2018 NFL Draft: Blend of toughness, speed pushes USC running back into Top 20
USC's sensational running back Ronald Jones II has looked like the total package through two games
USC running back Ronald Jones II did it all against Stanford, and his boosted draft stock isn't solely due to the 23-yard touchdown scamper he had to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. His electric on-field ability was apparent against the Cardinal, but his blue-collar, between-the-tackles runs were just as impressive.
At his size, and because he's a speedster, it's easy to assume Jones II can't run up the middle among the big bodies to get those unexciting but vital four- and-five-yard gains. Carrying the football 23 times against Stanford, a program known for its ultra-physical defensive fronts, shows he's capable of shouldering a large workload. Taking that a step further, Jones II's lightning-quick score to seal the victory demonstrated the high amount of carries didn't wear him down.
1. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Unsurprisingly, Rudolph and the Cowboys thrashed South Alabama on Friday night. Rudolph was poised, scanned the field effortlessly, and utilized the middle of the field all evening. His touchdown-to-interception ratio starting in Week 1 of last year now sits at 34:4.
2. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Landry got his first sack of the season in the loss to Wake Forest and chipped in five more total tackles and a pass deflection. With Arden Key still on the shelf -- until this weekend -- Landry has done well to stake his claim as the best pass-rushing, three-down defensive end in the country.
3. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington is a big play bound to happen. He took an intermediate in-breaking route to the house against South Alabama. The 66-yard score was the seventh 50-plus yard reception he's made since the start of 2016. Washington is a freaky downfield threat with a muscular build.
4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley was, well, Barkley in the rivalry-game victory over Pittsburgh. While it wasn't a high-volume effort, Barkley averaged 6.3 yards on 14 carries and caught four passes for 45 yards with a receiving score.
5. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold's two picks stand out to me more so than they probably should. I mean, he only had five incompletions the whole night and tossed four touchdowns. I guess it's just the second straight game in which he's made questionable decisions down the field and compounded those with off-target throws. On the flip side, Darnold's touchdown pass (while on the run) to Deontay Burnett near the front right pylon was Aaron Rodgers-like.
6. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
As outlined in this week's North Carolina ... like NFL-quarterback-prospect studly. If the Louisville signal-caller continues to improve from within the pocket, watch out. He very well could repeat as the Heisman winner and be selected in the top 10., Jackson was studly against
7. Cameron Smith, ILB, USC
Smith is everywhere. Following a total game-changing effort against Western Michigan in USC's first game of the year, the inside linebacker had eight tackles with a half tackle for loss while beating Stanford. He's been a step faster to the football than everyone due to his advanced play-recognition skills and athletic talents.
8. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Chattanooga didn't pose a significant threat to Guice or LSU on Saturday. The featured runner ran at a 6.8 yards-per-carry clip and reached the end zone twice. I'm still waiting for a "re-watch that GIF 20 times" run from Guice this season.
9. Derwin James, S, Florida State
James didn't play this weekend. He's still the premier safety prospect in the country.
10. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Ferrell was relentless in Clemson's win over Auburn. Registering just one sack isn't special but 11 tackles from a defensive lineman is. He also had a tackle for loss and forced a fumble. Not only was Ferrell's motor constantly running, but he made plays near the line of scrimmage because of his length and superb athleticism.
11. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma
Want juice off the edge? Okoronkwo is your guy. He dismantled Ohio State left tackle Jamarco Jones -- who has an NFL future -- on more than one occasion with an array of pass-rushing moves, including a devastating, tightly wound spin. He had 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against the Buckeyes.
12. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson is a road-grading interior lineman with quick feet and immense power. He had his hands full against Georgia's front but more than held his own. He's clearly the best guard prospect in the country right now.
13. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Jones has entered the conversation to be the No. 3 running back prospect behind Barkley and Guice. He's a sudden, no-nonsense runner with elite top-end speed and violent one-cut ability.
14. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma
Brown Jr. dominated against an Ohio State defensive line that can throw three or four future NFL players at you each drive. The Oklahoma left tackle looks a tick more fluid laterally than he did a season ago, which was his main weakness. From a strength standpoint, Brown Jr. is NFL-ready. He showed that against Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Nick Bosa.
15. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton was almost invisible in SMU's opener. All good. The 6-foot-4 wideout went bananas against North Texas. He had eight grabs for 163 yards with four touchdowns. Based on physical appearance alone, Sutton can be likened to Larry Fitzgerald. He's well-built with a large frame and oversized catch radius.
16. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Against Marshall, Chubb had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. He wins with hustle and power. His long limbs are beneficial when he's flying around the corner too.
17. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
Lewis was blanked by the mammoth Oklahoma offensive line -- mostly Brown Jr. -- after a productive opening game against Indiana. He was held off the stat sheet besides one deflected pass at the line. The Ohio State product needs to show more burst off the edge to say in the top 20.
18. Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
Burnett has been the total package for the Trojans through two games -- yards after the catch, speed down the field, tremendous catches with his arms extended. Burnett could use some additional weight, yet he's seemingly going to be the prime beneficiary of having Darnold at quarterback. He has 16 receptions for 263 yards with two touchdowns to start the year.
19. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen looked like freshman-year Rosen against Hawai'i. He was surgical, as he completed 22 of 25 passes (one incompletion was a drop) for 329 yards with five touchdowns and no picks.
20. Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
Bryant is the Clemson defensive lineman who received the least amount of hype heading into this season. All he did against Auburn was rack up four tackles for loss to go with four sacks.
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