Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: linebackers

Linebacker is a position that is often overlooked, but very important nonetheless. In the 2017 NFL Draft there were plenty of talented linebackers selected. There are a lot of linebackers in this class that have potential, but will have to play well to justify a high draft pick. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edmunds NFL

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Edmunds is one of three brothers that have played for Virginia Tech and will look to have a big junior year. He has the most draft potential and has great size at 6’5″ and 236 pounds.

Last year Edmunds finished with 94 tackles. He has a great all around game with 16.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, an interception and three passes defended. If he can improve his coverage skills this season and keep consistent production, he will be a highly sought after prospect.

The Hokies play West Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Pittsburgh. Edmunds will need to step up in the game against Clemson for his team to win and if he does, his draft stock will be improved.

Malik Jefferson, Texas

One of the more highly touted linebackers coming out of high school, Jefferson has played early and often for the Longhorns. With solid size at 6’3″ and 238 pounds, he has all the tools to be the first linebacker selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jefferson has 121 total tackles in his two seasons at Texas. He has great athleticism that makes him a well-rounded linebacker. With 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five passes defended and a touchdown scored he makes a lot of plays. Coverage and ball skills are things he will need to work on this season, but what he has already accomplished has made him a top prospect.

Texas has some big matchups this year that will require Jefferson’s best. They play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If he can help slow down the USC and Oklahoma offenses, he could be the first linebacker taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kendall Joseph, Clemson

Joseph may have been overlooked because of all the talent on Clemson’s roster last year, but he will need to be the one making headlines this season. He is a little undersized at 6’0″ and 230 pounds, but makes plays.

Last year was his first season getting a lot of playing time and he broke out. He finished the season with 106 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. If he can have a solid campaign to follow up his breakout season, NFL teams will move him up on their boards.

Clemson plays Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which should give Joseph a lot of opportunities to prove what he can do. He needs to produce against these good offenses this season to hold his ranking.

Skai Moore, South Carolina

Skai Moore NFL

Skai Moore (Photo by: cbssports.com)

Moore is a good prospect, but did miss all of the 2016 season with a neck injury. Staying healthy will be key to preserve and enhance Moore’s draft stock. He has average size at 6’2″ and 220 pounds.

In 2015, the last season he played, Moore finished with 110 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is a good run stopper and coverage linebacker, with 11 career interceptions, but could improve his blitzing ability. If his neck checks out and he has a productive year he will be one of the first linebackers taken.

The Gamecocks have Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson all on the schedule. Moore will be called upon to be at his best this season for South Carolina and will reap the rewards if he answers that call.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: defensive tackles

There aren’t many defensive tackles who have made a name for themselves in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but more will emerge. As of now, these are the top defensive tackles in the 2018 NFL Draft class:

Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Payne is the only returning starter from Alabama’s defensive line and now will have to step up for all of the talent they lost in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is 6’2″ and 319 pounds and fits in nicely at nose tackle for the Crimson Tide, but can probably play as a 4-3 defensive tackle in the pros.

While Payne doesn’t have a lot of stats, just four tackles for loss and two sacks in two years, he does a great job of taking on multiple blockers and shutting down running lanes. If he can continue to do that, he won’t need too many stats to be selected highly in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The junior will have multiple chances to go up against elite competition. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Both Florida State and LSU will feature some interesting duels between Payne and their interior offensive linemen.

Vita Vea, Washington

Vita Vea NFL

Vita Vea (Photo by: scout.com)

He only started five games, but Vea had a huge impact for the Huskies that would’ve gotten him drafted pretty early in the 2017 NFL Draft. He decided to come back to school for his redshirt junior season. At 6’5″ and 335 pounds, he has elite size for the position.

Vea demonstrated the ability to rush the passer in his limited action last season with five sacks. He needs to progress at stopping the run, but for only a few starts he is well on his way to improving in the 2017 season. A 3-4 nose tackle is likely his best fit at the NFL level.

The Huskies have key games against Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State. If Vea can increase his production with increased playing time, he will be one of the first interior defensive linemen drafted.

