QB: DeShaun Watson- Clemson: I made a mistake not making him as my number one QB last season and that wouldn’t be my first mistake. But, in my defense my team came out before the ACC Championship game and the Bowl games. Plus, I was singing Watson’s praises in the Spring before his freshman season. In 2015, Watson threw for an amazing 4,104 yards and 35 Touchdowns. With his feet, he gained 1,105 yards and 12 Touchdowns. For those that believe recruiting doesn’t matter, Watson was the #1 ranked Dual Threat Quarterback in his class.
QB: Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma: In stark contrast to Watson and his ranking is Baker Mayfield. Mayfield
Read my earlier blog about Mayfield to get his story:
Mayfield made the Sooners go in 2015 and he threw for 3700 yards and 35 Touchdowns and that could even get better in 2016. Mayfield is not the runner that Watson is, but he is still an athlete that can pick up yards with his feet.
QB: Josh Rosen – UCLA: One of the better passing true freshmen Quarterbacks that has come along in the past few years. Rosen is 6-4, 210, supposedly, and he will need to work hard in the off season and continue improving. But, as a true freshman he threw for 3,669 yards and 23 Touchdowns.
RB: Leonard Fournette – LSU: The Seattle Seahawks held the greatest Running Back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson, to 18 yards rushing. But, everybody turned on Leonard Fournette when national champion Alabama held him to 31 yards rushing. As a sophomore, Fournette ran for 1,953 yards after running for just over a 1,000 as a true freshman. Over two seasons, Fournette has 2,987 yards rushing and 32 Touchdowns. Expect Fournette to run for nearly 5,000 career yards and then declare for the NFL and be a very early pick. All that media talk of Fournette not needing to play next season was bogus as usual.
RB: Christian McCaffrey – Stanford: I hate to say I told ya so, but I was the first writing about this star. Last season, McCaffrey was spectacular running for 2,019 yards. He also broke Barry Sanders total yardage record. Stanford loses it’s Quarterback and 4 out of 5 Offensive Linemen, but they have talent ready to replace except for maybe at Quarterback.
RB: Dalvin Cook – Florida State: Probably the most explosive Running Back in the country. Cook had some injury problems as a sophomore and if he stays healthy he could put up huge numbers in 2016 before he declares for the next level. After two seasons, Cook has 2,699 yards.
RB: Nick Chubb – Georgia: If Chubb rehabs well enough, he should be every bit as good as he was as a freshman when he rushed for over 1,500. He might even come back bigger, stronger and faster. Chubb is a special talent.
WR: Calvin Ridley – Alabama: Ridley is an incredible talent that hauled in 89 receptions as a true freshman which covered 1,045 yards and 7 Touchdowns. He’s a game changer and a play maker much like the guy he replaced, Amari Cooper. Barring injury, he should be a top 10 pick in 2 years.
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC: The talented junior to be caught 89 passes last season for 1,454 yards and 10 Touchdowns. Smith-Schuster is 6-2, 215 with breakaway speed and great hands. He’ll lose his Quarterback in 2016, but Max Browne should be able to get him the ball really well.
WR: Simmie Cobbs – Indiana: The 6-4, 215 Cobbs from Oak Park, Illinois was a big play guy for the Hoosiers with 60 catches for 1,035 yards and 4 Touchdowns. JC transfer Richard Lagow should win the QB job and Cobbs numbers should be good again in 2016.
WR: Isaiah Ford – Virginia Tech: Ford was a play maker for the Hokies in 2015 and with the
coaching change, I believe his numbers could actually improve. Ford is good sized at 6-2, 190 and has the speed and hands to be a huge star. Last season, he caught 75 passes for 1,164 yards and 11 scores.
WR: Christian Kirk – Texas A%M: Outstanding true freshman like Ridley of Alabama. A very explosive player with 80 receptions for 1.009 yards and 7 Touchdowns. Kirk was also one of the top punt return guys in the country with 2 returns for scores. Cyrus Jones led the country with 4 punt returns for scores, but Kirk tied with several others with 2 scores. He also returned Kick offs for the Aggies.
