If you could build a college football offense from the ground up, what would it look like?
One month from now, the 2017 season will be in full swing, so now is the time to get reacquainted with some of college football's biggest names. To help with that, we're bringing back our patented post from last August -- but with a new challenge. Anyone can select their favorite players to a made-up team (it's called an All-America team), but what about when money is on the line?
Yes, you're going to be buying college football players with a cap space of $15. But it's fake. Its just for fun. I feel the need to mention this.
We're getting some inspiration from an old formula. You might recall Ball is Life did this a few years ago with the all-time basketball team challenge. This is the same idea, but with college football as the background and a couple of tweaks.
One thing is the same: You have $15 to spend and you must choose a player from each of the five skill positions: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver (2) and tight end. You'll notice there are no offensive linemen. To be candid, this was a tough call. Offensive lines are more of a unit and that didn't fit the formula. There's still a place in our hearts for them, though.
To give you some more options and perhaps soften the inevitable outrage, you can choose one of two players at quarterback and running back. I know what you're thinking: "Isn't that kind of cheating?" And, yeah, a little bit. Remember, the primary goal is to get re-familiarized with college football's best players. As for any omissions, just know that they aren't deliberate, just intentional.
On to the pricing model. The bigger names, regardless of stats, tend to be more expensive. You'll notice a lot of All-Americans, award winners and College Football Playoff participants at $5 and $4. There are two reasons for this. One is simple: They're the proven household names. Lamar Jackson won a Heisman. Saquon Barkley could. Baker Mayfield has a playoff appearance. They're the top players at top programs.
The other reason is designed to be more helpful. Let's say you blow $5 right away on Jackson at quarterback and $4 on running back Nick Chubb. You might want to know more about Richie James, the undersized wideout at Middle Tennessee who is the FBS' returning leader in receiving yards (1,625). Or maybe it forces you to look at Ahmmon Richards highlights to realize he might be the next great pass-catcher at Miami.
This is, above all, about getting to know these players. So if there's somebody you think is overvalued or undervalued, just know the only person who benefits from that is you.
Without any further delay ...
$5 Lamar Jackson, Louisville OR Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
$4 J.T. Barrett, Ohio State OR Jake Browning, Washington
$3 Josh Rosen, UCLA OR Sam Darnold, USC
$2 Josh Allen, Wyoming OR Jalen Hurts, Alabama
$1 Luke Falk, Washington State OR Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
$5 Saquon Barkley, Penn State OR Derrius Guice, LSU
$4 Nick Chubb, Georgia OR Justin Jackson, Northwestern
$3 Royce Freeman, Oregon OR Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
$2 Jalin Moore, Appalachian State OR Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
$1 Myles Gaskin, Washington OR Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
As for my selections ...
QB Josh Allen ($2): Since there were 10 quarterbacks from which to choose, I went with budget over flash to stock away some money for later. But I still feel like I got good value because of the depth of the quarterback group. If you haven't watched some late-night Mountain West football with Allen, you're missing out on a show. Early 2018 NFL Draft intel, however prone to change that might be, indicates he in a stacked class. Allen is big (6-feet-5, 233 pounds), an excellent athlete and money under pressure. In college football, you're leaving yards, and probably points, on the field if you don't find a quarterback who can do that.
RB Saquon Barkley ($5): I look at it this way: I get one player on which to splurge; every other choice is a sacrifice in some way. So which player is worth eating up one-third of the money pool? For me, that was Barkley because, at $5, I get things from him I couldn't get at $3 or $2. He is the most complete back as we enter the season. He's fast, powerful, shifty, has burst and can catch. College football is in the middle of a running back resurgence. If I'm starting an offense from scratch, Barkley is the player I'm picking because he's the surest thing.
WR Christian Kirk ($4): This is where going with a lower-valued but capable quarterback opens up more possibilities. I love Kirk's production (163 catches for nearly 2,000 yards) plus his electrifying open-field twitch and speed. What makes Kirk a solid $4 pick is what you get with him in the return game. He already has five career punt returns for touchdowns. This was my easiest choice.
WR Allen Lazard ($3): Or maybe this was, because I picked Lazard last so there wasn't much of a choice at all. Still, I love the senior's length (6-5) and he has consistently flown under the radar in Ames. His red zone opportunities have been limited, but that's more of an Iowa State problem. When he is a receiving option in the red zone, he is brutally effective with nine career touchdowns on 15 grabs. Lazard is a true No. 1 wideout who won't get the same level of love as someone on a top-25 team. That makes him a steal at $3.
TE Jaylen Samuels ($1): I actually chose Samuels early on and based on one thing: his school bio. More notably, what's not on it.
Notice anything? He is literally positionless.
Intentional or not, it made total sense and I was hooked. Plus, spending $1 allowed more wiggle room elsewhere. Samuels gets undervalued because he isn't a true tight end by size. However, he was the team's leader in touchdown receptions last season. He was also the Wolfpack's third-leading rusher with 189 yards and six TDs. He was the offense's leading receiver in 2015 and has been an impact player since Year 1. I would literally buy that for a dollar. At a major, major bargain, I get the production of two positions at the low price of one. A perfect flex option without a significant sacrifice.