NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl

The 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl has the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers going up against the Georgia State Panthers. Neither program produces a lot of NFL talent, but they do produce some players who are worthy of NFL consideration. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl:

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers:

Mike White, QB

White took over for a legend at quarterback in Brandon Doughty. He has started the last two seasons and has put up a lot of good numbers. In the pass happy offense that the Hilltoppers run, White has been able to show off his skills time and time again. He has over 10,000 career passing yards and a completion percentage the last two seasons that is over 65%.

Not only does White have a lot of good stats, but he also has the build of an NFL quarterback at 6’4″ tall and 225 pounds. He has a strong arm and is able to stretch defenses down the field with it. White may not be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he will likely get selected and have a chance to make an NFL team.

Projected draft range: 5th round-7th round

Chris Johnson, DT

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl

Chris Johnson (Photo by upressonline.com)

In his two seasons at Western Kentucky, Johnson has 85 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. His production declined this year, but Johnson will still be considered by NFL executives because of his stellar 2016 season. In that season he had four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Johnson is 6’1″ 285 pounds and would fill in well on a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. With the production decline, Johnson needs to have a big game in the Cure Bowl.

Projected draft range: 7th round-undrafted free agent

Nacarius Fant, WR

Fant has steadily increased his production over his time at WKU. This season he has 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Being that this season was his best, he still has a lot to prove to NFL scouts. Doing well in the Cure Bowl would go a long way to help his draft stock.

He is only 5’9″ and 185 pounds so he will have to play in the slot if he wants to make an NFL team. With his quickness, playing the slot shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Projected draft range: undrafted free agent

Georgia State Panthers:

Penny Hart, WR

NFL Draft Prospects in the AutoNation Cure Bowl

Penny Hart (Photo by ajc.com)

Hart is just a junior, but with an increased number of underclassmen coming out, he may just jump to the next level. He is an ultra-talented receiver that missed most of last season with an injury. In the two seasons that he has been healthy, he has accrued over 1,000 yards each year. He has 17 total touchdowns and if he decides to come back for another year, he will surely break a lot of records.

Like Fant, Hart is a smaller receiver that will have to play the slot in the NFL. He is 5’8″ tall and 180 pounds. Hart has a lot of production and experience that will help sell him to NFL scouts. He will get drafted whether he decides to enter his name into the draft this year or next.

Projected draft range: 5th round-7th round

Bryan Williams, S

Williams has two years of solid production at Georgia State. This season was particularly impressive with his 57 tackles, four interceptions and two passes defended.

One thing Williams has going for him is his size. He is 6’3″ and 212 pounds making him in the mold of the bigger safeties in the NFL, like Kam Chancellor. He will need to get a camp tryout and prove what he can do in the NFL.

Projected draft range: undrafted free agent

 

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Best teams from the group of five conferences in 2017

A lot of talk has been placed on the teams from the big conferences, Notre Dame and BYU, but there is a lot more to college football than just that. As we approach the beginning of the season, it is a perfect time to review what teams can make a push for the group of five spot in the New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

USF Bulls

Best group of five teams

Quinton Flowers (photo by zimbio.com)

The Bulls are the easiest team to list here. They are a preseason top 25 team and have a chance to run the table and make some noise while doing so. Charlie Strong didn’t pan out at Texas, but was a good hire for the Bulls and has experience coaching in BCS Bowls.

Returning for the Bulls is Quinton Flowers, who had the offense humming last season. He is a dark horse contender for the Heisman Trophy, but will need to have a statistically astronomical season to win it while playing in the AAC. He is a college football star who will have six other returning starters on offense to help.

On defense Auggie Sanchez leads the way. He has a lot of experience and is ready to become one of the best USF players ever with a good senior season. Seven other starters return from a unit that needs to up their game this season.

The schedule sets up well for USF to run the table. They have tough games against Houston, Temple and UCF, all of which they should be favored in. They will be in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Houston Cougars

Best group of five teams

Ed Oliver (Photo by chron.com)

Tom Herman is now at Texas, but Major Applewhite has a lot of good players returning. Houston has about as good of a shot as any to knock off USF in the AAC. They won nine games last season and return 17 starters.

The entire offensive line returns and should improve this season. Duke Catalon is the returning starter at running back and is a great weapon. He can run in between the tackles as well as catch passes out of the backfield. Most AAC teams won’t be able to keep him in check.

Kyle Allen is a former top recruit that went to Texas A&M, but decided to transfer to Houston. He has a lot of talent and will have a lot of receivers to utilize. Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner both return at the receiver position, which should help them cope with the loss of Chance Allen, who transferred to Oregon.

The defense was the 30th best scoring defense in the country, but especially thrived against the run. The best player on the defense is Ed Oliver, who totaled five sacks and 22 tackles for loss last season. Only two former starters need to be replaced on this year’s team, making them look like a unit that will improve.

