Everett Golson as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and led the Fighting Irish to a Music City Bowl win over LSU and was named MVP. The following year, as a redshirt sophomore, he was named the starter to begin the season, but broke his ankle in their second game which allowed future second-round pick DeShone Kizer to take over and assume control of the job in 2016 as well.

Despite the limited experience as a starting quarterback, Zaire still possesses the talent to play at a fairly high level. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Zaire has passed for 816 yards and six touchdowns through his three years of playing time at Notre Dame, and added 323 yards and a pair of scores on the ground as well.

For any other team across college football, they might be skeptical about taking a shot on a graduate transfer who has only three games of starting experience under his belt. But for the Florida Gators, who has suffered through abysmal quarterback play ever since Tim Tebow left, the addition of Zaire might be just what they need.

So what will Florida be getting in Malik Zaire?

At his base level, Zaire is a quarterback who is capable of executing simple throws that you see in any college offense. Roll outs, screens to the outside, and quick slants are all throws that he made during his time at Notre Dame.

Simple, right?

These are throws that Florida’s offense has not had in some time. With players like Treon Harris, Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio at the helm, these simple concepts are often missed because of a lack of talent on their part. Zaire, if he does nothing else, will be able to come in and provide immediate relief with these basic throws.

At his best, Zaire has proven that he is capable of working the middle of the field to a good extent. This is what separates good quarterbacks from average ones. Granted, he was working with an offensive line that contained future NFL players and a first-round pick in Will Fuller at wide receiver, but the throws that he made were impressive.

With a young, but talented, offensive line in Gainesville and players like Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland on the outside, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Zaire make these type of throws for the Gators in the fall.

There’s no questioning Zaire’s arm strength. As seen by the clip above, he has the capability to stretch the field vertically in a big way. If Florida can get one of Callaway or Cleveland to be the big-threat type of player that Zaire had in Will Fuller, the Gators’ offense will become that much more dangerous.

Again, these are types of throws that Florida’s offense has not seen in quite some time. The best quarterback that Florida has seen since Tebow left was probably Will Grier for his six game stretch before being suspended. But even he was not capable of chucking 60-yard bombs like Zaire is able to do.

Perhaps the biggest area where Zaire will help the Gators’ offense is with his mobility on the ground. At 6-0, 225-pounds, Zaire is built like a running back and he can move like one too. Notre Dame used him extensively in the zone-read game and he was able to earn MVP honors in a win over LSU mostly because of his work on the ground.

But Zaire has also proven that he has reasonably good pocket presence as well. If the pocket is collapsing, he knows when to take off with his legs and scramble. If Zaire can be just an average passer while having the threat of his legs as well, he will succeed in Gainesville.

While I’ve said plenty of positive things about Zaire, take it with a heaping teaspoon of salt. Zaire only started three games at Notre Dame: versus LSU in 2014, and versus Texas and Virginia in 2015. None of those teams were superpowers and most of his stats came in the Texas game versus a dreadful Longhorns’ defense.

Florida fans should be cautiously optimistic about what Zaire can bring to their offense. At his best, Zaire is a quarterback who might be able to contend for All-SEC honors if he stays healthy and performs like we saw versus Texas in 2015. At worst or if he is beaten out by redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, Florida is getting a fifth-year senior backup at the cost of one scholarship for the 2017 season. I’d call that a win-win scenario.

In short, time will tell what the Gators are getting in Zaire. But if he even performs at an average level, he might be the best quarterback to come through Gainesville since Tim Tebow.

It’s Not Great to be a Florida Gator Quarterback

It’s Not Great to be a Florida Gator Quarterback

It is no secret that the Florida Gators have struggled mightily at the quarterback position ever since the departure of Tim Tebow following the 2009 season.

The Gators have started nine quarterbacks in the six years since Tebow’s departure, each as lackluster as the one who came before him. The list includes names such as John Brantley, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris, some of which were top-rated recruits that flamed out in Gainesville.

Even catching lightning in a bottle like they did with Will Grier never panned out, as the former blue-chip was busted for PEDs and transferred out of the program. That’s not even mentioning Jacoby Brissett, who transferred out and became a starter at North Carolina State and third-round draft pick by the New England Patriots.