Christian Wilkins, Clemson

Christian Wilkins NFL

Christian Wilkins (Photo by: youtube.com)

Wilkins has good size at 6’4″ and 310 pounds and is coming off of an impressive season that ended with a National Championship. With the exodus of talent from Clemson’s team, it will be Wilkins time to lead the team.

One of the best assets that Wilkins has is his ability to stop the run. He finished last season with 13 tackles for loss. He is a decent pass rusher, but could improve this season to make himself a more complete prospect. His best fit is as a 4-3 defensive tackle and isn’t really fit to play in a 3-4 scheme.

The Tigers will play Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, NC State and Florida State. The Florida State game always features a lot of NFL Draft prospects and will likely be Wilkins biggest test.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: edge rushers

Edge rusher is one of the most important positions in the NFL and is routinely a position taken very highly in NFL Drafts. Here are the best  2018 NFL Draft prospects at the edge rusher position playing in college football this season:

Bradley Chubb, N.C. State

Bradley Chubb NFL

Bradley Chubb (photo by: rivals.com)

Chubb had a breakout season last year to put him on a lot of NFL Scouts’ radars. He has good size at 6’4″ and 275 pounds and with a good campaign in 2017, can be one of the first edge rushers off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft.

N.C. State will have a great defensive line in the upcoming season and Chubb will be the best player on it. He totaled 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2016. Chubb did a great job of beating one on one blocks with his strength and was effective in run support and pressuring the quarterback.

The Wolfpack will play plenty of tough teams in 2017, giving Chubb a chance to play against good competition. They play Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame, Clemson and North Carolina. The game against the Fighting Irish will be a really good matchup, if Chubb gets matched up with Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Marcell Frazier, Missouri

Another year and another Missouri defensive lineman heading to the NFL as a top prospect. Frazier is 6’5″ and 265 pounds, which gives him the necessary length to win on the outside.

The most impressive thing about Frazier’s 2016 play was his ability to come on strong at the end of the season. He had 6.5 of his 8.5 sacks in the last three games of the season. If he can continue that progression into the 2017 season, he can be one of the first edge rushers taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

With games against Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, the Tigers will have to go up against some good offensive lines. How Frazier fares against the Florida offensive line especially could have a huge impact on his draft stock.

Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

Hubbard got his start at Ohio State when Joey Bosa served a suspension in 2015. He didn’t disappoint with 6.5 sacks and even helped out when Bosa came back from suspension.

Last season he only had 3.5 sacks, but still impressed scouts with his play. He stands at 6’5″ and 266 pounds, which is good height for an NFL defensive end, but he likely needs to add on a few pounds of strength. Hubbard will have to show increased production in 2017 in order to justify a high selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Ohio State plays a lot of good teams next season. Hubbard will have to show up against Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. The big game for Hubbard could be Oklahoma, where it is possible he could be going up against Orlando Brown, a top tackle prospect.

Arden Key, LSU

Although it is still early in the draft process, Key is the front runner to be the first edge rusher selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has great height at 6’6″, but needs to add muscle to his 231 pound frame.

Key has produced since day one at LSU with 16 career sacks in his first two seasons. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker, which will make him appealing to all NFL teams. If he can get stronger and use his play strength to his advantage this season, he should be a top 15 pick.

LSU has a tough schedule that features BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Going up against the Tennessee and Alabama offensive line will adequately test Key and if he performs well, he will be the first edge rusher off the board.

Harold Landry, Boston College

Harold Landry NFL

Harold Landry (Photo by: Bostonglobe.com)

Landry was one of the most improved players in college football in 2016. He went from 3.5 sacks in 2015 to 16.5 last year. If he puts up production like that again, teams will have a hard time passing on him.

At 6’3″ and 250 pounds, Landry has the necessary strength and weight, but his length is just adequate. There is no doubt he can produce, but the combine could hold him back after the 2017 season.

