The 2018 running back class, not the group of quarterbacks, has been downright amazing this season.
Yes, Saquon Barkley is the deserved headliner. But Bryce Love has had a season that's challenging the record books, Ronald Jones III has carried USC's offense at times with dynamic explosiveness and deceptive power, and a plethora of backs like Alabama's Damien Harris have been flying under the radar for weeks. Also, we know what Derrius Guice can do when fully healthy.
The 2018 draft is one in which NFL teams will want to grab a running back, and they may have to use an earlier pick than normal to acquire one of the talented ball-carriers.
1. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Just like his positioning atop the quarterback rankings, Rudolph's grasp on the No. 1 overall spot is slipping after his performance against Baylor. Never mind the 459 yards; the Oklahoma State quarterback fluttered many of his passes, and threw short on a variety of deep balls. The commentators mentioned some lackadaisical footwork and technique on Saturday, which hadn't previously been a problem this season. I certainly agreed with their assessment. Rudolph threw to wide open receivers all day but must maintain his fundamentals regardless of the quality of his opponent.
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is the undisputed top cornerback prospect right now. He's ready to match up with large boundary receivers in the NFL. He was good, as per usual, against Arkansas. Fitzpatrick blankets wideouts with his length, quick-twitch, athleticism, technique and ball skills.
3. Derwin James, S, Florida State
James was a monster in Florida State's win over Duke. He made six tackles, and most of them were form takedowns on plays in which bigger gains were there for the taking had he not brought the ball-carrier to the ground. James is actually reminiscent of former Seminoles linebacker Telvin Smith, who was similarly sized to the safety. Smith was "skinny" for the linebacker spot but incredibly productive at the second level of the defense, rarely missed a tackle and made plays inside and had the range to track down the football on plays near the boundary. That's James, except he has better coverage ability than Smith. Despite his lack of size, Smith's become one of the most underrated young linebackers in the NFL.
4. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma
Washington exploded for six receptions, 235 yards, and one touchdown against Baylor, yet he moves down one spot in the rankings due to a drop and a fumble. The Bears routinely gave Washington 10-plus yards of cushion and he devoured cornerbacks with slants, comebacks, digs and double moves all afternoon. I want to see Washington get pressed at the line. That's the only real question mark I have with him right now. Not that I think he'll struggle against press; I've just yet to see him deal with a cornerback near the line of scrimmage this season.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Penn State was off this week, and faces Michigan in primetime this upcoming Saturday. It'll be a difficult test for the Nittany Lions' offensive line and a fantastic showcase game for the Heisman front-runner. His most formidable opponents will be defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary, and linebacker Devin Bush.
6. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
A bye week for Notre Dame was likely needed, as the Fighting Irish face USC and NC State in back-to-back weeks to end October, and both teams are very talented along their defensive lines.
7. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Chubb didn't load the stat sheet against Pittsburgh but was the sturdy defensive end he's been all season in the Wolfpack's win. With Arden Key slow to return to form due to injury, Chubb has emerged as the premier defensive end prospect in the 2018 class. He routinely wins with power, flashes some refined hand usage, and isn't a one-trick pony -- he excels stopping the run as much as he does getting after the quarterback.
8. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma
As he's shown all season, Brown was a brick wall against Texas, I did notice more reps with slow feet from the mammoth left tackle prospect. The Oklahoma star has an amazing knack to latch onto pass-rushers if he loses his initial grip, and he gets after it as a run-blocker. I'm just starting to wonder if most defensive tackles are playing contain on their outside rushes due to Baker Mayfield's ability to ad-lib. Even if that's the case, Brown Jr. has an impressive resume.
9. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Hurst's first step is lightning quick, and when he pairs that with his swim move, it's all over for interior offensive linemen. Despite his strength as a penetrating defensive tackle, the Michigan tackle certainly doesn't lack anchoring power against double teams and has a forceful bull rush in his arsenal. Although he has just 0.5 sacks on the year, Hurst has 29 tackles and six tackles for loss.
