2019 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

For many college football players, the goal is to have success at school to earn a spot in the NFL. Most players who turn pro after college enter the league via the NFL Draft.

Somehow, this is already the fourth year of these NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings. The player pool being considered still dates back five years, meaning the 2014 class is no longer relevant to these rankings. There was a ton of movement this season, including two new teams in the top five and three new teams to the rankings overall.

The goal of these rankings is to quantify the results of the past few NFL drafts and track which schools succeed year over year at sending players to the next level. This is not meant to determine how well those players perform at the next level, as it is much harder to quantify what constitutes being a successful NFL player. This is still one of the most fun projects I have taken on since starting this site.

Previous rankings: 2018, 2017, 2016

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 281 points
Previous: 1 (263 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Amari Cooper, 4th Overall, 2015
Somehow, Alabama is actually stretching its lead at the top of these rankings. After sending another 11 prospects to the league, the most of any school, the Crimson Tide comfortable sits at the top of these rankings. It is ridiculous how far ahead of the pack Nick Saban is every year.

Ohio State Logo2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 229 points
Previous: 2 (232 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Nick Bosa, 2nd Overall, 2019
It was another solid draft class for Ohio State with Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins both going in the first round. The Buckeyes continued its trend of sending massive draft classes with 10 total prospects selected in 2019. Even with Ryan Day taking over for Urban Meyer, there is no chance Ohio State leaves the top two any time soon.

Florida logo.jpg3. Florida Gators- 166 points
Previous: 3 (163 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Dante Fowler Jr., 3rd Overall, 2015
Florida bounced back after an off year in 2018. The Gators 2019 class did not feature any first round picks, but saw a player selected in rounds two through five. Florida is going to need to land some first rounders in the future though if it wants to stay in the top 5.

Clemson Logo4. Clemson Tigers- 158 points
Previous: 6 (139 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Clelin Ferrell, 4th Overall, 2019
This is the type of draft we all knew Clemson was capable of having. With three first round draft picks, the Tigers roared into the top 5 and gave themselves a very good base to build on. Expect Dabo Swinney to continue sending top tier talent to the next level.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg5. Washington Huskies- 140 points
Previous: 11 (112 points)
Highest Drafted Player- John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
It is time to start recognizing Washington as a top-tier producer of NFL draft picks. The Huskies have had at least one player drafted in the first round in four of the last five drafts. Kaleb McGary becomes the latest to join the group. What pushes Washington into this spot is its success in the second round, with three more second rounders coming in 2019.

Florida State Logo6. Florida State Seminoles- 132 points
Previous: 4 (160 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jameis Winston, 1st Overall, 2015
It should come as no surprise that Florida State is slipping in these rankings after another tough season in the ACC. The departure of Jimbo Fisher is not going to help matters at all. The Seminoles ranking is heavily tied to its 2015 draft class, which will drop out of consideration in next year’s rankings.

Louisiana State University logo6. LSU Tigers- 132 points
Previous: 5 (155 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Leonard Fournette, 4th Overall, 2017
LSU did produce a top-five pick in Devin White this season. However, White was one of just three Tigers drafted in 2019. While LSU will certainly stay in the rankings producing first round picks, it needs to fill in the gaps in later rounds.

MichiganWolverines8. Michigan Wolverines- 127 points
Previous: 14 (110 points)
Highest Drafted Player-
Michigan put together a solid class to build on the ridiculous class it produced in 2017. Devin Bush and Rashan Gary going in the first round headlined a five-man class. Considering the rate Jim Harbaugh attracts talent to Ann Arbor, the Wolverines should stay in the top 10.

Oklahoma Logo9. Oklahoma Sooners- 125 points
Previous: 18 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Baker Mayfield / Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018 / 2019
Meet the new college football powerhouse in these rankings. Oklahoma became the first school to ever produce two first overall picks at the same position in back-to-back years. Kyler Murray and Marquis “Hollywood” Brown lead a stacked class. The Sooners will continue to rise in the rankings with most of their points being tied to it’s two most recent draft classes.

Georgia Logo10. Georgia Bulldogs- 122 points
Previous: 16 (99 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Considering Georgia’s success in recent college football seasons, it should come as no surprise Kirby Smart and company crack the top 10. Outside of a very quiet 2017 draft, the Bulldogs regularly send a half dozen players or more to the next level. This season was no exception.

Miami logo11. Miami Hurricanes- 117 points
Previous: 13 (111 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Ereck Flowers, 9th Overall, 2015
This was a quietly solid draft class for Miami. While the Canes did not produce any draft picks before Day 3 of the draft, five players were drafted on Saturday. Miami will certainly hope to land a couple players higher in the draft going forward, but these types of drafts will keep the Hurricanes from dropping out of the top 20.

Stanford Cardinal12. Stanford Cardinal- 116 points
Previous: 9 (115 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
Another solid if unspectacular draft class from Palo Alto sees the Cardinal drop from the top 10. Stanford is still very much in the mix, having a player drafted rounds two through six. As long as David Shaw sticks around, so, too, will Stanford in these rankings.