The loss of Herman is tough, but Houston can still play with everyone on their schedule. Their tough games will be against: Arizona, Texas Tech, Temple, Memphis, South Florida and Navy. While they may not run the table, the Cougars will still be a very solid group of five team.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Best Group of five teams

Mike White (Photo by wbko.com)

The Hilltoppers have been one of the most consistent group of five conference teams in the country. Last year they finished the season with eleven wins and a victory over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. Mike Sanford will be in his first year as head coach, but was widely recognized as a good hire.

Mike White returns for his second season as the starting quarterback. He was the main reason WKU was able to have the best scoring offense in the country last season, averaging 45.5 points per game. The problem with the offense may lie in the skill position players. Only Nacarius Fant at wide receiver returns and he had fewer than 500 receiving yards last season. The good news is that three of five starters on the offensive line are back.

The defense was above average, and that’s all it really needs to be with the high-powered offense the Hilltoppers have. They were the second best team against the rush last season in college football and will be aided by the returns of Derik Overstreet and Chris Johnson on the defensive line.

Their schedule is pretty manageable this season, with notable battles only coming at Illinois, Louisiana Tech, at Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee. WKU is a sure thing to light up the scoreboard and get to ten wins again this season.

Toledo Rockets

Best group of five teams

Logan Woodside (Photo by wxyz.com)

Toledo won nine games last season and return a great quarterback. Jason Candle’s squad has a good chance to win almost all of the games on their schedule.

Logan Woodside is one of the best quarterbacks in college football outside of the power five conferences. He has completed 65.6% of his passes for over 6,000 yards in his career thus far. He is even on NFL teams’ radars. Cody Thompson returns as his favorite receiver with 1,269 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Terry Swanson didn’t start last season, but still rushed for 583 yards on only 116 attempts. Only two offensive linemen return this year which could pose a problem to their high hopes this season.

With a great offense, the defense played well too last season.They allowed just 25.7 points a game, which is good enough to win them most games. Ja’Waun Woodley leads the defense from his linebacker position and had 79 tackles last season. With six other starters returning, the defense should improve.

Toledo could very easily get to double digit wins. Games that they have to watch out for are: at Miami (FL), at Central Michigan, at Ohio and Western Michigan. They are better than every team other than Miami and just have to prove it.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

Best Group of five teams

Jalin Moore (Photo by shelbystar.com)

If any team knows how to transition from FCS to FBS, it’s Appalachian State. They have become a power in the Sun Belt Conference and finished last season with 10 wins. They beat Toledo in the Camellia Bowl to cap off their season. Scott Satterfield has 12 returning starters to rely on this season.

Taylor Lamb is an experienced player who is great at managing the Mountaineer offense. Shaedon Meadors returns as the leading receiver with 716 yards and two touchdowns.

Three offensive linemen are back and should help create a solid unit. Running back Jalin Moore had a fantastic season last year with 1,402 yards and 10 touchdowns. The running game is crucial to the Mountaineers’ success.

Six starters return on defense, which was the the ninth best scoring defense in the country last season. Linebacker Eric Boggs is a great player who might get a shot at an NFL roster. He is the best player on defense and had 98 tackles last season. The unit should be good again this season.

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Surefire Running Backs for Your Fantasy Football Team

It’s the middle of July, so it’s time to really dive into the world of fantasy football. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you a healthy dose of fantasy football knowledge. To start, I’ll provide you with the most safe picks you can make at each position in order to steer your team to a championship.

 

If you missed out on my previous article concerning surefire quarterbacks to draft, shame on you. Go read it now to become more knowledgeable. If you draft one of the five passers I mentioned, and also grab one of the running backs I’ll write about here, you’re team will be in good shape.

There’s a lot of running backs with high ceilings this season, but also have low floors. C.J. Anderson, Doug Martin, and Lamar Miller all fit into that mold. Many running backs have varying levels of risk attached to their names, including some that I’ll write about below.

After some extensive research, I’ve compiled a list of the top five most trustworthy running backs for 2016. This doesn’t mean I think they’ll be the top five scoring running backs. This list only means I think they’ll be quality players who’ll put up quality numbers week in and week out.

1. Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is about as steady as running backs come. Peterson’s worst finish among running backs is eighth, which occurred in 2011. Obviously this doesn’t include 2014, when he played just one game. Other than two eighth place finishes, Peterson has never finished worse than third in fantasy points in his career. A complete breakdown can be seen below:

2007 3rd
2008 3rd
2008 2nd
2009 3rd
2010 8th
2012 1st
2013 8th
2015 2nd

We all wondered how Peterson would respond to a year off at the start of last season. He finished with 231 points, and was the second-best rusher last season. All Day isn’t a PPR stud, but in standard scoring, he’s been incredibly dependable.

All Day will put up consistent numbers each week. (Photo: Sporting News)

All Day will put up consistent numbers each week. (Photo: Sporting News)

There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the Oklahoma product losing touches. The Vikings did spend their first pick of the draft on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, but the Vikings are still a run-first offense.

Teddy Bridgewater threw just 14 touchdowns last season, and 9 of which came in the redzone. There’s no running back that will vulcher away redzone touches from Peterson. With just a 41 percent completion percentage in the redzone, Bridgewater wasn’t a valuable asset when it counted most.

