2018 Sleeper College Football Teams

It happened again. After doing a study last year about characteristics of college football teams going from unranked to the top ten, the theory proved true again. The 2017 study can be found here. Every year there are around three teams who go from unranked to the top ten. Here are the history of teams that fit that criteria since 2010:

2010: Auburn (1), Stanford (4), and Wisconsin (7)
2011: USC (6)
2012: Ohio State (3), Notre Dame (4), Texas A&M (6), and Florida (9)
2013: Auburn (2), Michigan State (3), Missouri (5), and Central Florida (10)
2014: TCU (3), Georgia Tech (8), and Georgia (9)
2015: Stanford (3), Oklahoma (5), Houston (8), and Iowa (9)
2016: USC (3), Washington (4), and Penn State (7)
2017: Georgia (2), UCF (6), TCU (9)

Both Georgia and TCU fit the criteria to perfection and we actually guessed Georgia as one of the three teams to make the top ten. UCF is different since the criteria only applies to Power 5 teams. But, we have found a formula to track down potential Power 5 sleeper teams. It is a combination of two key areas, recruiting rankings and returning starters. And now… I give you the rules:

Rule 1- Four year recruiting average must be less than 60

Rule 2- Recruiting ranking of less than 35 for the senior class or the senior class ranking must be the highest of the four classes. If neither are the case, must have at least one top 30 class in the last four years.

Rule 3- Must have at least 13 total starters returning

The criteria cut the list from 44 unranked Power 5 teams last year to just 12. So without any more delay here are the 12 teams that statistically can go from unranked to the top ten this season ranked by recruiting rankings:

  1. Texas
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida
  4. Michigan
  5. Oregon
  6. South Carolina
  7. Arkansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Missouri
  10. Arizona
  11. Texas Tech
  12. Georgia Tech

Now that we have the list here’s my three picks to make a run at the top ten:

1. Oregon Ducks

Arizona v Oregon

Not only do I have Oregon making the top ten, I think there’s a legitimate possibility of them making the College Football Playoffs. Justin Herbert is a stud and was 5-1 as a starter last year. Returning 14 starters and having a 18 four-year recruiting average, the Ducks are a prime candidate to make the top ten.

2. Michigan Wolverines

6_7637864This one kind of surprised me. Jim Harbaugh has struggled to find legitimate success at Michigan, but with 8 returning starters on defense, the defense is loaded. If Shea Patterson can just improve the offense moderately Michigan has a legitimate shot at finishing in the top ten.

3. Arizona Wildcats

6_7757094My final pick is a little out there. They have the most returning starters out of anyone on the list with 17, a new head coach Kevin Sumlin, and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks out there with Khalil Tate. They have a lower recruiting ranking, but this is a team that could surprise in a weak Pac-12 South division.

 

For the nerds out there, here’s the work:

Recruiting Rankings Elimination

SEC

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Tennessee

20

17

14

4

13.75

2

Texas A&M

17

12

18

11

14.5

3

Florida

15

11

12

21

14.75

4

Ole Miss

31

30

5

17

20.75

5

South Carolina

18

21

25

20

21

6

Arkansas

48

27

23

22

30

7

Kentucky

37

29

33

38

34.25

8

Missouri

43

42

43

25

38.25

9

Vanderbilt

40

64

54

49

51.75

Big Ten

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Michigan

21

5

6

37

17.25

2

Nebraska

22

23

26

30

25.25

3

Maryland

28

18

42

47

33.75

4

Iowa

41

41

47

60

47.25

5

Minnesota

38

58

46

63

51.25

6

Indiana

49

63

53

53

54.5

7

Illinois

52

45

73

48

54.5

8

Rutgers

57

43

64

57

55.25

9

Purdue

51

72

80

67

67.5

ACC

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Florida State

11

6

2

3

5.5

2

North Carolina

23

31

35

28

29.25

3

Louisville

29

32

38

32

32.75

4

Pittsburgh

46

37

30

46

39.75

5

Duke

62

48

32

55

49.25

6

Georgia Tech

54

47

60

44

51.25

7

Syracuse

50

54

62

56

55.5

8

Virginia

60

57

63

50

57.5

9

Wake Forest

63

67

57

51

59.5

10

Boston College

69

66

78

60

68.25

Pac-12

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

UCLA

19

20

13

12

16

2

Oregon

13

19

27

16

18.75

3

Arizona State

36

35

24

20

28.75

4

Utah

34

33

37

45

37.25

5

Cal

42

73

31

34

45

6

Washington State

45

46

56

42

47.25

7

Arizona

58

44

48

43

48.25

8

Colorado

53

35

67

71

56.5

9

Oregon State

67

51

58

61

59.25

Big 12

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Texas

3

26

6

10

11.25

2

Baylor

30

40

41

36

36.75

3

West Virginia

35

56

39

35

41.25

4

Texas Tech

73

49

44

32

49.5

5

Iowa State

55

53

55

64

56.75

6

Kansas State

71

60

72

55

64.5

7

Kansas

61

69

71

73

68.5

Returning Starters Elimination

SEC

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Tennessee

4

6

10

2

Texas A&M

7

7

14

3

Florida

10

6

16

4

Ole Miss

8

4

12

5

South Carolina

8

5

13

6

Arkansas

6

7

13

7

Kentucky

7

8

15

8

Missouri

9

6

15

Big Ten

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Michigan

6

8

14

2

Nebraska

5

7

12

3

Maryland

7

4

11

ACC

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Florida State

8

3

11

2

North Carolina

5

7

12

3

Louisville

7

2

9

4

Pittsburgh

4

7

11

5

Georgia Tech

9

6

15

Pac-12

Offense

Defense

Total

1

UCLA

4

6

10

2

Oregon

7

7

14

3

Arizona State

7

4

11

4

Washington State

4

7

11

5

Arizona

8

9

17

Big 12

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Texas

6

7

13

2

Baylor

6

5

11

3

West Virginia

7

4

11

4

Texas Tech

5

9

14

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College Football Playoff Predictions

Final Four

1. Alabama Crimson TideAlabama logo

Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 SEC)

Why They Made It: They’ve made it every year, so it’d be foolish to predict them missing right? They don’t have a challenging game until November.

Team Review: The defending National Champions shouldn’t fall off. The national media is making it out like there is a quarterback controversy. There is none… Tua is the starter. The offense is loaded at Running Back with Damien Harris and Najee Harris. The receivers are young and talented. To cap it off four out of the five offensive lineman are back. Expect Alabama to average 40 points per game.

The defense should stay elite with the front seven. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs lead up front. Inside linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses also make a dynamic duo.

The secondary remains the one unknown. Deionte Thompson is a dynamic safety, but there are young, unproven corners that will have to step up. The schedule sets up well with Louisville the only Power 5 test for nonconference play. A trip to LSU for a Saturday night game could be tricky as well.

2. Clemson Tigers

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Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 ACC)

Why They Made It: A great defense should get Clemson through an ACC schedule that isn’t very tough. The Tigers will just have to avoid a surprise loss against non-conference opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina.

Team Review: Back from a College Football Semi-Final loss, Clemson comes back loaded especially on the defensive front. Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant all should be drafted within the first three rounds.

The offense will need to step up after only scoring 6 points against Alabama. Mitch Hyatt leads a good offensive line even with losing two starting offensive guards to graduation. The running backs are solid with a combination of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Talented Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence could take over for Kelly Bryant if he is not effective. Clemson does have two non-conference games against SEC opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina. Clemson will try to avoid a trip up like last year when they lost to 4-8 Syracuse.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia Logo

Projected Record: 12-1 (8-0 SEC)

Why They Made It: I know they’re not conference champions and do not have a difficult schedule. But in years past the committee does not punish conference championship losses heavily and I think Georgia will more than past the eye test.

Team Review: Georgia comes off a great season and heartbreaking loss in the National Championship. Getting back to the playoffs will not come easy as they must replace 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball. The roster is talented with Georgia having three out of the last four years a top five recruiting class.

On offense talented WRs Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, and Riley Ridley should give SEC defenses trouble along with shifty RB De’Andre Swift. It’ll be interesting whether QB Jake Fromm can hold off freshman phenom Justin Fields for the starting job. There will be new starters across the defense, but Georgia still has reliable players like CB Deandre Baker, Safety J.R. Reid and DE Jonathan Ledbetter. The schedule will not be easy with matchups against Auburn and LSU from the West. If Kirby Smart can find a way to replace the lost defensive starters Georgia should not only be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, but the College Football Playoffs as well.