USC logo13. USC Trojans- 114 points
Previous: 10 (114 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
USC definitely put up a much flashier draft class in 2018, featuring a top-five pick. With a pair of third rounders and a pair of fifth rounders, the Trojans might continue to find themselves outside the top 10. The struggles USC has had on the field reflect the lack of NFL ready talent coming out of Southern California right now.

Notre Dame Logo14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 110 points
Previous: 8 (116 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
In the past, the this part of the rankings has had very small margins. This year is no different. While this looks like a massive drop for Notre Dame, producing an additional second round pick would have held the Irish at 11th instead of 14th. This class has good depth, with six players drafted overall. Considering the Irish regularly feature in the College Football Playoff, they should bounce back.

UCLA logo.jpg15. UCLA Bruins- 100 points
Previous: 7 (126 points)
Highest Drafted Player-
This was a really rough draft class for UCLA, who produced just one player. It was Mr. Irrelevant Caleb Wilson. One seventh round pick does not inspire confidence. A small 2015 draft class might prevent the Bruins from dropping too much next year, but their spot in these rankings will definitely be in question going forward.

Ole_Miss_Rebels_logo15. Ole Miss Rebels- 100 points
Previous: 21 (77 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Laremy Tunsil, 13th Overall, 2016
Ole Miss had a very underrated 2019 draft class. Three second round picks propel the Rebels to the top 15. Even with program turnover, being an SEC team in a good state to recruit should keep the NFL-level talent flowing.

Texas A&M logo16. Texas A&M Aggies- 95 points
Previous: 15 (102 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
The arrival of Jimbo Fisher should stabilize Texas A&M over the next few seasons. He built a juggernaut at Florida State and can likely take credit for a lot of their ensuing draft success. My assumption here is the Aggies will climb in the rankings while the Seminoles slowly slip.

Penn_State_text_logo17. Penn State Nittany Lions- 93 points
Previous: 19 (85 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
Another year, another season without a first round pick for Penn State. Saquon Barkley is the Nittany Lions’ only first round selection since 2010. This year, the impact was minimized as Penn State still had six players drafted, one in each round following the first.

1000px-mississippi_state_bulldogs_logo.svg_18. Mississippi State Bulldogs- 86 points
Previous: Unranked (52 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jeffery Simmons, 19th Overall, 2019
Welcome to the rankings Mississippi State. A massive draft class featuring three first round selections vaults the Bulldogs into the top 20. It was only a matter of time considering the level of success players have had at the NFL level in recent years (Chris Jones, Dak Prescott, Preston Smith). Now teams are heading back to the well earlier and more often. Mississippi State is here to stay.

Auburn_Tigers_logo19. Auburn Tigers- 82 points
Previous: 17 (92 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Braden Smith, 37th Overall, 2018
Without a player drafted in the first two rounds, Auburn filled up the later rounds. Six total Tiger players heard there name called during draft weekend. Auburn remains one of the only teams in the rankings to not produce a first round pick in the past five years. The uncertainty surrounding Gus Malzahn’s future doesn’t help.

iowa_wordmark20. Iowa Hawkeyes – 81 points
Previous: 23 (67 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Branden Scherff, 5th Overall, 2015
Iowa became the first school to have two tight ends drafted in the first round ever. The Hawkeyes quietly produce a lot of NFL talent without usually being in the regular top-25 conversation. Outside of 2016, Iowa has produced multiple NFL draft picks every season.

Utah_Utes_logo20. Utah Utes- 81 points
Previous: 25 (66 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Garrett Bolles, 20th Overall, 2017
Once again, the Utes produced five mid and late round draft picks. Utah is becoming a traditional NFL factory after appearing in these rankings for three straight years. It is unlikely they climb much higher without starting to produce more top-end picks, but the Utes do more than enough to hang onto their spot.

1000px-north_carolina_state_university_athletic_logo.svg_22. North Carolina State Wolfpack- 79 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (62 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
Name the school with the most quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters. If you guessed NC State, well done. Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson (transferred to Wisconsin), Mike Glennon, Jacoby Brissett and now Ryan Finley all have NFL homes. If you are a young quarterback prospect, this might be a good school for you to consider. Let’s not steal the thunder though of Garrett Bradberry, who became the Wolfpack’s second straight first round pick.

Louisville logo23. Louisville Cardinals- 77 points
Previous: 11 (112 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Sheldon Rankins, 12th Overall, 2016
So it turns out Louisville meteoric rise might have been a fluke. The Cardinals dip back down 12 spots, dropping 45 points, after not having a single player drafted this year. The bottom clearly fell out and Bobby Petrino’s firing does not help matters. Louisville could very well be on their way out of the rankings.

West Virginia logo24. West Virginia Mountaineers- 75 points
Previous: Others receiving votes (65 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Kevin White, 7th Overall, 2015
West Virginia continues to live on the fringes of the top 25. A strong regular season led to a reasonable draft class with two third and two fourth round picks. The Mountaineers had a much better draft class than a year ago, but will they be able to build on it with Dana Holgorsen bolting for Houston?