TE: Jake Butt – Michigan: The 6-6, 250 Butt is the most complete Tight End in the country, in my opinion. He’s a good blocker and an excellent clutch receiver. He caught 51 passes last year for 654 yards and 3 Touchdowns. Very dependable player for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
TE: Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech: If you’ve read my blog much, you will know that I am a fan of Hodges. I was also a little surprised that the 6-7, 245 Hodges returned to Virginia Tech for another year. The super athletic Tight End caught 40 passes last year for 530 yards and 6 Touchdowns.
TE: OJ Howard – Alabama: This blog was high on Howard after his freshman season, but he has been little used by Alabama. However, he demonstrated his huge talents. At 6-6, 245 he has outstanding speed and can be a franchise player. He had 31 catches coming into his junior season and hauled in 38 as a junior. His 2 long runs against Clemson were truly impressive.
OT: Mitch Hyatt – Clemson: True freshman last season and started at Left Tackle immediately for the Tigers. He’s listed as 6-6, 295 which is not as big as some, but he is very athletic with quick feet and hands. Hyatt went up against Robert Nkemdiche as a high school sophomore and handled himself very well. Hyatt has a bright, bright future.
OT: Cam Robinson – Alabama: Last year’s Mitch Hyatt. Robinson also started from day one. He got off to a somewhat rocky start in 2015, but he kept improving as the year went on. At 6-6, 325, Robinson is destined to be a top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is really quick for his size and had some tremendous blocks in the championship game alone.
OT: Casey Tucker – Stanford: The only returning starter up front for the Stanford Cardinal and surely will move from his Right Tackle position over to the Left Tackle spot. He’s 6-6, 300 and can
OT: Roderick Johnson – Florida State: Johnson started as a true freshman at Left Tackle. He is 6-7, 325 and the leader of an Offensive Line that is going to be really good in 2016 as the Seminoles bounce back from a ‘down’ year for them. Robinson will more than likely be the first Tackle taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, but I would not be surprised at all if Johnson was the second.
OT: Mason Cole – Michigan: The 2014 national recruiting class may go down as the best in history when all is said and done. Cole was yet another guy that played from day one as a true freshman. Cole even started in the Spring Game of basically his senior year in high school like Cam Robinson. Compared to some of the giants out there, Cole is not that big at about 6-5, 285, but he has the footwork and quickness to make up for it. Watch out for Cole and the Wolverines next season.
OT: Adam Bisnowaty – Pittsburgh: This guy is a physical specimen that is equally good in run or pass blocking. He has made the All ACC Academic team for several years, so he’s a smart guy as well.
OG: Dan Feeney – Indiana: It’s hard to keep up with who leaves early for the NFL these days and I assumed that Feeney might. Feeney just continues to impress with his run blocking and pass protection. He is 6-4, 310 and has been the heart and soul of a great offensive team for the past 2 seasons. Look for more of the same in 2016.
OG: Viane Talamaivao – USC: The Trojans have been known for their Offensive Lines for decades. The Trojan Line in 2015 was talented, but still young and they were plagued by injury after injury. In 2014, they at times started 4 true freshmen up front and those guys are older and more experienced
now. Talamaivao is 6-2, 320 and a road grader in the run game.
OG: Braden Smith – Auburn: This guy walks like he might be awkward, but he is super athletic and can drive anybody off of the ball in the run game and moves laterally as well as anyone. He is 6-6, 285 and makes up for his lessor weight with outstanding quickness. Watch him against Robert Nkemdiche if you want to see how it’s done.
OG: Martez Ivey – Florida: The top Offensive Tackle recruit in the country last season. Ivey played a lot at Left Tackle before settling in at Left Guard. The Gators had at least 3 outstanding Offensive Linemen in their last class and all of them played during the year. He is listed at 6-5, 302 and he will do nothing but get better at Florida.