This all paves way for Peterson to dominate redzone touches this season.

Entering his age 31 season, Peterson isn’t a guy to take early in a dynasty league. However, if you’re in a re-draft league, drafting him will be an all-too-easy pick for your RB1 this season.

gur

Todd Gurley will be elite for your fantasy team this season. (Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

2. Todd Gurley

In his rookie season, Todd Gurley scored 189 fantasy points, good for fifth among running backs. Gurley also did this after missing the first two games of the season. Questions arose about whether Gurley would be as explosive as he was prior to his ACL injury, but Gurley swiftly hushed the nay-sayers.

Gurley could be the next superstar in the NFL, but the only concern is his durability. Gurley missed the final game of the 2015 season due to a foot injury. He played in 13 games, which isn’t bad, and his injury history isn’t exactly extensive. However, an ACL injury is the most scary of them all. Even so, Gurley averaged 18 carries per game, and topped out at 30 last season.

If you’re looking for big time games, this is your guy. Five times last season Gurley rushed for 100 yards or more. He scored ten rushing touchdowns last season, which is about 0.8 scores per game. Gurley also had double-digit point totals ten times last season.

Gurley, like Peterson, is not a huge PPR get. He caught just 21 balls last season, good for 29th among running backs. He also had zero touchdown catches.

Nevertheless, Gurley could be the best running back in the league this season. His injury risk should be in the back of all fantasy owners’ minds. Other than that, drafting Gurley with your first pick should keep you giddy all season.

3. Le’Veon Bell

Believe it or not, 2016 will be Le’Veon Bell’s fourth season in the league. He’s seems older than that to me, and that’s probably because of how quickly he became a prominent player in fantasy football.

Bell played in just six games last season thanks to another injury against the bitter rival Cincinnati Bengals. In those six games, however, Bell ran for 4.9 yards per carry (career best) and 3 rushing scores. He also caught 24 passes for 136 yards.

Barring injuries, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in football. He’s a spectacular runner and possesses great hands and route running abilities for a running back. Bell was the second-highest scoring running back in fantasy in 2014. Had DeMarco Murray not blown up behind the strong Dallas o-line, Bell would’ve finished in first place by 23 points in standard leagues.

We say this far too often with running backs, but as long as Bell can stay healthy, he’ll be a fantastic player in fantasy. The Michigan State product can put up 20 points in any given week. In 2014 PPR leagues, he scored at least 20 points seven times. He also eclipsed 20 points in three of his six games last season.

Bell is an explosion on your fantasy waiting to happen. Week in and week out, expect him to be a top-five running back. Draft Bell on your team, and handcuff him with DeAngelo Williams. If Bell doesn’t start one week, roll with Williams, who will produce just as much as Bell.

4. Matt Forte

Matt Forte is the only player to join a new team for 2016 on this list. Although I’m usually leery of jumping on players who are on new teams, I’m excited for Forte this season.

Forte has never finished worse than an RB2 in his career. He’s also finished as an RB1 five times in his eight year career. Now with the Jets, Forte will be relied on heavily due to the quarterback situation in the Big Apple. Although the quarterback may be a walking question mark, Forte will hold down the fort as a consistent running back and pass catcher. Each of Forte’s finishes among running backs is listed below:

2008 4th
2009 18th
2010 9th
2011 15th
2012 12th
2013 3rd
2014 4th
2015 8th

Now with the New York Jets, Forte will play under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey has coached Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis, Lamar Smith (in his best career season), Larry Johnson, and C.J. Spiller (also in his best season). Although Smith and Spiller are nothing close to big names in the NFL, they even had their best seasons while under Gailey.

Chan Gailey seems to be a running back whisperer, and Forte will be the number one source of offence for the Jets. Entering his age 31 season, Forte, like Peterson, is not a huge dynasty pick, but he will produce for at least a couple more seasons. Draft Forte as an RB1, especially in PPR leagues.

5. David Johnson

Fantasy owners hope David Johnson's second season is just as good as his first. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fantasy owners hope David Johnson’s second season is just as good as his first. (Photo: Getty Images)

I’m all in on David Johnson for 2016. In just five games started last season, Johnson accounted for 658 yards. He’s also managed to find paydirt five times during that stretch. Catching 17 passes in that time also proved Johnson has potential to become a great pass catcher.

What’s more is that Johnson will run behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Pro Football Focus ranks Arizona as having the ninth-best o-line in 2015. That ranking will improve with the addition of All-Pro guard Evan Mathis. Mathis had the best run blocking grade last season according to PFF. With Mike Iupati anchoring the line, Johnson should have plenty of room in the trenches this season.

The UNI product looks reliable as a middling RB1 this season. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington will battle for backup carries, but don’t be afraid of them luring away touches from Johnson. Head coach Bruce Arians gave just about the highest praise you can give a second-year running back, saying he’s on track to be “one of the all-time best” at running back. That should be plenty reason to take Johnson as your first running back this season.