Heisman Watchlist: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Rarely, if ever, do wide receivers receive serious Heisman Trophy consideration. Since Michigan’s Desmond Howard won it in 1991, only three receivers finished in the top-3 in the voting, with Amari Cooper being the most recent in 2014. Virtually every big season by a receiver is complemented by a massive campaign from the man slinging him passes – quarterbacks can’t win the Heisman Trophy without their receivers, but the receivers rarely receive credit. Take last season’s LSU team for example; let’s skip all the standard ‘Joe Burrow had the greatest season ever’ because we know that, and it’s a boring and old way to waste words in this story. Rather, I wanted to look at Joe Burrow’s game versus Oklahoma. Burrow was incredible in firing seven first half touchdowns, but on nearly every toss, his target did a majority of the hard work.

On three of his TD passes, Burrow found a receiver with at least two yards of separation, twice hitting LSU receivers without an Oklahoma defender within six yards. On another two, Justin Jefferson had his man beat by a step or two, and Burrow actually threw behind him, forcing tougher catches than necessary, and on the two scoring passes not mentioned yet, Burrow hit his receivers on short crossing patterns. Now Burrow deserves plenty of credit for extending plays with his legs, making the throws, and all the standard tangible attributes QBs get praise for, but virtually no talk or conversation after the game discussed how insanely easy the LSU receivers made it for Burrow. Throwing it back a few weeks earlier, to Burrow’s viral ‘Heisman’ play against Georgia, and you’ll see him find Jefferson, open by about 8-10 feet. None of this is to say Burrow didn’t deserve the Heisman and didn’t have a great season, but the lack of credit receivers get is astounding. 

And if there was ever a receiver to be in a position to get more attention than the quarterback, it is LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase. Chase was one of the bevy of LSU pass-catchers making Burrow’s life easy last season, and this year he has a far more unproven quarterback in Myles Brennan throwing to him. Chase didn’t do too much in the Oklahoma game, but he was the receiving star in the National Championship, catching nine passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns against Clemson. His 1,748 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season led the nation, and earned the sophomore star the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the most outstanding receiver. With fellow stud Justin Jefferson graduated to the NFL, Chase will be the top target for Brennan in 2020, and his highlight reel alone has got to make LSU fans excited.

Ja’Marr Chase is always open – check out this highlight mix from Bryan Mallett (@Bmalmedia on Instagram)

With Chase’s explosiveness, he doesn’t even need Brennan to light up the SEC. Last season, Chase caught a pass for at least 40 yards in eight games, and at least 20 yards in 13 of LSU’s 15 contests. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is unlikely to ask Brennan to be the hero for LSU, given his lack of experience as a starter, but expect him to be dialing up plays for his new signal-caller to hit Chase deep once or twice a game. Chase can get open against virtually anyone, and his hands are some of the best in the nation. A projected top-10 pick in the 2021 draft, Chase is undoubtedly going to be a focal point of the offense in the Bayou. LSU is hoping to avoid being a one-hit wonder, and they’ll lean on Chase to be even more explosive and precise than he was this past year. 

Top Games For Heisman Moments

@ Florida, October 10

Going into this game, LSU *should* be 5-0. Their only real test is a home game vs. Texas, and although Texas may actually be good this season, they will be underdogs in Death Valley, and they don’t really boast the defense that can take advantage of an inexperienced LSU offense. However, this October 10 contest in Gainesville will be a brutal test for the Tigers. In a hostile environment – their first true road game of the season – LSU will look to Chase to help Myles Brennan navigate the difficulty of playing away from home in the SEC. Florida will be the stiffest defense Brennan and the Tigers have to face in the first two months of the season, so if (and when Chase gets open) the headlines should be about his performance if LSU gets the victory. 

Game To Ruin Heisman Hopes

Vs. Texas, September 12

I’m worried that this game becomes a battle of Texas’s offense against LSU’s defense, and Orgeron may look to the ground game, to take the pressure off of Brennan in his first real test as a starter. As said before, I anticipate LSU winning this game, but the potential of an early-season trap game, and my gut feeling that Chase won’t be the go-to guy on the offense makes it tough for LSU’s star wide receiver to put up big numbers in a big win, which will be critical if he’s to be a legitimate Heisman candidate as a receiver.

We Simulated Clemson’s 2019 Season, but with LSU’s Schedule

Clemson got a lot of grief for their quality of competition last season, going 12-0 in the ACC en route to a College Football Playoff berth – Clemson dominated the ACC, but they wouldn’t have stood a chance in the SEC – or so the rabid fans down south would like you to believe. Yes, Clemson has dominated the ACC, but last year, only one other team put up a nine-win season, and that was Virginia, who lost by 45 points to Clemson in the ACC title game – not exactly elite by any stretch. However, there’s no question Dabo Swinney runs an excellent program, and you only have to go back two years to recall Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers dismantling Alabama by 28 points in the title game. Was last year’s championship loss another mere reflection of LSU’s dominance, or did it symbolize that Clemson simply wouldn’t be as good as they are in a different conference. To answer this question, we simulated Clemson’s 2019 season, except we stacked them up against LSU’s schedule, to see how the Tigers may have fared. Granted, this is only one simulation, but it’s curious to see if LSU, and the SEC as a whole, has some merit in their constant berating of Dabo’s team. Let’s see if Clemson can shut them up. 

Week 1 vs. Georgia Southern
Win 38-6 (LSU Result: Win 55-3)
Maybe LSU had a little more dominance, but this one wasn’t ever close. No questions are answered after this game. 

Week 2 @ Texas
Loss 20-17 (LSU Result: Win 45-38)
Ouch. A Week 2 loss already in the books for Clemson. They had much better defensive success against Sam Ehlinger, but a 32-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left dooms them. This game wasn’t a cakewalk for LSU either though, and a three-point non-conference loss hardly dooms Clemson’s playoff hopes (if they run the table in the SEC). 

Week 3 vs. Northwestern State
COULD NOT SIM
Our simulator does not allow us to clash with FCS opponents, but we know this one would have been a blowout win for Clemson either way. It was never going to tell us anything we didn’t already know. 