With games against Notre Dame, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Florida State, the Eagles will play the best of the best in the 2017 season. Landry will be going up against good offensive lines specifically against Clemson and Notre Dame.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: guards and centers

The interior of the offensive line is not usually a position that is highly sought after in the NFL Draft. In the 2017 NFL Draft Forrest Lamp may have been the best lineman in the class, but he didn’t get drafted until the second round. These are still valuable players and will get some attention this season, even if it isn’t all the attention they deserve. Here are the best interior offensive linemen for the 2018 NFL Draft, as the college football season approaches:

Mason Cole, Michigan

Mason Cole NFL

Mason Cole (Photo by: mlive.com)

Cole is one of the few linemen in this class who has the capability to play both tackle and center. His best NFL position is center, so he moved there permanently in 2016. He has good size at 6’5″ and 305 pounds.

While he has played solidly, another year of good tape is needed to be the best interior lineman in this class. Getting better at pass protections would be a nice bonus heading into this season.

The Wolverines will go up against some good teams in 2017 that should give Cole the opportunity to prove why he should be the first center selected in the draft. Michigan plays Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this season.

Will Clapp, LSU

LSU had a few good interior offensive linemen last season, but Clapp is the best one remaining. He can play both guard and center and likely will play the latter this season.

He is 6’5″ and 309 pounds, giving him decent size. Staying healthy will be a key for Clapp, as he has had some shoulder issues in the past. Clapp is good at both pass and run blocking and needs to continue to show that this season.

The Tigers will have a tough schedule as always in the SEC West. They have tough games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

Nelson is another good offensive line prospect out of Notre Dame and would have been one of the first interior offensive linemen off the board. Nelson has great size at 6’5″ and 325 pounds.

He has the necessary athleticism to pass block in the NFL, but has been more of a run blocker at the college level. He has started for the past two seasons and helped get the Notre Dame run game going.

Notre Dame has some good teams on the schedule this year and they play Georgia, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina, NC State, Stanford and Miami.

Billy Price, Ohio State

Billy Price NFL

Billy Price (Photo by: landof10.com)

A lot of the interior linemen have good experience, and Price does as well. He has started since 2014 and really helped Ezekiel Elliot emerge as a top running back.

He is 6’4″ and 315 pounds, which is solid for a guard. He has the experience and the run blocking down, but needs to improve his pass blocking in his last season of college football.

Ohio State plays Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. Price will have his hands full with a reloaded Michigan offensive line, but he has played well against them in the past. With a good season he could go in the top two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: offensive tackles

The 2017 NFL Draft didn’t have as many highly sought after tackles as in years past. The 2018 class is going to have plenty of tackles to choose from in the first round. Here are the top offensive tackles heading into the 2017 college football season:

Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown NFL

Orlando Brown (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Brown is likely the biggest tackle prospect in this class at 6’8″ and 360 pounds. He may even have to lose some weight in order to deal with fast pass rushers at the NFL level.

He is the son of the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, who had a good NFL career.  Brown was redshirted for one year, but has started every possible game since at left tackle. This season he needs to show he has the mobility and flexibility to stay in front of pass rushers.

Brown will be tasked with protecting Baker Mayfield again at left tackle. He has big matchups against Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. The Ohio State game will pit him against several good defensive linemen for scouts to evaluate him.

Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

With 29 starts in two years, Hyatt has a lot of experience. He has started in two National Championship Games and did a good job of protecting Deshaun Watson. He has average height at 6’5″, but below average weight at 295 pounds.

Hyatt will have to add strength to be able to hold up in the NFL. He finished this past season as a National Champion and as a first team All-ACC member (Media). In their only loss against Pittsburgh, Hyatt left the game with an injury and the team didn’t look the same without him.

Clemson will have key games against Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State. The Auburn and Florida State games will both test Hyatt and give him another opportunity to go against great defensive linemen.

Martez Ivey, Florida

Ivey was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and has played decently, but not up to his ranking. He hasn’t always been healthy, but this season is his time to shine.

He will play left tackle for the first time at Florida now that David Sharpe has moved on to the NFL. At 6’5″ and 305 pounds he has average height and weight, but left tackle feels like his natural position. He won the SEC offensive lineman of the week twice last year.

The Gators play Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State. Ivey will be tested against LSU, Georgia and Florida State, but the key match up for him to prove himself is against Arden Key of LSU.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

McGlinchey could have been the first tackle off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft, but elected to go back to school for his senior season. He is the leader this season in terms of sought after tackles. He has good size at 6’7″ and 310 pounds.

