2018 NFL Mock Draft 10/17/17

 

With over a third of the NFL season in the books, it is getting easier to see where teams will be drafting in the 2018 NFL Draft. Here is a first round NFL mock draft.

1. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Browns look like the worst team in football right now. DeShone Kizer has been pulled in favor of Kevin Hogan, which means they may be in the market for a quarterback, if Kizer doesn’t figure things out. Darnold has the stature of an NFL quarterback, but has nine interceptions on the season already and has to make better decisions if he wants to be the number one pick.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen is among the FBS leaders in passing yards and has had a good junior season thus far. He too has to work on decision making, but most importantly has shown that he doesn’t have any arm problems after incurring nerve damage in his throwing arm last season. The 49ers may get Kirk Cousins, but if they can’t, they need a quarterback.

3. New York Giants- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

The Giants got their first win of the season and they got the running game going against a tough Broncos team. Orleans Darkwa looks like he is better than any running back they have had for years. Because the running back situation is a little bit better, the Giants will likely draft a tackle. Williams isn’t the biggest guy, so he may need to add some weight, but he is very athletic. He is currently injured with damaged ligaments in his knee and will have to prove he is healthy to be selected highly.

4. Chicago Bears- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Calvin Ridley (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Chicago has decided to make Mitch Trubisky the starting quarterback. They have to get him some weapons in the passing game other than Tarik Cohen. Ridley is a dynamic playmaker that can make people miss once he gets the ball in his hands. He may be better as a pro than as a college player, as Jalen Hurts isn’t the greatest throwing quarterback.

5. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, Florida State

The Chargers now have two wins on the season and are playing better football. They have a lot of solid players, but could upgrade their safety position. James is one of the best players in this class and looks like he is capable of doing anything on a football field. If he doesn’t get selected early, it is due to concerns about his injuries. He missed most of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury.

6. Oakland Raiders- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Oakland only has 11 sacks on the year and could use an elite pass rushed to go with Khalil Mack. Key is starting to create havoc and get into a groove for the Tigers. He is a great speed rusher that would benefit from adding some more pass rushing moves to his arsenal.

7. Indianapolis Colts- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley is a premier talent who runs with great moves that are reminiscent of Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. Frank Gore may look like he can play forever, but he is nearing the end of his career. Getting a dynamic playmaker like Barkley would balance the offense and take some pressure off of Andrew Luck when he comes back.

8. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Cincinnati has one of the worst offensive lines in football and need to address it badly. McGlinchey would have been selected pretty highly had he come out last season, but elected to go back to school. He has struggled so far this season, but the Notre Dame running game has started to get going. He has shown better athletic ability this season, which should help his value.

9. Tampa Bay Bucs- Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

Fitzpatrick has played both safety and corner in his time at Alabama. He has all the physical tools to be successful, but needs to work on his technique and positioning. Tampa Bay just got torched by Carson Palmer and needs to get some more athletes in the secondary.

10. Tennessee Titans- Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

The Titans have just eight sacks on the season. If they want to start winning more, Marcus Mariota will need to stay healthy and they need to have a better pass rush. Bryant has 5.5 sacks on the season, but could be more consistent. Four of his sacks came against Auburn. He will need to prove himself in the back half of the college season.

11. Dallas Cowboys- Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

Payne makes freakish plays for a defensive tackle. He hasn’t done much in the stats department this season, but takes on multiple blocks at a time. Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea decided to retire, leaving the Cowboys even thinner on the interior of the defensive line. Payne will help them stop the run better.

12. New York Jets- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Allen has struggled this season, but what most hurts his cause is how often he struggles against good competition. He is very raw as a prospect and needs a year to sit and learn, as well as work on his craft. The Jets have somehow managed to get to .500 and can have Allen sit behind Josh McCown.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Lamar Jackson (Photo by twitter.com)

Carson Palmer looks better, but the Cardinals still need to think about the future. If Palmer continues to play well, Jackson can sit and learn behind him. Jackson still has issues throwing the ball, but is a dynamic runner. He has improved his efficiency this year, which has helped his draft stock.

14. Cleveland Browns (via Hou)- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Cleveland doesn’t have too much at receiver. Kenny Britt isn’t a number one and Corey Coleman can’t stay healthy. In order to help their young quarterbacks they need to get a good receiver. Kirk has some big play ability and demonstrated that against Arkansas with 110 receiving yards and 136 kick off return yards. He will be tested in the coming weeks against good secondaries in the SEC.