Wisconsin logo25. Wisconsin Badgers- 74 points
Previous: 20 (78 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Melvin Gordon, 15th Overall, 2015
Wisconsin continues to produce a smattering of NFL-caliber players every year. There is no doubt the Badgers have developed a few very successful players in recent years (Melvin Gordon, T.J. Watt, Ryan Ramczyk). However, even with this top tier of talent, Wisconsin continues to lag behind the elite powers in college football. Deeper draft classes in recent years have certainly helped and it is pretty safe to bet on the Badgers staying in the top 25.

Others Receiving Votes: Missouri (66 points), Michigan State (66 points), Oregon (61 points)

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Advertisements

NFL All-Non-Power 5 team

In honor of the NFL draft, which is all about finding value in the later rounds, I decided it is time to put together the team of non-power 5 players currently in the NFL. So that means any player who played college football outside the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

More often than not, these are the players that make the differences at the pro level for teams. It is easier to hit on players that went to big schools. The best franchises find those late-round gems to build out the roster and win championships on their contributions. So don’t despair if your favorite team drafted a player form a small school you have never heard of. This team would almost certainly win a Super Bowl if all these players were on the same roster. Here is the NFL All-Non-Power-Five:

Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
A proud alum of Miami Ohio, Roethlisberger is Hall of Fame bound. He’s still got it to after leading the league with an absurd 5,129 passing yards. He is a bit interception prone, but with the other notable options being the oft-injured Carson Wentz and inconsistent Joe Flacco, Roethlisberger is an obvious choice.

Aaron Jones
Jones racked up over 4,000 yards in his career at UTEP. (Wikimedia Commons)

Running back – Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
He didn’t lead the league in rushing or anything, but the former UTEP running back had a healthy 5.5 yards per carry and is criminally underused in Green Bay. Jones is a bruising runner who picked up just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns in only 12 games this season. At only 24, Jones has a ton of upside and will on get better with more touches.

Wide receiver – Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Forget small school, Thielen didn’t even play Division I college ball at Minnesota State. Yet, he caught 204 passes for 2,649 yards and 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Thielen is in the prime of his career at age 28 and as long as he continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, he will be on this list.

Wide receiver – Central Michigan, Oakland Raiders
It was tempting to go with Davante Adams here because Antonio Brown had a down year. However, a down year for Brown was still 100-plus catches, 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is one of best receivers in NFL history and one of the best draft finds ever as a 6th round pick out of Central Michigan.

Tight end – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
It conveniently works out that the best tight end in the league went to Cincinnati. Travis Kelce dominated the league finishing top 10 in receiving yards and to go with 10 double-digit touchdowns. He is a solid blocker and an incredible receiver.

Offensive tackle – Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints
Over the past few years, Armstead has turned into an elite pass blocker on one of the top offenses in the league. Pro Football Focus rated him the top offensive lineman in 2018. Teams pay a premier to find a true left tackle and Armstead fits the bill.

Offensive guard – Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Over looked as a college prospect because of the competition he faced at Hobart, Marpet has become a top-tier offensive lineman. He is one of the cleanest blockers there is, committing just two penalties during the 2018 season. Marpet has versatility as well, having played at both guard positions and center in his four-year career.

Carson Wentz
Kelce was the leader of a Super Bowl winning line in 2017. (Wkimedia Commons)

Center – Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
Turns out that one Kelce brother was not enough. The elder Kelce is arguably the best center in the NFL. He is just a year removed from a Super Bowl title in Philly protecting the former mayor of Philadelphia Nick Foles and a two-time All-Pro. Pro Football Focus rated him the best center in the league in his eighth season out of Cincinnati.

Offensive guard – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
Bitonio is one of the best guards in the league in his fifth year out of Nevada. He is an excellent blocker coming off a Pro Bowl season. Bitonio has started all 32 games over the past two seasons and committed just three penalties in that span.

Offensive tackle – Eric Fisher, Kansas City Chiefs
The former No. 1 overall pick has not lived up to the expectations that come with being the top pick. Fisher struggled as a left tackle when he first arrived out of Central Michigan. Six years into his career, he is finally hitting his stride as a quality right tackle. Fisher was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018 and finally seems to fulfilling his potential.

Defensive end – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
Mack is the poster child for small school players working out in the NFL. He has dominated the league since arriving from Buffalo in 2014. He has racked up double-digit sacks each of the last four seasons. Mack is a three-time All-Pro and possibly the best defensive player in the league.

Defensive tackle – Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears
We have our first member of this team from Canada. Hicks went to school at Regina College north of the border and has turned into one of the most versatile defensive tackles in the league. He is a talented pass rusher, with 16 sacks over the past two seasons, rushing from the interior. Hicks has also proven himself as a run stopper as well.

Defensive end – Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys
You’ve probably been hearing about Demarcus Lawrence over the past few months. He finally landed himself a big-time contract extension. Rightfully so as the Boise State product has racked up 25 sacks and 29 tackles of loss over the past two season. Assuming Lawrence continues to produce even after being paid, he is capable of being one of the best defensive linemen in the league.