10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma
Okoronkwo was ridiculously good in the rivalry game against Texas. According to Pro Football Focus, he had an almost unfathomable 11 quarterback pressures in the Sooners' win. Whatever Okoronkwo lacks in height, he makes up for with length -- his arms look like tentacles -- and he's an ultra-bendy, explosive rusher off the edge. Another thing I like -- he doesn't let his long arms go to waste. On almost every snap, you'll notice Okoronkwo shedding a block.
11. Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson
In Clemson's disappointing loss to Syracuse, Joseph had one of his better games for the Tigers. He registered 12 tackles, six of which were solo. Rarely does Joseph see linemen getting to him at the second level because of Clemson's super-deep defensive line, so that will be part of his learning curve at the NFL level. However, Joseph is a superb athlete who consistently gets to the football before anyone else.
12. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
McGlinchey will likely see a lot of USC's intriguing edge-rusher Uchenna Nwosu on Saturday, and he won't be the Notre Dame left tackle's only challenge. The bigger, longer Rasheem Green -- who's 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds -- has already logged four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss this season.
13. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Another game, another long touchdown run for Love. On the season, he has 22 scampers of over 20 yards. That's outrageous. And it's not like Love is hitting these home runs due to athletic superiority after he bounces a run to the outside. In fact, most of his big-gainers have come when he has correctly read blocks on inside carries then flipped on the jets once he's reached the second level. He did hurt his ankle against Oregon, so maybe a week off is on the horizon. No biggie though. Love is currently averaging 10.3 yards per carry and has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season.
14. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton and SMU had a bye this week, and he's really warmed up in the past two games. The Mustangs don't face a ranked team again until November 4, so the special talent could be in for a few more outstanding performances before the month of October is complete.
15. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Ferrell's athletic prowess was on full display against Syracuse. He consistently played the read-option well, and once he made up his mind regarding where the football was, his closing speed and length stood out. He made nine tackles and had 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss against the Orange. While not all of his games have been that productive this season, Ferrell has proven to have the highest upside on Clemson's awesome defensive line.
16. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Georgia isn't 7-0 for no reason. While Jake Fromm has worked wonders for the offense, the defense has been anchored by the play of Smith, the springy junior linebacker. He's averaging over 7.5 tackles per game and his fluidity in coverage rounds out his game nicely. I'm pumped to see him in the national spotlight against Florida on Saturday. There's not much Smith is incapable of on the football field.
17. Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Smith had his finest game of the season against Utah, and the USC defense needed every single one of his plays to get the win. The junior linebacker parlayed his next-level play-recognition skills into 16 total tackles and an interception on Saturday night. He does seem to lack some athleticism, yet his football IQ is through the roof, and he's a sure tackler.
18. Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
Burnett has been impeccable for the Trojans' passing game this season, and although there's typically some hesitation to pick smaller receivers early in the draft, Burnett's ball skills set him apart from other sub 6-foot pass-catchers. He nearly hauled in a highlight-reel one-hander on a back-shoulder throw against Utah and effortlessly made a handful of other grabs outside his body frame. And he's incredibly quick and possesses desired long speed.
19. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen falls after his three-interception outing against Arizona. Yes, the Wildcats' defensive line pressured him early and often, but the bad decisions we saw earlier in the season from the Bruins quarterback resurfaced, and he was late on all three picks. Undoubtedly, there's plenty to like with Rosen's game, he just has to clean up the head-scratching plays once and for all to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
20. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
Harris may not stay in the top 20, but he's earned the right to be here. Somehow, even on No. 1 Alabama, Harris' magnificent season had been relatively overlooked. Maybe it's because of the presence of mammoth runner Bo Scarbrough? I'm not sure. Harris' jump-cut ability combined with his power and balance make him a candidate to be an every-down back at the professional level. He had a tremendous touchdown run against Arkansas in which all those attributes were very apparent. Harris is averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has nine scores on the ground thus far in the 2017 season. At 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, he looks like an NFL feature back.
DE Arden Key, QB Sam Darnold, DE Harold Landry, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, TE Mark Andrews, RB Nick Chubb, LB Dorian O'Daniel, CB Denzel Ward, WR Michael Gallup, RB Royce Freeman, DE Austin Bryant, RB Ronald Jones III