Clowney goes No. 1 in hypothetical 2012 college football Mock Draft
Teams select in order of their 2011 Sagarin ranking in the 125-pick first round
Since all rosters are empty, offensive and defensive schemes impact selections
Eligibility holds, so it's tempting to pass on a proven veteran for a younger guy
As part of SI.com's quest to help you muddle through the seemingly endless days before actual football begins, we present another journey into the imagination. Last month, we examined what could have happened if one player had gained one more yard on a fourth-quarter play in 2004. Today, we'll spin another scenario.
As he moves his personal effects into his office at Sun Belt Conference headquarters in New Orleans, recently hired commissioner Karl Benson discovers a yellow envelope on his desk. He opens the envelope and finds a series of shocking photos, each more depraved than the last. After the last photo is a note from outgoing Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters.
I hope you're settling in comfortably. I've left you something that should make your tenure much more interesting. Shortly before I retired, I came into possession of the same set of compromising photos bowl executives have used to blackmail conference commissioners, university presidents and select athletic directors into keeping the bowls in the power structure despite the fact that the conferences could stage all the games themselves and keep all the money. (As you can see from the photos, there really are no limits to what you can do on a free cruise or a golf boondoggle. Also, I'm never eating sushi again.) The Champions Bowl and the ACC's deal with the Orange Bowl suggest the sport's leaders aren't as afraid of these photos as they were before, so I suggest you work fast to use them to the league's benefit before they lose their power. I know you'll know what to do.
Benson immediately copies the photos and mails them to the headquarters of the other 10 FBS conferences. He also sends copies to NCAA headquarters. On top of each stack of photos is a Post-It note. It contains one sentence.
If you don't want to see these on Deadspin tomorrow, call me. I have an idea.
A week later, the NCAA announces the schools have passed emergency legislation to restore competitive balance to college football's uppermost division. Every scholarship player currently enrolled will be immediately placed in a one-time-only redistribution draft. Schools will choose players until each has restocked its roster. The order will be based on Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings from the 2011 season -- worst to first.
This draft is obviously imaginary. (In real life, it would certainly inspire lawsuits from players and schools.) But it is an interesting exercise. This is not simply a list of the best players. As anyone who has watched the NFL draft can attest, teams don't always select the best available player; they choose based on specific needs. In this case, there will be no other players on a team's roster because everyone is in the draft. So the first-round picks probably will depend on the offensive and defensive scheme preferences of the coaches. Just as in the NFL draft, certain positions will command premium draft slots. Quarterbacks, offensive tackles, defensive linemen and cornerbacks will get preference over tailbacks, guards, centers and inside linebackers.
Also, players will retain their current eligibility status. So a coach who selects a senior does so knowing he only gets him for a year. A coach who selects a junior does so knowing that player could go to the NFL after a season. The catch is that, unlike in the NFL, coaches can select players who have already proven themselves at this level of play. So one year of guaranteed quality play may be too tough to pass up for some coaches.
Sound preposterous? It is. But it's July. The games don't kick off until Aug. 30, so enjoy a chance to think actual football thoughts for a few minutes.
1. Texas-San Antonio: DE Jadeveon Clowney, So., South Carolina
As a freshman, Clowney racked up 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks despite barely knowing South Carolina's plays. Now bulked up and more accustomed to a college defense, Clowney should be good for almost twice as many snaps per game. Could he double those totals? If you're UTSA coach Larry Coker, and you're transitioning to the FBS, you can't afford to pass up that kind of potential. There are more proven defensive ends in the draft, but none of them guarantee at least two seasons in the program.
2. Texas State: C Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama
Jones only has one year to play, but so might other high-rated linemen such as Texas A&M tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. This high in the draft, a senior is probably just as valuable as a junior because an elite junior will likely turn pro after the 2012 season. In Jones, the Bobcats get a player who excelled at guard, won the Outland Trophy as a tackle and also proved this spring he can play center. Linemen take time to develop, but the Bobcats need someone who can contribute immediately. They can find projects in the later rounds.
