College football preseason 2017 top 25: 20-16

The anticipation is growing for football. It starts this month and fans are excited to see what happens this season after a thrilling finish to the 2016 season. College football preseason polls have no impact on what happens during the season, but it is fun to speculate as to which teams will be doing well in the upcoming season.

This is the second edition of the preseason rankings. The first installment is here.

20. Texas Longhorns

College Football top 25

Shane Buechele (Photo by hookem.com)

Charlie Strong is out and Tom Herman is in. Herman will try to restore the Longhorns to glory after raising Houston’s program to new heights the last two seasons. Last season Texas won five games and returns 17 starters on offense and defense. With Herman and the players coming back, the Longhorns are supposed to take a step forward this season.

Shane Buechele showed flashes as a freshman of being the next great Texas quarterback, and will also be expected to step his game up this season. Eight of his 10 top receivers from last year return with the 6’6″ Collin Johnson being a dynamic player. He will burst onto the college football scene in 2017.

The offensive line returns a lot of returning experience. Connor Williams is a junior left tackle that has been starting since he was a freshman. He will likely be a first round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The powerful Chris Warren III will take over full time as running back after averaging 6.3 yards per carry in his first two years as a Longhorn. The offense will be high-powered once again, especially with Herman’s blueprint.

Defensively, Texas has been disappointing in the Charlie Strong era. They do return a lot of talent, especially at the linebacker position, where three starters return. They are led by Malik Jefferson, who is extremely talented and one of the best linebackers in the country. In front of Jefferson, three defensive linemen return, with tackle Poona Ford being the most notable.

The secondary hasn’t been producing the NFL talent that they used to and it will likely be a problem for them again. They have four returning starters, but they allowed 258.5 yards per game, so improvements need to be made.

Texas has a decently tough schedule that features non-conference games against Maryland and USC. Games in conference against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia could also give them trouble. They will lose to USC and drop two to three other games in the tough conference stretch. The Longhorns are staring a 8-4 record if they win the games they are capable of.

19. Miami Hurricanes

College football top 25

Mark Walton (Photo by: miamiherald.com)

If Brad Kaaya had come back for one more season, Hurricane fans would be off the wall with excitement. They still have a solid team heading into Mark Richt’s second year. Miami was able to finish 9-4 in 2016 capped off with a win in the Russell Athletic Bowl against West Virginia. They have 14 returning starters that should help them compete for an ACC Coastal Division title.

Malik Rosier will likely take over the offense this season after having limited experience the last two seasons. He is a dual-threat quarterback. If he struggles freshman N’Kosi Perry is the only other viable option to play. If they can find a quarterback, this team can be successful. Ahmmon Richards is the best returning play-maker at wide receiver and should break out this season, as the rest of the receivers are unproven.

At running back Mark Walton ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, but will likely get more touches this season. He will need to take pressure off of the new quarterback. The offensive line returns four starters and should be able to protect the quarterbacks and clear holes for Walton.

The front seven of this team is going to be really good and they are going to need to be for the Hurricanes to be successful. They return all starters on last year’s front seven. Sophomores Joe Jackson and Shaquille Quarterman are players to watch, as Jackson has the most sacks of a returning player, while Quarterman has the most tackles returning.

The secondary is very inexperienced and will need to find guys who can make a difference. Miami had the 18th best scoring defense in 2016, but it will be hard to live up to that with such an inexperienced defensive backfield.

Games in the non-conference schedule aren’t too hard, but they do have a rematch with Notre Dame. Their tougher games in conference are: at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and at Pittsburgh. Richt should be able to guide this team to at least an 8-4 record with good quarterback play.

18. South Florida Bulls

college football top 25

Quinton Flowers (Photo by orlandosentinel.com)

Charlie Strong goes to a team that will win more games than Texas, but in a worse conference. USF only lost two games last season and ended up beating South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. With 16 returning starters, the Bulls are looking to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

Quinton Flowers helped lead USF  to the fourth highest scoring offense in the country with his dual-threat abilities. He accounted for over 4,000 yards of offense and is the leading returning passer and rusher. His partner in crime in the backfield, Marlon Mack, has moved on to the NFL, but D’Ernest Johnson brings some experience at running back and is a pass catching threat out of the backfield.