4. Oregon Ducks

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Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Pac 12)

Why They Made It: I think Oregon could shock a lot of people this year. Justin Herbert will lead a dynamic offense that the committee will love. They will be knocked on their non-conference schedule, but winning the Pac-12 with one loss in the tougher division will get them in.

Team Review: My biggest surprise candidate for the 2018 College Football season. Oregon has all the makings of a surprise team- a great quarterback, talented roster, and alot of returning starters. Last year with Justin Herbert at quarterback, Oregon had a 6-1 record and averaged 52.1 PPG. New head coach Mario Cristobal has had success before, turning around Florida International. He then served as a great recruiter and offensive line coach under Nick Saban.

On defense, the Ducks specialize in stopping the run with a front seven that includes DE Jalen Jelks and ILB Troy Dye. The defense will just have to slow down the opponent and let the offense put up points. The schedule sets up really well for Oregon as they play Stanford and Washington at home, and they do not have to face USC from the South. Oregon could shock the country and be a playoff contender.

Just Missed The Cut

5. Wisconsin Badgers

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Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten)

Why They Missed: This is the toughest team to leave out. Wisconsin does have to play at Penn State and at Michigan, but playing in one of the easiest divisions I think will keep them out. Add in a soft non-conference schedule and Alex Hornibrook as the quarterback, Wisconsin might just be left out as a one-loss team again.

Team Review: Wisconsin is a hot pick to make the College Football Playoff and for good reason. The Badgers have a loaded offensive line and they’re returning an almost 2,000 yard rusher with Jonathan Taylor. QB Alex Hornibrook will just have to manage the game for the Badgers to be in good shape.

The defense has 8 starters to replace, but TJ Edwards is one of the best LBs in the country. Also add DT Olive Sagapolu and this defense should be solid again. Wisconsin has an easy schedule with no tough non-conference opponents and just a few tough road matchups against Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State. The schedule sets up well for a Big Ten Championship run.

6. Oklahoma Sooners OU

Projected Record: 11-2 (7-2 Big 12)

Why They Missed: I’m projecting two losses for this Oklahoma team. Losing Baker Mayfield is big, and I don’t think a two loss Big 12 Conference Champion gets in the playoff. A decent non-conference schedule does help their case.

Team Review: The Baker Mayfield era is over, but that doesn’t mean Oklahoma won’t be competing for the playoffs. Kyler Murray is expected to take over, but Redshirt Sophomore Austin Kendall has pushed him for the starting job. The offense returns one of the best running backs in college football with Rodney Anderson. The offense will revolve around Anderson and a strong offensive line. The receiving group should give the new quarterback help with high profile WRs Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Mykel Jones.

The defense continues to be a question especially after allowing 54 points to Georgia in the semi-final game last year. There are some solid young players including LBs Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray. The non-conference schedule is interesting with FAU, UCLA, and Army. FAU will try to pull the upset in Norman for the first game of the year. Replacing a quarterback with Baker Mayfield’s talent won’t be easy, but there is still enough talent on the roster to compete for a spot in the playoffs.

2018 Pac 12 Preview

North

  1. Oregon
  2. Washington
  3. Stanford
  4. California
  5. Washington State
  6. Oregon State

South

  1. Arizona
  2. USC
  3. Utah
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State
  6. Colorado

Pac 12 Championship: Oregon over Arizona

 

Pac 12 North

1. Oregon Ducks

1238px-Oregon_Ducks_logo.svg

Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Pac 12)

My biggest surprise candidate for the 2018 College Football season. Oregon has all the makings of a surprise team- a great quarterback, talented roster, and alot of returning starters. Last year with Justin Herbert at quarterback, Oregon had a 6-1 record and averaged 52.1 PPG. New head coach Mario Cristobal has had success before, turning around Florida International. He then served as a great recruiter and offensive line coach under Nick Saban.

On defense, the Ducks specialize in stopping the run with a front seven that includes DE Jalen Jelks and ILB Troy Dye. The defense will just have to slow down the opponent and let the offense put up points. The schedule sets up really well for Oregon as they play Stanford and Washington at home, and they do not have to face USC from the South. Oregon could shock the country and be a playoff contender.

2. Washington Huskies

lgo_ncaa_washington_huskies

Projected Record: 10-2 (8-1 Pac 12)

Washington will be a contender for the playoff again, but face a tough opponent in the season opener against Auburn. Jake Browning continues to be one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the nation, but the offense will be led by RB Myles Gaskin and the offensive line. The defense is solid up front even after losing first round pick Vita Vea. The secondary stays loaded as well led my Preseason All-American Safety Taylor Rapp. Washington does get a break as they do not have a matchup against Pac-12 South opponents USC or Arizona.

3. Stanford Cardinal

2000px-Stanford_Cardinal_logo.svg

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3 Pac 12)

Stanford actually has a better offense this year than defense. K.J. Costello showed promise as a freshman and heisman-hopeful RB Bryce Love is back for his senior year. Defensively, the Cardinals lost CB Quenton Meeks and safety Justin Reid to the NFL. The defensive line also does not have much experience. The Stanford schedule is tough with games against USC, Oregon, Notre Dame, Utah and Washington. That includes a road back-to-back against Oregon and Notre Dame.

4. California Golden Bears

2000px-California_Golden_Bears_logo.svg

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4 Pac 12)

Cal’s offense wasn’t great last year, but they return ten starters and QB Ross Bowers should make improvements in his junior year. The offense also has RB Patrick Laird to rely on as he is coming of a 1200 yard season. The defense should also be improved as they have a really good cornerback in Cam Bynum. Cal was young last year and should make major improvements from a 5-7 season.

5. Washington State Cougars

1200px-Washington_State_Cougars_logo.svg

Projected Record: 5-7 (2-7 Pac 12)

Mike Leach will hope that he found a quarterback in ECU transfer Gardner Minshew. The offense will also have three new starters on an offensive line that was not that great in 2017. It may sound crazy, but I am starting to doubt how great of an offense Mike Leach will be able to have this season. On defense the Cougars have seven returning starters, but star, undersized DT Hercules Mata’afa left for the NFL. The strength of this team remains in the secondary. A tough schedule will make it tough for Washington State to make a bowl game.

6. Oregon State Beavers

1200px-Oregon_State_Beavers_logo.svg

Projected Record: 3-9 (0-8 Pac 12)

Oregon State absolutely stunk on both sides of the ball last year and now are without their best player from last year RB Ryan Nall. New coach Jonathan Smith has his hands full for this turnaround as there isn’t much talent on the roster that would even show a bowl game next season.

Pac 12 South

1. Arizona Wildcats

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Projected Record: 10-3 (7-2 Pac 12)

Arizona is another Pac-12 team that I think will have a surprising year to many. QB Khalil Tate is one of the most dynamic players in all of college football. The offense also returns eight starters to an offense that averaged 41.3 ppg. The defense was not great last year, but with nine returning starters expect a better performance. Kevin Sumlin has a good squad that may finish better than his former Texas A&M team. The schedule is also not so bad as the Wildcats do not have to play Stanford or Washington.

2. USC Trojans

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Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2 Pac 12)

USC lost one of the best quarterbacks in college football when Sam Darnold went to the NFL. He will most likely be replaced by true freshman QB JT Daniels. A veteran offensive line should help the transition along with quality skill players like RB Stephen Carr, WR Tyler Vaughns, and WR Michael Pittman Jr. The defense should be solid as well with MLB Cameron Smith leading the way. The secondary had their issues last year, but they return both starting corners, Iman Marshall and Jack Jones. The schedule is USC’s biggest obstacle with non-conference matchups against Texas and Notre Dame.

3. Utah Utes

2000px-Utah_Utes_logo.svg

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4 Pac 12)

Utah is just a solid overall football team. The offense should be similar to last year with a returning offensive line and Tyler Huntley at quarterback. The Utes was led by their defense last year, but will have to replace a good amount of starters. Bradlee Anae will look to lead the unit coming off a 7 sack season. The non-conference schedule isn’t too bad, but they do have Pac 12 North opponents Washington, Stanford and Oregon.