One asset that McGlinchey offers is experience at both tackle spots. He played right tackle to start his career and moved to left tackle last season. He might end up being more of a right tackle in the NFL, due to lack of athleticism, which could hurt his draft stock. Although he is, for the most part fundamentally sound, McGlinchey does need to cut down on the number of penalties he gets this season.

Notre Dame will go up against some good teams and defensive fronts this season. McGlinchey will be tested by Georgia, USC, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami, NC State and Stanford. He will be specifically tested early by Georgia in week two.

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

Had he entered his name in the 2017 NFL Draft, Rankin would have been selected in the second-fourth round range. He has a chance to improve his stock, but it will be difficult to do so with so many good tackles in this year’s class.

Rankin was good as both a pass blocker and run blocker and should get some more good reps with Nick Fitzgerald behind center. He has average size at 6’5″ and 307 pounds.

The Bulldogs will have a few big matchups playing in the SEC West. Rankins will play against good competition against LSU, Georgia, Auburn, BYU, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Connor Williams, Texas

Connor Williams (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

A lot of the national media hasn’t picked up on Williams as much as they should have in terms of being a good draft prospect. If Williams has a good year he could be the first tackle off of the board. He stands 6’6″ tall and is 288 pounds and needs to add some weight to his frame to handle strong pass rushers.

Williams has been the starting left tackle at Texas since his freshman year and brings a ton of experience. He is more athletic and flexible than most tackles in this class and could develop in to a great pass blocker.

Texas will be challenged by a few teams on their schedule this season. The Longhorns play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Williams will get a chance to show what he has against USC and Oklahoma, which are both monumental games for Texas.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: tight ends

As of now, there aren’t many great tight end prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. A lot of prospects will be looking to weed themselves out from the rest of the pack this season and get drafted early. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Troy Fumagalli, Wisonsin

Fumagalli has been a step above anyone else in this tight end class so far and is the favorite to be the first one taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has great measurables at 6’6″ and 248 pounds.

In 2016, Fumagalli capped off a solid season with an outstanding performance in the Cotton Bowl. His performance against Western Michigan in that game had plenty of highlight catches. He finished the season with 580 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but those are impressive numbers considering the type of offense Wisconsin runs and the lack of great quarterback play he had.

Paul Chryst has mentioned that Fumagali has developed as a blocker, but he still needs to improve if he wants to be a good all-round prospect for NFL Teams to draft.

Wisconsin will play a few teams that give Fumagalli a chance to against good competition. The Badgers play BYU, Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.

DeAndre Goolsby, Florida

DeAndre Goolsby NFL

DeAndre Goolsby (Photo by: gatorcountry.com)

In the 2014 recruiting class, Goolsby was just a three star recruit, but has flashed good receiving potential and moved his way up the tight end ranks. He is a bit smaller than Fumagalli at 6’4″ and 244 pounds, but could end up being a better receiving threat.

Goolsby doesn’t have great numbers, but the quarterback play at Florida has been atrocious. He still has managed to put up 619 receiving yards and four touchdowns the last two years. His best game of last season came in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, where he finished with 91 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven catches. Because quarterback play is so bad, he has to make the most of every catch-able throw that comes his way this season.

Like Fumagalli, and most tight ends coming out of college, Goolsby has to become a better blocker. If he wants his stock to improve he needs to produce more, even with poor quarterback play.

Florida plays some good defenses this season. Goolsby will have a chance to show off his talent against Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State.

Cam Serigne, Wake Forest

Cam Serigne NFL

Cam Serigne (Photo by: zimbio.com)

A lot of casual fans won’t know who Serigne is because he plays for Wake Forest, but he can play. He doesn’t have great height at 6’3″, but does create separation and produces.

Over his first three years at Wake Forest Serigne has totaled 1,519 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He too has to put up with sub-par quarterback play, making his stats more impressive. In the bowl game against Temple, Serigne had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. That was the best performance of the year for the junior tight end.