Week 4 @ Vanderbilt
Win 44-19 (LSU Result: Win 66-38)
In their first SEC clash, Clemson answers the bell with ease, dominating the hapless Commodores. Travis Etienne – he’s dominant in any conference – puts up over 250 yards of offense as Clemson opens up a 34-6 halftime lead. LSU’s margin of victory is slightly bigger, but nothing jaw-dropping here. 

Week 5 vs. Utah State
Win 62-13 (LSU Result: Win 42-3)
The only thing we learned from this one is that Jordan Love can’t do anything against LSU or Clemson – wouldn’t be too confident if I’m a Packers fan right now. Clemson wins by 10 more than LSU did, with Trevor Lawrence tossing six touchdowns, but both teams cruise.

Week 6 vs. Florida
Win 31-26 (LSU Result: Win 42-28)
What a game! People forget that Kyle Trask and the Gators were the only team all season to lead LSU in the second half. They never actually lead Clemson in this one, but they’re very close all game, and Clemson can’t breathe easy until Trask tosses an interception at the Clemson 38 with under a minute to play. Still a very solid SEC win for the Tigers, however. 

Week 7 @ Mississippi State
Win 42-21 (LSU Result: Win 36-13)
Nothing much to see here – Clemson cruises on the road against an inferior team that was barely bowl-eligible. It wasn’t even as close as the score indicated, as the Bulldogs scored in the final minutes to pull within 21. The next few weeks have some bigger tests in store.

Week 8 vs. Auburn
Win 58-10 (LSU Result: Win 23-20)
Wow, absolute dominance by Clemson. Auburn rarely struggles like this on defense, but Clemson was simply all over them from the start. A rare time that the Clemson offense did far more than LSU did, as Trevor Lawrence (389 yards, four touchdowns) and Travis Ettienne (213 all-purpose yards) were simply finding gaping holes in the defense. Is this a testament to who has the real Death Valley as well? Bo Nix looked horrific here, but he almost led the Tigers to a big upset at LSU..

Week 9 @ Alabama
Loss 47-7 (LSU Result: Win 46-41)

That’s a tough look right there. Clemson went into Tuscaloosa, but unlike Joe Burrow, they didn’t pull the upset. Not only that, but the Crimson Tide laughed Clemson out of town, as the Tigers failed to score until 1:37 left in the third quarter. Alabama had the offense to go toe-to-toe with anyone, and Clemson’s offense was simply not up to the task. Since the rest of the SEC results will hold, this means Alabama finishes the season 7-1 in SEC play, and thus Clemson will not play in the SEC title game. The Playoff  is a distant memory at this point, and they can only hope to play for a potential New Years’ 6 Bowl Game. (Apologies, there were some issues with the boxscore link on this game).

Week 10 @ Ole Miss
Win 28-18 (LSU Result: Win 58-37)
It’s been a pretty consistent trend (sans the Alabama debacle) – Clemson fared much better defensively against the Rebels than LSU, while their offense suffered considerably more struggles. Ole Miss led for much of the first half, but Clemson seizes control late in the second quarter and pulls away.
Week 11 vs Arkansas
Win 54-17 (LSU Result: Win 56-20)
Arkansas is exactly the same thing to Clemson that they were to LSU: SEC punching bags. The Razorbacks never had a chance. Clemson unleashes some of their frustration from their horrific loss and frustratingly close win against Ole Miss. 

Week 12 vs. Texas A&M
Win 33-3 (LSU Result: Win 50-7)
The Aggies are a good, not great, SEC team. It’s a useful measuring stick to see how Clemson sizes up against a team that is certainly in the upper half of the conference. They proved clear superiority in this one, much like they did in their actual game against Texas A&M this past season (albeit much earlier in the season). The Aggies are held to three points, as they were on the actual gridiron, and Clemson tacks on a few more field goals in this virtual contest, wrapping up their regular season. At 10-2, with ranked victories over Florida and Auburn, Clemson has a decent chance at swinging a New Years’ 6 game, but nothing more than that, as Alabama takes on Georgia in the SEC championship. 

The Verdict
Clearly, Clemson was not the power that LSU was, but we already knew that from their championship game clash. The Tigers went 10-2, with a 7-1 SEC mark, proving that they would be right there with the best of them in the conference. The biggest bragging right the SEC can hold over Clemson is much tougher road atmospheres. Clemson went 3-1 in SEC road games, struggling to do much against Ole Miss and getting absolutely blown out by Alabama. Throw in their Texas loss, and the Tigers went 3-2 in true road games, with a point differential of just +13. Maybe Clemson is in for a bit more trouble than people think when they visit Notre Dame, who hasn’t lost at home since 2017, in the upcoming season. The ACC doesn’t provide intimidating road environments – not exactly surprising for a basketball-dominated conference – and Clemson clearly struggled in hostile environments in this simulation. However, nobody, regardless of conference, touches Clemson at Death Valley (real or not).

It’s completely unfair to say Clemson is not a great team that benefits from a bad conference. Yes, their ACC schedule is easy, but Clemson would be extremely competitive and near the top of the SEC, even if they weren’t a near-lock for 12-0 every season. Their mauling in Tuscaloosa does raise some questions abut their physicality, and emphasizes the difference in a full-season grind in the SEC versus the ACC – however don’t mistake that for mediocrity. Clemson is a premier program and would still compete for a Playoff spot against a much tougher schedule.

Dream League Championship: Clyde Edwards-Hillaire just keeps on running

They laughed at the strategy, but Nathaniel shook off the doubters. On the day of the draft, Nathaniel mourned his lack of preparation, so he proceeded to stick to his comfort zone. He loaded his offense with a stockpile of absurd SEC talent, drafted nine players out of the SEC East, subsequently dubbing his team the “SEC East all-stars”. Nathaniel was given the lowest odds of our three podcast personalities to win the title, but it didn’t matter.