Outside linebacker – Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints
While Davenport is not technically an outside linebacker, he is an edge rusher. After just one season in the league as a raw defensive talent, the former UTSA standout should have a bright future. With 4.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits as just a situational rusher in 2018. While far from proven, it is difficult to find a ton of defensive talent coming from smaller schools.

Inside linebacker – Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year and 1st team All-Pro is a no-brainer on this list. Hailing from South Carolina State, Leonard took the league by storm in 2018, finishing as the NFL’s leading tackler. He is still improving in coverage, but his nose for finding the football makes him invaluable.

bobby_wagner_2015
Wagner accounted for nearly 450 tackles at Utah State. (Wikimedia Commons)

Inside linebacker – Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Wagner is the best all-around linebacker in the NFL (except for maybe Luke Keuchley). The former Utah State standout racked up the fourth most tackles in 2018 while also adding 11 pass breakups, second most by a linebacker. He is reliable and possesses a lot of the intangibles teams look for in a middle linebacker.

Outside linebacker – Matt Judon, Baltimore Ravens
This might not be a name casual fans are overly familiar with. Judon is a product of Grand Valley State and a situational rusher for the Ravens. He has piled up 15 sacks and 39 quarterback hits over the past two seasons and could be in line for increased playing time with some of Baltimore’s offseason departures.

Cornerback – Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Jones took some time to figure out his best role in the NFL, but after putting up insane combine numbers, it was just a matter of time before technique caught up to athleticism. The former UConn star is a lockdown corner in Dallas. He length and speed make him a great cover corner.

Safety – Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons
Kazee came out of nowhere to lead the league in interceptions this year with 7. Thrown into the fray because of injuries, the former San Diego State standout thrived with more playing time. He has shown some versatility as well at nickle corner.

Safety – Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans
Byard often flies under the radar, but he a stud in Tennessee. One of the better tackling safeties in the league, he has transformed himself into a top safety in the NFL. At just 25 years old, the Middle Tennessee State product has a lot of football left in him.

Cornerback – Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos
Yet another Bears defensive player joins this team. Bryce Callahan was in a contract year and played like a true shutdown corner in the process. He turned that into a nice contract with the Broncos. Coming from Rice, Callahan had to forge his path into the league and seems to be entering the prime of his career.

Kicker – Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants
Named a Pro Bowler and second team All-Pro, Rosas burst onto the scene in 2018. The former Southern Oregon kicker was probably the most reliable player on the Giants this season not named Saquon Barkley. He made all but one extra point attempt and Rosas made 32 of 33 field goals on the season.

Punter – Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans
Kern just missed out on making it on an All-Pro team this season. He has been a consistent punter since arriving in the league in 2012 from Toledo. Kern’s accuracy is a useful tool for Mike Vrabel’s defense.

Kick returner – Andre Roberts, Buffalo Bills
Roberts earned his way to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in 2018 with the Jets. He led the league in punt return average and brought back two kicks for scores. The veteran out of The Citadel showed his explosiveness and aided Sam Darnold with improved field position during his rookie year.

The Flaw in Each Heisman Contender

This past weekend in college football was wild. Lots of top 25 teams fell and some Heisman hopefuls suffered major blows.

Just a week ago, I profiled the shallow group that makes up this Heisman race. This time around, I’m back to break down why each of the true contenders won’t win this years award. These are the front runners for the award and while it is still early, we are starting to see the full picture on the candidates. Let’s be clear, all of these players have had phenomenal seasons so far. This is explaining why they still might not win the Heisman.

Oklahoma LogoKyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Flaw: Offensive System
This might seem a bit unfair to Murray, as it isn’t his fault Lincoln Riley is a great head coach, but Oklahoma also produced Baker Mayfield last year. When you compare the two, Murray is putting up comparable numbers. Mayfield averaged 330 yards passing per game with three touchdowns and a completion percentage of 70.5 in 14 games. Murray is averaging 294 yards with 3.5 touchdowns and a 71.1 completion percentage. Murray produces more with his legs as he accounts for 62.8 yards per game rushing compared to Mayfield’s 22 yards per game during his Heisman season.

Riley is an offensive mastermind and playing in the wide open Big 12, this system is amplified an extra step. It is hard not to wonder if Murray is simply benefiting from the same system that turned Mayfield into a landslide Heisman winner. Voters will be wary of voting in a different player at the same position from the same school as they did the year before. Only once in the history of the award has a school had back-to-back winners. It happened back in 1945-46 when Army produced two different Heisman winners in as many years. These are all things Murray cannot control, but that does not mean they will not come into play when it comes time to vote.

Alabama Logo

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Flaw: Importance to team
When was the last time it felt like a team could still win the national championship without its Heisman candidate? Alabama is dominating everyone who steps on the field with them. The Crimson Tide is outscoring opponent’s by an average margin of 40 points per contest. After years of being known as a defense team, Nick Saban is boasting an offense to match it. At the center of it is Tua Tagovailoa. He is putting up incredible numbers, putting up video-game-like numbers. He has completed 75 percent of his passes, averaging 14.8 yards per attempt and has the highest passer rating in the country at 258.4.