Over seasons Serigne has solid stats, but he does need to be more consistent. He also needs to prove he can block despite likely having shorter arms than most tight ends in the class.

Serigne will be on the big stage for scouts when the Demon Deacons play Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame this season.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: wide receivers

Wide receiver was a position that was highly sought after in the 2017 NFL Draft, but there are some good players in the upcoming class too. Here are guys who will be at the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position come next April:

Deon Cain, Clemson

Deon Cain (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Cain has been overshadowed by all of the great Clemson receivers of the past few years, but it is now his time to shine. Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are gone and Cain will be the primary outside receiver for the Tigers.

Last season Cain had 724 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, but will likely see that increase when he is the primary target this season. He will have to deal with an unproven quarterback this season, but his talent should show through no matter who the starting quarterback ends up being. At 6′ 1″ tall and 210 pounds Cain has good size, but will likely not be taken until the second round.

Cain has flashed potential, but he needs to have a solid and consistent season of production to prove he is worth of an early pick. The big games for Cain to prove himself are: Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

The favorite to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft is Christian Kirk. He has dealt with a lot of different quarterbacks during his time at Texas A&M and will have to again this season.

With Trevor Knight completing around 50% of his passes, Kirk still put up good numbers last season. He had 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. One of his biggest things he needs to work on is consistency, but that is partially on the quarterback. He’s 5’11”, which isn’t great, but he uses his athleticism well, making him capable of playing on the outside.

Kirk is looking to maintain his draft stock going into this season. The Aggies will play some big games this season to allow Kirk to show off his skills. They play UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and LSU.

Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Ridley is also in contention to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has been a key on Alabama’s offense, even though they run the ball a lot, with 161 catches in two years.

In 2016, Ridley caught 72 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns with freshman Jalen Hurts as his quarterback. Hurts is not known as a thrower and Ridley will likely be catching passes from him this season. His best game last season was against Kentucky, when he caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two scores. He creates great separation and has good speed, but like other receivers in this class, needs more consistency.

Ridley will be going up against some good secondaries this season and doing well in these games could push him to the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn, which gives Ridley some great competition to go against.

Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

Equanimeous St. Brown (Photo by: usatoday.com)

St. Brown isn’t on a lot of peoples’ radars, but he should be. He only played a little bit his freshman season, but came on strong last year.

He finished the 2016 season with 961 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. St. Brown has great size for an outside receiver, but needs to add some strength to his 6’4″ frame. He adds a big play threat and averaged 16.6 yards per reception. He will have a new quarterback to work with this season, but should be able to have a solid season.With another year of good production, his size and big play ability will entice an NFL team to take him early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame is always on television, which will give him the most chances to be seen by NFL executives. The Fighting Irish will play Georgia, North Carolina, USC, Miami and Stanford, which all give St. Brown some top level competition to play against.

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Sutton is another receiver that, had he come out for the 2017 NFL Draft, would have been selected early. He has an interesting story and started his career at SMU as a defensive back before emerging as a great receiving threat.

Like St. Brown, Sutton has great size which entices NFL minds. He’s 6’4″ and 215 pounds and has dominated his competition in the AAC. He totaled 1,246 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016 and saw his draft stock rise continually throughout the year. His redshirt junior year promises to be one filled with good stats and success.

SMU doesn’t have the luxury of playing too many great defenses so Sutton will need to make the most of his chances in 2017. The Mustangs play TCU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis.

James Washington, Oklahoma State

James Washington (Photo by: tulsaworld.com)

While everyone else on this list are dealing with some sort of quarterback issue, Washington doesn’t have to worry about that. His partner in crime Mason Rudolph decided to come back to school and they should both put up great numbers this season.

Washington has gotten better every season he has been in Stillwater. Last season he had 1,380 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. His most notable game from 2016 was against Pittsburgh. He finished that game with 296 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.

The dynamic duo will have a few opportunities to prove themselves against good competition this season with games against Pittsburgh, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: running backs

Running backs are a position that aren’t usually highly sought after in the NFL Draft, but in the 2017 NFL Draft eight were selected in the first three rounds. This upcoming class may not have as many stars as last year, but there are still some good NFL prospects who will be rushing through college defenses this fall.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

There is a lot of hype around Penn State after last year’s great run to the Rose Bowl and it is in large part thanks to their best player, Saquon Barkley.

Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards in the Nittany Lions’ 14 games last season. He had a nose for the end zone as he scored 18 touchdowns on the ground. Not only did he do damage as a rusher, but also did well as a receiver, finishing the season with 402 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

He put up an impressive performance in the Rose Bowl and will look to carry that momentum into this upcoming season. Barkley has games against Pitt, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan to help increase his stock. He is an early front-runner to be the first running back selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Nick Chubb, Georgia

Nick Chubb (Photo by: macon.com)

Georgia seemingly always reloads at the running back position. Chubb is now a senior after an up and down career because of a major injury in 2015 against Tennessee. When healthy and 100%, Chubb is a dynamic playmaker. He played all 13 games last season and is looking to have an improved senior season to get his draft stock up.

Last season was Chubb’s worst in terms of yards per carry, as he finished with just 5.0 after having years of 7.1 and 8.1 in the previous two seasons. He still finished with 1,130 rushing yards to bring his career total up to 3,424. He isn’t a threat as a receiver, but when Jacob Eason hands him the rock this season, watch out.

The Bulldogs are trying to regain SEC East supremacy this season under Kirby Smart. Chubb has a chance to lead them to these heights and improve his draft stock. The key games for Chubb to show it all to NFL scouts are: at Notre Dame, at Tennessee, vs. Florida, at Auburn and at Georgia Tech.

Royce Freeman, Oregon

Freeman could have easily declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and been selected in the top three rounds. He dealt with knee injuries last year and is looking to have a healthy season in 2017.

The stats for Freeman are eye-popping with 4,148 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns in his career. He has added 650 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Last year was his worst in terms of production, but that was due to his injury.

Oregon is under new leadership in Willie Taggart, who will be looking to keep up the numbers of a traditionally good offense. Freeman will be the key in this and will have these key games to impress NFL Scouts: Nebraska, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

Derrius Guice, LSU

Derrius Guice (Photo by: theadvocate.com)

Last year Leonard Fournette was injured and couldn’t play in every game, but this let the world see the potential that Guice had. He filled in well and is looking to have a great season as a featured back.

In his limited time behind Fournette, Guice finished with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 7.6 yards per carry. His best game of last season was at Texas A&M, where he rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He has a great combination of power, speed and vision that he used to his advantage and will continue to do so.

Teams will likely stack the box against Guice, with no quarterback threat on LSU’s roster. The Tigers will play big games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

 

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

Alabama split carries between multiple running backs, but Scarbrough came on late in the season to have some big games. He is a big physical runner, who looks like he is in the weight room 24/7.

His best performance was an 180 yard game against Washington. He finished the season with 812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Scarbrough will likely continue to share carries with a loaded Alabama backfield. His vision as a runner has to improve if he wants to play in the NFL, as he can’t run over NFL level talent.

The Crimson Tide have plenty of big games this season for Scarbrough to prove he is more consistent. Alabama plays Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Against these good teams and some top level defenses, Scarbrough will get his chance to prove he is a good NFL Draft prospect.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: quarterbacks

It is still a long ways away from the start of college football and even further away from the 2018 NFL Draft. There are however, some great quarterbacks that are worth watching in the 2017 season, who can be good NFL players. These players have a chance to showcase their talents this upcoming football season and could be selected early in the NFL Draft process.

Josh Allen, Wyoming

Allen has created a lot of buzz, despite playing for Wyoming. He has the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Scouts have said that he may have been the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, had he elected to come out. He only completed 56% of his passes last year, but flashed his potential in his lone year as the starting quarterback.

Josh Allen (Photo by: trib.com)

He will have to improve his accuracy this season especially because he doesn’t play the best competition week in and week out. One of the most underrated parts of his game is his speed as he has been clocked at a 4.61 40 yard dash. Allen has the size, speed and arm strength to draw scouts’ eyes, but needs to start getting better results.

