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2018 NFL Draft: Initial Coaches Poll Sets Up Big Clashes For Draft Prospects

College ball is comin soon...

Alabama v Florida State
Alabama v Florida State
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Yesterday, the preseason edition of the 2017 College Football Coaches Poll was released.

There was, as always, some drama in the rankings. Some felt reigning national champions Clemson at #5 was too low while there was another camp who thought including Texas at #23 was preemptive at best.

From an NFL and Los Angeles Rams fan’s perspective, I was more interested in the battles it sets up with an eye toward the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Week 1 Vortex

The Week 1 schedule, which officially lasts 10 days, is ridiculous for a first week of college football. Gone are the days when Week 1 exists for all teams as a preseason soft schedule building exercise (see: Clemson-Kent St. or Auburn- Georgia Southern).

Some of the countries’ best teams are facing off to start their campaign.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will host #9 Michigan and #16 Florida on Saturday, September 2. The Wolverines are incredibly young in 2017 after seeing 11 (!) players get drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft including five defenders in the first three rounds. For Rams fans, it’ll be a chance to see OL Mason Cole work. He played left tackle for two seasons before moving to center last year. This year, he’s kicking back to left tackle again. Much will be made about what position he’ll be asked to take on by whatever team drafts him, but he’s looking like and early Day 2 pick right now. They’ll face a very talented Florida team who have a BRUTAL schedule to deal with this year. Head Coach Jim McElwain could have a really good offense to groom this year, so Rams fans will want to get a look at WR Antonio Callaway and OL Martez Ivey, one of the top prospects in the nation in high school who has interior and tackle experience.

The big game, though, is that evening between #1 Alabama and #3 Florida St. It’s hard to call it a down year for Bama even though they’re #1, but here we are. S Minkah Fitzpatrick could be a top-10 pick. WR Calvin Ridley could be the first WR taken. They’ve got about 10 other prospects who could all be drafted before Day 2 ends. FSU is on the other end of the spectrum — they need to win big in 2017. They’re experienced, and deep on both sides of the ball despite suspending WR Da’Vante Phillips indefinitely for multiple counts of fraud (#talkinbouttheNoles). The Seminoles are a popular option to make the College Football Playoffs and for good reason. Rams fans will want to look at their defense which is absolutely loaded: S Derwin James (already mocked to the Rams), CB Tarvarus McFadden, DT Derrick Nnadi and DE/OLB Josh Sweat (also already mocked to the Rams).

But wait! Week 1 isn’t over. With the NFL not starting until the following weekend, college ball is filling Sunday evening with a pair of fine matchups in Texas A&M-UCLA Bruins and #20 West Virginia-#22 Virginia Tech. No, neither A&M nor UCLA are ranked, but A&M WR Christian Kirk could be a first-round talent as could UCLA QB Josh Rosen. And if Rams CB Trumaine Johnson is correct in musing that this could be his last season with the team, Va. Tech CB Adonis Alexander could be a fine replacement to develop.


Texas-Oklahoma, October 14.

UCLA @ #4 USC (getting to them, hold on), November 18.

#2 OSU @ #9 Michigan, #3 FSU @ #16 Florida, and #5 Clemson @ South Carolina, all on November 25.

#6 Penn St. @...well, damn near everybody.

The major rivalry games, and these are just a select few, are all over the timeline this year.

California Love

One of the things I predicted in our Future of Football series was that the Rams will draft the Pac-12 with much more scrutiny over the coming years now that they’ve moved their base of operations to the West Coast. Sure, you could argue that’s already happening with Jared Goff at QB and a pair of Eastern Washington (not Pac-12, but you get the idea) rookies in WR Cooper Kupp and OLB Samson Ebukam.

Expect more.

With QB Sam Darnold soaking up all the hype for USC this preseason, there will be a sizable population of Rams fans clamoring for a USC pipeline, something that free agent additions WR Robert Woods and Nickell Robey-Coleman won’t satisfy by themselves as former Trojans.

Darnold, ILB Cameron Smith, RB Ronald Jones II, CB Iman Marshall and DE Porter Gustin all project as early picks, so I’d anticipate push for all akin to what we saw for noted Rams fan CB Adoree’ Jackson and WR Juju Smith-Schuster.

I’ll say the same for UCLA, but outside of Rosen, there’s not a ton of NFL talent ready for next year’s draft. If Rosen can kickstart a program renaissance (which HC Jim Mora badly, badly, badly needs), perhaps we could see something similar coming out of Westwood.

Non-Conference Nonsense

There’s a ton of unusual non-conference matchups that are more than enticing.

We touched on the opening weekend with #1 Alabama v. #3 Florida St., #9 Michigan v. #16 Florida, A&M at UCLA and #20 West Virginia v. #22 Virginia Tech but didn’t acknowledge #24 Tennessee v. Georgia Tech. That’s a thin matchup for draft talent, but a juice matchup all by itself in Atlanta on Monday night.

Week 2 offers even more non-conference nuttery. #13 Auburn at #5 Clemson. #8 Oklahoma at #2 Ohio St. (who I haven’t even mentioned yet and yes, they’re loaded again and yes, you should watch them). #15 Georgia at Notre Dame (OL Mike McGlinchey anyone?). And a Nebraska-Oregon matchup that kickstarted Oregon’s five-game losing streak a year ago.

A week later, we’ve got another good non-conference pair. #11 Oklahoma St. at Pitt and #23 Texas at #4 USC. These comes on the same day as #5 Clemson at #17 Louisville, #24 Tennessee at #16 Florida, and #18 Miami at #2 FSU.

Dear Family and Friends, either leave me alone or come over and watch football on September 16.

Suffice to say, I’m excited for the college season and what we’re looking at in next year’s draft. And with if the initial coaches poll is any indication, the path there is gonna be great.