After a 7-1 regular season, Nathaniel took a bye to the championship round, at which point he rolled over Cal, the preseason favorites, in a two-game sweep to claim the title. Here’s a recap of the championship round:

Nathaniel 55 Cal 33 (Box Score, and Play-by-Play)

Playing at home to start the series, Nathaniel actually struggled to start, falling behind by two possessions, 16-7, late in the second quarter. But in the final five minutes of the half, Nathaniel outscored Cal 24-0 to seize control. LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Hillaire broke off touchdown runs of 46 and 34 yards, sandwiched around a field goal, to take a 24-16 lead. Then, Nathaniel got some help from his Georgia defense, which intercepted Trevor Lawrence with three seconds left. Joe Burrow took a shot at the end zone and connected with DeVontae Smith for a touchdown.

Nathaniel iced the game in the third quarter as Edwards-Hillaire continued to torch Cal’s Ohio State defense, rushing for 28 and 66-yard TDs. Another Burrow-Smith connection made it a 21-point quarter and a 52-19 lead. Two late touchdowns for Cal did little to ease the brutal loss. Edwards-Hillaire rushed for four touchdowns and 213 yards, Burrow threw for 354 yards and three scores, while Lawrence threw for 348 yards in the loss.

Nathaniel 37 Cal 27

It was deja vu early for Cal, as he watched Clyde Edwards-Hillaire take a screen pass from Burrow 73 yards to the house en route to an early 13-0 deficit. However, playing in his home stadium – the “Big House” in Michigan – Cal didn’t go away. A Chuba Hubbard touchdown run kept him within 20-10 at halftime.

Lawrence scrambled and beat the defense to the edge early in the second half, running it in from 11 yards out, drawing within three points. After Nathaniel kicked a field goal, Hubbard snared a short pass and raced 55 yards for a 24-23 lead. However, it would be his only lead, as on Nathaniel’s next possession, second-string running back AJ Dillon, a second round pick in this year’s draft, burst up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown run. After a two-point conversion, it was 31-24, and Nathaniel held on for victory. Edwards-Hillaire racked up 161 all purpose yards to gain postseason MVP honors. Michael Pittman had 100 receiving yards in the loss.

Over the course of two dream league seasons, Nathaniel and Andrew each won a title, and the final records were as follows:

  1. Nathaniel (15-10)
  2. Andrew (10-11)
  3. Cal (9-14)

Dream League Days 8-9: Joe Burrow is MVP again as postseason looms

Days 8-9 recap
Nathaniel closed out his dominant season with two more wins, as his offense continues to hum along with no issues. Cal is rolling into the postseason with a 3-1 mark in his previous four games, as he boosted his winning streak to three games with a 45-27 thumping of Andrew. That kept Cal alive for the top seed, but Nathaniel ended those hopes by ending Andrew’s comeback attempt, winning 30-20. Three field goals from Rodrigo Blankenship and another great performance from Joe Burrow were enough to clinch the first seed. The season finale between Nathaniel and Cal had little on the line, but Nathaniel wasn’t going to halt his momentum. He built up a 31-0 lead, on a pair of touchdowns each from AJ Dillon and Colby Parkinson. He held on to win 31-15 with relative ease. And thus, our Dream League regular season ended, and the postseason stage looms bright. 

We are into the Dream League Playoffs! It’s been a wild ride, and the season will culminate this weekend with the crowning of a champion. The overwhelming favorite will be top-seeded Nathaniel Lapoint, who is 7-1 and the clear best team in the league at this moment. He is 6-0 with League MVP Joe Burrow under center, and his offense has been nearly unstoppable. It doesn’t help that he has the 2019 Georgia Defense, the best defense in program history, along with Rodrigo Blankenship, who has been nearly automatic in the kicking game.

Cal, the preseason favorite, can’t be discounted yet, as he was the only team to take down Nathaniel, and despite a 4-4 record, he has an extremely talented roster. Powered by Jonathan Taylor, who finished second in the League MVP race, along with Trevor Lawrence, Cal is not out of it by any stretch, but he will have to win a home playoff game first. 

Andrew, who won the NCAA College Basketball Dream League with ease, piling up a 9-3 record, has had no such success in the NCAA Football league. After a seemingly convincing 40-21 win to open his season, Andrew went on to lose seven straight contests. He decided to pick the LSU championship defense, but the Tigers, when faced with Dream League offenses, have completely wilted. Andrew did push Nathaniel to the brink twice, coming within a possession in the fourth quarter in his last two games, but to even get to the championship, he’ll have to take down Cal on the road. Be sure to stay tuned for the playoffs.

Dream League Days 4-5: Joe Burrow dominates, Nathaniel rolls

We are halfway through the Dream League season, and a clear favorite has emerged. Nobody has touched Nathaniel’s air-raid offense yet, as Joe Burrow has been absolutely dominant, and Nathaniel’s bevy of playmakers are getting things done. Meanwhile, the Georgia defense, which was the best in program history in 2019, is coming up big. It’s hard to engage in a shootout with the Georgia defense, and it’s hard to limit Joe Burrow, but Nathaniel is forcing his opponents to figure out how to do just so. 

Day 4 saw Cal pick up his first victory. The preseason favorite struggled in his first two games, but he put on a dominant performance, thrashing Andrew’s 2Peaters 34-7. Justin Jefferson caught six passes for 134 yards, Jonathan Taylor churned out 110 yards on the ground, and Cal’s Ohio State defense intercepted Jalen Hurts twice in the statement victory. 

However, Day 5 belonged to Nathaniel, who took on both Cal and Andrew on the day. Nathaniel improved to an impressive 4-0, including 2-0 on the road. He started the day out with a road victory, 34-21 over Andrew. Andrew kept pace in the first half, but he was unable to score until garbage time of the second half, as Nathaniel broke off a 20-0 run, with Burrow throwing for 309 yards. 

In his second contest of the game, the game was over almost before it started. On the strength of an incredible 31-point second quarter, Nathaniel bullied Cal out of town, taking his fourth straight win to start the year. Burrow tossed five touchdowns and 447 yards, with Jerry Jeudy snaring two of Burrow’s TD passes, while Richard Laconte Jr. of the Georgia defense intercepted Trevor Lawrence two times. Rodrigo Blankenship also kicked three field goals, improving to 7-8 in four games, and Nathaniel rolled, 58-28. Andrew and Cal will play tomorrow for sole possession of second place.