15. Baltimore Ravens- James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

Joe Flacco needs someone legitimate to throw to on a consistent basis. Washington has been making big plays for years at Oklahoma State and couldn’t hurt Flacco’s production. As with a lot of quarterbacks, there will be a question about what system he plays in, but Washington produces and makes big plays, which will appeal to NFL scouts.

16. Detroit Lions- Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

Martinas Rankin is a very efficient pass blocker and can be a great left tackle in the NFL. The Lions have a terrible left side of the offensive line and need to upgrade it. The Lions like to pass a lot so they will likely love the pass blocking of Rankin. They need to keep Stafford upright since he is so highly paid now.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Jaguars can either draft to improve the offensive line or they can take one of the many talented quarterbacks in this class. Rudolph isn’t getting a lot of love right now, but when people watch his tape they will like his deep ball. He has had a lot of production in college and can be a successful NFL quarterback.

18. Miami Dolphins- Iman Marshall, CB, USC

The Dolphins don’t have a good secondary and it was evident when they let the Jets throw for 249 yards on 18 of 23 passing. Marshall would be an immediate upgrade at corner. He was overshadowed by Adoree Jackson last year, but is now shining. He is a shutdown corner that has started since his freshman season as a Trojan. Teams are actively looking to not throw his way when they play USC.

19. New Orleans Saints- Harold Landry, DE/LB, Boston College

Landry led the FBS in sacks last year and decided to go back to school for his final season. He has started to heat up this season with five sacks in seven games, but has played some stiff competition. New Orleans has been doing well at rushing the passer, but that likely won’t keep up, so they need to address the issue.

20. Buffalo Bills- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame

St. Brown has had a hard time getting involved in the Notre Dame offense early, but that is only partially on him. He is a big athletic receiver that looks like he could be more productive in the NFL than he has been in college. Tyrod Taylor needs a better option as his top receiver and St. Brown can be that guy.

21. Washington Redskins- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Malik Jefferson (Photo by hornfm.com)

Jefferson is a talented linebacker, who hasn’t totally lived up to his potential, but is starting to show flashes that he can. Mason Foster is old and hasn’t played particularly well this year, so Jefferson could play next to Zach Brown.

22. Seattle Seahawks- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Brown has NFL bloodlines and a big body.  He needs to prove that he has the athleticism and speed to deal with the fast pass rushers in the NFL. If he can do that, he can see himself move up draft boards. The Seahawks have to start protecting Russell Wilson better or he won’t last much longer. They also haven’t been able to run the football at all.

23. Atlanta Falcons- Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

Desmond Trufant is a good corner, but the Falcons need more if they are going to stop some of the best offenses in the NFC. McFadden provides good value here and has been a shut down corner this season.

24. Denver Broncos- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

The Broncos are another team that don’t have too many needs. Nelson provides good value and would’ve been a first round pick had he come out in last year’s draft class. Ronald Leary can kick out to right tackle so Nelson can play right guard, or he can play left guard for Denver.

25. Los Angeles Rams- Kevin Toliver, CB, LSU

The Rams allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 332 yards on them a few weeks ago, so they really need to improve their secondary. In four games so far this season, Toliver hasn’t done much, but he will face stiffer competition as the season goes on. The potential is there, but he still needs to prove it on the field.

26. Carolina Panthers- Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

While Cam Newton is playing better, the offensive line still needs to be improved upon. They need to get the ground game going to set up Cam Newton in the passing game. Hyatt looks like a player who could be versatile at the NFL level and could play multiple positions on the offensive line.

27. Green Bay Packers- Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Jordan Thomas (Photo by youtube.com)

The Packers need to get some better players in the secondary. Thomas has a lot of experience at Oklahoma and would address a big need. With a good rest of this season, he could compete for a starting spot in the NFL.

28. Minnesota Vikings- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins is a part of the very productive and talented defensive line at Clemson. He already has 3.5 sacks and four tackles for loss on the season and does a good job at both defending the run and rushing the passer from the interior. The Vikings can’t rely on Shariff Floyd to stay healthy and need to get a replacement.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Pittsburgh doesn’t have a good safety on their roster. Mike Mitchell specifically needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Harrison has the chance to be a good strong safety in the NFL with his great size. He is 6’3″, 214 pounds and impacts games in a variety of ways.