3. UMass: QB Matt Barkley, Sr., USC
Once again, it may seem unwise to take a senior here, but can anyone name a sophomore quarterback worth taking ahead of Barkley? (Remember, a junior such as Georgia's Aaron Murray can also turn pro after this season.) UMass coach Charley Molnar did great work at Central Michigan with Dan Lefevour. With Barkley, Molnar will have a nearly perfect skill set with which to work.
4. South Alabama: QB AJ McCarron, Jr., Alabama
The Jaguars may have been left out of EA Sports' NCAA Football 13 video game, but they won't be left out here. They take a hometown hero to serve as a foundation. But McCarron before Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson? Has the world gone mad? Far from it. USA coach Joey Jones, a former star receiver at Alabama, knows how to send donations into overdrive and put butts in the seats. By taking a Mobile native who helped Alabama to a national title in 2011, Jones has guaranteed a sellout at every home game. (Plus, Jones knows former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will take McCarron at No. 15. If there were imaginary trades in the imaginary college draft, Jones would trade down into the low teens. Oh no, I've gone cross-eyed again.)
5. Georgia State: OT Luke Joeckel, Jr., Texas A&M
Georgia State coach Bill Curry, an old offensive lineman, begins building with a cornerstone left tackle. He might get two seasons out of Joeckel, or he might only get one. It's worth the risk.
6. Akron: QB, Tyler Wilson, Sr., Arkansas
Zips coach Terry Bowden is no dummy. As he enters the pass-happy MAC, he grabs a quarterback who looks capable of starting on Sundays for a long time.
7. Florida Atlantic: LB Jarvis Jones, Jr., Georgia
New Owls coach Carl Pelini establishes his team's defense-first mentality by taking the nation's most disruptive defender. In his first season on the field in Athens, Jones compiled 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
8. Memphis: QB Landry Jones, Sr., Oklahoma
First-year Tigers coach Justin Fuente is installing a quick-tempo offense, so who better to pilot that offense than a guy who has been running a hurry-up at a high level since 2009? The addition of Jones shortens the learning curve for everyone.
9. New Mexico: DT Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah
Before he took over at Notre Dame and later established residence inside your television, new Lobos coach Bob Davie was recognized as a master defensive tactician. In Lotulelei, Davie gets a space-eater who can occupy gaps and make plays implode.
10. Tulane: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Fr., Missouri
We have our first reach into the freshman class. While the other players on this list have proven themselves against collegiate competition, none of them guarantee three years on the roster of their new program. Green-Beckham does. Curtis Johnson, the former New Orleans Saints receivers coach who took over the Green Wave in December, can't resist selecting a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder with sprinter's speed. If Green-Beckham is indeed the second coming of Calvin Johnson, the Green Wave will have a virtually unstoppable receiver for three years. Of course, if that hunch is wrong, then the Green Wave will have passed on a ton of proven talent.
11. Middle Tennessee: CB Tyrann Mathieu, Jr., LSU
In the NFL draft, the Honey Badger might fall because of the same coverage concerns that made former teammate Morris Claiborne an extremely valuable NFL pick. In a college draft, he's a steal at this point because of his ability to change the game on defense and special teams.
12. UNLV: RB Montee Ball, Sr., Wisconsin
Just as in the NFL draft, coaches are leery of selecting a tailback too high because of durability concerns. But Ball is special, as evidenced by his 39 touchdowns (33 rushing, six receiving) in 2011. Put a decent line in front of Ball, and the entire offense will hum.
13. UAB: RB Knile Davis, Sr., Arkansas
Blazers coach (and former Arkansas assistant) Garrick McGee takes a player intimately familiar with the offense UAB will run. Though Davis missed the 2011 season because of an ankle injury, McGee knows the details of Davis' rehabilitation and feels comfortable grabbing him this early. If Davis plays as he did in 2010, when he averaged 101.7 rushing yards per game, he'll torch Conference USA.
14. Troy: DE Sam Montgomery, Jr., LSU
Montgomery will follow in the footsteps of Osi Umenyiora, who starred at Troy before heading to the NFL. Montgomery brings the necessary physical prerequisites (6-4, 245 pounds, nine sacks in 2011), but more importantly, he's a leader who will draw the best out of his teammates.
15. Colorado State: DE Will Gholston, Jr., Michigan State
McElwain learned a few things working for Nick Saban. Among the lessons: If the defense wreaks havoc, the offense doesn't need to travel as far to score. In the 6-7, 275-pound Gholston, the Rams get a player strong enough to put his hand on the ground and fast enough to stand up. With Colorado State going to a 3-4, Gholston could fit into the hybrid Jack linebacker role Courtney Upshaw played at Alabama.
16. Idaho: DT Jonathan Hankins, Jr., Ohio State
With the Vandals in a precarious position vis-Ó-vis their FBS status, they need to win now. This reboot gives them a chance, and Idaho coach Robb Akey knows a superior interior defensive lineman can impact every play. Hankins, a 317-pounder who can rush the passer and stop the run, is that kind of guy.
17. Indiana: QB Geno Smith, Sr., West Virginia
With Landry Jones off the board, Indiana coach (and former Oklahoma offensive coordinator) Kevin Wilson opts for another excellent up-tempo passer. Smith, who excelled in Dana Holgorsen's offense in 2011, will thrive in another Big 12-bred scheme.
18. Central Michigan: WR Sammy Watkins, So., Clemson
Third-year Chippewas coach Dan Enos grabs one of the best receivers in the nation to use as the foundation of his offense. Watkins brings two years to the table, but if Enos doesn't win this year, he might not coach Watkins in 2013.
19. Buffalo: QB Aaron Murray, Jr., Georgia
Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn, who honed his scheme working under Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, gets the ideal quarterback for his offense. Murray is a polished passer, an excellent decision-maker and a better-than-average runner.
20. New Mexico State: DE Alex Okafor, Sr., Texas
Aggies coach Dwayne Walker hasn't forgotten the way end Bruce Davis made quarterbacks miserable when Walker ran the UCLA defense. In Okafor, Walker grabs another elite pass rusher.
21. Louisiana-Monroe: WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
Why Lee and not Trojans teammate Robert Woods? Lee is a year younger, and possibly just as talented. Last year, Lee caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns.
22. North Texas: DT Sharrif Floyd, Jr., Florida
Mean Green coach Dan McCarney, an old D-line coach, was going to take a defensive lineman. So why not take one he recruited? As an assistant, McCarney helped land Floyd at Florida. At 305 pounds, Floyd is stout enough to play inside but quick enough to line up outside.
23. Eastern Michigan: CB David Amerson, Jr., NC State
Amerson set an ACC record with 13 interceptions last season. Eagles coach Ron English, who worked a minor miracle last season by winning six games, grabs the junior to lock down the Sammy Watkinses of the new MAC. (We don't know how Amerson is against Watkins, who missed Clemson's 2011 loss to NC State because of a shoulder injury.)
24. Kent State: QB James Franklin, Jr., Missouri
People don't seem to truly appreciate the numbers Franklin put up in his first year as a starter. He threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those aren't Cam Newton/Tim Tebow numbers, but those two are the dual-threat gold standards. Few current college quarterbacks can find the end zone as well as Franklin. In Kent State coach Darrell Hazell's offense, Franklin will carry as much of the load as he did at Missouri.
25. Duke: QB Sean Mannion, So., Oregon State
Mannion is this draft's version of a relatively unknown small-school player shooting up the NFL draft board. Playing on a bad team, the rocket-armed Mannion threw for 3,328 yards as a true freshman. Now, he'll be coached by David Cutcliffe -- the same guy who mentored the Manning brothers when they played in college. Cutcliffe was always going to select a pocket passer here, but with Barkley, Wilson and Murray gone, he can't grab a guaranteed success. So he takes the guy with at least two years to play and the highest upside.
26. Army: DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Jr., Texas
Even though we've imagined a college football draft, we haven't imagined a change in the height/weight restrictions of the U.S. Armed Forces. So don't expect any of the service academies to start picking 320-pound linemen. If this were last year, the ideal service academy target would have been Robert Griffin III, an Army brat who would have been a lock for a nomination for admission. Because of the height/weight restrictions, Army will still have to run the option. Since most programs won't be in the market for option-ready players, Army can pick up offensive players in later rounds. Early on, it can stock up on defense. In Jeffcoat, the Black Knights get an elite speed rusher light enough to fit in at the academy. Jeffcoat, meanwhile, gets to skip his Plebe year.