OC: Evan Pocic – LSU: In 2014, Pocic started at Right Guard for the Tigers. For the 2015 season, he moved over to Center and played pretty well.
OC: Jackson Matteo – Virginia: Matteo did not allow a sack all season. At 6-5, 290, he was also a really good run blocker for a struggling Virginia team.
DE: Myles Garrett -Texas A%M: Possibly the most gifted Defensive End in the country and he has 24 sacks in his first 2 seasons. He doesn’t always play the run very well and seems to take plays off at times. But, if he improves on that he should be an early pick after next season. He probably is anyway just on potential.
DE: DeMarcus Walker – Florida State: Surprisingly, Walker elected to return for his senior season. Last year, Walker recorded 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Walker is 6-3, 280 and extremely athletic. Florida State versus Clemson in 2016 should be one for the ages.
DE: Jonathan Allen – Alabama: Talk about shocking, when anybody in the SEC returns for his
senior season I am surprised. Allen was the Tide’s top pass rushing lineman last year and had 12 sacks. With the loss of so many other Defensive Linemen at Alabama, Allen might significantly improve his draft status by returning. Those writing off Alabama last year and for next year will continue to be disappointed.
DE: Derek Barnett – Tennessee: Barnett is more of a run stopper than some other ends and was 3rd on the Vols in tackles last year. His 10 sacks matched his total as a true freshman giving him 20 total sacks in two seasons. If the Vols are going to make a run at SEC glory, 2016 should be the year.
DE: Sam Hubbard – Ohio State: The former Safety has beefed up to 265 pounds on his 6-5 frame. Backing up Joey Bosa for much of his redshirt freshman year in 2015, he still made time to record 28 tackles, grab an Interception and sack the Quarterback 6.5 times. In 2016, the Buckeyes will need Hubbard to step up and take over and he should deliver.
DT: Christian Wilkins – Clemson: Wilkins was a true freshman and a monster last year for the Tigers. Next season, the Tigers will need him to relieve the pressure from losing so much talent in the front 4 yet again. He is 6-4, 315 and a difficult chore to block.
DT: Caleb Brantley – Florida: The Gators almost always have top Defensive Linemen and Brantley looks like the next great one. Brantley had 3 Quarterback sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
DT: Malik McDowell – Michigan State: McDowell is another physical specimen at 6-6, 275. He recorded 4.5 Quarterback sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He also picked off a pass and returned it for a score.
DT: Terry Beckner – Missouri: Beckner was the top Defensive Tackle recruit in the country in the
last recruiting class and he showed why pretty often in games. As a true freshman he had 3 Quarterback sacks and 8 tackles for loss. It’s really clear that Beckner deserved all of the praise that he got and he will be a beast over the next two seasons at Missouri.
LB: Raekwon McMillan – Ohio State: In his 3rd season at Ohio State, McMillan will now be the unquestioned leader of the defense which took huge hits from early declarations and seniors. The 6-2, 240 junior from Hinesville, Georgia was the Buckeyes’ leading tackler last season and will be again this year. The Buckeyes lose 8 out of their top 12 tacklers for next season.
LB: Josey Jewell – Iowa: Remarkable run by Iowa was led mostly by great defense which is the Hawkeye trademark. The 6-2, 230 Jewell was a difference maker for the Hawkeyes last season leading the team in tackles while picking off 4 passes, sacking the Quarterback 2.5 times and making 7.5 tackles for loss. Jewell will be a junior in 2016 and should put up similar numbers.
LB: Anthony Walker – Northwestern: Walker is a sensational Linebacker out of Miami that has a nose for the football. He led his team in tackles, scored on a fumble recovery and picked off a pass. That was on top of totaling 20.5 tackles for loss and 4 Quarterback sacks.
LB: Reuben Foster – Alabama: Foster is another Bama player that I would have assumed would announce for the NFL, but apparently he is coming back for 2016. With the loss of so many other Linebackers such as Reggie Ragland, Foster’s role with the defense should increase. This guy can really hit.
