College Football's Top 100 Offensive Stars
By Joe Coughlin
At the old water cooler, a coworker and I debated the use of wide receivers in fantasy football the other day. I then challenged him to name the NFL's top 35 wide receivers "right now!"
Whether he did or didn't do it (he didn't) isn't the point. The point is we like sports and we like lists and ranks, and we like listing ranks. It's another fun part of the sports world. We count the silliest things — yards after initial contact, wins over replacement player, etc. — and then we make lists and debate their importance and relevance.
To come up with the Top 100 offensive football players in college football, I had to read a lot of words — that were in lists. My list (see below) is solid and I think appropriately ranks 100 of college football's finest. You'll hate some of it, hopefully like some of and not care about some of it. That's not the point. I just hope you when you get some time around that water cooler around 2 o'clock, this can be of some use.
1. Johnny Manziel, sophomore QB, Texas A&M
• Johnny Football may have to wait a few weeks to get on the field and he might be a spoiled, out-of-touch brat, but that doesn't mean he isn't the best weapon on the college football field. The reigning Heisman champ threw 29 TDs vs. nine picks and added 21 more on the ground to go with 1,400 yards. He's the best there is until someone unseats him.
2. Marqise Lee, junior WR, USC
• In terns of wide receivers, there's Lee and there's everybody else — even with the bone bruise. 118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 scores last year. He had 73/1,143/11 in 2011, as well. USC will be better than expected this season, and Lee will be just as good as advertised.
3. Todd Gurley, sophomore RB, Georgia
• Gurley up the middle. Gurley up the middle. Gurley ... in between the tackles. As a frosh, the kid put up 6.2 yards a carry on his way to 1,300-plus yards and 17 TDs. He has lightning feet, strong fundamentals, great vision and a teammate (Aaron Murray) that can chuck it. He's staring down a huge year.
4. Braxton Miller, junior QB, Ohio State
• My affinity for this dual-threat quarterback shows here, but I have him as a Heisman finalist. As a sophomore, he led his team to an unbeaten record with 28 combined TDs. He didn't throw too much, but only had six picks, though he ran for 1,200. He's as explosive as they come.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, junior QB, Louisville
• Pocket passer returns with tons of weapon and plenty of experience. He threw more than 400 times last year, completing them at a 68.5 percent clip. He eclipsed 3,700 yards and had 27 TD passes.
6. T. J. Yeldon, sophomore RB, Alabama
• You saw him run just like I did last year. He's remarkable. Equally bruising as he his shifty, Yeldon gained 1,200 yards and scored 12 times while letting upperclassman Eddie Lacy take the lion's share.
7. Lache Seastrunk, junior RB, Baylor
• 1,012 yards, 7 scores. Sounds pretty mundane, yeah? Seastrunk only had 131 carries. That's 7.3 yards per carry. In the final six games, he went off — 831 yards on 102 carries (8.2 y/c) with six scores. He's said he's a Heisman finalist. I can't argue.
8. Marcus Mariota, sophomore QB, Oregon
• Remarkable freshman season in Chip Kelly's offense. Don't worry too much about a new coach. This guy is a serious weapon. He was responsible for 38 scores (32 in the air) and only had six interceptions. And it's Oregon. The Ducks aren't going anywhere.
9. Taylor Lewan, senior OL, Michigan
• Hard to think of boring-ole offensive tackles on such an exciting list, but Lewan is en route to being a Top-5 overall draft pick in 2014. He belongs here.
10. Aaron Murray, senior QB, Georgia
• Murray can chuck it all over the field and his Bulldogs again are going to challenge Alabama for the SEC. He's a four-year starter (95 career TDs) and I think the best is to come this year with this guy.
11. A.J. McCarron, senior QB, Alabama
• I may get crushed for putting this guy so low, but he fell one by one. McCarron is going for his fourth national title (red-shirted in 2009). He's Mr. Efficient (30/3 touchdown/interception ratio) and plays at 'Bama. What was I thinking?
12. Tajh Boyd, senior QB, Clemson
• Love this guy. He's the football version of a chucker. He threw it 35-plus times on six occasions in 2012, finishing with 36 scores and 13 picks. His numbers were similar in 2011. Boyd also had 12 ground scores and 500-plus rushing yards.