30. New England Patriots- Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

Chubb has been a catalyst in N.C. State’s wins over Louisville and Florida State. He has already accrued 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. The Patriots need help all over on defense, but have lost some of their best pass rushers in recent years and need to replace them.

31. Philadelphia Eagles- Simmie Cobbs Jr., Indiana

The Eagles have Alshon Jeffrey on a one year deal and Torrey Smith isn’t doing much. Carson Wentz needs some more weapons as he continues to develop. Cobbs has produced a lot at Indiana and is a big receiver who can create matchup problems in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (via KC)-  Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith has done a little bit of everything for Georgia this season with 53 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two passes defended. Buffalo’s linebackers have not performed this year and getting better there would pay dividends.

 

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2018 NFL Mock Draft 10/9/17

This NFL mock draft is ordered using current NFL records with estimated finishes.

1. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Browns look like the worst team in football right now. They had to pull DeShone Kizer from the game and put in Kevin Hogan, which means they may be in the market for a quarterback, if Kizer doesn’t figure things out. Darnold has the stature of an NFL quarterback, but has nine interceptions on the season already and has to make better decisions if he wants to be the number one pick.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen currently leads the FBS in passing yards and has had a good junior season thus far. He too has to work on decision making, but most importantly has shown that he doesn’t have any arm problems after incurring nerve damage in his throwing arm last season. The 49ers may get Kirk Cousins, but if they can’t, they need a quarterback.

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Saquon Barkley (Photo by pennlive.com)

3. New York Giants- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The Giants are still win-less this season and now have had injuries to their three best receivers. The Giants have terrible tackles and may elect to go that route, but they also have no running game because their running backs aren’t good. Barkley is a premier talent who runs with great moves that are reminiscent of Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.

4. Chicago Bears- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Chicago has decided to make Mitch Trubisky the starting quarterback. They have to get him some weapons in the passing game other than Tarik Cohen. Ridley is a dynamic playmaker that can make people miss once he gets the ball in his hands. He may be better as a pro than as a college player, as Jalen Hurts isn’t the greatest throwing quarterback.

5. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, Florida State

The Chargers finally got a win, albeit over the Giants. They have a lot of solid players, but could upgrade their safety position. James is one of the best players in this class and looks like he is capable of doing anything on a football field. If he doesn’t get selected early, it is due to concerns about his injuries. He missed most of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury.

6. Indianapolis Colts- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Indianapolis has to get some more quality players on their roster, because they look lost without Andrew Luck. In their first three games they only have six sacks, so getting a pass rusher early makes sense. Key has only played in three games so far due to suspension, with only a half sack.

7. Arizona Cardinals- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Allen has struggled this season, but what most hurts his cause is how often he struggles against good competition. He is very raw as a prospect and needs a year to sit and learn, as well as work on his craft. The Cardinals can afford to sit him behind Carson Palmer next season (assuming Palmer comes back for another year) and let him learn. Arizona has shown that they like tall, strong armed and athletic quarterbacks as they tried to work with Logan Thomas, who fit that mold.

8. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Cincinnati has one of the worst offensive lines in football and need to address it badly. McGlinchey would have been selected pretty highly had he come out last season, but elected to go back to school. He has struggled so far this season, but the Notre Dame running game has started to get going. He has shown better athletic ability this season, which should help his value.

9. Cleveland Browns (via Hou)- Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

With running back already addressed, the Browns can start to improve their defense. They signed Jason McCourty, who is in his ninth NFL season, to play corner, but they don’t have much else at the position. Fitzpatrick has played both safety and corner in his time at Alabama. He has all the physical tools to be successful, but needs to work on his technique and positioning.

10. Tennessee Titans- Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

The Titans have just seven sacks on the season. If they want to start winning more, Marcus Mariota will need to stay healthy and they need to have a better pass rush. Bryant has five sacks on the season, but could be more consistent. Four of his sacks came against Auburn. He will need to prove himself in the back half of the college season.