Cal 34 Andrew 7
Nathaniel 34 Andrew 21 (Box Score Unavailable)
Nathaniel 58 Cal 28 

Standings

Nathaniel (4-0)
Andrew (1-3)
Cal (1-3)

Dream League Days 2-3: Benching Joe Burrow for Lynn Bowden?

After Andrew defeated Cal in the opening contest with relative ease, it was time for Nathaniel to get into the action, and he took his squad, loaded with SEC East talent into action against Andrew on Day 2.

Featuring an air-raid attack led by Joe Burrow, Nathaniel’s offense was nearly unstoppable, particularly in the second half. Burrow went 26-39 for 393 yards, tossing four touchdowns. 1st-round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Hillaire caught a pair of 1-yard scores and rushed for another, as Nathaniel outscored Andrew 21-3 in the third quarter and hung on for a nail-biting 41-35 victory. J.K. Dobbins paced Andrew’s offense with a whopping 221 rushing yards, averaging nearly ten yards per pop.

Box Score: https://www.whatifsports.com/ncaafb/boxscore.asp?GameID=11871786&nomenu=1

Day 3 featured some highly interesting strategy between Nathaniel and Cal. After watching Burrow torch Andrew, Cal used his homefield advantage to set the weather, a feature available on our simulation, to 35 degrees with wind and pouring rain. Nathaniel’s response? He benched Burrow for Kentucky’s jack-of-all trades Lynn Bowden, also choosing the heavy run play style.

Cal was highly critical of the decision, commenting “I’m trying to think of a scenario that this is a close game, but I can’t”

Nathaniel was confident in his bold decision, saying “I’m going to make Cal have nightmares about Lynn Bowden tonight”.

Although the play style didn’t fit Nathaniel’s offense nearly as well, he had a strength in Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who kicked three field goals – two in the fourth quarter – to edge out Cal, who managed just a single touchdown on the day. Bowden put together a solid performance, but it was Edwards-Hillaire that was the main feature of Nathaniel’s offense, churning out 132 yards in the gritty 9-7 victory.

Box Score: https://www.whatifsports.com/ncaafb/boxscore.asp?GameID=11874668&nomenu=1

STANDINGS
Nathaniel (2-0)
Andrew (1-1)
Cal (0-2)

Nelson: LSU’s Next Man Up

How does a college football team replace the most productive college quarterback the nation has ever seen? 

This is the question Louisiana State and head coach Ed Orgeron will be asking themselves come the beginning of the 2020 season. Joe Burrow, the number one overall pick of the NFL Draft, passed for the third-most yards of all time and the most touchdowns, while only throwing six interceptions in the process. It is the best performance anyone has seen out of a college quarterback for as long as many can remember. As for everyone in college, though, moving on is just part of the game. Roster turnover is nothing new for LSU’s four-year veteran head coach. The next-man-up mentality is one of the few pertinent ideas that every college coach knows. 

Who is that next man up for LSU at quarterback? 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet Myles Brennan.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Advocate

Before arriving in Baton Rouge, Myles Brennan tore up high school football in neighboring Mississippi. He was named Mississippi Class 4A Mr. Football his senior year in the Magnolia State. Despite these accolades, he was still only ranked the tenth-best quarterback in his recruiting class and the only blue-blood college football program to offer him a scholarship was his future team, the LSU Tigers. 

During his freshman year in the Bayou, Myles did not get much playing time only getting snaps once a game was too far out of hand. Even with this small sample size, the future did not look terribly bright, as Brennan threw two interceptions on only 24 passing attempts with a completion percentage under 60%. 

Not exactly the showing you hope for out of your four-star quarterback recruit if you are the LSU coaching staff. 

Myles played only one game his sophomore year before Joe Burrow stole the show during Brennan’s junior year. This junior year, despite backing up a legendary college quarterback, was a glimmer of hope for many LSU fans and coaches. Brennan still only was able to jump into games once they were all but over, still Myles made the most of his opportunities. His small sample size still limits the conclusions that are able to be drawn, but on an increased number of attempts, his interceptions decreased from his small freshman year stint. In order to see what Brennan brings to a revamped Tiger offense next year, I took a look at the few snaps he took in college and made some broad conclusions about what LSU can expect from the heir to Joe Burrow. 

The thing that stands out on tape for me is Brennan’s mind. I think this is and will be his greatest asset heading into whatever college football season we see this upcoming fall. 

Brennan is cool under pressure, something that many hope to see in young quarterbacks. There were a few plays where, even as a freshman, he was willing to stay in the pocket for routes to develop even with edge rushers bearing down on him. With this pressure, he also did not panic a bad throw that ended up sailing to the other team, rather, he was keen to find checkdowns to let his receivers make moves after the catch to get the yardage they needed. This ability will allow him to lessen the interceptions he throws next year and let his talented skills players take the burden of getting yards down the field. 

The second skill that truly stands out in this limited tape is Brennan’s ability to trust his receivers. LSU had some of the most talented running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends in years past, and will have some of those players returning for Myles’ senior year. Jamarr Chase is the number one receiving talent college football has seen in the last 10 years and is even threatening for the number one overall pick next year. Myles will need to rely on Chase and others to carry the load for him this season. Brennan has shown the ability to trust his receivers enough to throw the ball up to them when they’re covered one-on-one and if he continues this, it will lead to many scores for the Tigers next year. 

Brennan is not superbly talented with his arm, but where he does excel is similar to where Burrow excelled. Myles does not have A+ arm strength, but he is able to push the ball down the field when he finds it necessary. Myles is able to find tight windows and generally puts the ball in a spot where his receivers can do the rest of the work. 

Will Myles Brennan be able to pull off what Joe Burrow did last year for LSU?

The answer will probably be no. However, if Burrow taught college football fans one thing in his Heisman season, it is to never count out a quarterback until he is given the chance to shine. 

Andrew Degeorge Mock Draft #1

In our first released mock draft, we are publishing Andrew Degeorge’s mock draft. He’s got one stunner left out of the first round and some interesting picks for certain teams. Check out his full mock first round here.