Johnson is the leading returning receiver, but Marquez Valdez-Scantling will be asked to do a lot more this season. He is a big target at 6’5″ and will need to use his height to create separation. The Bulls return three starters on the offensive line and should have a good unit that allows the offense to thrive once again.

The Bulls return their leading tackler from last year, Auggie Sanchez, who has made 37 career starts already. He will man the middle of the defense at the linebacker position. All of the defensive lineman are returning starters and should help free up Sanchez to get to the ball.

Deatrick Nichols leads an experienced secondary and may have a chance to play in the NFL. The problem is that they give up way too many yards through the air and will need Strong to fix it. He couldn’t fix the defense at Texas, but he does have a lot of returning players to work with at USF.

USF is actually favored in all of their games. They will have tough games against Temple and Houston, but should be able to manage wins. The Bulls will at the very least go 10-2 and win the AAC East, but will likely do better than that. Don’t hold your breath for a College Football Playoff Berth if they go undefeated, because their schedule is really bad. They will be able to get the “Group of Five” bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

17. Stanford Cardinal

College football top 25

Harrison Phillips (Photo by scout.com)

Two first round picks are gone in Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey, but the Cardinal will be good once again. In 2016 Stanford went 10-3 and beat North Carolina in the Sun Bowl in dramatic fashion. David Shaw has 14 returning starters who are ready to get back to the top of the Pac-12 North.

The quarterback situation is the first thing that needs to be figured out. Keller Chryst was successful last year, but hurt his knee in the bowl game. If he is healthy he should be the starter. If not the job goes to Ryan Burns, who started the 2016 season as the signal-caller for Stanford, or K.J. Costello, a talented newcomer.

Bryce Love will fill the shoes of McCaffrey and be explosive. He is back after averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per rush in his first two seasons. Trenton Irwin and Dalton Schultz are the most experienced pass-catchers returning, but they don’t have the greatest production yet. With four returning starters on the offensive line and a good running back, the Cardinal will look to pound the rock once again in 2017.

Two out of three defensive linemen are returning starters and Harrison Phillips will have to raise his level of productivity from his tackle position. The Cardinal have a lot of experience back at linebacker which should help the scoring defense that ranked 18th last year be very good again.

In the secondary two starters are back. Quenton Meeks is a talented corner and Justin Reid is the leading tackler on the team from his safety position.

The non-conference slate includes games against Rice, San Diego State and Notre Dame, all of which they should be favored in. Their tough games in conference include games with USC, Utath, Oregon, Washington State and Washington. With the amount of talent coming back Stanford bottoms out with an 8-4 record, but could win as many as 10 games.

16. Michigan Wolverines

college football top 25

Mason Cole (Photo by mwolverine.com)

Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting will be put to the test this season as the team returns five starters in total. Their talented team last season finished 10-3 with a loss in the Orange Bowl to Florida State to finish off the season. There might be some growing pains with this Wolverine team, but they do have talent.

Wilton Speight returns at quarterback, but hasn’t played particularly well. Last season he threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns, but with only four other returning starters he will be expected to do more. His targets won’t have a lot of experience, but Eddie McDoom returns some experience running sweeps. Donovan Peoples-Jones is an extremely talented freshman, who will likely have to play a lot early in his career.

Two starters return on the offensive line, which includes Mason Cole, who uniquely can play either center or left tackle. They ranked 33rd in the country in rushing last season, but De’Veon Smith has graduated and now Chris Evans and Ty Isaac will both get shots to carry the football for Michigan.

The defense is what takes a huge hit, as they return just one starter. Mike McCray plays linebacker and has the only starting experience worth noting. The defensive line has talent, including former number one overall recruit Rashan Gary.

The secondary was great last season, which helped the Wolverines be the best defense against the pass, but now new players will be called upon. David Long is a talented corner and likely the best of the bunch. Defensive coordinator Dom Brown, a.k.a Dr. Blitz, has his work cut out for him.

Michigan has eight games that they should win this season. Their matchups with Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State will be tough challenges. With a floor of eight wins and the possibility to win one or two of their tougher games, Michigan will be among the top 25 teams in the country again in 2017.

 

Featured image by finebaumfan.com

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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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2018 NFL Mock Draft May 6

The 2017 NFL draft has just concluded, but it is never too early to look to next year. Draft picks are ordered by Super Bowl Odds.

1. San Francisco 49ers- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Brian Hoyer isn’t the long term answer for the 49ers and they reached on C.J. Beathard in the 2017 NFL Draft. Allen may be from a small school, but he has legitimate talent. He has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Allen will have to prove himself in his big games against Iowa, Oregon and Boise State in the 2017 season.

2. Cleveland Browns- Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Joe Haden is aging and the Browns did a great job of addressing the rest of their defense in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick has started since his freshman season and is a very versatile defensive back.

3. Los Angeles Rams- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

If Jared Goff is going to be the long term quarterback, he needs more weapons. Ridley is a good option with 1,814 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in two years at Alabama. He can be a good outside receiver for the Rams, which is not something they currently have.

4. New York Jets- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold needs to improve his mechanics and have a strong second season as USC’s starting quarterback. If he does so, he will be a first rounder with no doubts. The Jets need to get a franchise signal caller and so far, this looks like a good quarterback class coming in.

5. Chicago Bears- Derwin James, S, Florida State

Derwin James NFL

Derwin James (Photo by: si.com)

Quintin Demps has had just one good season as a pro and that shouldn’t be expected to continue. James is an elite athlete at defensive back and will likely go in the top ten in the 2018 NFL Draft if he can stay healthy.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The USC-UCLA game will feature two great quarterbacks. Rosen has been a phenom since his freshman year at UCLA, but last year got his throwing shoulder hurt and even had some nerve damage. He needs to stay healthy and if he is able to, is capable of being the first quarterback selected. If the Jaguars are picking this high, Blake Bortles is out as the starting quarterback.

7. Buffalo Bills- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins is overlooked because of how many talented players were on Clemson last season, but with a lot of them gone, it is his time to shine. The Bills need to address the defensive line early in this draft. Two first round picks gives them some versatility in this draft.

8. Los Angeles Chargers- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Chargers doubled up on guards in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the tackles could be improved to protect the aging Phillip Rivers. McGlinchey would have gone first round in 2017, but elected to go back to school for one more year.

9. Detroit Lions- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk might end up being the best receiver in this class, but will likely see his stock slide if he doesn’t produce this season with a new quarterback. He is a little shorter than most teams like at 5’11”, but can play on the outside and be a difference maker. The Lions need to upgrade their receiving corps to give Matthew Stafford some more weapons.

10. New Orleans Saints- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

One thing that the Saints didn’t address in the 2017 NFL Draft was a pass rusher who could play opposite Cameron Jordan. Key is a great speed rusher, who elected to go back to school for another season. The Saints would love if they fell to them so they could get after Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan more often.

11. Washington Redskins- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph NFL

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: ncaa.com)

The Washington front office doesn’t have a good relationship with Kirk Cousins. He will likely leave after the season due to being franchise tagged the last two seasons. Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He only threw four interceptions last season, which shows how well he protects the ball.

12. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Interior offensive linemen usually don’t go this high, but Nelson would’ve been a first rounder in the 2017 draft had he come out. The Dolphins were able to address a lot of their needs this offseason, but they still need to get a guard because they are moving Laremy Tunsil out to tackle.

13. Cincinnati Bengals- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Cincinnati addressed all of their skill positions in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, but their offensive line is not good. Williams has a lot of experience at Texas and should upgrade the offensive line instantly.

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley helped lead Penn State to a Big Ten Championship last year and was their best offensive player. He does a little bit of everything well and will be one of the first running backs off of the board. The Eagles drafted Donnell Pumphrey, but he isn’t an every down back in the NFL.

15. Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

The Titans don’t have too many needs, but can improve the pass rush. He was a monster for the Boston College defense last year, finishing with 16.5 sacks. There were only two games were he didn’t register a sack, which bodes well for his NFL future.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Donovan Smith hasn’t gotten his career off to a great start, meaning if he struggles again he will be replaced. Protecting Winston’s blindside has to be the number one priority for the Bucs.

17. Baltimore Ravens- Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

The Ravens haven’t had an effective running back in years. Guice showed flashes of what he could do when Leonard Fournette sat out with injury last season. He should have a breakout year for LSU.

18. Carolina Panthers- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Panthers continue to not address the offensive line well. They need to clear some holes for McCaffrey and protect Cam Newton. Brown is a big prospect, who is another good tackle prospect in this draft class.

19. Arizona Cardinals- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Luke Falk NFL

Luke Falk (Photo by: seattletimes.com)

This year’s quarterback class is going to be loaded, if everything happens the way most think it will. That paired with the fact that there are a lot of aging quarterbacks and as usual teams that are bad and need new ones, A lot might go in the first found in the 2018 NFL Draft. Falk is a system quarterback, but Patrick Mahommes overcame that to be the second quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He will need to have an impressive senior season where he shows he can read defenses to maintain his spot in the first round.

20. Minnesota Vikings- Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah

The Shariff Floyd injury complicates things for the Vikings. Lotulelei is a big physical defensive tackle that can really plug up the running lanes.

21. Indianapolis Colts- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson has all the potential in the world and it should all come together for him this season for Texas. The Colts have started to revamp their defense, but it still needs a lot more work.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton was a fringe first rounder had he come out this year and will likely be one of the best wide receivers coming out next season. With Sammy Watkins possibly leaving in free agency, Sutton can be paired with current rookie Zay Jones.

23. New York Giants- Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

The Giants didn’t draft a tackle and now will need to get one next year. Fortunately for them, as it now stands, there are a lot of good tackles in this draft class.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Troy Fumagali, TE, Wisconsin

Troy Fumagali NFL

Troy Fumagali (Photo by: WXYZ.com)

If Jesse James doesn’t step up, the Steelers will need a new tight end. Fumagali made some incredible grabs in the Cotton Bowl and with a good season, will move himself into first round consideration.

25. Denver Broncos- Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Jamal Charles was just signed, but that isn’t a long term solution. Chubb could be the selection if the Broncos lose faith in Devontae Booker. He has some injuries, but when healthy Chubb is  a great running back.

26. Oakland Raiders- Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama

Hand has been burried on the depth chart at Alabama, but will get his chance this season. The Raiders have a terrible defensive line and need to start addressing it.

27. Cleveland Browns (via Hou)- Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Whitehead can play a variety of positions in the secondary and can fit in next to Jabrill Peppers. The Browns’ luxury of a lot of picks, gives them a lot of options.

28. Atlanta Falcons- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

The Falcons need to get some players on the interior of the defensive line. Payne, like Hand, will get his chance to shine this season.

29. Seattle Seahawks- Martez Ivey, OL, Florida

Ivey could play guard or center for the Seahawks, but they need offensive line help so badly, it doesn’t matter. Protecting Russell Wilson hasn’t been a concern in the past for Seattle (even though it should have been), but it should be going into the future.

30. Green Bay Packers- Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

McFadden is a lengthy corner that can help the Packers stop the pass. They addressed the secondary this offseason, but if it doesn’t improve, they will target more secondary help.

31. Dallas Cowboys- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Hubbard got to start in Joey Bosa’s place when Bosa was suspended, but made a name for himself. After a few more years of good play, he could go in round one. Dallas picked Taco Charlton in the first round in the 2017 NFL Draft, but could still use pass rushing help.

32. New England Patriots- Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

The Patriots have a glaring need at pass rusher and Lewis might be their guy. He has a lot of experience at Ohio State and New England can turn him into a star.

 

For more mock drafts go to: DC Pro Sports Report

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