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Connor Williams (Photo by youtube.com)

11. Dallas Cowboys- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

While the three best players on Dallas’ offensive line have played well, they do have week spots at right tackle and left guard. If Jonathan Cooper, La’el Collins and/or Chaz Green don’t step up they may elect to take a tackle in a heavy tackle class. Williams isn’t the biggest guy, so he may need to add some weight, but he is very athletic. He is currently injured with damaged ligaments in his knee and will have to prove he is healthy to be selected highly.

12. Oakland Raiders- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

Landry led the FBS in sacks last year and decided to go back to school for his final season. He has gotten off to a slow start with only two sacks in five games, but has played some stiff competition. He is likely going to start turning it on now. Oakland needs to find a pass rushing partner for Khalil Mack.

13. Miami Dolphins- Iman Marshall, CB, USC

The Dolphins don’t have a good secondary and it was evident when they let the Jets throw for 249 yards on 18 of 23 passing. Marshall would be an immediate upgrade at corner. He was overshadowed by Adoree Jackson last year, but is now shining. He is a shutdown corner that has started since his freshman season as a Trojan. Teams are actively looking to not throw his way when they play USC.

14. New Orleans Saints- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Yes there are a lot of quarterbacks in this mock, but it is a loaded class (as of now). The Saints might be looking towards the future with Drew Brees aging and becoming a free agent. Rudolph can put up numbers like Brees, at least in college, and isn’t dependent on arm strength, much like Brees too. He has been very good at protecting the football as well, with only four interceptions thrown and 67.6% completion.

15. Washington Redskins- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

This is all assuming that Kirk Cousins is back again to quarterback the Washington Redskins. They don’t have a lot of weak areas on their team, but could use a wide receiver if Terelle Pryor leaves in free agency. Kirk has some big play ability and demonstrated that against Arkansas with 110 receiving yards and 136 kick off return yards. He will be tested in the coming weeks against good secondaries in the SEC.

16. Tampa Bay Buccanneers- Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

Donovan Smith has been given a long time to play tackle better and has yet to do so. The Bucs need to keep their franchise quarterback upright. They also need to help get the running game going to take some pressure off of Jameis Winston. Martinas Rankin is a very efficient pass blocker and can be a great left tackle in the NFL.

17. Minnesota Vikings- Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

The Vikings can’t rely on Shariff Floyd to stay healthy and need to get a replacement. Minnesota can have an even scarier defensive line with this pick. Payne will likely go earlier than this once the quarterbacks separate themselves more, because he makes freakish plays for a defensive tackle.

2018 NFL mock draft

Lamar Jackson (Photo by courier-journal.com)

18. New York Jets- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

With all of the talk of the Jets being pleased with Chritian Hackenberg, he hasn’t been good enough to work himself onto the field consistently. In what looks to be a good quarterback class, they need to take one with their pick. Jackson still has issues throwing the ball, but is a dynamic runner. He has improved his efficiency this year, which has helped his draft stock.

19. Baltimore Ravens- James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

Joe Flacco needs someone legitimate to throw to on a consistent basis. Washington has been making big plays for years at Oklahoma State and couldn’t hurt Flacco’s production. As with a lot of quarterbacks, there will be a question about what system he plays in, but Washington produces and makes big plays, which will appeal to NFL scouts.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars- Trey Adams, OT, Washington

Jacksonville hasn’t had the greatest offensive line play yet. They could elect to take Adams and move Cam Robinson inside or reconfigure the line in another way. With Blake Bortles playing better fixing the offensive line seems like the best option for now.

21. Los Angeles Rams- Kevin Toliver, CB, LSU

The Rams allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 332 yards on them a few weeks ago, so they really need to improve their secondary. In four games so far this season, Toliver hasn’t done much, but he will face stiffer competition as the season goes on. The potential is there, but he still needs to prove it on the field.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Ben Roethlisberger has lost something and doesn’t look himself. Pair that with the fact that he has contemplated retirement recently and the Steelers may be scrambling for a quarterback. Josh Dobbs or Landry Jones are likely not the answer so Pittsburgh may elect to draft a quarterback. Falk is an efficient quarterback, but will need to prove to teams he isn’t a “system quarterback”.

23. Detroit Lions- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

The interior of the Lions’ defensive line is atrocious. They need to address it in the draft. Wilkins is a part of the very productive and talented defensive line at Clemson. He already has 3.0 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss on the season and does a good job at both defending the run and rushing the passer from the interior.