This season Allen will have a few chances to prove himself against good competition. The Cowboys start the season at Iowa and also play Oregon and Boise State. If Allen can improve his efficiency and pull of some big wins for Wyoming, he will likely go early in round one.

Sam Darnold, USC

At the start of last season, Darnold was a backup. He didn’t have to wait too long to get his shot as a redshirt freshman and led USC to nine straight victories to end the season, including a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. The best thing about Darnold is his accuracy, as he completed 67.2% of his passes. His arm strength is good too and he can make a lot of NFL level throws. He also helped lead the Trojans to big wins during the regular season, the most notable coming over Washington.

Darnold does need to work on his mechanics because he has a windup in his throwing motion. He also threw nine interceptions and didn’t start a full season, so he needs to keep that number down. The main thing for Darnold is to have a strong second season and avoid a sophomore slump.

He will be on national television a lot this year with USC playing Notre Dame and Texas out of conference and have some tough games in conference as well.

Luke Falk, Washington State

Falk will have to prove that he is more than a system quarterback, but he is already on a lot of NFL radars. He completed 70% of his passes last season, while also leading the cougars to eight straight wins in the middle of the season. One thing that Falk won’t be short on for NFL scouts is reps. He has over 1,520 passing attempts in his career already.

With being in a system, the most important thing for Falk is to prove that he can complete passes down the field that will be expected of him in the NFL. The problem is that he loses his two top receivers in Gabe Marks and River Cracraft.

The Cougars have games against Boise State, USC, Stanford and Washington to get one final year of good tape for NFL scouts.

Deondre Francois, Florida State

Not everyone is as high on Francois, but he has a chance to have a breakout sophomore season. Last year, he was one of the toughest quarterbacks in college football, as he was continually hit. He still managed to complete 59% of his passes. That isn’t great, but when you consider how much he was under pressure and the fact that he was in his first year starting, it is way better than expected. He also only threw seven interceptions showing his ability to protect the football through the air.

Deondre Francois (Photo by: scout.com)

While they did lose to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson, Francois stayed poised and helped lead the Seminoles to two big wins over Florida and Michigan to end the season. He didn’t have great games against these teams, but getting the win is worth something. He adds the ability to run, which is a nice asset he will have to use if his offensive line doesn’t improve.

Francois has the chance to show his stuff early this season, when the Seminoles play Alabama in week one. With Florida, Clemson and Louisville all still on the schedule, Francois will have every opportunity to improve his stock.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

After a great freshman season, Rosen only played in six games as a sophomore due to a shoulder injury. He has a nerve issue in his shoulder, which is cause for concern, but if he can play well this season and be cleared by doctors, he can be selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The most important thing for Rosen is to show he has shaken off the rust and effects from the injury. He also needs to improve his efficiency. Rosen has all the talent you want in a quarterback prospect, but does have things to give NFL scouts to think about with injuries and quirkiness off of the field.

His biggest games of the season are against Texas A&M, Stanford, Washington and USC.

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He had a great season last year and only threw four interceptions while attempting 448 passes. These stats are good and they are even more impressive because he threw for over 4,000 yards. Yes, these stats are mostly against Big 12 defenses, but it is impressive nonetheless.

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: scout.com)

With so many great quarterbacks in this class, Rudolph gets overlooked, but he has the potential to be the number one pick. He needs to put up similar stats to last season to reach that goal and it is definitely possible.

Pitt will be their big matchup in the nonconference schedule and they will have a light Big 12 schedule to go through with one big game against Oklahoma. Rudolph will have a chance to put up some big stats this season.

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Stidham had an impressive season at Baylor when he filled in for Seth Russell, but decided to transfer to Auburn. In his one season of playing so far he has 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He completed 69% of his passes in his limited action at Baylor.

He is going from Baylor to a much tougher SEC. A lot is unknown about Stidham and he really has to get more reps for NFL evaluators to rate him, but he can put up some big numbers under Gus Malzahn.

There will be plenty of chances for Stidham to prove himself this season with games against Clemson, LSU, Georgia and Alabama.

 

Check back at the end of the season to see where these quarterbacks are in the 2018 NFL Draft positional rankings.

 

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Is it Time for Notre Dame to Fire Brian Kelly?