1: Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU 

  • The general consensus first overall pick, the Bengals hope they nab their franchise quarterback here at #1.

2: Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State

  • The Redskins need a lot of help, so they get possibly the most dynamic player in the draft in the dominant edge rusher out of Ohio State. 

3: Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State

  • In our latest podcast, Degeorge declared his belief that Okudah will be a top-5 cornerback in the NFL by the end of his rookie season. If that’s the case, the Lions have a defensive cornerstone for their franchise rebuild. 

4: New York Giants: Jedrick Willis Jr, Offensive Lineman, Alabama

  • The Giants have their quarterback (Daniel Jones) and running back (Saquon Barkley) in place for the future, so now they take a step towards protecting their skill position players by snagging the best tackle in the draft. 

5: Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon

  • Although the Dolphins are widely thought to be pursuing Tua, in this mock, Miami takes Herbert, who is regarded to possibly be the most pro-ready quarterback after starting four seasons at Oregon. 

6: Los Angeles Chargers: Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

  • The quarterback situation in Los Angeles is uncertain, but the thought process is here is that before going after their signal-caller, the Chargers ensure they have decent protection in place for their guy. It also makes a lot of sense if Herbert is off the board, who the Chargers might nab if he’s available here. 

7: Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

  • The Panthers’ hope for a quick rebuild took a step back with Luke Keuchly’s retirement. While they can’t replace such a generational talent, they’ll take Brown, regarded by most as the best defensive tackle in the draft.

8: Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

  • An intriguing pick. A year ago, many might have said this would be a place for the Cardinals to grab more weapons for Kyler Murray, but the emergence of Lamar Jackson has showed that dual threat quarterbacks can thrive without truly elite weapons. Rather, the Cardinals prioritize protection for Murray, grabbing a highly regarded tackle in Wirfs. 

9: Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson

  • Minus Jacksonville’s strange one-year resurgence, they’ve been stuck in a rut for a while, and it is unclear as to what they need to fix. They’ll start by working to fix an uninspired defense by drafting Clemson’s jack-of-all trades. Simmons lined up at a variety of positions and has been compared to Taysom Hill except for a defense.

10: Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle, Louisville Cardinals

  • Becton has been projected to go as high as fourth, but this draft is murky when it comes to offensive tackles, as it is unclear which teams value which players the most. Becton is most certainly a top-10 talent, and the Browns hope he can protect Baker Mayfield’s blind side and help allow their offense to fulfill their potential.

11: New York Jets: Ceedee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

  • The Jets are widely assumed to be looking to secure a top talent at wide receiver to complement Robby Anderson. Their defense is improving and Sam Darnold appeared to be coming into his own late, so this pick may come down to choosing between Lamb and ‘Bama receiver Jerry Jeudy. Jets go with Lamb, largely due to his experience both in the slot and out wide. 

12: Las Vegas Raiders: Grant Delpit, Safety, LSU

  • Delpit is almost undoubtedly the best safety in the draft, but it is unclear which team has a pressing need for such a talent. The Raiders may not necessarily need a safety, but they could use a playmaker on defense, so they may simply go with the best available pick here. 

13: Indianapolis Colts: Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama

  • Is Jacoby Brissett the Colts’ quarterback of the future? That is unclear, and the Colts may not be convinced they’ll find an heir at #13, so instead, they snag an elite offensive talent in Jeudy, who can line up across from T.Y. Hilton and wreak havoc on opposing defenses.

14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama

  • This may be one of the most surprising picks in this mock, as Tampa Bay doesn’t have a clear need for a safety, and McKinney hasn’t projected as a first rounder in many drafts. Yet, in this draft, it is Tampa Bay going back to their defense – a statement in Jameis Winston’s job security? – and take probably the second-best safety available to improve their pass defense, as their run defense is already among the best in the league.

15: Denver Broncos: Kristian Fulton, Cornerback, LSU

  • The LSU championship defense boasted some elite talent in their secondary, and the Broncos grab a key piece from the Tigers’ defense here. The Broncos seem convinced that Drew Lock is their quarterback, so they’ll look at the other side of the ball. While Denver’s ferocious defenses of the past have been centered on an elite pass rush, they may try to lock down the secondary first this time around. 

16: Atlanta Falcons: Yetur Gross Matos, Defensive End, Penn State

  • The likelihood that Matos goes this high may be unlikely, but the Nittany Lions’ defensive end may be the most underrated defensive end in the draft, as most draft profiles say Matos could be a prolific defender once he fills out his frame and gains some more experience. The Falcons are looking to contend in 2020, and this pick suggests they hope Matos’ upside plays out and turns him into a productive starter. 

17: Dallas Cowboys: CJ Henderson, Defensive Back, Florida

  • Henderson has been graded as a high second round pick by multiple evaluations. But the Cowboys are desperately seeking answers after a disappointing 8-8 season, and they may look to resign some offensive stars and fix their defense through the draft. With a high number of defensive players headed for free agency, the Cowboys may jump to grab a starter out of the self-proclaimed “DBU” in Gainesville. 

18: Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh): Klavon Chaisson, Linebacker, LSU

  • Miami has already grabbed Justin Herbert as their franchise quarterback of the future, and here with their second of three first-round picks, the Dolphins attack another major need by grabbing an edge-rusher from LSU’s championship defense. Chaisson is an explosive and versatile defender who could be a fine return for Minka Fitzpatrick, the Pro-Bowler that Miami traded for this pick.

19: Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago): Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Oklahoma

  • The Raiders dipped into LSU’s elite secondary with their first pick of the first round, and they head for Oklahoma’s defensive unit to snag Kenneth Murray, a very curious prospect. The Raiders will want a new wide receiver, but they figure with a deep draft of pass-catchers, they’ll have a chance to do that in later rounds. They snag Murray who some scouts are high on his natural talent, but some question his decision making and discipline.

20: Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU

  • The Jaguars feel confident their first pick in Simmons is a swiss-army-knife who can plug many of their defensive holes, so they go back to the offensive side of the ball. Is Justin Jefferson an elite wide receiver, or did he benefit from Joe Burrow’s historic senior season? The Jaguars are betting on the former, allowing Jefferson to line up across from D.J. Chark and offer quarterback Gardner Minshew another dangerous option going down the field. 

21: Philadelphia Eagles: Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson

  • The Eagles are an extremely talented team in many areas, and they remain committed to Carson Wentz who put up really good numbers with a cast of wide receivers that no average NFL fan could name. Philadelphia goes to the draft to pick up an elite receiver as they hope to become the standard in the NFC East, and maybe the NFC as a whole. 

22: Buffalo Bills: Laviska Shenault Jr, Wide Receiver, Colorado

  • The Bills really want a receiver to give their young quarterback Josh Allen a weapon, and Shenault is an intriguing option at #22. Projected as a late first round pick, Shenault offers explosiveness and versatility, but he needs to sharpen up on specific skill sets. Many evaluators criticize his route-running, as Shenault has too much experience as a do-it-all guy for the Buffaloes. The Bills have the defense, they have their quarterback, and now they give him a weapon as they seek a very elusive playoff win next season. 

23: New England Patriots: Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama

  • With the status of Tom Brady in complete limbo, this pick is highly interesting for the Patriots. They could draft a quarterback, but they either assume Brady is coming back, or trust Jarrett Stidham to lead the charge for a year. So instead of going after a signal-caller, they’ll try to give whoever is under center some more weapons. Complementing Mohamed Sanu, Julian Edelman, and last year’s first-round N’Keal Harry, Ruggs brings elite athleticism to the table for the Patriots. 

24: New Orleans Saints: Jacob Eason, Quarterback, Washington

  • What New Orleans really wants is a wide receiver to complement their stud in Michael Thomas, but they may feel that anyone worth a first-round pick if off the table already, so they’ll further muddle up their quarterback situation by taking Eason, the former Georgia quarterback who has tantalizingly great arm talent. The Saints have some options between Brees, ‘quarterback’ Taysom Hill, and backup Teddy Bridgewater. But depending on who they bring back in free agency, they could start grooming Eason to take over in a few years. 

25: Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State

  • This would be a surprise pick, as the Vikings aren’t known to be in the market for a quarterback, but this could be an interesting pick with an eye to the future. The Vikings have a window to win and they picked Kirk Cousins as their signal-caller to bring them to the promised land. After going 18-13-1 the past two seasons, the Vikings may be wondering if they have maxed out their potential with him and want to take Love, the most promising quarterback by arm strength and physical talent, but a work-in-progress based on his feel for the position and immature decision-making. 

26: Miami Dolphins (via Houston): Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina

  • The Dolphins have three first round picks and they’ve used the first two on a quarterback and linebacker. Regarded as a strong day-1 target, Kinlaw has absurd physical traits that allow him to make some incredible plays. With Justin Herbert or maybe veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick tossing the ball to young star Devante Parker, the Dolphins are excited to address some defensive needs and get a high-ceiling prospect in Kinlaw. 

27: Seattle Seahawks: Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU

  • Queen balled out for the Tigers in the National Championship game, a great stage to boost your draft stock on. With plenty of defensive needs, the Seahawks would do well to get Queen, a stud linebacker that many view as a Day 1 starter next season.

28: Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Lewis, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

  • Baltimore’s most glaring need is an edge rusher, which makes Lewis a natural fit. After being torn apart by Derrick Henry in the playoffs, the Ravens snag the Crimson Tide star, who excels in setting the edge against the run, with an excellent ability to disengage blockers and pursue the ball. Some injury history certainly raises questions, but Lewis has first-round abilities. 

29: Tennessee Titans: Trevon Diggs, Cornerback, Alabama

  • The Titans made their magical run with a dominant run game and elite defense. While working to resign Derrick Henry, they’ll turn to the draft to maintain their strong defense and take Diggs, who has only played defense exclusively for three years after coming to Alabama as a receiver recruit. Diggs has excellent athleticism and excelled in zone coverages. His man-to-man efforts are mediocre, but there’s hope for improvement. Diggs could certainly be a starting corner within a year or two. 

30: Green Bay Packers: Marlon Davidson, Defensive End, Alabama

  • This is a wildcard of a first pick as Davidson has gotten mixed reviews as a rusher at Alabama. While the physical gifts are there, Davidson’s technique has been criticized as incomplete and not maximizing his tools correctly. However, the Packers probably feel that an elite defense is the best way to compete with their semi-stagnant offense, so they snag a potentially dynamic player in Davidson. 

31: San Francisco 49ers: Jeff Gladney, Cornerback, TCU

  • The secondary is the most glaring need for the 49ers who have done well through the draft and free agency to build an offense around Jimmy Garoppolo and an elite defense led by Nick Bosa. The secondary lacks major playmakers, and Gladney brings explosive footwork and thrilling potential to the field. The taste of Patrick Mahomes’ 21-point fourth quarter is still sour in San Francisco, and they’ll look to bring some young talent to the weakest part of their roster. 

32: Kansas City Chiefs: AJ Espenza, Outside Linebacker, Iowa

  • This might be a match made in heaven for the Chiefs, who would very much like to grab a playmaker on the front seven. Epenesa is most certainly a playmaker having recorded 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss to go with eight forced fumbles and seven pass deflections. There’s some concerns about lateral quickness from the 6’6 Hawkeyes star, but he aboslutely has the talent the Chiefs may be searching for on draft day.

College Football End of Season Roundtable: QB rankings and Playoff Systems

In this piece, to wrap up college football season while we wait for the anticipation of mock drafts and all the other offseason coverage, we will do an end of season roundtable with all of our contributors. The questions at hand are to rank the top quarterback draft prospects by how well we think they’ll do in the NFL, describe your ideal playoff system, and look ahead at potential playoff teams. Let’s get into it.