24. Buffalo Bills- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame

St. Brown has had a hard time getting involved in the Notre Dame offense early, but that is only partially on him. He is a big athletic receiver that looks like he could be more productive in the NFL than he has been in college. Tyrod Taylor needs a better option as his top receiver and St. Brown can be that guy.

2018 NFL mock draft

Orlando Brown (Photo by tulsaworld.com)

25. Seattle Seahawks- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Brown has NFL bloodlines and a big body.  He needs to prove that he has the athleticism and speed to deal with the fast pass rushers in the NFL. If he can do that, he can see himself move up draft boards. The Seahawks have to start protecting Russell Wilson better or he won’t last much longer. They also haven’t been able to run the football at all.

26. New England Patriots- Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

Chubb has been a catalyst in N.C. State’s upsets of Louisville and Florida State. He has already accrued 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. The Patriots need help all over on defense, but have lost some of their best pass rushers in recent years and need to replace them.

27. Atlanta Falcons- Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

Desmond Trufant is a good corner, but the Falcons need more if they are going to stop some of the best offenses in the NFC. McFadden provides good value here and has been a shut down corner this season.

28. Denver Broncos- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

The Broncos are another team that don’t have too many needs. Nelson provides good value and would’ve been a first round pick had he come out in last year’s draft class. Ronald Leary can kick out to right tackle so Nelson can play right guard, or he can play left guard for Denver.

29. Philadelphia Eagles- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Philadelphia doesn’t have too many needs, but could upgrade at safety. Harrison has the chance to be a good strong safety in the NFL with his great size. He is 6’3″, 214 pounds and impacts games in a variety of ways.

30. Carolina Panthers- Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

While Cam Newton is playing better, the offensive line still needs to be improved upon. They need to get the ground game going to set up Cam Newton in the passing game. Hyatt looks like a player who could be versatile at the NFL level and could play multiple positions on the offensive line.

31. Green Bay Packers- Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma

The Packers need to get some better players in the secondary. Thomas has a lot of experience at Oklahoma and would address a big need. With a good rest of this season, he could compete for a starting spot in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson is a talented linebacker, who hasn’t totally lived up to his potential. Buffalo can improve a lot of areas on their roster with their two first round picks and getting a good linebacker that presents good value could be the option here.

 

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 5-1

The college football season is about a week away and even the things that most fans take for granted can’t come soon enough. Good guard play, a gunslinger quarterback, hook and ladders and craziness are all things that need to happen sooner rather than later. The rest of the rankings are out and we are down to the top five teams, who will all be trying to make the college football playoff.

For the last installment of the rankings: click here.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

College football top 25

Saquon Barkley (Photo by youtube.com)

Penn State surprised everyone by going 11-3 and making the Rose Bowl in James Franklin’s third season as the head coach. The good news for the Nittany lions is that they return 16 starters from that team and should be a force in the Big Ten again this season.

Saquon Barkley is one of the best players in college football and returns at running back. He totaled 1,496 rushing yards last year and will produce again this season. Four of his offensive linemen return to help pave the way for him. With that, Barkley should be in the thick of the Heisman race if he can have some big games against good competition.

The quarterback position is filled by Trace McSorley, who was a catalyst to taking their team to the Rose Bowl last season. He threw for 3,614 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2016, but will need to improve his efficiency. He also provides an extra running threat for Penn State. He has plenty of good targets returning in DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is one of the best tight ends in the country.

On defense, Penn State returns seven starters and brings a little experience back at every level of the defense. Two new starters will be needed at defensive end, but Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran return at defensive tackle. They will be tasked with stopping the run, which they did at an average rate last season.

Jason Cabinda thought about leaving for the NFL draft, but elected to return for his senior season. He is a great linebacker, who will lead the defense this season. Marcus Allen, a safety, also considered leaving early for the NFL, but came back and is the leading returning tackler. With Grant Haley and John Reid returning at the corners, Penn State’s defense should improve this season.

Penn State plays in one of the toughest divisions in all of college football, the Big Ten East, which results in a tough schedule. In all, their tough games will be against Pittsburgh, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska. While the schedule does have some tough opponents on it, the Nittany Lions should be able to get through the regular season with only a loss or two and put themselves in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.