However, he barely has to play when it matters, because it often doesn’t for Alabama. He has attempted more than 20 passes in a game only once. Tagovailoa has not taken a single snap in the fourth quarter of a football game this season. By that point, the Tide has been up by enough that his services are no longer needed. ‘Bama is far and away the best team in the country and Tagovailoa might be the best quarterback in the country, but this team seems like it would easily make it back to the playoff if it was only relying on Jalen Hurts. In limited playing time, Hurts has completed 71 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and only one interception. If the system issue for Kyler Murray was bad, this seems almost worse in Alabama where there is another quarterback performing well in the same season. It is difficult to poke holes in Tagovailoa’s campaign, but equally hard to say he should be the Heisman winner when it feels like the team would be fine without him.

West Virginia logoWill Grier, QB, West Virginia:
Flaw: Gunslinger
Will Grier has had one heck of a year so far. He has thrown for at least 330 yards in every game. He is completing 71 percent of his passes. He is also averaging a ridiculous 4.2 touchdowns passes per game. Grier has proven he can toss it all over the yard. He has West Virginia up to number six in the polls, its highest ranking since 2012. While the level of competition the Mountaineers have faced is certainly a concern, they have yet to play another ranked team and likely won’t until November, the much bigger concern is Grier’s playing style.

Much like Kyler Murray, Grier plays in the wide open Big 12. It serves up opportunities for tons of passing yards and weak secondaries to feast on. Heading into the game, he had only thrown three interceptions. Against Kansas, Grier tossed three more. Throwing three interceptions in a game is not a good thing. Throwing three interceptions against Kansas. The Jayhawks are 2-4 this season, including a loss to Nicholls State, an FCS team. Grier’s now six interceptions rank him tied for sixth most in the country. That is not an awful thing, but when you compare him to the other Heisman candidates, it is a bad look. Haskins has four, Murray has two and Tagovailoa has yet to throw one. Each of those three has played one more game than Grier as well. It begs the question of how Grier will fare when faced with top tier teams like Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom West Virginia will play next month. If Grier turns it over against those teams, not only will it likely cost his team the game, it will certainly cost him the Heisman.

Ohio State LogoDwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Flaw: Starting slow
If there is anyone in college football who is putting up the kind of number Tua Tagovailoa has, it is Dwayne Haskins. He has completed 71 percent of his passes en route to averaging 320 yards per game through the air. Haskins also leads the nation in touchdown passes through six games with 25. Looking at Ohio State’s schedule, it should relatively smooth sailing for them heading into their final game of the year against Michigan.

In the last two games for the Buckeyes though, the team has started rather sluggishly. Against Penn State, Haskins threw an early interception which lead to a field goal. Ohio State went down 13-0 and it probably would have been that score at halftime if not for a costly fumble from the Nittany Lions. Haskins played very well in the second half to lead Ohio State to a victory. Essentially the same script played out again at home against Indiana. Haskins threw a second quarter interception to kill the drive and set up a Hoosier touchdown, which put Indiana ahead at that point. He played lights out in the second half, but the lack of a complete game is troubling. The Big 10 is a tough conference to compete in and Ohio State has road games with Purdue, Michigan State and Maryland left. None of those poise serious threats, but going down early in games is not sustainable for any team. I guess if Haskins continues to do it, you could label as clutch, but it raises a red flag for me indicating he takes a little while to settle into a game.

Clemson LogoTravis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Flaw: Pass Catching
I said Etienne was getting close after his dominant performance against Syracuse. After thrashing Wake Forrest, Etienne earns himself the title of Heisman contender. He is fourth in the nation with 761 yards rushing, third for his yards per carry average of 9.2 and tied for fourth with 11 rushing touchdowns. His value cannot be overstated for a Clemson team that had its former starter Kelly Bryant transfer and now starts a true freshman under center. Against Wake Forrest, Etienne racked up 167 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries. He is an explosive playmaker on a top team in the country.

The one major concern Heisman voters will have with Etienne is he doesn’t fit the bill of a true Heisman back. He is not a powerful runner in the way that Mark Ingram or Derrick Henry, the last two running backs to win, were at Alabama. Much like Tua Tagovailoa, he is not a heavy usage player running the football as he has eclipsed 16 carries just once. We’ve seen plenty of running backs add to their candidacy by featuring as pass catchers out of the backfield on swings, screens and wheel routes downfield. On the season he has just five receptions for 27 yards and one receiving touchdown. It is not a requirement to be a good receiving back to win the award, Henry finished his winning season with just 11 grabs, but with Etienne not putting up nearly the same numbers running the ball as those that came before him, it is going to be difficult to outshine any of these quarterbacks without making an impact in the passing game.