Some of the top NFL QB prospects are Joe Burrow, Tua, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts

Rank these college QBS by how successful their pro careers will be and their best fit in the NFL

Nathaniel:

  • Burrow 
  • Herbert 
  • Eason 
  • Tua
  • Love
  • Hurts
  • Fromm

Cal:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow 
  • Eason
  • Love 
  • Tua
  • Fromm
  • Hurts

Andrew:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow
  • Hurts
  • Love
  • Eason
  • Fromm
  • Tua

Aidan:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow
  • Tua
  • Hurts
  • Fromm
  • Love
  • Eason

General Consensus: Herbert got 3 first-place votes, largely due to his experience (4 years of starting to Burrow’s 2) and consistent improvement throughout his career. Also, as he likely will be the third QB selected, he will be put in a slightly better position than what Burrow will have to deal with on the Bengals. The LSU QB is a special talent, but his career was made by one dominant season, and there are concerns about how sustainable that level of success is.

Will Herbert enjoy the best pro career in a talented group of college quarterbacks? Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Describe your ideal College Football Playoff System

Nathaniel:

I would vote for an 8-team Playoff, keeping the bowl structure. This would allow for a non-power 5 team to get in. We do need to keep the bowl structure though, as bowl season is more for the players than fans. Bowl season is a free vacation and gifts some of these players wouldn’t get without it. 

How the Playoff would Look: 

LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Oregon, Baylor, Memphis

Cal:

An increase in the playoff system would decrease the regular season and lead to a loss of a home game for schools. Like many others I would like to see the playoff expand but not sure how the NCAA will get another game in. My theory, do away with conference championship games and use that weekend to make the playoff go to 8 teams. No, I don’t like my plan either, and that’s why, unless another week is added and another extra game is played (like there is in the FCS) the playoff must remain as is. 

Andrew:

I agree with Nathaniel about the 8-team player with one condition. Do not allow the Rose Bowl to become one of the quarterfinal or semifinal games. It is a classic game meant to pit the Big 10 against the Pac 12.

How the Playoff Would Look

(Same as Nathaniel’s

Aidan:

I’ll go a little outside the box with an 11-team playoff. Jim Harbaugh has suggested something similar to this although with some variations. In this system, the five conference champions receive a bye to the quarterfinals while teams 6-11 are seeded by the committee (with a Group of 5 guaranteed spot) (or BCS system?) and play a first round game to decide the final three spots. In this system, you would eliminate the conference championship and possibly eliminate one of the cupcake games that every team has on their schedule.

How the Playoff in 2019 would have looked:

LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon – get byes

6. Georgia  vs. 11. Memphis

7. Baylor     vs. 10. Penn State

8. Wisconsin vs.  9. Florida

Looking ahead to 2020-2021 – Name your four Playoff Teams and your top darkhorse pick

Nathaniel:

Ohio State 

Clemson 

Alabama 

Auburn 

Dark horse pick: With Jake Fromm leaving, Georgia struggles on offense, and Kentucky wins the SEC East.

Cal:

Clemson

Oregon

Ohio State

Alabama

Dark horse: USC stays healthy and becomes a contedner again

Andrew:

Clemson

Auburn

Ohio st

Baylor

Dark-horse prediction: The ACC has four ranked teams, and UNC wins the Coastal Division.

Aidan:

Ohio State

Florida

Notre Dame

Oklahoma

Darkhorse Pick: Clemson loses @ Notre Dame and cannot fight their way back into the playoff conversation due to their weak ACC schedule.

Who Will Be The Next Joe Burrow? Here’s 9 possibilities

Before I start this blasphemous article, be assured I am not suggesting any of the quarterbacks on this list can match what Joe Burrow did this season. His numbers were historically great, and to predict that someone could come close to that would certainly be bold. However, by predicting the next Joe Burrow, I’m taking a look at QBs who are not necessarily a favorite right now to win the Heisman, but have the potential to experience a Burrow-esque breakout season and earn some hardware. I’ve broken up this list into three categories: Unlikely but fun to think about, Possibilities, and Favorites. Before starting that list, I just wanted to present the QBs who were too good to make the list; in other words, these QBs have odds too high (+1000 or better) to be considered for the Next Joe Burrow Award. 

  • Trevor Lawrence
  • Spencer Rattler
  • D’Eriq King
  • Justin Fields
  • Mac Jones
  • Bo Nix

Without further ado, here’s my best guesses at who could be the next Joe Burrow:

Unlikely

Ian Book – Notre Dame

Why he could: Book looked absolutely dominant in the second half of the season. After rushing for a game winning touchdown against Virginia Tech, Book was lights out, tossing 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions and racking up 295 yards on the ground at a 6.7 yards per carry clip. The potential is there, and with a home game versus Clemson and a road game against Wisconsin, Book has the potential for some Heisman moments if he can perform and lead the Irish back to the Playoff.

Why he won’t: Because Book has not performed consistently against good teams. He threw just three touchdowns and two interceptions in their two losses, finishing 8-25 for 73 yards against Michigan. Book also loses several offensive playmakers in Tony Jones, Cole Kmet, and Chase Claypool. Adjusting to life without Claypool and Kmet especially will be tough, and there may be a learning curve that hurts Books’ stats. 

Kedon Slovis – USC

Why he could: He was at his best at the end of the season. His three best games came in his last four weeks, including his bowl game that he was knocked out early. Slovis had better numbers than Ian Book overall, and he’s got a lot of talented receivers around them that can help boost his numbers. Playing in the Pac-12 won’t hurt either, as Slovis will get a few soft games to help his stats. His schedule is also chock-full of potential Heisman moments, with an early season game versus Alabama, a season finale against Notre Dame, and conference games at Oregon and Utah. 

Why he won’t: Slovis is young and error-prone, and USC is ridiculously injury-prone at quarterback. So he first has to stay healthy which was extremely tough this year, and he has to cut down on the interceptions; he had two 3-interception games this season. Slovis also likely will need to be more dynamic as a runner, as dual-threat QBs have become the norm and have dominated the Heisman trophy for over a decade. 

Myles Brennan – LSU

Why he could: To be honest, there’s not much reasoning here, other than he’s with the defending national champions who fully committed to an air-raid attack under Ed Orgeron and Joe Burrow. And while many LSU playmakers will depart for the NFL, Brennan is a competent signal-caller with several weapons returning, including national championship stud Ja’Marr Chase, and he will be greatly helped if Thaddeus Moss and Justin Jefferson return. 