4. UCLA Bruins

UCLA_Bruins_Logo

Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6 Pac 12)

UCLA made a splash hire when they signed new Head Coach Chip Kelly. It will be tough for UCLA to make a big splash in the first year without an established quarterback. The quarterback competition is wide open between Michigan transfer Wilton Speight, Devon Modster, and true freshman Dorian Thomas-Robinson. On defense there are some young talented players including sophomore OLB Jaelan Phillips. The non-conference schedule does not do UCLA any favors with a tough road game in Norman against Oklahoma. I think it will be a tough rebuilding year for Chip Kelly at UCLA.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils

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Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6 Pac 12)

Arizona State is pretty good on offense especially with one of the most talented receiver duo in N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams. Combine that with talented senior QB Manny Wilkins and the offense should do just fine. The defense is where major questions start popping up. There are only 4 returning starters to the defense and a first year defensive coordinator. Herm Edwards hasn’t coached a football game in ten years and hasn’t coached in college since 1989 as a defensive backs coach for San Jose State. The week two test at home against Michigan State will be the big test.

6. Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado_Buffaloes_logo.svg

Projected Record: 4-8 (2-7 Pac 12)

Colorado has taken a major step back since their 10-4 season a few years ago. This Buffaloes team may struggle to make a bowl game. The offense was decent last year, but they return just three starters. Add in a defense that finished 110th and that does not make a good combination. LB Drew Lewis is the unquestioned leader and will need to have a big year.

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Big Ten Preview

East

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Michigan State
4. Penn State
5. Maryland
6. Indiana
7. Rutgers

West

1. Wisconsin
2. Northwestern
3. Iowa
4. Purdue
5. Minnesota
6. Nebraska
7. Illinois

Big Ten Championship- Wisconsin over Ohio State

 

Big Ten East

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

780px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg

Projected Record: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)

It is still up in the air on how many games, if any, Urban Meyer will miss this year. However, Ohio State is still extremely talented. QB Dwayne Haskins showed his potential in the Michigan game last year and he may even be a better thrower than J.T. Barrett was. Haskins is surrounded by weapons including extremely fast 1400 yard rusher JK Dobbins.

On defense, Nick Bosa is just as talented as his older brother and will have one more season terrorizing Big Ten offensive lines. The defensive line will be the strength, but the linebackers are young and inexperienced. The secondary will also have to find a way to replace first round cornerback Denzel Ward. Ohio State will be tested early with a matchup at Cowboys Stadium against TCU.

2. Michigan Wolverines

1280px-Michigan_Wolverines_logo.svg

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Jim Harbaugh was supposed to improve the offense. In his third year at Michigan, the offense finished 105th. QB Shea Patterson (Ole Miss transfer) will try to change that as he’ll have talented young receivers with sophomores Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Karen Higdon almost had 1,000 yards rushing last year on only 164 carries. Not only is Shea Patterson the key, but also improving the offensive line.

A defense that was 3rd in the nation returns 8 starters. The front seven includes studs like DT Rashan Gary, OLB Devin Bush, and DE Chase Winovich. Look for the defense to carry this team again. Michigan’s schedule is brutal with games against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. A conference championship is not out of reach from this Michigan team.

3. Michigan State Spartans

Michigan_State_Athletics_logo.svg

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Michigan State was a surprise team last year going from 3 wins to 10 wins. The Spartans are also one of the most experienced teams as they return 19 starters. With QB Brian Lewerke throwing the ball and RB LJ Scott running the ball this offense is due for a major improvement from last season.

The defense was 7th in the nation last year and bring back 9 starters. DE Kenny Willekes returns with 7 sacks last season and MLB Joe Bachie leads the linebacking group. The secondary should also be dynamic this year with both corners and safeties returning. Given the Spartans solid defense and improving offense, Michigan State should have another nice year.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

penn_state_nittany_lions_2005-pres

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Penn State has some work to do to keep up with the other top teams in their division. The Nittany lions are no longer led by Saquon Barkley, but they do return QB Trace McSorley and an experienced offensive line.

The defense is another story with only 2 returning starters. The linebacking group is thin and Penn State graduated both starting corners and safeties off of last years team. The defense will have to step up in a hurry with an early September 29th matchup against Ohio State. Penn State will also have to play Wisconsin from the Big Ten West.

5. Maryland Terrapins

maryland_terrapins_logo

Projected Record: 7-5 (4-5 Big Ten)

Maryland does have their own set of distractions heading into the season with reports of the football program having a toxic environment. Last year was rough for Maryland as well. After beating Texas they lost two quarterbacks for the season by week three. This year they should have more success than their 4-8 season. New Interim Head Coach Matt Canada will run a more pro-style offense with QB Kasim Hill under center.

The defense is questionable with only four returning starters and coming off a year where they finished 87th. The schedule starts off with a tough game against Texas in Landover, MD. Maryland has had two straight top 30 recruiting classes, so a change upward could possibly be coming if they are able to avoid the distractions.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

Indiana is going through some changes as it tries to decide who its starting quarterback will be for the 2018 season. The competition is between Freshman Michael Penix Jr., Redshirt Sophomore Peyton Ramsey and Graduate Transfer Brandon Dawkins. Whoever the quarterback will be, he will have a very good running back in Morgan Ellison. Overall, this is a young team with not very many returning starters. A soft non-conference schedule against FIU, Virginia, and Ball State keeps a bowl game in reach.

7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Projected Record: 4-8 (1-8 Big Ten)

Rutgers is at the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten. Their offense finished almost last in 2017 and doesn’t have the necessary talent to keep them from the bottom of the East again. The defense will have to carry the Scarlet Knights led by OLB Trevor Morris who is looking for his 3rd straight 100 tackle season. It will be a matchup of the bottom power five teams when Rutgers takes on Kansas in the third week.

Big Ten West

1. Wisconsin Badgers

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Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten)

Wisconsin is a hot pick to make the College Football Playoff and for good reason. The Badgers have a loaded offensive line and they’re returning an almost 2,000 yard rusher with Jonathan Taylor. QB Alex Hornibrook will just have to manage the game for the Badgers to be in good shape.

The defense has 8 starters to replace, but TJ Edwards is one of the best LBs in the country. Also add DT Olive Sagapolu and this defense should be solid again. Wisconsin has an easy schedule with no tough non-conference opponents and just a few tough road matchups against Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State. The schedule sets up well for a Big Ten Championship run.

2. Northwestern Wildcats

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Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Northwestern had a great season last year finishing 10-3 and could be set up again. Northwestern returns Senior QB Clayton Thorson and a veteran offensive line. On defense the Wildcats return six starters including defensive ends Samdup Miller and Joe Gaziano. The duo combined for 16.5 sacks last year. The secondary will have to improve after finishing 101st with 250 yard per game against. Northwestern have tough games against Notre Dame, and Big Ten East opponents Michigan and Michigan State. Look for another solid year from Northwestern.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes

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Projected Record: 8-4 (6-3 Big Ten)

Iowa will most likely be in for a similar year as last year when they finished 8-5 with a bowl game win. The Hawkeyes have a good returning Junior quarterback, Nate Stanley, who has one of the best tight end in the country with Noah Fant. The offense will improve on their 117th finish last year. The defense must replace all three starting linebackers including All-Americans ILB Josey Jewell and CB Josh Jackson. Iowa State will be a good early season matchup at home in their non-conference schedule.

4. Purdue Boilermakers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (4-5 Big Ten)

A bowl game win in his first year, Jeff Brohm has Purdue going in the right direction. The offense returns eight starters, but it is still to be determined who will be the starting quarterback. Senior David Blough and Junior Elijah Sindelar both played pretty well last year. The defense also made a big improvement last year, but will face the challenge of only having four returning starters. Another challenge is two tough non-conference games against Missouri and Boston College. Back-to-back bowl game appearances should be attainable.

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-6 Big Ten)

The Golden Gophers offense was terrible last season as it finished 123rd in the nation. P.J. Fleck in a surprise move named walk-on freshman QB Zack Annexstad. The new quarterback will have growing pains, but there is talented WR Tyler Johnson and 1000 yard RB Rodney Smith to rely on. The defense was solid last year and it returns seven starters. Along with the returning starters, Minnesota will also have Alabama transfer OJ Smith starting in the defense. Minnesota should have time to adjust to having a Freshman starting quarterback as they do not have a matchup against a power five opponent until week 4. A bowl game should be the goal for P.J. Fleck’s team.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

New Nebraska head coach Scott Frost has his work cut out for him. Nebraska has no experienced quarterback on their roster and the starter will be either Redshirt Freshman Tristan Gebbia or True Freshman Adrian Martinez. The new quarterback will have Senior and 1000-yard WR Stanley Morgan Jr. The defense is another major question mark after giving up 36 points per game last season. The defense does have seven returning starters, but will need to improve from last season where they gave up 50+ points in their last three games. The non-conference isn’t challenging with home games against Akron, Colorado and Troy. Scott Frost’s turnaround of Nebraska will take some time.