LB: Richie Brown – Mississippi State: The 6-2, 245 Brown quietly had a really big season and led the Bulldogs in tackles last season. He is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage. He had 3 Interceptions in one game as a sophomore in 2014. In the 2015 season, he had 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 Quarterback sacks. He is a play maker.
CB: Adoree Jackson – USC: Jackson played on both sides of the ball and on special teams in both
2014 and 2015. At Wide Receiver, he caught 27 passes for 414 yards and a couple of Touchdowns. He also scored 2 Touchdowns on Punt Returns while averaging over 10 yards per return. He ran back 30 Kickoffs and averaged 23 yards per return. On defense, Jackson totaled 35 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up 8 passes. He only had 1 pick, but he returned it for a Touchdown.
CB: Jourdan Lewis – Michigan: One of the top cover corners in the country. Lewis was assigned to opponents best WR’s and more than held his own while breaking up 20 passes. Although a little on the smaller side, Lewis is one of the top Cornerbacks in the nation.
CB: Jalen Tabor – Florida: The Gators had two outstanding CB’s last season with Tabor and Hargreaves. Tabor returns for his junior season which I am sure will be his last and he should be a really early pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. This ball hawk had 4 picks and returned 2 for Touchdowns.
CB: Desmond King – Iowa: Speaking of ball hawks, King is an amazing football player and tied for second in the nation with 8 Interceptions. He returned 1 of those for a score while also returning punts and kicks for the Hawkeyes. King was also one of the team’s top tacklers.
CB: Rashard Fant – Indiana: Love this guy. Fant broke up 22 passes last season while making 52 total tackles. He plays the run and the pass very well. He’s a little on the smaller side at 5-10, 175, but he’s just going into his junior year and can bulk up somewhat.
DB: Jabril Peppers – Michigan: The amazing Peppers is the Big 10’s version of Adoree Jackson. As a recruit, Peppers came out of New Jersey with huge fanfare and would have been a freshman All American if not for injury. Peppers played RB, WR, DB and he returned Kicks and Punts. The
Wolverines often put him in at Running Back, or the Wildcat position in short yardage or goal line situations.
DB: Derwin James – Florida State: One of the top true freshmen in the country last season. James was all over the field. Anyone that watched the Florida State Spring Game witnessed James picking off the first pass thrown and returning it for a score. James is the complete package. He is big, strong, fast and he is all over the field. At 6-3, 215 and very fast, he is the next big thing at FSU.
DB: Jordan Whitehead – Pittsburgh: Freshman All American is another Iron man along the lines of Peppers and Adoree Jackson. He lead the team in tackles and he found time to play Running Back and Wide Receiver for the Panthers. From the same town as Tony Dorsett, Whitehead is a present and future star.
DB: Donnie Miles – North Carolina: Another play maker at Safety that led his team in tackles. Miles is a tough Miami guy that is especially good against the run. At 5-11, 215 he is like having another Linebacker on the field.
DB: Quin Blanding – Virginia: Blanding burst onto the scene last year in perhaps the best freshman class in the history of college football. He lead his team in tackles as a true freshman and then again as a sophomore. His junior year should be more of the same as Blanding makes first team All American and then probably bolts to the NFL.
DB: Eddie Jackson – Alabama: Outstanding play maker for the national champion Crimson Tide. Jackson had 6 well timed Interception returning 2 for Touchdowns. I am surprised that Jackson did not declare for the NFL.
Kicker: Aidan Schneider – Oregon: Made 91% of his Field Goals and 100% of his Extra Points. He is a big strong kicker at 6-4, 235.
Punter: Dalton Schomp – Florida Atlantic: Unknown player, but averaged 48 yards a punt at sea level. He’s a stocky guy at 6-1, 220 which apparently is where his punting power comes from.
Punt Returner: Christian Kirk – Texas A%M: Averaged over 24 yards per punt return as a freshman. He should be the AA Punt Return guy if the coaches keep him returning punts.
Kick Returner: Evan Berry – Tennessee: This guy is an awesome return guy that averaged over 38 yards per return.