4. Washington Huskies

College football top 25

Jake Browning (photo by si.com)

The third year at a school must provide some magic, because Chris Petersen took Washington to the College Football Playoff in just his third season as the head coach. Although they lost to Alabama, they have a lot of talent returning this season, which could result in them getting back to the College Football Playoff this season.

Jake Browning is back at quarterback and should have gotten more consideration for the Heisman last season. He threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns. While John Ross is on to the NFL, Dante Pettis is a good receiver in his own right and will step up. The speedster Chico MClatcher also returns to provide a unique weapon for Browning.

Three offensive line starters return from last year’s team and should be a good unit. Behind them, Myles Gaskin was able to rush for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will produce again this season, making Washington’s offense multi-faceted and dynamic.

Only five starters return on defense, but a lot of these players have experience. Greg Gaines returns on the defensive front, while Vita Vea has the potential to be a star at nose tackle and had five sacks last season. Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria are both talented linebackers who are returning.

The “Death Row” secondary needs to be revamped with the departures of Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Budda Baker. JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp both have experience at safety, while Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller will need to play well at corner. Murphy was redshirted last season after being a solid recruit and should have the tools to be a lock-down corner.

Washington plays no one outside of the Pac-12 that is worth noting, but do play Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Colorado and Washington State in conference. All in all that is a pretty lousy schedule, which will allow the Huskies to escape with only a loss or two before likely heading to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

College football top 25

J.T. Barrett (Photo by sportingnews.com)

The Buckeyes were good enough to get to the College Football Playoff last season, but got blown out by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Urban Meyer continually loses talent to the NFL, but has 15 returning starters this season. The goal for Ohio State every season should be to get to the College Football Playoff.

J.T. Barrett is back for what seems like his tenth season at Ohio State. He’s a senior now and has completed 63% of his passes over his career for 6,381 passing yards. The problem is that the people he is throwing to don’t have too much experience. Parris Campbell and Marcus Baugh return, but need to step up their production, while others will need to succeed early in their careers.

Four of five offensive linemen return and are a great unit. Billy Price is a good lineman could have gone pro, but decided to stay on for his senior season. Mike Weber will be a sophomore at running back and had a solid freshman season. He finished 2016 with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns and will build on that this season.

The front four starters all return and features a lot of talent. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa are all very good players and are fighting for playing time at the defensive end positions. Lewis led them in sacks with eight. Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill return at the tackle position.

Jerome Baker and Chris Worley both are back at linebacker. Baker had 83 tackles last season. The only returning starter in the secondary is Damon Webb at safety. The defense was the third best scoring defense in the country last season and will be great again this season.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan are all going to be tough games for the Buckeyes. With Urban Meyer as head coach and a talented roster returning, Ohio State should be able to get out of the regular season with at most two losses, but could go undefeated if they reach their potential.

2. Florida State Seminoles

College football top 25

Derwin James (Photo by zimbio.com)

Florida State finished last season at 10-3 and won a thrilling Orange Bowl against Michigan. Jimbo Fisher has a lot of returning talent including some of the best players in all of college football. They have a tough schedule, but should still be able to make the College Football Playoff.

Deondre Francois had a good freshman season, despite bad offensive line play in front of him. He threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ryan Izzo returns as a starter at tight end, but no starters are back at wide receiver. Nyquan Murray did have 441 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year and will be the go-to-guy this season.

The offensive line only returns two starters, but that may not be such a bad thing given how poorly they played last season. The hope is that Fisher’s recruiting will pay off. Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers will split time in the backfield for the Seminoles. Patrick is a junior and Akers is one of the best freshman in the country.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles have a lot of key players that should help them improve immensely. Josh Sweat, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas all return on the defensive line, but Brian Burns, who didn’t start last year, comes back with 9.5 sacks. Their front four will make plays all year. The linebackers aren’t as talented as in year’s past, but they do have experience with three starters back from last year’s team.

The secondary always produces NFL-level talent. Derwin James sat out most of last season with an injury, but is back this season. He not only is a great NFL Draft Prospect, but if healthy, could be the best defensive player in college football this season. Tarvarus McFadden returns at corner and will be a high draft pick himself.

Florida State should be a team that has the offense and defense take a small step forward from last season. Their schedule is brutal and will give them challenges. They have games against Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida. The Seminoles should be able to get out of the regular season with only a loss or two, which should put them in the ACC Championship Game, if things fall their way.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

College football top 25

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by draftblaster.com)

Losing in the National Championship Game has left a sour taste in Alabama’s mouth. Nick Saban is ready to lead his team back to prominence again this season and they will have another great season.