27. Colorado: OT Ricky Wagner, Sr., Wisconsin
The Buffaloes will emphasize the run, so they'll build around a player who plows over defenders like Ralphie on a rampage.
28. Fresno State: DT Jesse Williams, Sr., Alabama
New Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter will need someone to man the middle of the line in his 3-4 defense. Williams, an Australian import, can do that or play end. Williams got quite an education during his first year in Tuscaloosa. He'll know what to do in DeRuyter's scheme.
29. Maryland: LB Manti Te'o, Sr., Notre Dame
Given his skill set and what he provides for his team, Te'o would be ranked much higher than No. 29 on a list of the best players in the country. But inside linebackers don't carry as much of a premium in a draft situation as quarterbacks, offensive tackles, defensive tackles, defensive ends, receivers and cornerbacks. So Randy Edsall is the lucky recipient of a smart, tough player who piled up 133 tackles as a junior. At this spot, Te'o is an absolute gem.
30. Ole Miss: WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
Woods racked up 111 catches for 1,292 yards as a sophomore. He'll catch plenty more passes in Ole Miss coach High Freeze's offense.
31. Western Kentucky: RB Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina
Hilltoppers coach Willie Taggart won seven games last year with a ground game led by Bobby Rainey. With Lattimore, Taggart gets another workhorse back. If Lattimore is fully recovered from the ACL tear that ended his 2011 season, he'll get the Hilltoppers to a bowl game.
32. Ball State: QB Tajh Boyd, Sr., Clemson
Cardinals coach Pete Lembo went 6-6 in his first season in Muncie, which is pretty impressive considering the Cardinals won six games in the previous two seasons. Lembo runs a no-huddle offense, and in Boyd, he gets a player who thrived in Chad Morris' no-huddle at Clemson.
33. Bowling Green: QB Casey Pachall, Jr., TCU
Falcons coach Dave Clawson's reputation as an offensive guru took a hit during his lone season as offensive coordinator at Tennessee (2008), but as we know now, there were plenty of other forces at play in Knoxville that season. Clawson will get another crack at working with elite talent, and his first choice is a big-armed Texan who grew into a leader during his first season as the starter in Fort Worth.
34. Miami (Ohio): OT Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, So., Tennessee
Sometimes, risky picks pay off big. It's pretty risky taking a sophomore tackle who didn't start a game as a freshman and whose chief highlights came as an extra fullback on short-yardage plays. Still, the Volunteers slid Dallas Thomas to guard this spring so the 6-6, 329-pound Richardson could take over at left tackle. If RedHawks coach Don Treadwell is correct here, he'll have at least two seasons with a future gazillionaire at one of the game's most critical positions.
35. Hawaii: QB Logan Thomas, Jr., Virginia Tech
You know Norm Chow is taking a quarterback here, and he can't believe his luck that Thomas -- who may go much higher than this in the 2013 or 2014 NFL draft -- fell to him here. Thomas threw for 3,013 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his first year as the starter in Blacksburg. Playing in Chow's offense, expect the 6-6, 262-pound Thomas to smash records.
36. San Jose State: LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre is an up-and-comer who came to San Jose State after an excellent stint as Duke's defensive coordinator. He takes a player who can lead his defense in tackles and set a tone for his teammates. Skov, who led Stanford in tackles in 2010, missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury. As in the NFL draft, Skov's arrest in February on suspicion of DUI would be taken into account. As in the NFL draft, it wouldn't keep Skov from getting chosen.
37. Florida International: QB Denard Robinson, Sr., Michigan
An explosive playmaker like Robinson only falls this far because he fills a fairly specific need. None of the offenses to this point have been run-first spreads, and with every player in the country available, it didn't make sense for those teams to take a quarterback who fits perfectly in a run-first spread. But Robinson could not have landed in a much better spot. First-year FIU offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey came from -- wait for it -- New Hampshire, where he learned at the foot of -- wait for it -- Chip Kelly. Remember imagining Kelly coaching Robinson in my alternate recent history of college football? This is the next best thing. Cramsey and Panthers coach Mario Cristobal pick Deerfield Beach, Fla., native Robinson after a serious discussion about taking Oregon sophomore tailback De'Anthony Thomas.