7. Illinois Fighting Illini

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Projected Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten)

Lovie Smith has not had a great time in college football. Lovie is entering his 3rd season, he is 5-19, and a turnaround is not in sight. The offense averaged 15 ppg last season, while the defense allowed 31.5 ppg. Graduate transfer A.J. Bush won the quarterback competition. Bush is a former four-star quarterback who has been on Nebraska and Virginia Tech’s roster. The offensive line had four freshman starters last year so expect an improved performance from them. The defense is also fairly young and will need to take a step up from last year. The Fighting Illini do return tackle-leader LB Del’Shawn Phillips. A key game to start the year will be a non-conference game against South Florida in Chicago.

 

2018 White Cornerback Rankings

Time for some updated rankings. The 2017 rankings were a huge hit, but much has changed since the 2017 season. There have been players cut in the NFL, but also some players from the list were named All-Conference. The next Jason Sehorn could come from this list and break the 16 year drought of a white cornerback starting a NFL Game.  Now it is time for the 2018 rankings:

1. Justus Parker, Texas Tech

What a season for Justus.

Justus PHe finished the year with 4 interceptions (including a crucial, game-changing interception against Texas), he was named All-Big 12 Second Team, and he was given a scholarship in December by Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola.Justus this year was named to the All-Big 12 Preseason Team and will be starting for Texas Tech again at the nickel spot.

2. Ashtyn Davis, Cal

AR-180729804.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667Ashtyn has been unfortunately moved to starting safety, but he does have experience in his early Cal career at cornerback. He is also a star on the Track & Field team as he was named First-Team All-American during the indoor season. Hopefully he makes a move back out to cornerback.

3. Jonathan Durham, Kansas State

DUaQGLwVQAACFz-One that slipped under our radar during the 2017 white cornerback rankings, Durham started against Iowa State. He finished his Redshirt Sophomore year with 12 tackles in 7 games played. Durham will compete this year for the starting cornerback or nickelback role on the Wildcats.

4. Brandon Ezell, San Jose State

maxresdefaultEzell will compete for a starting cornerback spot on this year’s San Jose State team. He played sparingly in 2017 as a JUCO transfer, but now will try to earn a starting role as a Senior. He also had a two punt returns last season for 15 yards.

5. Ethan Bonner, Stanford

6_7503265One of the highest rated white cornerbacks in recent history (unofficial stat) Bonner was the 107th rated corner on 247 for the class of 2018. Bonner decommitted in August from Northwestern and instead committed to Stanford in December. Expect Bonner to be in the white cornerback rankings for a few years as he starts his Freshman year this year.

6. Austin McChesney, BYU

McChesney has faced major injuries in college as he has torn both ACLs. But that hasn’t stopped him from making the rankings. McChesney is a cornerback through and through, just look at this quote:

“They were thinking about moving me to safety but I’ll be a corner,” he said. “I played safety in high school. You have more freedom there. But in college, I’ve enjoyed corner and it’s grown on me. I have no problem staying. I love it. Wherever they think the best opportunity for me to play is, I’ll be there.”

McChesney will try to make an impact for BYU after his August 2017 ACL tear.

7. Garrett Binkley, SDSU

Binkley has the odds stacked against him. He received a scholarship in Fall 2017 camp, but tore his ACL in preparation for the Stanford game. Now Binkley sits fourth on the depth chart for the cornerback position. Also not in Binkley’s favor to making it to the NFL is he is only listed at 5’9 170 lbs. Still, being a scholarship white cornerback gets him on the rankings.

White Cornerback Prospects on the Radar

Jake Herbstreit- Nashville, TN

Yes. He’s the son of ESPN College Gameday’s Kirk Herbstreit. He is also the 232nd Rated Cornerback in the class of 2019

Dawson Hurst- Loomis, CA

242nd CB 2019. Offers from Cal Poly, Stetson, UC Davis

Justin Murray- Coppell, TX

244th CB 2019. Offers from Syracuse, Air Force, and Louisiana-Lafayette

 

Many of these players were found by comments left by the readers. So if there is someone I’m missing, let me know. As you can probably tell, it is tough to find white cornerbacks.

Twitter: @TylerVesely

2018 ACC Preview

Atlantic

1. Clemson
2. NC State
3. Florida State
4. Boston College
5. Wake Forest
6. Syracuse
7. Louisville

Coastal

1. Miami
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia Tech
4. Duke
5. Pittsburgh
6. North Carolina
7. Virginia

ACC Championship- Clemson over Miami

Independent

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame

Projected Record: 9-3

Notre Dame gets included with the ACC teams because of how many games they play against the ACC. On offense they lose two starting wide receivers including Equanimeous St. Brown along with starting RB Josh Adams. Brandon Wimbush is back at starting quarterback, but he must develop as a better passer for the Fighting Irish to be a playoff contender.

The strength of Notre Dame is the defense with nine returning starters. The front seven gets five returning starters including talented DT Jerry Tillery. Notre Dame has a tough schedule that includes a home opener against Michigan and an away game against USC. Notre Dame should enjoy a solid season.

ACC Atlantic

1. Clemson Tigers

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Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 ACC)

Back from a College Football Semi-Final loss, Clemson comes back loaded especially on the defensive front. Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant all should be drafted within the first three rounds.

The offense will need to step up after only scoring 6 points against Alabama. Mitch Hyatt leads a good offensive line even with losing two starting offensive guards to graduation. The running backs are solid with a combination of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Talented Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence could take over for Kelly Bryant if he is not effective. Clemson does have two non-conference games against SEC opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina. Clemson will try to avoid a trip up like last year when they lost to 4-8 Syracuse.

2. NC State Wolfpack

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Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

NC State was my pick last year to be the surprise team of in College Football. After a few close loses the Wolfpack still finished with a solid 9-4 record, but were never a contender for the playoffs. The offense returns a very good QB with Ryan Finley and also returning 1,000-yard receiver Kelvin Harmon.

On the defensive side of the ball they lose 8 starters including the entire defensive line. The secondary remains a question mark as well. If NC State is able to get by a tough non-conference schedule that includes West Virginia they will be set up for a good season in ACC play.

3. Florida State Seminoles

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Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

Florida State returns a lot of starters to the offense including QB Deondre Francois returning from a season ending injury. The 1-2 punch of Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick should also be solid like last year. The offensive line will have to make an improvement from last year.

The defense is very young and only return three starters. However, they are talented across the board with big time recruits like Marvin Wilson, Joshua Kaindoh, and Stanford Samuells. Levonta Taylor also is one of the best corners in College Football. They will have a rough finish ending the season with consecutive games against Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Florida.

4. Boston College Eagles

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Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5 ACC)

RB AJ Dillon was almost unstoppable during his freshman year totalling almost 1600 yards. The offense will be led by him and returning the entire offensive line.

The defense should be solid too returning six starters including DE Zach Allen who had 100 tackles and 6 sacks last season. They played well without their best player, Harold Landry, last year and will look to continue that success after Landry was drafted by the Titans. The schedule is not too tough with non-conference games UMass, Holy Cross, Purdue, and Temple. They do have a matchup against Miami and Virginia Tech, the Coastal divisions two toughest teams.

5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Wake Forest had one of the biggest surprise seasons last year finishing 8-5. The offense led the charge finishing 17th nationally on offense. This year they will have to replace graduating quarterback John Wolford, but the offense does return eight starters.

The defense is the major question mark as they finished last in the ACC on defense and lost two major pieces to the NFL Draft in Duke Ejifor and Jessie Bates. The Demon Deacons have six returning starters and need to make an improvement. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is more than manageable with Tulane, Towson, and Rice.

6. Syracuse Orange

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Year 3 of Dino Babers at Syracuse starts this year. After shocking Clemson last year they lost their last five games. On offense, Senior QB Eric Dungey returns with inexperienced WRs.

Defensively, the unit is led by Chris Slayton at nose tackle. The defense is a older group, but they have to replace all of last years starting linebackers. It will be interesting to see if Dino Babers can take the next step after back-to-back 4-8 seasons.

7. Louisville Cardinals

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Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

Louisville will be much different without Lamar Jackson. There are Still plenty of playmakers at wide receiver, including Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick. The questions remain the same on this offense, can the offensive line protect new quarterback Jawon Pass.