2018 Heisman Hopefuls are Hard to Find

cappelletti_heisman_trophy_crop_1
Only quarterbacks and Alabama running backs have won the Heisman dating back to 2000. (Wikimedia Commons)

After five weeks of action in the 2018 college football season, the shortlist of contenders for the Heisman Trophy is shrinking. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are the clear front runners at this stage. All four of them are undefeated quarterbacks playing on Power 5 conference teams ranked in the top 10. At this stage, any of them could win the award, but it seems like there is not much chance anyone else manages to get their name into the running. Let’s break down who else was supposed to be in this race.

The Preseason Hopefuls
There were several other players who were supposed to challenge for the highest individual honor in the college game. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor headline this group. Love was the runner up for the award last season when Baker Mayfield took it home. Taylor finished sixth in the voting. The pair finished second and third in the nation in rushing respectively behind Seahawks first round selection Rashaad Penny. This season Taylor is fifth in the country for ground yardage, but hasn’t scored in either of his past two games and Wisconsin lost to an unranked BYU squad. Love has missed time with some nagging injuries.

Also in this group is Shea Patterson of Michigan and Kelly Bryant of Clemson. The two quarterbacks had rough starts to the season. For Patterson, he lost his season opener to Notre Dame and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He only has seven through five games this year. On the other hand, Bryant actually lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence and announced he plans to transfer.

The Sleeper Picks
Every year, there are a bunch of dark horse candidates to win the Heisman. 2018 was no different. The most popular sleeper pick this year had to be Penn State’s Trace McSorley. A true dual-threat quarterback, the senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 450. Normally, that would put you right in the heart of the conversation. However, McSorley sustained a heavy blow to his candidacy with PSU’s loss to Ohio State at home. On top of that, he has a woeful completion percentage of 52 and had two games where he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing.

Alongside McSorely were Drew Lock and Jarret Stidham, two SEC quarterbacks with first round potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lock was always going to have a tough road to the award being on an unranked team. He opened the season on fire, but came back down to Earth when Georgia drubbed Missouri. Lock failed to complete 50 percent of his passes against the Bulldogs, threw no touchdowns, one interception and for under 250 yards. For a quarterback who doesn’t run much, that pretty much ended Lock’s campaign. Stidham’s candidacy turned out to be mostly hype. Through five games, the Auburn quarterback has only thrown five touchdowns, lost at home to LSU and topped 200 passing yards twice.

400px-baker_mayfield_282934943606729
Mayfield became the first senior to win the award since 2006 and translated it into the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Still Could Join the Party
I have bashed the depth of the hopefuls pretty thoroughly, but it is still early and there a are a handful of players who could make some noise and draw Heisman attention before the season is over.

The first is Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback is making a case to be the first quarterback selected in May at the NFL draft. He could also sneak into the Heisman conversation, but it feels like he missed his best chance to assert himself. It will be hard for voters to shake the memory of him throwing four straight incompletions to lose at home to Stanford in overtime. He also has a couple of ugly statistical games on his record where he tossed multiple interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

There is no way that only quarterbacks finish as finalists either. Travis Etienne of Clemson has a chance to thrust himself into the conversation before the season is out. He is currently seventh in the country in rushing with an outrageous 8.1 yards per carry. The sophomore running back also has eight touchdowns so far. Additionally, Etienne might have just had his Heisman moment as he carried Clemson to a comeback in Death Valley over Syracuse with the team’s third-string quarterback under center. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Tigers undefeated. Being the lead back on a team likely to make the playoff and having your starting quarterback transfer, Etienne has everything in place to take a stab at this.

One last one that is a bit of a unique case is Ian Book. The Notre Dame quarterback took over as the starter in the third game of the season. He threw the game-clinching touchdown against Wake Forest and has thrown for 603 yards and six touchdowns over his last two starts. He torched what is a good Stanford defense and has a stellar 74 percent completion rate. On top of all of that, he hasn’t thrown an interception. The Irish sit at sixth in the AP poll and have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If Book puts up similar numbers and leads Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season, he could be in the mix.

The Longshots
Just because you aren’t at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make some noise. Now, Kentucky is a big school, but you probably know them for basketball. However, Ben Snell Jr. is having an impressive year running the ball. He is fourth in the nation in both yards and touchdowns. Kentucky is also 5-0 and up to #13 in the AP Poll. He will get a chance to play some great competition as Texas A&M and Georgia are still on the schedule. He could be a late riser.

Even more of a long shot is John Ursua of Hawaii. He really doesn’t belong, but he leads the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He is on pace to finish with 100 catches, 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. That kind of production usually catches the eyes of Heisman voters, but the best team Hawaii has played all year is Army. Unless Ursua can step it up and start shattering some records along with Hawaii winning out, he won’t really draw much attention.

One last name to throw around is Steven Montez from Colorado. The Buffaloes are 4-0 this season for the first time in 20 years. Montez is completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the nation. Colorado is 21st in the polls and has road games against USC, Washington and Cal. Montez has thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in four games so far. He still has two-thirds of his games left in his season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

The season is far from over, but it seems like the majority of the whittling down for the Heisman Trophy has already occurred. We might get some fireworks by season’s end, but this feels like a four-man race with a lot of people wondering what could have been.