But while Florida’s quarterback troubles have been well-documented, this got me thinking: how bad has it been in Gainesville as compared to other schools around the country?

Since the start of the 2010 season, Florida has not had a quarterback drafted, nor has it produced an All-Conference level of play at the position. Using those parameters, I looked at the 65 Power-5 teams across the country (including Notre Dame) and saw which ones either had a quarterback drafted or produced an All-Conference quarterback during that time period.

The results are a big shocking.

Since the 2011 NFL Draft, 44 Power-5 teams (67%) have seen at least one quarterback get drafted. While the obvious answers like Florida State, Texas A&M, and Stanford stand out, some surprising names like Duke, Iowa, and Oregon State have also been called during the draft. Keep in mind, this isn’t even counting Group of Five or FCS quarterbacks that have been drafted since this time period as well.

Of those 44 names, five more are added to the list when we also account for All-Conference level players. These players were great college players who were voted to first or second-team all-conference teams, but might not have been drafted due to physical limitations or other factors.

Those schools are Georgia Tech (Justin Thomas, 2014), Illinois (Nathan Scheelhaase, 2013), Kansas State (Colin Klein, 2012), Nebraska (Taylor Martinez, 2012), and Washington State (Luke Falk, 2015/16).

Thus, the Florida Gators are included in a list of 15 other teams that have neither produced a draft pick or all-conference level player at the quarterback position since the start of the 2010 football season. Including the Gators, those teams (in alphabetical order) are:

  1. Boston College
  2. Colorado
  3. Florida
  4. Iowa State
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. Maryland
  8. Minnesota
  9. Purdue
  10. Rutgers
  11. South Carolina
  12. Texas
  13. Utah
  14. Vanderbilt
  15. Virginia
  16. Wake Forest

This is not great company to be in. Jim McElwain is entering this third year as head coach in Gainesville and has yet another quarterback competition on his hands. Will it be senior Luke Del Rio or redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks throwing the ball this year? Regardless of who it will be, Gators’ fans can only hope this is the year where they finally get competent play from the quarterback position.

2017 NFL Draft Top-51 Big Board

2017 NFL Draft Top-51 Big Board

The time has come once again to discuss the NFL Draft. After nearly five months of speculation, rumors and evaluations, the time has officially come for the Commissioner to read off the first name on the card.

This year’s draft is a bit strange.

At the top of the draft is Myles Garrett, a generational pass rusher out of Texas A&M with the quickness and burst to terrify offensive tackles for years to come.

However, no one can seem to agree on an order after Garrett. Players like Jonathan Allen, Solomon Thomas, and Marshon Lattimore are elite prospects, but are they really “generational talents” like we talk about with Garrett?

This year’s running back class was billed six or seven months ago to be the best in a decade, but if anything we’ve seen them slip down boards throughout this process. Meanwhile, the quarterback class was supposed to be lackluster, but it seems as if teams have fallen in love with names like Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.

I have spent the last couple of months watching as much film as I can on these top NFL prospects. To be fair, I haven’t watched as many players as other evaluators have (some have watched close to 300 players), but I feel like I have a good grasp on these top prospects.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the top prospects available in the 2017 NFL Draft.

1. Myles Garrett, edge rusher, Texas A&M, 6-4, 272-pounds

There isn’t much to say about Garrett that hasn’t already been said. He’s the best player in this class for a reason. He has the size, quickness and strength to be a Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware-type pass rusher for a decade in the league. The Browns have an easy call to make with the top pick.

2. Marson Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State, 6-0, 193-pounds

I believe Lattimore is the best cover cornerback in the draft. At 6-0, 193-pounds, he has ideal size for the position and also has the makeup speed to catch up to receivers if he does get beat off the line of scrimmage.

3. Jamal Adams, safety, Louisiana State, 5-11, 214-pounds

Adams is an enforcer. A prototypical strong safety, Adams hurts people when he tackles them. He is athletic and versatile enough to be a box safety with some nickel responsibilities as well.

4. Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson, 6-2, 221-pounds

I have spent the last three seasons watching Watson tear up college football. Name me another player that took it to Alabama like Watson did in back-to-back championship games. To me, Watson is the clear cut top quarterback for his intangibles, poise and ability to create with his arms and legs.