Jalen Hurts led the team to the title game last season and will be attempting to throw the ball better this season. Saban has admitted that he should’ve let Hurts throw more last season and it may have cost them. He did manage to throw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. O.J. Howard and ArDarius Stewart are gone, but Calvin Ridley returns. Other playmakers on the outside need to live up to their recruiting ranking this season.

The offensive line has three starters coming back and will be solid again with all the good recruiting Saban does. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough return at running back to provide an elite one-two punch. Harris is shiftier, while Scarbrough runs with power. They create a great dynamic.

The defense has five starters that are returning for this season, but Alabama always has talented replacements waiting. Da’Ron Payne returns on the defensive line and will be flanked by Da’Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier. All of which will stop the run well. Shaun Dion Hamilton is back in the middle of the defense to patrol things as the next man in line to be Alabama’s top inside linebacker. Rashaan Evans had four sacks last season from his outside linebacker position.

Minkah Fitzpatrick can do anything in the secondary, but will line up safety this year. Ronnie Harrison will be at the other safety and is the leading returning tackler with 86. Anthony Averett and Trevon Diggs will be the corners and will need to prove to Saban, a former defensive backs coach, that they are up to par with previous Alabama secondary players.

Alabama too has a very tough schedule. Their tough games are against Florida State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. While predicting anyone to go undefeated in today’s college football is tough, Alabama should be able to get out of the season with a maximum of two losses and a minimum of none. Either way they will be in the SEC Championship Game and will be in contention for the College Football Playoff.

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Safeties

Three safeties in the 2017 NFL Draft were selected in the first round. The 2018 draft class should also produce some good safeties that are good enough to be selected early on in the NFL Draft. Here are the best safety prospects playing college football in 2017:

Derwin James, Florida State

James is an elite safety prospect, that will in no doubt be a first round pick if he can stay healthy. He was sidelined for much of the 2016 campaign with a knee injury. He has great size that NFL teams will love at 6’3″ and 211 pounds.

In 14 games played for the Seminoles, James has totaled 102 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles. He displays great speed and athleticism, which makes him a unique player.

The Seminoles will play Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida in the 2017 season. He won’t play too many pocket passing quarterbacks, but does have a chance to play a lot of good receivers this season. James can also help slow down some good rushing attacks this season.

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

While he hasn’t hit the level of a lot of Alabama secondary players yet, Harrison is still a good NFL prospect. He too has good size at 6’3″ and 216 pounds.

Last year, Harrison had 83 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions. While he has the measurables to be a good NFL player, Harrison needs to back up all his potential with some good tape this season.

Alabama plays Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn this season. Harrison will be tested against Auburn’s high-powered offense and good receivers on the rest of the teams.

Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Armani Watts NFL

Armani Watts (Photo by: gridironnow.com)

Watts has been a playmaker for the Aggies ever since he stepped on campus. It is fitting that he will be taken in the first few rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a bit undersized at 5’11” and 200 pounds.

In his career at Texas A&M, Watt has accrued 237 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and six interceptions. He has played in a total of 33 games and brings a lot of experience to the table. His best season was in 2015, when he played 13 games. Last year he tore his hamstring against Ole Miss and only ended up playing in eight games. He needs to stay relatively healthy this season to make teams have a vote of confidence in him.

The Aggies play a very difficult schedule in 2017 and their opponents include: UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and LSU. These teams provide a wide variety of assets for Watts to go up against and should allow him to prove himself many more times for NFL scouts.

Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Jordan Whitehead NFL

Jordan Whitehead (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Another safety prospect that has been starting from his freshman season, Whitehead has been a star for the Panthers. He too is a little undersized at 5’11” and 190 pounds.

As a freshman in 2015, Whitehead had 110 total tackles. He is very physical and able to come up and stop the run, but also demonstrates good range while defending passes. He was lost to the season with an arm injury last year after playing in the first nine games of the season.

The Panthers play a tough schedule that should test Whitehead. Their big games are against: Penn State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech. The biggest games that will impact Whitehead’s draft stock are against Penn State and Oklahoma State, who should have high-scoring offenses.

 

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