2018 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

For many college football players, the goal is to have success at school to earn a spot in the NFL. Most players who turn pro after college enter the league via the NFL Draft.

Welcome to year three of this project. Gone from consideration is the class of 2013, replaced by the new group of college athletes selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. The top of the list looks very similar to years past. Further down the rankings is massive turnover and movement. Louisville continues its rise while Oregon continues to tumble. Auburn finally cracks the rankings after coming agonizingly close the previous two years, costing North Carolina its spot. These ranking help measure the success of college programs over the past five years in terms of producing NFL prospects. It in no way accounts or measures success in the NFL, as that is extremely difficult to quantify. This is college football we are talking about, so here is the top 25.

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide– 263 points
Previous: 1 (253 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Amari Cooper, 4th Overall, 2014
No one has yet to come close to Alabama in the three years I have compiled these rankings. With four more first round picks and a host of mid-round selections, the Crimson Tide continues to be the NFL’s favorite spot to find new players.

Ohio State Logo2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 232 points
Previous: 2 (200 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Joey Bosa, 3rd Overall, 2016
The climb continues for Ohio State. For the second straight year, the Buckeyes actually closed the gap on Alabama atop the rankings. The Crimson Tide had the stronger 2018 class, but lost more from it’s 2013 group than Ohio State did. I don’t expect Ohio State to catch Bama any time soon, but even with the uncertainty in Columbus right now, the Buckeyes should be a lock for the top five for the foreseeable future.

Florida logo.jpg3. Florida Gators- 163 points
Previous: 4 (181 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Dante Fowler Jr., 3rd Overall, 2015
Despite dropping a ton of points in the rankings, Florida actually leap frogs Florida State. Nobody is catching Alabama or Ohio State anytime soon. The Gators will stay in the top five though as long as players continue to go in the first round.

Florida State Logo4. Florida State Seminoles- 160 points
Previous: 3 (192 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Jameis Winston, 1st Overall, 2015
Florida State drops a spot for a second consecutive year. The Seminoles 2018 class was deep, but only Derwin James went in the first round. Still FSU should hang around the top five on the back of that 2015 class for at least one more year.

Louisiana State University logo5. LSU Tigers- 155 points
Previous: 4 (175 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Leonard Fournette, 4th Overall, 2017
A large dip in points does not cost the Tigers a spot in the rankings. LSU continues to produce top tier defensive players every season. If the offense can start to catch up, the Tigers could start moving up the board.

Clemson Logo6. Clemson Tigers- 139 points
Previous: 6 (151 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sammy Watkins, 4th Overall, 2014
Clemson had a woeful showing at the NFL draft this season compared to recent history, but it didn’t hurt them in the rankings. Just three players were drafted in 2018, with no one coming off the board until the third round. The Tigers have a host of defensive lineman that could go in the first round next year, so expect Clemson to bounce back in a big way.

UCLA logo.jpg7. UCLA Bruins- 126 points
Previous: 9 (115 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Anthony Barr, 9th Overall, 2014
Finally, a team that increased its point total and moved up the rankings as a result. UCLA had two first round picks in Josh Rosen and Kolton Miller. It will need a strong 2019 class to hold his position as it loses a solid 2014 class next year.

Notre Dame Logo8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 116 points
Previous: 7 (123 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
The margin for error among these next seven teams is tiny. For a second straight year, Notre Dame slips a bit in the rankings. However, this Fighting Irish team is back on track in college football and could see that reflect in draft results. Notre Dame continues to be one of the top schools for offensive linemen in the country, which should keep it in the top 10 for a while.

Stanford Cardinal9. Stanford Cardinal- 115 points
Previous: 10 (113 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
Stanford didn’t have a great 2018 draft, but it was better than the outgoing 2013 group. The Cardinal remain in the top 10 for another year. With a Heisman candidate in Bryce Love, Stanford will be a team to watch in 2018. We will have to see if that translates into better draft success.

USC logo10. USC Trojans- 114 points
Previous: 12 (105 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
Sam Darnold went third in this year’s draft, headlining a solid class for the Trojans with two second rounders and a third round selection to round it out. It feels right to have USC in the top 10. 2014 wasn’t a great year for them either in terms of draft success, so the Trojans could climb higher.

Louisville logo11. Louisville Cardinals- 112 points
Previous: 19 (85 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Rankins, 12th Overall, 2016
A massive jump up the rankings sees Louisville knocking on the door of the top 10. After failing to make noise in 2017, the Cardinals produced two first rounders in 2018 to bolster their spot in the rankings. Even without Lamar Jackson at quarterback, the talent in Kentucky should keep on flowing into the NFL.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg11. Washington Huskies- 112 points
Previous: 14 (97 points)
Highest Drafted Player– John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
Often overlooked in the wider college football scene, Washington has quietly become one of the best producers of NFL talent in recent years. Vita Vea headlines a relatively deep group headed to play pro ball in 2018. With very little to lose from its 2014 class, Washington could sneak into the top 10.