Besides replacing Jawon Pass, the defense is even a bigger concern. The Cardinals return only two starters lack the talent that they had under former coach Charlie Strong. LB Dorian Etheridge is a bright spot and the leader on defense. Louisville also added former Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder to try and straighten out a defense that finished 10th in the ACC last year. Louisville’s schedule is not easy with two non-conference games against Alabama and Kentucky.

ACC Coastal

1. Miami Hurricanes

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Projected Record: 11-2 (8-0 ACC)

The wheels fell off last year. After a 10-0 start, Miami lost their final three games. Malik Rosier is the key to the offense as he played more inconsistent near the end of the year. He has talented wide receivers including Ahmonn Richards, Jeff Thomas and Lawrence Cager.

The defense should be the strength for the Hurricanes. Miami returns all three starting linebackers and an experienced secondary including S Jaquan Johnson.. Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin are highly rated defensive ends that will also contribute. The schedule is pretty easy after LSU and the Coastal conference is not very difficult. Miami should be a playoff contender this upcoming year.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

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Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)

There’s Miami and Virginia Tech before a huge drop off in the Coastal division. Josh Jackson returns at QB for his sophomore year season after a pretty good freshman campaign. Virginia Tech will have to replace the all-time leading receiver, Cam Phillips.

On defense the Edmonds twins left for the NFL. The Virginia Tech defense is very young, but they do have talented defensive tackle Ricky Walker. The Florida State home opener is a big one, but the schedule is more than manageable after that.

3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4 ACC)

The triple option is back again led by returning QB Taquon Marshall and three other experienced backs. With eight starters returning from last year the offense should return to averaging over 300 yards rushing per game.

The defense faded down the stretch last year, giving up 38+ points in three of the last four games of the season. With six returning starters, the Yellow Jackets will try to improve. Non-conference play won’t be easy as they have to play in Athens against Georgia and in Tampa against South Florida.

4. Duke Blue Devils

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Duke could surprise some people this year with a lot of returning starters to a 6-6 team last season. QB Daniel Jones returns with all of his starting wide receivers back. The offensive line must improve from last season though if they want to have success.

The defense ranked 21st in the nation last year and has a very talented front seven led by MLB Joe Giles-Harris. Questions remain in the secondary with so many new starters. Duke does start out the season with a tough non-conference schedule that includes Army, Northwestern, and Baylor.

5. Pittsburgh Panthers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

QB Kenny Pickett was the hero on Senior Day against Miami that capped off a 5-7 season. Pitt will try to take that momentum into this season as Pickett leads the offense again. Pickett will continue to improve going into his Sophomore year with the aid of a 1-2 punch backfield of Senior running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison.

Defensively, the linebackers are the strength with 3 returning. OLB Oluwaseun Idowu is the top returning tackler and sack leader to the defense. A point of emphasis for the defense will be improving a secondary that finished 106th in passing yards allowed per game. Tough non-conference games against Penn State and UCF may make it tough for the Panthers to be bowl eligible.

6. North Carolina Tar Heels

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Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

North Carolina is without 13 players to start the season after they were busted trying to sell their team-given Nike Jordans online. This includes returning starting QB Chazz Surratt. The offense still has two talented running backs in Jordon Brown and Michael Carter to lead the offense, but the offensive line is inexperienced.

The defense has finished last against the run in the ACC for the past 5 seasons. In order to avoid another 1-7 record in the ACC, they must make stopping the run a focus. With the early suspensions it will make the opener at Cal-Berkeley a tough game along with a game against UCF.

7. Virginia Cavaliers

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Projected Record: 3-9 (0-8 ACC)

Virginia finished last season 1-6 and with a 6-7 record. This season will be tough replacing Kurt Benkert at QB, but it seems JUCO transfer Bryce Perkins is ready to take over. The offensive line is also a major question returning only two starters. Look for RB Jordan Ellis to carry a heavy load early in the season.

On defense, the Cavaliers also have major work to do. They lose safety Quin Blanding, linebacker Micah Kiser and defensive end Andrew Brown. LB Jordan Mack is a good player who will look to lead this defense. The schedule isn’t too bad, but a trip to Indiana to face the Hoosiers will be the biggest non-conference test.

 

2018 Big 12 Preview

Big 12 Predicted Standings

1. Oklahoma
2. West Virginia
3. TCU
4. Texas
5. Iowa State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Kansas State
8. Texas Tech
9. Baylor
10. Kansas

Big 12 Championship- Oklahoma over West Virginia

1. Oklahoma Sooners OU

Projected Record: 11-2 (7-2 Big 12)

The Baker Mayfield era is over, but that doesn’t mean Oklahoma won’t be competing for the playoffs. Kyler Murray is expected to take over, but Redshirt Sophomore Austin Kendall has pushed him for the starting job. The offense returns one of the best running backs in college football with Rodney Anderson. The offense will revolve around Anderson and a strong offensive line. The receiving group should give the new quarterback help with high profile WRs Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Mykel Jones.

The defense continues to be a question especially after allowing 54 points to Georgia in the semi-final game last year. There are some solid young players including LBs Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray. The non-conference schedule is interesting with FAU, UCLA, and Army. FAU will try to pull the upset in Norman for the first game of the year. Replacing a quarterback with Baker Mayfield’s talent won’t be easy, but there is still enough talent on the roster to compete for a spot in the playoffs.

2. West Virginia MountaineersWV Logo

Projected Record: 9-4 (6-3 Big 12)

The offense will be lethal with quarterback Will Grier. West Virginia also has one of the best receiving groups with Gary Jennings, David Sills, and Alabama transfer TJ Simmons at wide receiver. They were 13th in passing yards last year, but 84th in rushing yards. In order to be elite West Virginia will need a running back to step up.

The defense is the exact opposite. The defense was ranked 107th in the nation and only returns 4 starters. In order for West Virginia to compete in the Big 12 they will have to improve. West Virginia has a few big non-conference games including the season opener against Tennessee and a road game at North Carolina State. The offense will have the Mountaineers competing for a Big 12 championship, but the defense will most likely prevent them from attaining a spot in the playoffs.

3. TCU Horned FrogsTCU Logo.png

Projected Record: 8-4 (6-3 Big 12)

TCU enjoyed a great year last year finishing 11-3 with a comeback win against Stanford. Shawn Robinson will replace Kenny Hill as the starting quarterback. He’ll have some weapons including versatile playmaker KaVontae Turpin. Look for Darius Anderson to have a breakout year as one of the Big 12’s best running backs.

Defense has consistently been TCU’s strength and it will be again for the 2018 season. The defense is led by pass rusher Ben Banogu. Senior linebacker Ty Summers should also be a leader on the defense. TCU faces a tough non-conference game in Cowboys Stadium against Ohio State. TCU should be a legitimate contender in the Big 12.

4. Texas LonghornsUT Logo

Projected Record: 8-4 (6-3 Big 12)

Every year it seems like it will be the bounce back year for the Longhorns. This season actually looks like it could happen. Coach Tom Herman was a great offensive mind with Ohio State and Houston, but Texas actually took a step backwards in 2017. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger must play more consistent, but with talented wide receiver Collin Johnson it should make the step up easier.

The defense has talent across the board including the secondary. The secondary includes veteran corners Kris Boyd and Davante Davis. True freshman safety Caden Sterns should see some action as well. Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler make for a solid linebacker pair and

Brecklyn Hager will try to improve on his four sacks in 2017. Texas plays Maryland, Tulsa, and USC in non-conference play. USC will be a tough game and Maryland could possibly trip them up just like last year. An improvement on the 6-6 regular season finish is likely for Tom Herman’s 2018 team.

5. Iowa State CyclonesISU Logo.png

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4 Big 12)

Iowa State was a major surprise last season under Matt Campbell as they finished 8-5 and were the only Big 12 team to beat Oklahoma. Look for a similar year from the Cyclones who return running back David Montgomery, one of the best backs in college football. Senior quarterback Kyle Kempt was efficient in 2017 with 15 TDs to just 3 INTs.

The Defense returns six starters to the 2nd best defense in the Big 12 from last season. Ray Lima is a really good nose tackle that leads the defense along with Marcel Spears Jr. who had 107 tackles last year. The yearly matchup against Iowa will be key in starting the year right. With a solid offense and defense Iowa State should be a legitimate competitor for a Big 12 championship appearance.

