College football awards: NFL Draft edition

The college football regular season is over and, for many players, the time to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft is now. This compilation of players were the best NFL draft prospects from a performance perspective in 2018. Some players, like Nick Bosa and Ed Oliver, are far better players than their place on this article would suggest. However, their play (or lack thereof) in 2018 impact how they’re featured.

Quarterback

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State: Ohio State fielded one of their most prolific passing games in recent memory and it would not have been possible without the command of Dwayne Haskins. The redshirt sophomore threw for over 4,500 yards and an astounding 47 touchdowns while only tossing eight interceptions. Haskins is a young prospect, but his accuracy and arm have him bound for the NFL.

Second Team: Will Grier, West Virginia

Running Back

Damien Harris, Alabama: Damien Harris’ numbers suffered due to a strong committee running game and expanded passing game in Tuscaloosa, but the senior back still made the most of every carry. Harris remained a valuable member of the Tide team and often spearheaded their rushing attack. He is a very athletic, hard runner and with few career carries; NFL teams might be interested early in him.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis: Memphis’ entire offense ran through their junior running back. The 5’9”, 200 pound Darrell Henderson is quick, decisive and runs with a mean streak. With over 1,900 rushing yards (at 8.9 yards a carry!) and 22 touchdowns heading into the bowl season, teams are going to be enamored with Henderson’s ability to shoulder a big load and make plays on any carry.

Second Team: David Montgomery, ISU and Benny Snell, Kentucky

Wide Receiver

N’Keal Harry, ASU: ASU’s resurgence this year would not have been possible without N’Keal Harry. The big time target made plays in every facet of the passing game and the athletic marvel is poised for a high draft selection and bright NFL future.

AJ Brown, Ole Miss: The SEC was spoiled for talented receivers this year, but AJ Brown stuck out among the draft eligible pass catchers. Brown has a unique build at 6’1” and 230 pounds, but his strong frame translates to a physical style of playing receiver. NFL teams will love his bad ass streak and how he looks to punish defensive backs.

Second Team: Marqise Brown, Oklahoma and Andy Isabella, UMass

Tight End

Noah Fant, Iowa: Iowa is not quite known for throwing the football, but any time they targeted Noah Fant in the passing game, good things happened. The athletic 6’5” pass catcher scored seven times on only 39 catches while contributing as a run blocker. Fant is the perfect new age tight end who can be used anywhere in a formation to impact defenses.

Second Team: Caleb Wilson, UCLA

Offensive Tackle

Greg Little, Ole Miss: Greg Little is anything but his last name. The behemoth pass blocker was a cornerstone of the rebel offense and teams will love his potential heading into the NFL.

Jonah Williams, Alabama: Jonah Williams has known stardom since his freshman year on the Crimson Tide line. He is a fantastic run blocker and incredibly steady on passing downs. While Alabama’s prolific passing game this year is due in part to their great quarterback, Williams’ play should receive a heavy dose of credit.

Second Team: Dalton Risner, KSU and David Edwards, Wisconsin

Offensive Guard

Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin: Every one of Wisconsin’s starting offensive linemen this year should see an NFL roster within the next 10 months. Benzschawel was one piece of a line that paved the way for another great Jonathan Taylor season.

Michael Dieter, Wisconsin: Dieter, like Benzschawel; was fundamental in Bucky’s powerful running game. Dieter is a physical, mean lineman whom NFL teams will want putting defenders in the mud for them.

Second Team: Chris Lindstrom, Boston College and Michael Jordan, Ohio State

Center

Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State: Mississippi State had the 21st best rushing offense in college football. This would not be possible without their 6’4” senior in the middle of their offensive line. The long tenured blocker is a leader for the Bulldogs and a high character guy NFL teams will covett.

Second Team: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin

Defensive EDGE

Clelin Ferrell, Clemson: The most electric player on Clemson’s stacked defensive line; Clelin Ferrell had 11 sacks this year and created constant pressure off the edge for the Tigers. The explosive defender will be looked at by 4-3 and 3-4 teams due to his versatility and complete skill set.

Josh Allen, Kentucky: Josh Allen arguably single handedly catapulted Kentucky to one of their best seasons in years. Not only did he have 14 sacks in 2018, but he also forced five fumbles. The New Jersey native can be sued all over a defense and NFL teams will love that he can line up anywhere and create havoc for an offense.

Second Team: Montez Sweat, Mississippi State and Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

Defensive Interior

Quinnen Williams, Alabama: Nobody rose through the NFl draft ranks this season like Quinnen Williams. The redshirt sophomore had eight sacks and 10 more tackles for a loss. Williams was disruptive on every single down after being a rotational player last year. The 6’4”, 290 pounder can play multiple defensive line positions. While Nick Bosa popularly is considered a lock for the number one pick, Williams could really challenge him with how he played in 2018.

Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State: Similar to Williams, Jeffery Simmons boosted his draft stock massively in 2018. The 6’4”, 300 pound senior was a monster run defender for the Bulldogs, piling up 13.5 tackles for a loss. Simmons is not a productive pass rusher, but still can get pressure on a regular basis. He is an every down defender who proved first round worth this season.

Second Team: Ed Oliver, Houston and Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

Linebacker

Devin Bush, Michigan: There will be a lot of debate about Devin Bush due to his 5’11”, 230 pound frame being unorthodox at the linebacker position. However, no one can argue with him being a damn good player. The Big 10 Player of the Year had five sacks, four more tackles for a loss and was a fantastic pass defender. The speedy linebacker was like a tasmanian devil on the Michigan defense and he’s bringing that speed to the NFL.

Devin White, LSU; If Devin Bush is a lightning bolt, Devin White is the thunder. The 6’1”, 240 pound linebacker is a physical, hammer of a linebacker who punishes ball carriers and receivers coming over the middle of the field. His downhill style is so palpable, it almost distracts from his ability to run and cover tight ends and running backs. White is a classic NFL linebacker and teams will love him in the middle of their defenses.

Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame: Coney was quietly one of the more improved players in college ball this year. Coney was always a steady run defender, but he stepped it up on third down this year as a pass defender. Coney is an every down defender that NFL teams are looking for in college backers.

Second Team: Anfernee Jennings, Alabama and Tre Lamar, Clemson and Germaine Pratt, NC State

Cornerback

DeAndre Baker, Georgia: While his LSU contemporary might be considered a better prospect, there is little doubt that DeAndre Baker was the best defensive back in college football this year. Baker was a lockdown player week in and week out, while providing physical tackling in the Bulldogs secondary. I’d argue that Baker is one of the safest players in the draft this year.

Greedy Williams, LSU: LSU’s redshirt sophomore cornerback has been considered a first round pick since his freshman year. The 6’1” defender is a physical ball hawk and an all-around playmaker. Williams’ performance waned this year after a stellar freshman year, but it mostly came down to discipline. A younger prospect, Williams will intrigue a lot of teams with his sky high potential.

Second Team: Byron Murphy, Washington and Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

Safety

Deionte Thompson, Alabama: Alabama once again has a defensive back in the first round conversation. Not only does the junior defender have NFL size at over 6’1”, but he has incredible range as a deep safety. Thompson’s closing speed alone should have NFL teams on high alert to him.

Grant Delpit, LSU: Purely from a stats perspective, few players had a more impressive 2018 than Grant Delpit. The 6’3”, 200 pound redshirt sophomore had nine and a half tackles for a loss, including five sacks, one forced fumble, nine pass break ups and five interceptions. That is a video game box score and Delpit is turning a lot of heads with those numbers. He is a big, highly athletic player. Teams will have to wonder if this was all a fluke ore he is the real deal.

Second Team: Luke Denis, Boston College and Jonathan Abrams, Mississippi State

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