Miami logo13. Miami Hurricanes- 111 points
Previous: 13 (98 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Ereck Flowers, 9th Overall, 2015
The Canes are officially back. A spike in points did not correlate with a jump in the rankings, but Miami continues to produce mid-round NFL talent. The Hurricanes had six players selected, but none before the third round. Some early draft picks could be the difference for Miami going forward.

MichiganWolverines14. Michigan Wolverines- 110 points
Previous: 11 (107 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Taylor Lewan, 11th Overall, 2014
After soaring into the rankings last year, Michigan fell back down to Earth a bit in 2018, dropping three spots. That being said, Michigan actually upped its point total from 2017, despite only having two players drafted. The Wolverines will need to bounce back with a much better 2019 class in order to stay in the top 15.

Texas A&M logo15. Texas A&M Aggies- 102 points
Previous: 8 (108 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
We have a big faller here. Texas A&M barely stays in the top 15 after finished T-8th a year ago. An unimpressive 2018 class certainly hurt, but a weak 2019 group could drop the Aggies from the rankings. A&M will lose it’s 2014 class that featured three first round picks. This is definitely a team trending down.

Georgia Logo16. Georgia Bulldogs- 99 points
Previous: 15 (96 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Hard to believe that Georgia made it to the national championship game and dropped a spot in these rankings. Still, the Bulldogs had a good draft class and definitely have the potential to climb a bit next year. Georgia should be national contenders again, meaning this team definitely has more NFL talent.

Auburn_Tigers_logo17. Auburn Tigers- 92 points
Previous: 25 (74 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Greg Robinson, 2nd Overall, 2014
Auburn just missed the top 25 in 2016. After being a fringe team last year, the Tigers are solidly in the rankings. A 2018 class that featured three second round selections makes it easy to see why they are rising.

Oklahoma Logo18. Oklahoma Sooners- 90 points
Previous: 17 (87 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Baker Mayfield, 1st Overall, 2018
Produce the first overall pick only to drop a spot. Sometimes, life is just like that. Baker Mayfield represents the first Sooner selected in the first round since Lane Johnson in 2013. Oklahoma has put together deep draft classes, but failed to generate stars in recent years. After a run to the College Football Playoff in 2017, I have a feeling there is more to follow. Look for the Sooners to climb.

Penn_State_text_logo19. Penn State Nittany Lions- 85 points
Previous: Unranked (65 points)
Highest Drafted Player: Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
After so many years of producing only mid-round talent, Penn State put together a deep class with a true stud at the top in Saquon Barkley. He became the first Nittany Lion to go in the first round since Jared Odrick in 2010. More of the same from State College, PA could have Penn State cracking the top 15.

Wisconsin logo20. Wisconsin Badgers- 78 points
Previous: 19 (85 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Melvin Gordon, 15th Overall, 2015
Wisconsin slips another spot after a solid if unspectacular 2018 class. Five players in total entered the league, but none before the fourth round. There are couple of offensive lineman already on scouts’ radars for next year so it could be a bounce back showing for the Badgers.

Ole_Miss_Rebels_logo21. Ole Miss Rebels- 77 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (62 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Laremy Tunsil, 13th Overall, 2016
Success for Ole Miss in these rankings seemed unlikely back in 2017 when news broke about Hugh Freeze’s personal misconduct violations. However, the Rebels sent four more players to the NFL this year. While there were no first rounders, it was a solid group. Don’t expect Ole Miss to climb much higher, but they should hang around at least for a little while.

Missouri logo22. Missouri Tigers- 75 points
Previous: 18 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Charles Harris, 22nd Overall, 2017
Just one player from Mizzou joined the NFL ranks this year as J’Mon Moore went in the fourth round. Unfortunately for Missouri, it will likely continue to drop in the rankings. The Tigers have only had five players selected in the past three years.

Michigan State logo23. Michigan State Spartans- 67 points
Previous: 23 (75 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Jack Conklin, 8th Overall, 2016
Another quiet year from the Spartans pushes them to the brink of the rankings. Just one Michigan State player was taken, in the fourth round, during the 2018 draft. Strong classes from 2015 and 2016 will keep Sparty in the mix, but it is certainly in danger of falling out next season.

iowa_wordmark23. Iowa Hawkeyes – 67 points
Previous: Unranked (52 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Branden Scherff, 5th Overall, 2015
Iowa has been climbing into the rankings with strong drafts over the past few years. Known for producing tight ends and offensive linemen, the Hawkeyes are continuing that pipeline to the NFL. Iowa might never reach the top 10, but they will likely stay in the rankings for a bit.

Utah_Utes_logo25. Utah Utes- 66 points
Previous: 24 (75 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Star Loutelilie, 14th Overall, 2013
In 2017, Utah sent eight players to the NFL. That incredible draft put Utah on the map and pushed them into the rankings. The Utes don’t drop in terms of spots, but with only one player drafted in 2018, the view for Utah is a lot more bitter this season.

Others Receiving Votes: Oregon- 65 points, West Virginia- 65 points, NC State- 62 points, North Carolina- 60 points, Arkansas- 60 points

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons