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Deshaun Watson leads college football's top 32 players, according to 2017 mock drafts

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Let's try something. Let's mash together all the way-too-early 2017 NFL mock drafts and see who the country's best players are judged to be, based on NFL media.

Last year's way-too-early mocks actually turned out to be pretty impressive when compared to the real thing 12 months later, other than at QB, where Cardale Jones and Christian Hackenberg struggled, Connor Cook slipped, and Carson Wentz emerged. I'd say that after reviewing last year's guesses, I now see more value in these things than I expected to.

Included below were mock drafts and/or top-32 big boards by SB NationAthlon SportsBleacher ReportCampus InsidersCBS SportsESPNPro Football FocusRotoworldSports IllustratedWalter Football, and Yahoo! Sports. An individual mock draft will function differently than a big board because of perceived NFL team needs, but since most used slightly different team orders, I figure compiling all 11 into one should help account for that.

Players on all 11 top-32 lists
Player Average ranking
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson 1.25
Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett 4
LSU RB Leonard Fournette 5.38
Alabama OT Cam Robinson 7
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook 13.5
Alabama DE Jonathan Allen 13.88
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey 18.38
Missouri DE Charles Harris 21.25

At this point, I figure being listed consistently is at least as important as being listed highly. If all the NFL folks rank you, even in the teens, you must be a pretty big name. So, let's break these up first by the number of lists on which players appear.

Players on eight to 10 top-32 lists
Player Average ranking on those lists
Miami QB Brad Kaaya 5.5
Alabama LB Tim Williams 9.67
Florida CB Jalen Tabor 10.3
USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster 11
Florida State OT Roderick Johnson 11.57
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett 14.57
Michigan LB/DB/WR/etc. Jabrill Peppers 17.29
Clemson WR Mike Williams 17.86
Michigan State DE Malik McDowell 18.4
USC CB Adoree Jackson 18.88
Alabama TE O.J. Howard 22.33
Players on five to seven top-32 lists
Player Average ranking on those lists
Auburn DE Carl Lawson 10.4
LSU S Jamal Adams 13.8
Iowa CB Desmond King 14.33
Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan 16.5
USC OT Zach Banner 16.5
LSU CB Tre'Davious White 17
Georgia RB Nick Chubb 21.33
Florida LB Jarrad Davis 22.75
Alabama S Eddie Jackson 23.5
LSU WR Malachi Dupre 24.75
Ohio State OL Pat Elflein 27

To make it 32, add the two highest-average players who appeared on four mocks each: UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes (average on lists he made: 10.33) and Western Michigan WR Corey Davis (27).

So:

  1. Bama's considered to have four likely first-rounders and a potential fifth. Five would match Ohio State's amazing 2016 haul in raw numbers and stop one shy of 2004 Miami's record. Picking a Bama thing is the easiest move in all of football projection, but there's a reason: it's usually right.
  2. There are no Big 12 players yet. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph appeared on a couple mocks each, FWIW. Athlon's list goes to a top 50 and includes players from Indiana and Virginia, but no Big 12 players.
  3. Auburn's schedule includes five of the anticipated top six picks and 13 of this top 32. Sounds fun!
  4. There are only three Pac-12 players. Oregon's Royce Freeman nearly made it four, but this is a very crowded running backs group.
  5. Three RBs in the top 30 would be the most since 2010. Four would be the most since 2008. No pressure, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott.
  6. Defensive end looks like the deepest position, with five expected first-rounders and a highly touted potential sixth.
  7. Only four offensive linemen? I'd expect that to rise. Not easy to know which players to scout a year ahead of time when they don't produce any stats.
  8. The ACC has the two consensus top QBs at the moment, but who's third? Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, Mayfield, and Rudolph were the only other QBs to show on multiple mocks. I'll just keep yelling about Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, I guess. Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer or Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel, maybe? (As the NFL does, it'll have some completely random name in the first round by next April anyway.)
  9. Alabama, LSU and Clemson look the most impressive here, and wouldn't ya know it, they rank Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in Bill Connelly's 128-team projections.
  10. BTW, look at all those blue-chips. Seemingly every other player was a star recruit. (No big surprise.) Three of the top four projected picks were 2014's top three recruits, and Watson was the No. 1 dual-threat QB. Maybe some are being hyped because they were star recruits, but it's yet to seem like NFL media pays attention to recruiting ratings.

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