5. Jonathan Allen, defensive lineman, Alabama, 6-2, 286-pounds

Allen is one of the most interesting players in the draft. He can play on the edge or kick inside to be an interior pass rusher, but he plays at a high level regardless of position. I think he’ll be a fit in any defense.

6. Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State, 6-1, 206-pound

Despite only one year of production, Hooker is exactly what the NFL wants in a defensive back. As a free safety, he has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. In an NFL defense, you can trust him to be a single-high safety and patrol the back end of the secondary.

7. Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State, 5-10, 210-pounds

Perhaps this is the Florida State fan in me talking, but Cook is the best running back in this draft. For three years, I’ve watched him carve up good defenses despite having lackluster protection in front of him. As a junior, he also improved on his his receiving as well and should be an instant impact type of player.

8. O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama, 6-5, 251-pounds

You aren’t drafting Howard based on what he did at Alabama, but rather what he could become. An athletic freak, Howard has the potential to turn into a Greg Olsen-type player for a franchise.

9. Solomon Thomas, defensive lineman, Stanford, 6-2, 273-pounds

Similar to Jon Allen, Thomas is a player that can both play on the edge or kick inside. He struggles against double teams, so perhaps he will be more of an outside player in the league. Regardless, his high motor will keep him on an NFL roster for a long time.

10. Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson, 6-3, 218-pounds

Williams is the best receiver in this draft when the ball is in the air. At 6-3, he uses his size to his advantage, boxing out defenders and making grabs higher than defensive backs can reach. He doesn’t have elite speed, but his size and ball skills can make him a No. 1 receiver in this league.

11. Reuben Foster, linebacker, 6-0, 229-pounds

Foster has had a rough draft process between his Combine incident and diluted drug test. He may fall, but some team will be getting a steal. Foster arrives with bad intentions, knocking player out of their cleats and making big stops in the run game.

12. Leonard Fournette, running back, 6-0, 240-pounds

Fournette is a beast. Go back and watch him run through, over and around SEC-level talent over the past three years. He thrives in an I-Formation, power-run type offense, but has shown that he can also catch the ball out of the backfield as well.

13. Zach Cunningham, linebacker, Vanderbilt, 6-3, 234-pounds

On a terrible Vanderbilt defense, Cunningham was the only saving grace. He has the speed and athleticism to be a sideline-to-sideline type of player in this league.

14. Malik McDowell, defensive lineman, Michigan State, 6-6, 295-pounds

I’ve heard whispers of effort issues with McDowell, but he was playing on a terrible 4-8 Spartans team. Go back and watch film from his freshman and sophomore seasons where he was destroying offenses because he lived in the backfield. This kid can play.

15. Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan, 6-2, 209-pounds

Davis is a tough evaluation, mostly because he played against MAC-level competition and has not tested at all this offseason due to an injury. On tape, he might be the most dynamic wide receiver in this class. Teams will have to decide whether that’s enough to warrant a first-round pick on him.

16. Joe Mixon, running back, Oklahoma, 6-1, 227-pounds

Yes, the incident that occurred with Mixon three years ago will be something that teams will have to take into account. Speaking strictly in terms of on-the-field performance, Mixon is a dynamic runner who is also elite at catching the ball out of the backfield or on routes.

17. DeShone Kizer, quarterback, Notre Dame, 6-4, 233-pounds

I’d argue that Kizer has the highest ceiling out of any quarterback in this draft. Some of the throws that he made in college are just ridiculous. Of course, the major question surrounding Kizer is Notre Dame’s dreadful 4-8 season. I think Kizer, if he’s given time and patience, can be a superstar.

18. David Njoku, tight end, Miami (FL), 6-4, 246-pounds

This is a year for athletic tight ends and Njoku might be the freakiest out of them all. He isn’t elite in the blocking game, but can be a true red-zone weapon for a team that will utilize him in the right manner.

19. Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama, 6-0, 197-pounds

A world-class track athlete, Humphrey has all the tools to be a star cornerback in the league. Length, speed and size are all a part of his game. Putting them together to be a shutdown corner is still a work in progress, however.

20. Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford, 5-11, 202-pounds

Perhaps the most polarizing player in the draft, McCaffrey has a chance to be a special talent as a pro. He can carry the rock out of the backfield or flex out wide to be a receiver. It’ll take a creative head coach and offensive coordinator to get the most out of his game.

21. Derek Barnett, edge rusher, Tennessee, 6-3, 259-pounds

Barnett is not an explosive edge rusher, but is a solid all-around player. He broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee and has the tools to be a rotational player or starter from day one on most teams.

22. Takkarist McKinley, edge rusher, California-Los Angeles, 6-2, 250-pounds

McKinley has been hampered by an injury throughout the pre-draft process, but the tape shows that he is an explosive pass rusher. He has a good first step and perhaps would go higher in the draft if he had been able to workout for teams.

23. Gareon Conley, cornerback, Ohio State, 6-0, 195-pound

Disclaimer: Conley is currently being investigated on sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in Cleveland. He has not been charged, but I will update this list if anything changes with that situation.

Conley is an interesting prospect, as he was overshadowed by his fellow cornerback teammate Lattimore at Ohio State. In his own right, Conley has the length and speed to be a shutdown corner in the league.

24. John Ross, wide receiver, Washington, 5-10, 188-pounds

The man who broke Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record, Ross is a player who has the speed to take the top off of a defense. However, he comes with a host of medical red flags that will scare some teams off.

25. Charles Harris, edge rusher, Missouri, 6-2, 253-pounds

Another player from Missouri’s “defensive line factory,” Harris has a good first step and enough athleticism to terrorize offensive tackles around the edge. He is not a super athletic player per some analytics, but the tape shows that he is capable of playing at a high level.

26. Quincy Wilson, cornerback, Florida, 6-1, 211-pounds

One half of the terrifying Florida cornerback duo, Wilson has great length and size for the position. He also has a knack for finding the ball in the air, something that teams will value when looking at defensive backs.

27. Haasan Reddick, linebacker, Temple, 6-1, 237-pounds

A former walk-on, Reddick has blossomed into a freakish draft prospect. He played as an edge rusher in college, but worked as a middle linebacker at the Senior Bowl to high results. He still has a bit of refinement left, but once he finds his position in the league he should thrive.

28. Obi Melifonwu, safety, Connecticut, 6-3, 224-pounds

One of the fastest rising prospects in the draft, Melifonwu embodies everything that the NFL wants in a big, strong and lengthy defensive back. He sometimes plays a bit skittish, but has the potential to grow into an elite safety on the back end.

29. T.J. Watt, edge rusher, Wisconsin, 6-4, 252-pounds

Like his older brother, Watt is an athletic pass rusher. He isn’t quite the player that J.J. is, but T.J. brings his own set of skills to the table when taking on offensive tackles around the edge. He has only been rushing the quarterback for a few years, so there is room for growth in his game as well.

30. Cam Robinson, offensive tackle, Alabama, 6-6, 322-pounds

In my opinion, Robinson is the best of a poor group of offensive linemen. A three year starter at Alabama, Robinson is athletic enough to match up against some of the best rushers in the league. He’ll get the job done.

31. Carl Lawson, edge rusher, Auburn, 6-1, 261-pounds

Lawson is a bit undersized, but has the burst and speed to be a consistent force off of the edge. He has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, so teams will have to be cautious with their approach on him.

32. Tre’Davious White, cornerback, Louisiana State, 5-11, 192-pounds

There may be nothing flashy or exciting about White’s game, but he rarely makes mistakes. He passed over declaring early last year and got noticeably better as a senior. He’ll be a starter right away in the league.

33. Mitch Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina, 6-2, 222-pounds

Trubisky checks many of the boxes when evaluating quarterbacks: mobility, size and arm strength. But as a one year starter in college, there are major questions about his leadership capabilities and intangibles. If you’re taking him in the first round, you’re banking on him being your day one starter and a player that teammates will look up to.

34. Tim Williams, edge rusher, Alabama, 6-2, 244-pounds

On a per-snap basis, there might not be a more consistent edge rusher in this class than Williams. But off-the-field issues plagues him throughout college and he was consistently in Saban’s doghouse. If you feel like you can trust him, he’s worthy of an early pick.

35. Kevin King, cornerback, Washington, 6-3, 200-pounds

Another fast riser, King has seen his stock soar this offseason. The league loves lengthy cornerbacks and King embodies everything about that. At 6-3, 200-pounds, he has the size and skills to be a playmaker from the first snap.

36. Taco Charlton, edge rusher, Michigan, 6-5, 277-pounds

Charlton is a very solid player with a high floor. He might not be a superstar pass rusher, but he’ll give you consistent play from the defensive end position during his career.

37. Budda Baker, safety, Washington, 5-9, 195-pounds

If Baker was three inches taller, we’d be talking about him as a Top-5 pick. But he’s not and there are a handful of teams who will refuse to draft a 5-9 defensive back. Baker is worthy of an early pick though, and might be one of my favorite pure football players in this class.

38. Forrest Lamp, offensive guard, Western Kentucky, 6-3, 309-pounds

Lamp played left tackle in college, but projects to be a guard in the league. Still, he played well against teams like Alabama in college and might be a Zach Martin-type of player in the league after making the transition from tackle to guard.

39. Teez Tabor, cornerback, Florida, 6-0, 199-pounds

Tabor has had a horrible pre-draft process, from running a 4.7 40-yard dash to apparently poor interviews. But turn on the tape and you’ll see an athletic cornerback who rarely gave up big plays down the field.

40. Alvin Kamara, running back, Tennessee, 5-10, 214-pounds

Kamara is a complete running back, capable of toting the rock or catching it out of the backfield. He is one of the few backs in this class who could play all three downs at the next level as well.

41. Jabrill Peppers, safety, Michigan, 5-10, 213-pounds

Is he a safety? Or a linebacker? Or maybe an offensive weapon? These questions have surrounded Peppers the entire draft process. Peppers is a good football player who just hasn’t quite found his position yet, and you can bet that some team will be willing to take him in the early rounds and bank on his athleticism.

42. Derek Rivers, edge rusher, Youngstown State, 6-3, 248-pounds

Rivers is likely to be the first FCS player to be drafted this year and for good reason. He is a terrific edge rusher and is likely to push for early snaps regardless of where he is drafted. You want him on your team.

43. Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech, 6-2, 225-pounds

Mahomes has the best arm out of anyone in this class and has been compared to Brett Favre. But his college tape shows that a lot of his highlight plays were not made from structure. A lot of his game was based around scrambling around and heaving the ball deep. Some team will fall in love with the pure arm talent, but Mahomes definitely needs time to sit and learn an offensive system.

44. Fabian Moreau, cornerback, California-Los Angeles, 6-0, 206-pounds

Moreau unfortunately suffered a pectoral injury at his pro day, which will hamper his stock a bit. When healthy, he is an athletic cornerback who may not have the highest ceiling out of the defensive backs in this class, but can give you good play from day one in any system.

45. Ryan Ramcyzk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin, 6-6, 310-pounds

While many scouts see Ramcyzk as the top tackle available and a potential Top-10 pick, I just don’t see it. He is coming off of hip surgery and did not shut down edge rushers in college like you want to see from top prospects. He’ll be a good player in the league if he can stay healthy.

46. Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida, 6-1, 238-pounds

Davis passed up the draft last year to return to school and made the most out of his opportunities. He is athletic enough to be a three-down linebacker in the league and could sneak into the back half of the first round.

47. Samaje Perine, running back, Oklahoma, 5-10, 233-pounds

Perine is much different from his teammate Mixon. He is a freight truck, capable of running over and through defensive players of any size. He owns the NCAA single-game rushing record and has proved for three years that he has the potential to be a workhorse running back.

48. Evan Engram, tight end, Ole Miss, 6-3, 234-pounds

Engram embodies the “new” tight end that we’re seeing pop up at all levels of football. If a team can utilize him in a Jordan Reed-type roll, Engram will use his 4.4-speed to terrorize defenses.

49. Ryan Switzer, wide receiver, North Carolina, 5-8, 191-pounds

One of my favorite players in the class, Switzer is the best slot receiver available. He is electric as a return man, sneaky athletic when coming out of the slot, and might play longer in the league than anyone in the class.

50. Jake Butt, tight end, Michigan, 6-5, 246-pounds

Butt tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl against Florida State (Go ‘Noles), but is perhaps the most complete tight end in the class when healthy. He has been compared to Jason Witten simply because he is one of the only “throwback” tight ends in this class, capable of blocking like a mad man and also catching the ball at a high level.

51. Sidney Jones, cornerback, Washington, 6-0, 186-pounds

If Jones did get hurt during his pro day, he might be a Top-15 pick. But he will have to miss at least some of his rookie season, which hurts his stock. If a team can draft and sit him, they’ll be getting an athletic cornerback with their gamble.

Thank You, Tony Romo.

Thank You, Tony Romo.

Dear Tony Romo,

This might be kind of awkward because we’ve never met in person before, but I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

You’ve been slinging the pigskin around in Dallas for basically as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories about football is of you breaking away from a sack and then hitting Jason Witten for a touchdown.

You made football fun for me. My dad was a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, long before you joined the team or I was born. Some of my greatest memories were Sunday afternoons, watching the Cowboys in primetime with him. Wings were the obvious choice of food, mild at first but with gradually more buffalo sauce as I got older.

When my dad and I used to throw the football around, I always used to pretend I was Tony Romo.

I can’t even begin to count the number of No. 9 jerseys that I’ve been given over the years. I still have quite a few in my closet even now. Some of them don’t fit, but I keep them anyways.

I know your time in Dallas has been anything but perfect. We haven’t delivered you a championship, despite you being the lifeblood of this franchise for nearly a decade now.

We nearly got there in 2014. It seemed like the perfect storm. A run game that no one could stop and you back there throwing it all over the field to Dez, Witten and Beasley. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the big game.

I understand why you’re leaving the Cowboys, but it doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend for a Cowboys fan since birth. It will be hard to see you on another team next year, with a jersey that is not navy and white.

But despite that, I’m going to root for you no matter where you go. Be it Denver, Houston or in a broadcast booth, myself and the rest of the Cowboys fans around the globe are going to be pulling for you.

Thank you, Tony Romo.

Thank you for being our quarterback.

 

How to Replace a Superstar Quarterback

How to Replace a Superstar Quarterback

Earlier this week, I wrote about the next generation of great quarterbacks in college football. But for several teams, they already have a superstar quarterback under center. Teams like USC, Oklahoma State and Louisville will no doubt have elite quarterback play next year.

But what happens when their superstar eventually departs? Teams such as Clemson and Texas Tech are dealing with that situation right now, with Deshaun Watson and Pat Mahomes moving on to the NFL. How do these teams replace quarterbacks who are among the best, if not the best, in school history?

It all starts with recruiting. Despite signing a five-star quarterback in Deshaun Watson, Clemson has still been red hot in the quarterback market and they have several great options to replace Watson. USC, who already has a superstar on campus in Sam Darnold, has historically been elite in quarterback recruiting and this current coaching staff has already loaded up on talent for when Darnold jumps to the pros.

So how will some of the best teams in college football replace their quarterbacks? Let’s examine the situations with teams that a) have to replace an early entrant to the draft this year and b) have to replace a elite player in the next couple of years.

Clemson Tigers

Deshaun Watson, perhaps the best player in school history, departs for the NFL. There is no understating Watson’s impact and leadership that led the Tigers to a national championship. But the Tigers will survive, mostly because they have signed several elite quarterback prospects. Sophomore Kelly Bryant is a dynamic runner and draws comparisons to Watson because of his similar build at 6-3, 215-pounds. Redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper is another option who could continue to operate the spread concepts that Clemson loves to run. Incoming freshman Hunter Johnson, a five-star recruit, might be more of a pro-style guy, but there is no denying his pure arm talent. If none of those guys impress, an elite quarterback recruit in Trevor Lawrence in this year’s class is currently committed to the Tigers. Many recruiting analysts have stated that Lawrence might be the most talented high school recruit in quite a while.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

DeShone Kizer’s tenure at Notre Dame ended with a thud, but the Fighting Irish will certainly miss his presence at quarterback. Luckily, they have a guy in Brandon Wimbush who has already taken live snaps. The redshirt sophomore played sparingly in 2015 as a backup and now will take over as the full time starter. At 6-1, 226-pounds, Wimbush is good with his legs and has a strong arm as well. Entering his third year in the program, Wimbush has been groomed for the job and should thrive under new offensive coordinator Chip Long’s fast paced offense.

North Carolina Tar Heels

It might be safe to say the North Carolina staff was blindsided when Mitch Trubisky elected to go pro early. After all, the junior quarterback only started for one season. As such, Larry Fedora and his staff had to expand their options beyond those players currently on the roster and reached out into the grad transfer market to land Brandon Harris, formerly of LSU. There is no guarantee Harris is capable of winning the job, seeing as he couldn’t keep it at LSU, but he has more experience than any other quarterback on the Tar Heels’ roster. Expect players like sophomore Nathan Elliott and redshirt freshman Logan Byrd to challenge Harris for the job in fall camp.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Red Raiders have had quite the run of quarterbacks recently. From Baker Mayfield to Davis Webb to Pat Mahomes, several elite quarterbacks have come through the Texas Tech program. But with the departure of Mahomes, it’s back to square one. Senior Nic Shimonek spent last season as the backup, throwing for 464 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and it is logical to assume he’ll step into the role as the starter moving forward. A transfer from Iowa, Shimonek is entering his third year in the program and he proved as a backup last year that the offense won’t take a drastic step down despite Mahomes’ departure.

USC Trojans

Sam Darnold is a Heisman favorite in 2017, but NFL scouts have already begun to talk about him as an option in next year’s draft. Even if he leaves after next season, USC has already begun to stockpile quarterbacks for an eventual replacement. Redshirt freshman Matt Fink and true freshman Jack Sears are both blue-chip players who will compete for the backup job this year. Neither have the pure physical tools that Darnold possesses, but both are good throwers who will benefit from a developmental year. If neither impresses enough, five-star recruit Matt Corral is one of the most talented recruits in the country and could certainly challenge for the job.

Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals already have a Heisman winner on their roster in Lamar Jackson, but Bobby Petrino should take this year to find a replacement if Jackson jumps to the NFL early. Redshirt freshman Jawon Pass was actually a higher rated recruit than Jackson and possesses superior physical tools as well. At 6-4, 220-pounds, he has the arm to make all the throws in the book. If he can continue to develop and beat out players like Clay Bolin and Sean McCormack, he could be the next great Louisville quarterback.

UCLA Bruins

Unfortunately, the Bruins got a good look at what life without Josh Rosen looks like last year. Senior Mike Fafual stepped in, but has since graduated. If Rosen goes pro early, it will be a completely new option back there. A pair of freshmen in Matt Lynch and Devon Modster redshirted last year and are good enough to play at the college level, but neither will come close to Rosen’s talent level. The Bruins are all hot in pursuit for four-star recruit Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who could compete for the job as well.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

It’s fair to say everyone in Stillwater was ecstatic when Mason Rudolph elected to come back for his senior season. But with only one more year of eligibility, life beyond Rudolph is fast approaching. Redshirt sophomore John Kolar and redshirt junior Taylor Cornelius will compete for the backup job, but Kolar is the one to keep an eye out for as a starter once Rudolph leaves. A former blue chip recruit, Kolar was the No. 1 recruit in Oklahoma coming out of high school and will have four years in the system next season.

Washington Huskies

Jake Browning is firmly cemented as the quarterback after a breakout sophomore season, but he also doesn’t fit the bill of an early draft entree candidate. As such, Washington could have his services for a couple more seasons which will give them plenty of time to groom his replacement. True freshman Jake Haener could develop with a couple more year, but the real name to keep an eye on is current five-star recruit Jacob Sirmon. The 6-4, 218-pounder has better physical tools than Browning and is likely the heir to the throne in Seattle.

Ohio State Buckeyes

It seems like J.T. Barrett has been at Ohio State forever, but his time will run out eventually. The Buckeyes have a plethora of talented options behind him for eventual replacements. Redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow has been Barrett’s backup and has impressed a lot of people in the program. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins has great physical tools and will challenge Burrow for the backup job. Finally, five-star recruit Tate Martell is a bit undersized at 5-11, 205-pounds, but there is no denying his playmaking ability. The competition in 2018 when Barrett leaves will be intense, perhaps the best overall battle out of any team mentioned on this list.