Why he won’t: He has no starting experience and 40 pass attempts to his name. Passing guru Joe Brady just departed for the Carolina Panthers, and he will certainly lose a couple of his weapons. Definitely a long shot, but so was Joe Burrow. 

Possibilities

Sam Howell – UNC

Why he could: The Tar Heels’ signal-caller could certainly have a true breakout season, but a Heisman may be a long shot. Initial projections have the Tar Heels in the Orange Bowl next year and, if that holds steady, Howell may be in the national picture enough to generate some buzz. He’s demonstrated his ability to play at an elite level, as in his bowl game against Temple, when he threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns. 

Why he won’t: Howell is inconsistent as for every Temple-like game, Howell had another disaster, like when he put up 18 points against Wake Forest’s suspect defense. The Tar Heels are not a national powerhouse, and despite their turnaround this year, being in a NY6 bowl will rely on consistency and excellence from Howell himself. I’m not convinced he can handle that pressure. 

Brock Purdy regressed a little this year, but he is plenty capable of some gaudy numbers (Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Brock Purdy – Iowa State

The Iowa State sophomore came out nowhere during his freshman year, but he took a small step back in his sophomore campaign, a middling season punctuated by a disappointing loss to Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl. But you’ll remember that Burrow didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up in his first season at LSU. Purdy has a stable coaching staff and plays in the Big 12, which isn’t exactly known for great defense. He could put up some gaudy numbers, and if Iowa State can stay ranked, Purdy may have a shot.

Why he won’t: Iowa State has not finished a season ranked in the Top 25 sine 2000. The Cyclones have been ranked at different times over each of the last three years, but they have not established consistent success. Iowa State likely needs to be a 9-win team for Purdy to even get consideration, and I’m not sure they can do that. After improving to 5-2 with a win over Texas Tech, Iowa State finished 2-4, and Purdy put up four of his five worst performances in that stretch, leaving hope a little dismal for the future. 

Spencer Sanders – Oklahoma State

Why he could: Sanders is a similar case to Purdy in that he plays in the Big 12, which has produced a finalist in four straight years – although admittedly, they were all Oklahoma quarterbacks. The Cowboys were ranked for a lot of this year, but they fell out with an ugly bowl game loss to Texas A&M. He’ll get some chances to prove himself in big moments, especially against Oklahoma, and a big season could have the Cowboys in the Top 20 with a chance at a Heisman finalist. 

Why he won’t: Quite simply, Sanders might be statistically the worst QB on this list, aside from the unproven Brennan. After balling out against Oregon State in the season opener, Sanders never again matched that game, and he had three games with multiple interceptions. The other problem is that, barring a major fallout by Chuba Hubbard, the Cowboys will be led by their star running back, meaning that Sanders could be relegated to a game manager, like he was this year at times, attempting 25 or less passes in seven different contests. He’s a competent game manager for sure, but game managers don’t win Heisman trophies. 

Hook Em. Can Sam Ehlinger bring some glory to Texas? (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

Top Picks

Sam Ehlinger – Texas

Why he could: I could really see this one happening. Ehlinger had an amazing sophomore season, but many people blamed him for Texas underperforming this year when, in fact, he was actually statistically better than last year on several levels. Aside from a couple duds, Ehlinger was really good, posting a quarterback rating of 89 or above in six games, including his best two performances in his final two games. Texas absolutely has the talent to be a national title contender, they just have to put it together for once. But Ehlinger, at a traditional football powerhouse? Coming off a slightly disappointing season that ended in a massive bowl win over a ranked team? Sounds a lot like Joe Burrow…

Why he won’t: The same reason for hope with Ehlinger – that he put up the numbers he did without playing his best – are also reasons for concern. Ehlinger had two total duds, against Baylor and Oklahoma, and a bad stretch of mediocrity for most of November, before he turned it around late with two great performances. Can he avoid long slumps like the one that plagued him this season; he had five games with a QBR under 73.8 – Burrow’s worst mark of the year. Also, can Texas avoid being Texas and actually perform to expectations? Those questions will be key if Ehlinger wants a chance. 

Kellen Mond – Texas A&M

Why he could: Mond has loads of natural talent, and when he puts it together, like he did in a three-touchdown performance against Mississippi State, he can be lethal. Combined with the Aggies’ great recruiting and a proven coach in Jimbo Fisher, the ingredients are there for Mond to explode this year. Playing in the SEC, much like Burrow, he’ll have lots of chances to prove himself against elite competition. If he rises to the occasion, Mond could have a special season with the Aggies. 

Why he won’t: He was pretty mediocre and at times downright bad this season. His performance against LSU in the regular season finale was probably the worst individual game any QB had on this list. I felt Mond was average or worse in probably eight or nine games,which isn’t exactly a recipe for Heisman votes. 

Kyle Trask – Florida

Why it could happen: Trask is probably the most similar to Burrow as far as where the LSU QB was heading into this season. Trask is a long-time backup, who got a chance to start this season and performed fairly well if not great. He’s on a very good SEC team who has long played second fiddle within their own division, but has a chance to go further next year. The initial CBS Sports projection has the Gators in the Playoff next year, which could happen if the usurp Georgia in the SEC East. If that happens, and Trask is a major reason why, expect the Florida signal-caller to be near the top of the lists.

Why he won’t: Obviously he is not a favorite, but there’s no other obvious reason to not like Trask’s chances. The biggest concerns are probably Florida being able to finally take the next step, and whether Trask can level up; the long-time backup avoided any horrible games, but he also only had a couple games that you could qualify as ‘great’. His biggest difference from Burrow’s 2018 season, is that Burrow played his best four games of the season in the last four games, indicating a sign of things to come. You can’t say that about Trask, who was probably actually a little bit worse in his final four games.

My official prediction as of now is that one QB will make this list – and my guess is Ehlinger. I could definitely see Ehlinger joining Spencer Rattler and Justin Fields and Chuba Hubbard in New York next year, with Kyle Trask finishing in the Top 10 in voting. And if Ehlinger performs, he could find himself making an acceptance speech at the podium.