6. Oklahoma State CowboysOSU Logo

Projected Record: 7-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Oklahoma State will have to replace a plethora of offensive talent with QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington, and WR Marcell Ateman moving onto the NFL. There is still talent at wide receiver with Jalen McCleskey and Tyron Johnson, along with 1400-yard rusher Justice Hill. But the question remains who will be giving them the ball. Coach Gundy stated at Big 12 media days that Taylor Cornelius was “their guy” at quarterback. However, Hawaii grad transfer Dru Brown just arrived in Stillwater. The offense will most likely take a step back from being the 2nd ranked offense in the nation.

After a bad season on defense, Coach Gundy brought in a new defensive coordinator that will install a 4-2-5 defense. The defense does return 7 starters, but will need to make a major improvement from last year. The non-conference schedule is interesting with a September 15th game at home against Boise State. Look for the Pokes to take a step back this year due to the major losses on the offensive side of the ball.

7. Kansas State WildcatsK state logo

Projected Record: 6-6 (4-5 Big 12)

A Bill Snyder coached team always finishes a few spots better than expected. The offense should improve from last season with running QB Skylar Thompson and returning the entire offensive line. Skylar Thompson had the Sooners nervous last year when Oklahoma barely made it out of Manhattan, KS with a 42-35 victory.

Defense was an issue last year for the Wildcats and this year the front seven is inexperienced. The secondary must also replace standout CB DJ Reed. Add the defensive worries with an early tough game against Mississippi State, and that equals a slow start. Look for Kansas State to be an average team this year that will most likely make a bowl game.

8. Texas TechTTU Logo

Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)

For the first year in Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure at Texas Tech the offense is a bigger question mark than the defense. This stems from a quarterback competition with no clear winner. The contestants for this role include McClane Carter, Jett Duffey and Alan Bowman. Reports are out that true Freshman Alan Bowman may be the best of the group. In addition to the quarterback worries the receivers are not as talented of a group as in years past. What will be a plus for the offense is an experienced offensive line.

The defense on the other hand is starting to make a turnaround. They jumped 30 spots in scoring defense from 2016 to 2017, and return 9 starters to the defense. Linebacker and Last Chance U star Dakota Allen is the leader on the defense. The secondary has a senior tandem at safety with Vaughnte Dorsey and Jah’Shawn Johnson. The schedule is tough for the Red Raiders with an early game against the Ole Miss Rebels explosive offense. The week 3 game against Houston is also not an easy game. With the questions on offense, but a good defense the Red Raiders could finish anywhere between 4 and 8 wins.

9. Baylor BearsBaylor Logo

Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)

Baylor had a nightmare season last year going 1-11 with their only win against Kansas. QB Charlie Brewer did show some promise last year and will look to improve during his Sophomore year. Brewer has some good playmakers to throw to with wide receivers Denzel Mims, Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd and Chris Platt. The offense wasn’t bad last year and should take another step up.

The defense was horrible last year and is a major question mark again. They are young and inexperienced with only 5 returning starters. The defense could make an improvement in year 2 of defensive coordinator Phil Snow. The non-conference schedule is not bad, but does include a very even matchup against Duke. Baylor will win more than one game this year, but may fall just short of a bowl game.

10. Kansas JayhawksKansas Logo

Projected Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big 12)

It must be tough for a Kansas football fan to be optimistic about the season. Coach David Beatty acquired a dumpster fire and it has remained that way through his 3-33 record. A bright spot of the offense is RB Khalil Herbert who had a 291 yard game against West Virginia last year. Steven Sims is also a solid receiver for Kansas.

On defense the Jayhawks have a lot of young talent that hopefully will develop. Defensive tackle Daniel Wise is a first-team Big 12 performer along with safety Hasan Defense (yes that is his name). There is no easy victory for this Kansas team so they need to come ready to play during their non-conference schedule of Nicholls State, Central Michigan, and Rutgers.

2018 SEC Preview

East

  1. Georgia
  2. South Carolina
  3. Florida
  4. Missouri
  5. Tennessee
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

West

  1. Alabama
  2. Mississippi State
  3. Auburn
  4. LSU
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Arkansas

SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia

SEC East

1. Georgia Bulldogs

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Projected Record: 12-1 (8-0 SEC)

Georgia comes off a great season and heartbreaking loss in the National Championship. Getting back to the playoffs will not come easy as they must replace 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball. The roster is talented with Georgia having three out of the last four years a top five recruiting class.

On offense talented WRs Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, and Riley Ridley should give SEC defenses trouble along with shifty RB De’Andre Swift. It’ll be interesting whether QB Jake Fromm can hold off freshman phenom Justin Fields for the starting job. There will be new starters across the defense, but Georgia still has reliable players like CB Deandre Baker, Safety J.R. Reid and DE Jonathan Ledbetter. The schedule will not be easy with matchups against Auburn and LSU from the West. If Kirby Smart can find a way to replace the lost defensive starters Georgia should not only be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, but the College Football Playoffs as well.

2. South Carolina Gamecocks

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Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 SEC)

There is some buzz growing for the Gamecocks to be sleepers in the East. Now, I do not believe they will be able to take down Georgia, but they do have enough talent on their roster to have a nice season. South Carolina has one of the best duos at wide receiver with Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards. Whether Jake Bentley continues to improve will be the difference in the Gamecocks being contenders or pretenders. The 126 yard performance against Clemson last year will not be near good enough if South Carolina has top ten dreams.

The defense is solid in the front 7 with star linebacker T.J. Brunson. Where the Gamecocks need to improve is in the secondary. Games against Georgia and Clemson will test the secondary and show if they can compete on the national stage. The Cocks also avoid Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, and LSU in SEC play.

3. Florida Gators

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Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

I know they had a terrible 4-8 year and still haven’t found a quarterback. But there are too many playmakers on this Florida Gators roster to stay down for long. Coming off a tragic year that was plagued by suspensions and injuries, Dan Mullen will look to turn things around.

The Gators return the entire offensive line and have talented wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson. However, the offense will only go as far as Feleipe Franks takes them.

The defense is talented across the board highlighted by Cece Jefferson rushing the passer, David Reese at MLB and Chauncey Gardner playing a playmaker role at Nickelback. They have a tough non-conference game with Florida State and play LSU and Mississippi State from the SEC West. The talented roster should be good enough to have a solid year in the East.

4. Missouri Tigers

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Projected Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)

Missouri had one of the worst starts to the college football season starting 1-5, but they finished the season 6-2. The Tigers have one of the most talented quarterbacks with Drew Lock along with 9 returning starters to an offense that was 8th in the nation.

The defense will need to improve, but they have the talent on the defensive line with Terry Beckner Jr. and Texas transfer Jordan Elliott. They return all of their starting linebackers including leading tackler Cole Garrett.

Part of Missouri’s schedule is absolutely brutal. They play Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama in back-to-back-to-back weeks. But if Missouri takes care of business with their winnable games in the SEC East, they should enjoy a nice season.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Tennessee welcomes new head coach Jeremy Pruitt after a whirlwind of a search. It will be anything but easy for Tennessee to bounce back from a 4-8 season with no conference wins. It starts with the quarterback position which will come down to Stanford transfer Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano. Trey Smith is one of the best offensive lineman in the SEC and Alabama transfer Brandon Kennedy should help.

The defense has talent and should make an improvement with Coach Pruitt. However, the schedule is absolutely brutal. They start out against West Virginia and then have a five game stretch of Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina. With the difficult schedule it will be tough for Tennessee to make a bowl game.

6. Kentucky Wildcats

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Projected Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

The big question for Kentucky will be at QB between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak, neither have thrown a pass in a FBS game. Kentucky will instead rely on one of the best running backs in the SEC in Benny Snell and an offensive line that returns four starters.

Josh Allen leads a defense with a lot of returning starters especially in the secondary. The schedule isn’t too tough, but with the unsettled quarterback situation it is tough to see Kentucky competing for a SEC East championship.

7. Vanderbilt Commodores

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Projected Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

There was once upon a time that Vanderbilt wanted Alabama. The season was all downhill after that with the Commodores winning just one game. Kyle Shurmur is back and will lead the offense for his senior year. The offensive line also returns all of their starters from last season.

The defense was the strength early, but fell off in SEC play. There are only 4 returning starters on this defense, but CB Joejuan Williams and OLB Charles Wright are talented. It will be tough for Derek Mason to make a bowl game with the SEC schedule and facing Notre Dame.

SEC West

1. Alabama Crimson TideAlabama logo

Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 SEC)

The defending National Champions shouldn’t fall off. The national media is making it out like there is a quarterback controversy. There is none… Tua is the starter. The offense is loaded at Running Back with Damien Harris and Najee Harris. The receivers are young and talented. To cap it off four out of the five offensive lineman are back. Expect Alabama to average 40 points per game.