13. Ka'Deem Carey, junior RB, Arizona
• The nation's top rusher in 2012 carried the ball more than 25 times in eight games as he flirted with 2,000 yards (1,929). Of course, when you rush for 914 yards in the final four games, that will happen. He scored 23 times, but also caught 36 balls.
14. Jake Matthews, senior OL, Texas A&M
• Why do you think Johnny Football is as good as he is? Matthews and Joeckel (No. 2 overall pick in April). OK, slight exaggeration, but some say Matthews is better and will move to Manziel's's blind side this fall.
15. De'Anthony Thomas, junior RB, Oregon
• We all know what kind of producer Thomas can be, but will he be? More specifically, can the small (5-9, 175) speed-racer handle 20 touches a game, sometimes more?
16. Sammy Watkins, junior WR, Clemson
• Did everyone forget about Sammy Watkins? Off-the-field issues kept him off the field for a pair of games in 2012, and he missed another one midseason. But the man is back and could get back to the 82-catch, 12-TD days of 2011 when he was first-team All-America.
17. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, junior TE, Washington
• Massive. The guy is 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and skilled enough to mix it up with the Huskies basketball team. He is a matchup nightmare. He's caught 110 balls during the last two years. Last year, he had games of 8 for 154, 8 for 110 and 9 for 82.
18. David Fales, senior QB, San Jose State
• David Fales never misses. While throwing for 33 touchdowns and 4,193 yards, Fales completed 72.6 percent of his passes, the best rate in the country. The Spartans were 12-2 a year ago with losses to Stanford (Pac-12 champ) and Utah State (11-2). You want a BCS darling, you got one.
19. Brett Hundley, sophomore QB, UCLA
• The freshman phenom came out gunning to start his collegiate career. He wound up with 3,700 yards and 29 TDs, but more importantly gave wayward UCLA a leader. He could have some growing pains, but all for the sake of progress.
20. Dri Archer, senior RB, Kent State
• Truth is, Archer doesn't run all that much, but when he does? He averages 11 carries a game, but a mammoth 9 yards per carry. That added up to more than 1,400 yards without breaking a sweat. He was held under 4 yards a carry only once (a MAC title game loss to Northern Illinois).
21. Josh Stewart, junior WR, Oklahoma State
22. Jordan Lynch, senior QB, Northern Illinois
23. Bishop Sankey, junior RB, Washington
24. Amari Cooper, sophomore WR, Alabama
25. Cyrus Kouandijo, junior OL, Alabama
26. Carlos Hyde, senior RB, Ohio State
• He'll miss the first three games and while I don't condone his behavior, he's still one of the best at his position in FBS.
27. Derek Carr, senior QB, Fresno State
28. Venric Mark, senior RB, Northwestern
29. Silas Redd, senior RB, USC
• Don't be surprised if he's in the top five by the end of the season.
30. Mike Evans, sophomore WR, Texas A&M
31. Cyril Richardson, senior G, Baylor
32. Rakeen Cato, sophomore QB, Marshall
• 4,200 yards and 37 TD throws as a frosh.
33. James White, senior RB, Wisconsin
34. Duke Johnson, sophomore RB, Miami
35. Jordan Matthews, senior WR, Vanderbilt
36. Taylor Martinez, senior QB, Nebraska
37. Allen Robinson, junior WR, Penn State
38. Beau Blankenship, senior RB, Ohio
• A couple more wins and this guy is in the spotlight as he contends for a national rushing title.
39. Ameer Abdullah, junior RB, Nebraska
40. Austin Hill, junior WR, Arizona
41. Colt Lylera, junior TE, Oregon
42. Bradin Cooks, junior WR, Oregon State
43. Cody Hoffman, senior WR, BYU
• He has more than 200 catches in his career, 100 on the nose in 2012.
44. Marion Grice, senior RB, Arizona State
45. Gabe Ikard, senior OL, Oklahoma
46. Casey Pachall, senior QB, TCU
• This could be the story of the year, as Pachall returns from missing nine games after leaving the team to deal with an alcohol addiction. He could be the best arm in college football.