Brian Kelly has taken a Notre Dame program that was down and led them to a National Championship game. Unfortunately, he has also led the Fighting Irish full circle, as they finished 4-8 last season. That isn’t the only reason that Kelly is catching heat right now, but is it too soon to consider firing a coach that took a team to a National Championship just five years ago?

The Wins and Losses

In his seven years as Notre Dame’s coach, Kelly has posted a 59-31 record. This makes his winning percentage 65.6 percent, which ranks 18th in Fighting Irish history. At most schools, this would be a good record, but at a school that has the history and pageantry of Notre Dame, that’s not good enough. He was given some leeway because he made the team better, but it seems they are trending back downward.

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly with Nick Saban (Photo by: cleveland.com)

The height of his success was a thrilling 12-0 regular season in 2012, which resulted in an appearance in the 2013 National Championship game. They ended up getting killed by the Alabama Crimson Tide, 42-14.

What stands out for Kelly is that he only has two ten-win seasons in his seven years, a trend that will likely continue this season. With multiple eight-win seasons and a four-win season, Kelly has to turn it around to save himself.

There is a lot of turnover from last year’s team to the team that will take the field against Temple on the opening weekend of college football. The good news for Kelly is that the offensive line should be great with Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson returning to school. While it may be a tall order, if Kelly doesn’t get at least eight wins, he might get fired.

Off The Field

The win-loss record isn’t great, but issues surrounding the team will also play a factor in the decision to let him go if it comes to that point. Some of this actually affects the on the field results, as 21 wins have been vacated (not demonstrated in earlier statistics). The 21 wins had to be forfeited due to academic misconduct by eight players.

There have been numerous cases of players being suspended for academic issues, arrests, DUIs and other transgressions under Kelly’s tenure. These incidents are something that give a black eye to the university that prides itself on molding players into better people. While a coach shouldn’t be responsible for every bad thing his players do, at some point enough is enough. One more incident like this could put the boosters over the edge to get rid of Kelly.

While these incidents surely aren’t great, the worst thing that has happened has been the death of Declan Sullivan. Sullivan was a junior manager who died when a scissor lift collapsed while he was video taping practice. It was a windy day when this happened and the head football coach should have moved practice indoors or scrap the video taping of practice from a lift.

The report found that Notre Dame was at fault and that the staff was negligent about wind conditions and how they affected lifts. If Kelly truly was negligent and didn’t know that 50-60 mile per hour winds can knock things over, he isn’t fit to be the coach at Notre Dame.

Attitude and Responsibility

Another thing that has been turning people off of Brian Kelly is his demeanor. It is very common to see him chewing out a player on the sidelines. Other coaches do this too and are good disciplinarian coaches, but Kelly has no limits and seemingly does it more than any other coach in America.

Brian Kelly Fired

Photo by: athlonsports.com

During interviews he very rarely takes the blame for a loss and usually finds a way to throw his players under the bus. He even said after the loss to Duke last season that he felt good about the coaching. Kelly decided to make all positions open for competition. Later that week defensive coordinator Brian Vangorder was fired.

This criticism for players, while taking no blame on himself, doesn’t just last while the players are at school. He recently said DeShone Kizer wasn’t ready for the NFL, even saying he has maturing to do. Whether he agrees or not with Kizer’s decisions, it definitely didn’t help Kizer’s draft stock.

So the question becomes why say anything like that? The best case scenario for saying that is that Kelly is right. The worst case scenario is that it hurt Kizer’s draft stock. At a time in a player’s life when the former coach should be supporting and selling that player to pro teams, Kelly couldn’t resist the urge to criticize Kizer one last time.

Conclusion

A lot has to be weighing on Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick’s mind as he goes into this season. He has a good coach with some issues. The saying that “winning cures everything” might be true at other places, but Notre Dame is supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard than most places.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Kelly will be the coach to start the 2017 college football season. He likely won’t be fired for his and the program’s off field issues, because he’s already been given a long leash. The decision will be made on wins and losses and if the Irish don’t win at least eight games in the regular season, it’s time for the Fighting Irish to move on from Brian Kelly.

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