The bowl games on New Year’s Day are what we’ve been waiting for, as the College Football Playoffs begin with two games loaded with NFL prospects and future dynasty assets.
Here’s a preview of the Rose and Sugar Bowl games featuring some top prospects.
Georgia vs. Oklahoma
This year’s Rose Bowl is loaded with NFL prospects and future dynasty assets.
Georgia is best known for their stable of running backs that includes Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, and Brian Herrien. Chubb and Michel are the headliners for draft enthusiasts this year, as both seniors are declaring for the NFL Draft.
At 5’10”, 228, Nick Chubb is a powerful, downhill runner who has had to overcome a truly horrifying knee injury. Now the second all-time leading rusher in SEC history (behind Herschel Walker), Chubb is a workhorse who rushed for almost 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He doesn’t offer much in the passing game, but is an effective early-down horse that has immense upside if his athleticism returns as he progresses further from his 2015 injury. He’s my 1.04 for this year’s rookie class.
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Despite Chubb’s production over the years, many draft pundits actually prefer his teammate Sony Michel, a sentiment that’s quite reasonable based on tape and statistics. Michel, 5’11” and 215 pounds, was more efficient on his carries this season than Chubb, rushing for 948 yards, 7.2 yards per carry, and 13 touchdowns. It was his best season from an efficiency perspective, although his yardage totals from 2015 (post-Chubb injury) outpaced his 2017 totals. One drawback with Michel is his lack of speed, as he’s probably a 4.6 guy at best. Michel is a potential second-day pick in April, and that would push him towards the top of the second round in my dynasty rankings. He currently ranks as my 2.03.
As good as Chubb and Michel are, freshman D’Andre Swift is my vote for the best talent in this backfield. Swift is such a smooth runner and is a three-down option at the next level. He’s a capable pass catcher but an even better runner. At a compact 5’9”, 214, Swift is one of the best running backs in the loaded 2020 class, and he’s firmly inside my top ten for overall devy rankings. When Chubb and Michel leave next season, look for Swift to lead the committee that will include top recruits Zamir White (the top RB in the 2021 class, who is recovering from a torn ACL) and James Cook, the brother of Vikings star Dalvin Cook.
Elijah Holyfield is another talented back who has gotten lost in the shuffle this year. The son of legendary boxer Evander Holyfield, Elijah is one of the best pure talents in the 2019 class. After an off-season marijuana arrest, Holyfield was just fifth in carries on the Bulldogs this year, but his talent remains undeniable. At 5’11”, 215, he’s remarkably quick for his size. His footwork, agility, and hands are among his best assets. Unfortunately, because of how crowded this backfield is (and will continue to be), it’s unclear if he’ll get his opportunity to show his talents extensively before declaring.
Quarterback Jake Fromm has played well in his first season; well enough that sophomore Jacob Eason is transferring to Michigan. Fromm will have to hold off top recruit Justin Fields, who is my favorite quarterback in the 2021 class.
Tight end Isaac Nauta is a talented tight end prospect, but he’s been hard pressed to find the targets to put up the production he’s capable of. The former five-star recruit caught just nine passes all season, totaling 114 yards and two touchdowns in eight games. While the 6’4”, 246 pound weapon is eligible to declare following next season, it’s likely that he’ll be a four-year player at Georgia before making the jump. However, he’ll be near the top of the ranks in either the 2018 or 2019 class.
Javon Wims led Georgia in receiving this year, catching 38 passes for 631 yards and six touchdowns, but he isn’t much of a pro prospect. Junior Terry Godwin was a former five-star prospect and is the best wide receiver on the team, but with just 1316 yards and eight touchdowns over his three-year career, he may not be more than a late round pick at best. He’s undersized and can struggle to beat coverage at times, but has strong hands and excels at tracking the ball over his head.
On the other side of the ball, the most notable Sooners prospect is quarterback and Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Throwing for 4340 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just five interceptions, Mayfield was tremendously efficient this season, completing 71 percent of his passes with a yards per attempt mark of 11.8 and an average yards per attempt (AY/A) of 13.4. But for as good as Mayfield was as a passer, he added another 310 yards and five touchdowns rushing. His improvisation and escapability in the pocket makes him a tough passer to bring down. Mayfield is my QB3 in this class from a fantasy perspective, trailing Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen. He’s in play around the 1.07-1.10 mark in Superflex leagues, and towards the end of the second or start of the third round in standard 1QB formats.
At running back, sophomore Rodney Anderson led the Sooners this season, rushing for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.9 yards per carry. He’s also a good receiver, having added 16 catches for 283 yards and five touchdowns through the air. The big, bruising running back runs with power and has emerged as the leader of this backfield after barely playing behind Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. He’s a mid-tier devy running back prospect for me.
The more intriguing Oklahoma running back prospect to me is freshman Trey Sermon. The 6’0”, 222 pound freshman had an exciting first season, rushing 119 times for 710 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. Sermon is also a good receiver, displaying soft hands and a full three-down skill set. Sermon is one of the best talents in that stacked 2020 running back class, but doesn’t have great speed.
The best pass catching weapon on the Sooners is tight end Mark Andrews, who is easily the best tight end prospect in this year’s draft. This year’s John Mackey Award winner, the 6’5”, 254 Andrews has prototypical size for the position and is a great receiver. Averaging 15.9 yards per reception over his three-year career as a downfield weapon, Andrews has also scored 22 touchdowns as a red zone threat. Mayfield spreads the ball around in this offense, but Andrews was able to snare 58 passes for 906 yards and eight touchdowns this season. The only real area for concern is his speed, and it’s a minor one: he may only be a 4.7 guy. He’s easily my TE1 in this class, and ranks as my 2.08 this year, although the lack of explosive options at the position this year may push him up draft boards.
At receiver, freshman CeeDee Lamb is the most intriguing NFL prospect for Oklahoma. Lamb caught 40 passes for 741 yards and seven touchdowns this year. After arriving at 6’3”, 173 pounds in June, Lamb has gained 22 pounds this season to fill out his frame more. He’s a smooth runner with good hands and the ability to track the ball over his head downfield. He’s already a decent route runner, and is a player to watch in the coming seasons.
Marquise Brown led the Sooners in receiving yards this year in his first season. A deep play threat, Brown caught 49 passes for 981 yards and six touchdowns this year. Averaging 20 yards per catch over a season is noteworthy, but Brown strikes me as more of a product of Mayfield’s efficiency than his own merit.
Alabama vs. Clemson
This year’s Sugar Bowl will be a rematch of the previous two CFB championship games and features a lot of future NFL talent, just like the last two matchups.
Like Georgia, Alabama’s best talent on offense is at the running back position. Bama rotates Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs — four players with legitimate NFL potential.
After a slow freshman season, Damien Harris emerged as a game-breaking talent last year, and improved across the board in his junior season in 2017. Bo Scarbrough may be the bigger name based on his size and his heroics in last year’s bowl game, but Harris was the leader of the Crimson Tide’s backfield this season. Harris outcarried Scarbrough by two, but outrushed him by 357 yards. Bama doesn’t throw to their running backs much, but he’s a capable receiver as well. With decent size, I’d expect Harris to run with more power than he does, but he has great speed and could play on all three downs at the next level. Harris is my 1.10 in this year’s class.
Bo Scarbrough is a massive 6’2”, 235. He runs with great power and falls forward, which is expected for someone his size. His numbers took a significant step back this year, rushing for fewer yards, yards per carry, and touchdowns. At the least, he’ll be a short-yardage back at the next level, but he seems to be reliant on his offensive line because of a lack of wiggle and agility.
Freshman Najee Harris is another enormous running back. Listed at 6’2”, 227, Harris has exceptional vision and power but lacks wiggle and top-end speed. Rushing 55 times for 306 yards and three touchdowns this year, Harris has nice upside in the next couple seasons. He’s another player near the top of the 2020 running back class.
Josh Jacobs might be the most underrated of the Crimson Tide running backs. He’s the best receiving threat of the four, catching 12 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 6.4 yards per carry. Jacobs has nice vision and great balance, breaking tackles on a high rate of his touches. At 5’10”, 212, Jacobs has the requisite size to excel on all three downs at the next level.
Alabama features sophomore Jalen Hurts at quarterback. Hurts is an exciting talent at the college football level as a dual threat, but he’s not a promising pro prospect to me because he relies so much on his legs and his running game. Hurts completed 60.7 percent of his passes this year for 2005 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just one interception. He protects the football but struggles with accuracy. However, if he can improve his completion percentage next season, he could have a career at the NFL level. His backup, Tua Tagovailoa, is a more intriguing passer to me, but we have yet to see much of him in games at this point.
The Crimson Tide also feature wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy in the passing game. Their raw statistics are unimpressive because of the run-first nature of the offense, but Ridley is one of the best wide receiver prospects in this class. The 23-year-old junior caught 55 passes for 896 yards and three touchdowns, and at 6’1”, 190, he is an exceptional athlete with great speed. He’s probably the best route runner in this class, but one of the biggest knocks against him is his age, although he did break out as a freshman. Ridley is my 1.08 in this year’s class.
The freshman Jeudy is another exceptional route runner. He has good speed and acceleration, but needs to add some weight in the coming seasons. The former five-star recruit didn’t make much of an impact this season, but he’s one of my favorite wide receivers in the 2020 class.
After numerous seasons of churning out top talent, Clemson is slightly less talented this year but still hosts a talented group of pass catchers.
Deon Cain is the most notable name on Clemson’s offense. At 6’1”, 190, Cain is a decent athlete, a good route runner (but runs a limited tree), and possesses strong hands, but doesn’t stand out in any particular area. He’s a big play threat and has posted solid production in this offense that hasn’t thrown the ball much. In 2017, Cain caught 52 passes for 659 yards and six touchdowns. He ranks as my 2.04 in this year’s class at the moment, but I may move him down further in my next update.
Hunter Renfrow led the Tigers in receptions this season and is a solid route runner, but this slot receiver doesn’t have much upside at the pro level. After catching just four touchdowns in his collegiate career, Ray-Ray McCloud is another player that might have a future at the NFL level without much upside.
Freshman receiver Tee Higgins is 6’4” and has huge upside. He’s on the slower side, but has a massive catch radius, has terrific hands, and excels at the catch point. His production this season was limited — he caught 17 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns – but he’s one of the best receivers in the 2020 class.
Tavien Feaster entered this season as Clemson’s leading running back, but has seen his playing time dip with the emergence of Travis Etienne. Feaster and Etienne both rushed exactly 103 times this season, with Etienne rushing for more yards and touchdowns than his counterpart. Feaster is a fantastic athlete (he ran a 4.34 40 out of high school) that could carve out a role as a potential third-down back at the next level.
Etienne is the player in this backfield that truly interests me after rushing for 7.2 yards per carry on a decent sample size. A 5’10”, 200 pound freshman, Etienne runs with tremendous speed, acceleration, and surprising power for his size. He has true three-down potential at the NFL level, and he’s a key player to watch in the coming seasons. He’s inside the top five in my 2020 running back rankings.
Junior quarterback Kelly Bryant has put together a solid season in his first year as a starter. Like Hurts, Bryant is a dual-threat passer with some limitations. He completed 67.4 percent of passes for 2678 yards, 13 touchdowns, and six interceptions this season while rushing 173 times for 646 yards and 11 touchdowns. He may be able to carve out a role as an NFL backup, but I think even that may be a stretch for him.
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