47. Davante Adams, sophomore WR, Fresno State
48. Jared Abbrederis, senior WR, Wisconsin
49. Trayion Durham, junior RB, Kent State
50. Stephen Morris, senior QB, Miami
51. Jalen Saunders, senior WR, Oklahoma
• Poised for a big campaign for the conference favorites. Had 62 catches in an 9-game 2012.
52. Bryn Renner, senior QB, North Carolina
53. Connor Shaw, senior QB, South Carolina
• Big bowl game win for Shaw over Michigan in 2012 in which he threw at a 70 percent clip and rushed for 96 yards. Injuries have kept him under the radar. He may be college's best kept secret.
54. Branden Oliver, senior RB, Buffalo
55. David Yankey, senior G, Stanford
56. Noel Grigsby, senior WR, San Jose State
57. Jerome Smith, junior RB, Syracuse
58. Taylor Kelly, junior QB, Arizona State
59. Melvin Gordon, sophomore RB, Wisconsin
• Surprised? Me too. Maybe he should be even higher! He's that good.
60. John Hubert, senior RB, Kansas State
• He's a bowling ball, maybe a wrecking ball. Only 5-7, but 15 TDs.
61. Mike Davis, senior WR, Texas
62. Eric Ebron, junior TE, North Carolina
63. Antonio Andrews, senior RB, Western Kentucky
64. Matt Miller, junior WR, Boise State
• Steady as she goes. Sixty-plus receptions and 11-plus yards/catch each of his first two seasons.
65. LaDarius Perkins, senior RB, Mississippi State
66. Kenny Bell, junior WR, Nebraska
67. Tevin Reese, senior WR, Baylor
68. David Fluellen, senior RB, Toledo
• Prolific runner who ran for 1,400 yards a year ago and will again.
69. C.J. Fiedorowicz, senior TE, Iowa
70. Antonio Richardson, junior OL, Tennessee
71. Storm Woods, sophomore RB, Oregon State
72. Shaquelle Evans, senior WR, UCLA
73. Cody Farjardo, junior QB, Nevada
• Dual-threat guy in a potent offense. He tosses close to 70 percent and should go for 3,000 and 1,000.
74. Damien Williams, senior RB, Oklahoma
75. David Ash, junior QB, Texas
76. Gabe Jackson, senior OL, Mississippi State
77. Lyle McCombs, junior RB, Connecticut
78. Jamison Crowder, junior WR, Duke
• Explosive pass-catcher who gets the ball in space and flies. Fun to watch.
79. Kolton Browning, senior QB, Louisiana-Monroe
80. Blake Bortles, sophomore QB, Central Florida
81. Donte Moncrief, junior WR, Mississippi
82. Keith Marshall, sophomore RB, Georgia
• Will be overshadowed by our top RB Gurley, but is a star in the making and will get his touches.
83. Spencer Long, senior G, Nebraska
84. Zurlon Tipton, senior RB, Central Michigan
85. Eric Ward, senior WR, Texas Tech
86. Justin Hardy, junior WR, East Carolina
87. Tyler Tettleton, senior QB, Ohio
88. Devin Gardner, junior QB, Michigan
• Impressed people in five games of play. Could do so for a whole season — or, he could not.
89. Devanta Freeman, junior RB, Florida State
90. Keith Wenning, senior QB, Ball State
91. Austin Franklin, junior WR, New Mexico State
92. Jeremy Hill, sophomore RB, LSU
• As the man, Hill could one of the top backs in the SEC, especially with his nose for the paint (12 TDs in 8 games).
93. Terrence Broadway, junior QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
94. Kevin Hogan, junior QB, Stanford
• Big talk surrounding this big (6-4, 220) quarterback. Can he answer the call?
95. J.D. McKissic, sophomore WR, Arkansas State
96. James Sims, senior RB, Kansas
97. Ryan Grant, senior WR, Tulane
98. John Urschel, senior G, Penn State
99. Johnathan Gray, sophomore RB, Texas
100. Keith Price, senior QB, Washington
• Plenty of upside. He needs to win big games for the Huskies.