The defense should stay elite with the front seven. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs lead up front. Inside linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses also make a dynamic duo.

The secondary remains the one unknown. Deionte Thompson is a dynamic safety, but there are young, unproven corners that will have to step up. The schedule sets up well with Louisville the only Power 5 test for nonconference play. A trip to LSU for a Saturday night game could be tricky as well.

2. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC)

Just because Dan Mullen is gone doesn’t mean this team isn’t talented. Nick Fitzgerald leads an experienced offense that includes 1000-yard rusher Aeris Williams and four of the five offensive line starters.

The defensive line is the strength of a defense, led by sack leader Montez Sweat and former five star Jeffrey Simmons. The defense was ranked 10th in the nation last year and should be good again. The schedule sets up nicely with SEC East matchups against Kentucky and Florida, as well as a home game against Auburn. Look for Mississippi State to compete in the West and possibly finish as a top ten team.

3. Auburn TigersAuburn Tigers Logo

Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

The Tigers should be back challenging for the SEC even after blowing it in the bowl game against UCF. Jarrett Stidham is one of the most talented passers in college football and has his favorite target back with WR Ryan Davis. However, the offense will have to overcome losing RB Kerryon Johnson and an inexperienced offensive line.

The defensive line is solid with Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Dotavius Russell. However, the secondary has some concerns. The schedule is tough with games against Washington, Alabama, Mississippi State and Georgia.

4. LSU TigersLSU Tigers

Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

LSU has the same story every year, will the offense be at least decent? The quarterback competition is between Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan after LSU has had two transfers. Jonathan Giles is a talented WR transfer from Texas Tech that should help the new signal caller out.

The defense is LSU’s strength again with defensive lineman Breidan Fehoko (Texas Tech transfer), Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence. LSU’s tackle leader, Devin White, is back again along with one of the best corners in college football, Greedy Williams. LSU has a tough season opener in Arlington, TX against Miami.

5. Ole Miss RebelsOle Miss logo

Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5 SEC)

Everyone counts out Ole Miss because of all the turnover and mess left over from the Hugh Freeze scandal. Ole Miss’s roster still has a lot of talent on it especially on the offensive side of the ball. Jordan Ta’amu is a talented QB who played just as good and maybe even better than Shea Patterson. Ole Miss also has one of the best receiving units in the country with DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Demarkus Lodge.

The defense will be the weakness coming off a season where they were ranked 124th against the run. Ole Miss starts off with a game against Texas Tech, but the SEC schedule isn’t too bad with their SEC East opponents being Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

6. Texas A&M AggiesTexas A&M Logo

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 SEC)

The Jimbo Fisher era has started at Texas A&M. The first major decision he will need to make is whether Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond is the starter. Outside of the quarterback position they have talented young wide receivers led by Jhamon Ausbon. Running back they return 800-yard rusher Trayveon Williams.

The defense has a few bright spots with linebacker Otaro Alaka and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke. They will need to improve especially after allowing 55 points to Wake Forest in their bowl game. Texas A&M has a tough home game against Clemson and along with questions along the offensive line and defense, it could be a tough first year for Jimbo Fisher.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Logo.png

Projected Record: 6-6 (2-6 SEC)

The Razorbacks are coming off a tough 4-8 season and new coach Chad Morris is in charge now. Last season Arkansas finished 94th offensively and 102nd in defensively in the nation. The offense does return a veteran offensive line and a good running back with Devwah Whaley. Cole Kelley should be the new starting quarterback.

On defense there is talent to work with linebackers De’Jon Harris and Dre Greenlaw. The new defensive coordinator John Chavis is one of the best in the business so a turnaround could happen. The schedule sets up decently for Arkansas with no tough non-conference games and SEC East opponents Missouri and Vanderbilt. A bowl game would be the step in the right direction.

NFL Round 2 Mock Draft

Round 2
Pick Team Name Position School Height Weight
33 Browns Harold Landry DE Boston College 6’2″ 252
34 Giants Connor Williams OT Texas 6’5″ 296
35 Browns Ronald Jones RB USC 5’11” 205
36 Saints Derris Guice RB LSU 5’11” 224
37 Saints Lorenzo Carter OLB Georgia 6’5″ 250
38 Bucs Joshua Jackson CB Iowa 6’0″ 196
39 Bears Will Hernandez OG UTEP 6’3″ 327
40 Broncos Isaiah Oliver CB Colorado 6’0″ 201
41 Raiders Donte Jackson CB LSU 5’11” 178
42 Dolphins Nathan Shepherd DT Fort Hays St. 6’4″ 315
43 Mason Rudolph QB Oklahoma St. 6’5″ 235
44 Redskins Ronnie Harrison S Alabama 6’2″ 207
45 Packers Courtland Sutton WR SMU 6’3″ 218
46 Bengals Harrison Phillips DT Stanford 6’3″ 303
47 Cardinals Carlton Davis CB Auburn 6’1″ 206
48 Chargers Chukwuma Okorafor OT  Western Michigan 6’6″ 320
49 Saints D.J. Chark WR LSU 6’3″ 199
50 Cowboys James Washington WR Oklahoma St. 5’11” 210
51 Lions Dallas Goedert TE South Dakota St. 6’5″ 260
52 Eagles Jessie Bates S Wake Forest 6’1″ 200
53 Bucs Justin Reid S Stanford 6’1″ 207
54 Chiefs Anthony Averett CB Alabama 5’11” 183
55 Panthers Mark Andrews TE Oklahoma 6’5″ 256
56 Bucs James Daniels C Iowa 6’3″ 306
57 Titans Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M 5’10” 201
58 Falcons Austin Corbett OG Nevada 6’4″ 306
59 Anthony Miller WR Memphis 5’11” 201
60 Bears Mike Gesicki TE Penn St. 6’6″ 247
61 Bucs Dante Pettis WR Washington 6’1″ 186
62 Vikings Fred Warner OLB BYU 6’4″ 235
63 Sam Hubbard DE Ohio St. 6’5″ 270
64 Browns Tyrell Crosby OT Oregon 6’5″ 309

 

Final NFL Mock Draft 2018

Round 1
PICK TEAM NAME POSITION SCHOOL HEIGHT WEIGHT
1 Browns Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma 6’0″ 216
 With the recent news, it looks like Baker is on his way to the Browns. Browns get their future quarterback to build around, but leave the best QB in the draft on the board. At least they didn’t make the mistake of taking Josh Allen. With 4 picks in the top 35, Cleveland could be on the brink of turning the corner.
2 Giants Saquon Barkley RB Penn St. 6’0″ 233
 The Giants get another weapon to use on offense. Barkley is a blue chip player who the offense will be built around for years to come. Eli Manning is 37 years old and there is no long term replacement so Sam Darnold could be an option. But I think the Giants want another playmaker and end up going with Barkley.
3 Jets Sam Darnold QB USC 6’3″ 221
Jets traded up in order to secure a top notch quarterback. I’m sure they were not anticipating Darnold being here, but they somehow end up with the best quarterback in the draft. Someone could hop the Jets with a trade for the second pick with the Giants in order to secure Darnold. In that scenario, I believe they would select Rosen and still be happy.
4 Browns Bradley Chubb DE NC State 6’4″ 269
 They locked up their franchise with the first pick and acquire a blue chip player Bradley Chubb. The combination of Chubb and Garrett at defensive end should be a nightmare to opposing offensive lines.
5 Broncos Josh Allen QB Wyoming 6’5″ 238
 I believe that in this scenario Denver would probably trade back, most likely with Buffalo. However, I believe that quarterback could still be in play. Josh Allen has a lot of the qualities John Elway looks for in a quarterback and could be the call here.
6 Saints Roquan Smith ILB Georgia 6’1″ 236
 Colts have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Roquan Smith is a talented player that could be a cornerstone to the Colts defense. He’s a three down player who could be an instant impact player on this defense.
7 Bucs Denzel Ward CB Ohio St. 5’11” 183
 Brent Grimes is 34 and Hargreaves is a better nickel cornerback. Denzel Ward is by far the most talented corner in this years draft and could go as high as 4. Ward gives Tampa Bay some depth and talent at corner.
8 Bears Quenton Nelson OG Notre Dame 6’5″ 325
 The Bears moved on from Josh Sitton at guard, and Nelson would be an immediate starter on the line. Having Nelson fall this far would be a tremendous win for the Bears as a great match between talent and need.
9 Minkah Fitzpatrick S Alabama 6’0″ 204
The 49ers have one of the best players in the draft fall to them thanks to the amount of quarterbacks taken. John Lynch loves big school talent and I believe will pick Fitzpatrick with this pick. 49ers are in a shaky position at linebacker with Reuben Foster so Tremaine Edmunds could be an option here.
10 Raiders Tremaine Edmunds OLB Virginia Tech 6’5″ 253
 The Raiders need an upgrade at weakside linebacker. Edmunds is only 19 years old and extremely athletic. The addition of Edmunds improves this defense right away.
11 Dolphins Josh Rosen QB UCLA 6’4″ 226
 A great scenario where a good quarterback falls right in the Dolphins lap. The Dolphins are in a prime position to add a quarterback of the future either by moving up or hoping one falls. In this instance, Rosen is the Dolphins answer at quarterback.
12 Bills Leighton Vander Esch OLB Boise St. 6’4″ 256
Vänder Esch is a late riser in this draft and is a perfect fit with the Bills. The Bills need an upgrade at the outside linebacker position. Vander Esch is an athletic, tackling machine that could be an impact player at the next level
13 Redskins Vita Vea DT Washington 6’4″ 347
 The Redskins went defensive line last year with Jonathan Allen, but it still remains a need. Vea is one of my favorite players in the draft as a strong, athletic freak that man handles offensive lineman. The addition of Vea turns the Redskins defensive line from a weakness to a strength.
14 Packers Joshua Jackson CB Iowa 6’0″ 196
Green Bay’s secondary is by far the biggest need. While Calvin Ridley does look like an attractive option to pair with Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Jimmy Graham, improving the defense is the biggest concern. Joshua Jackson was a ballhawk at Iowa and could step into this secondary right away. Moving up for Minkah Fitzpatrick could also be a viable option.
15 Cardinals Calvin Ridley WR Alabama 6’1″ 189
 The Cardinals will be looking for a quarterback at some point in the draft to replace retired Carson Palmer, but receiver also remains a need. With the number 1 receiver still on the board the Cardinals take a chance at trying to find Larry Fitzgerald’s future replacement.
16 Ravens Marcus Davenport DE UTSA 6’6″ 259
Terrell Suggs is not getting any younger. Davenport is a little bit of a project on the edge, but is exactly what you look for as a 3-4 edge rusher with his length. I believe Ozzie Newsome takes a chance at a potential great pass rusher with this pick.
17 Chargers Derwin James S Florida St. 6’2″ 215
 A dream scenario for the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers corner position is highly talented, but the safety position needs a major overhaul. Derwin James is a highly talented safety. If James isn’t there, an offensive lineman is probably the most likely option.
18 Seahawks Connor Williams OT Texas 6’5″ 296
The Seahawks offensive line needs an overhaul. Williams played left tackle at Texas, but could possibly be kicked inside to guard. A versatile offensive lineman is exactly what Seattle needs.
19 Cowboys Da’ron Payne DT Alabama  6’3″ 311
Dallas lacks depth on the interior defensive line. Payne has star potential, but will need to improve his consistency. A wide receiver is a possibility, but there doesn’t seem to be a receiver worth the 19th pick in this draft.
20 Lions Taven Bryan DT Florida 6’5″ 291
The Lions hit on the draft two years ago with A’Shawn Robinson at defensive tackle. They could try that again with Bryan. Bryan has a high upside and is more of a pass rusher. He is a boom or bust prospect that could booster this Lions defensive line.
21 Bengals Rashaan Evans ILB Alabama 6’2″ 232
Vontaze Burfict is suspended for four games and the Bengals need to revamp their linebacking core. Evans is a versatile linebacker who shouldn’t drop below here. Evans and Bengals would be a great match.
22 Bills  Lamar Jackson QB Louisville 6’2″ 216
 Yes he is a QB. Given the chance, Lamar could be a very successful NFL starter. He has a lot of zip in his passes, but will need to improve his intermediate accuracy. Lamar is going to be a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators when he gets a shot to start.
23 Mike McGlinchey OT Notre Dame 6’8″ 309
 The Patriots have a major need at left tackle after Nate Solder left. Mike McGlinchey is one of the top tackles in a weak class and could be a potential starting left tackle on this team.
24 Panthers Jaire Alexander CB Louisville 5’10” 196
 The Panthers need some star power at the cornerback position opposite of James Bradberry. Jaire is one of the best corners in the draft and also adds return ability for the Panthers.
25 Titans Harold Landry OLB Boston College 6’2″ 252
The Titans need pass rushers on the defense. Having Landry fall all the way to 25 would be a perfect scenario for a defense that needs to improve.
26 Falcons Maurice Hurst DT Michigan 6’1″ 292
 The Falcons lost Dontari Poe to the Carolina Panthers. Therefore defensive tackle is one of the Falcons biggest needs. Maurice Hurst is an incredibly quick 3 technique that could compete for time early. The Falcons will hope he can have the same kind of success as Grady Jarrett.
27 Saints Hayden Hurst TE South Carolina 6’5″ 250
 The Saints lost out on getting Jimmy Graham back and Coby Fleener has not lived up to his free agent contract. Hayden Hurst is an athletic and versatile tight end that could fit the Saints need.
28 Steelers Mike Hughes CB UCF 5’10” 189
 The secondary for the Steelers is the weakness of the team. Mike Hughes would help out this unit along with possibly the return game as well.
29 Bucs Isaiah Wynn OG Georgia 6’3″ 308
 The Jags defense is very good. The offense is the thing holding the team back. Wynn gives the Jaguars a plug and play guard that will help bolster the offensive line.
30 Vikings James Daniels C Iowa 6’3″ 306
 The Vikings got a steal last year in Ohio State Center Pat Elflein. Adding James Daniels could push the Vikings interior line to the next level. Elflein or Daniels could be moved to guard.
31 Isaiah Oliver CB Colorado 6’0″ 201
 As seen in the Super Bowl, the secondary needs some help. Isaiah Oliver is a highly athletic corner with good ball skills. With Malcolm Butler moving on to the Titans, Isaiah Oliver could start opposite of Stephon Gilmore.
32 Eagles Ronnie Harrison S Alabama 6’2″ 207
Round 2
Pick Team Name Position School Height Weight
33 Browns Ronald Jones RB USC 5’11” 205
34 Giants Will Hernandez OG UTEP 6’3″ 327
35 Browns Kolton Miller OT UCLA 6’9″ 309
36 Saints Derris Guice RB LSU 5’11” 224
37 Saints D.J. Moore WR Maryland 6’0″ 210
38 Bucs Sony Michel RB Georgia 5’11” 214
39 Bears Lorenzo Carter OLB Georgia 6’5″ 250
40 Broncos Frank Ragnow C Arkansas 6’5″ 307
41 Raiders Donte Jackson CB LSU 5’11” 178
42 Dolphins Nathan Shepherd DT Fort Hays St. 6’4″ 315
43 Mason Rudolph QB Oklahoma St. 6’5″ 235
44 Redskins Billy Price C Ohio St. 6’4″ 305
45 Packers Courtland Sutton WR SMU 6’3″ 218
46 Bengals Harrison Phillips DT Stanford 6’3″ 303
47 Cardinals Carlton Davis CB Auburn 6’1″ 206
48 Chargers Chukwuma Okorafor OT  Western Michigan 6’6″ 320
49 Saints Arden Key DE LSU 6’5″ 238
50 Cowboys James Washington WR Oklahoma St. 5’11” 210
51 Lions Austin Corbett DG Nevada 6’4″ 306
52 Ravens Mark Andrews TE Oklahoma 6’5″ 256
53 Bills D.J. Chark WR LSU 6’3″ 199
54 Chiefs Anthony Averett CB Alabama 5’11” 183
55 Panthers Dallas Goedert TE South Dakota St. 6’5″ 260
56 Bills Tyrell Crosby OT Oregon 6’5″ 309
57 Titans Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M 5’10” 201
58 Falcons Jessie Bates S Wake Forest 6’1″ 200
59 Anthony Miller WR Memphis 5’11” 201
60 Bears Mike Gesicki TE Penn St. 6’6″ 247
61 Bucs Dante Pettis WR Washington 6’1″ 186
62 Vikings Fred Warner OLB BYU 6’4″ 235
63 Sam Hubbard DE Ohio St. 6’5″ 270
64 Browns Justin Reid S Stanford 6’1″ 207