38. East Carolina: DE John Simon, Sr., Ohio State
Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill switched to a 3-4 before the 2011 season, so he needs to build around either a stalwart nose tackle or a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. In the 260-pound Simon, he gets a relentless competitor who should be able to fill that hybrid role. Simon played as a hand-on-the-ground end in Ohio State's 4-3 last year, but he's quick enough and strong enough to play a variety of positions. New Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer called Simon's work ethic "Tebowish." That makes him a perfect building block, even if he'll only be around for a season.
39. UTEP: TE Tyler Eifert, Sr., Notre Dame
Eifert might be the best player in the nation at his position, so why hasn't he been picked yet? Since every team is starting from scratch, they're choosing more traditional building-block positions. That makes Eifert a steal here. He can catch (803 receiving yards in 2011 even with Michael Floyd as the primary target), and his blocking has gotten better every year. He'll fit well into Mike Price's offense.
40. Kansas: QB Tyler Bray, Jr., Tennessee
Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis is ticked to miss out on Eifert -- a player Weis recruited to Notre Dame -- but thrilled to land a quality pocket passer. Weis tells Bray to ignore the John Brantley film and just watch the Brady Quinn highlights to get an idea of what the future holds.
41. Boston College: QB Collin Klein, Sr., Kansas State
First-year Eagles offensive coordinator Doug Martin found success at Kent State with athletic quarterbacks Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman. In Klein, he gets a proven commodity with the arm (1,918 passing yards, 57.3 percent completions in 2011) and the wheels (1,141 rushing yards, 27 rushing TDs) to excel in an offense built for a dual-threat quarterback.
42. Rice: DE Corey Lemonier, Jr., Auburn
Owls coach David Bailiff is a defensive guy whose tenure has been plagued by poor defense. Given the chance to start from scratch, Bailiff takes advantage of the knowledge that defenses get much better quickly with an elite pass rusher. Lemonier, playing with an inexperienced crew last season, led the Tigers with 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and 15 hurries.
43. Minnesota: DT Eddie Goldman, Fr., Florida State
Jerry Kill is a program builder. He does not opt for immediate flash. He would not take a senior here. Kill selects one of Jimbo Fisher's "grown-ass men" and finds comfort in the knowledge that he'll have Goldman for at least three seasons.
44. Oregon State: RB De'Anthony Thomas, So., Oregon
Thomas probably should have gone earlier, but, like Robinson, he is at his best in a very specific kind of offense. Oregon State doesn't necessarily run that offense, but coach Mike Riley knows how to utilize small, electric playmakers (see Rodgers, James and Rodgers, Jacquizz). And though he's about as low-key as they come, Riley can't resist the competitive urge to rub it in and take his rival's best player.
45. Syracuse: OG Chance Warmack, Sr., Alabama
Of course Doug Marrone is taking an offensive lineman. In Warmack, he gets a shockingly athletic 320-pounder who can wipe out multiple defenders on the same play.
46. Kentucky: DE Bjoern Werner, Jr., Florida State
When recruiting against the elite in the SEC, Joker Phillips has the hardest time landing stud defensive linemen. So he takes one here. Werner goes before teammate Brandon Jenkins because Werner is a year younger.
47. Wyoming: QB Keith Price, Jr., Washington
As Missouri's offensive coordinator, Cowboys coach Dave Christensen was adept at molding the offense to fit the skills of his quarterback. He'll have no problem fine-tuning a scheme for Price, who threw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore in 2011.
48. Washington State: WR Keenan Allen, Jr., Cal
Surprised Mike Leach didn't take a quarterback here? Don't be. He can find plenty of heady, underrated quarterbacks in the later rounds to run his offense. Think back to Leach's best teams at Texas Tech. What made them special? A dominant receiver. Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree helped turn a good offense into a great one. Allen, who caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, could elevate Leach's offense in Pullman.
49. Louisiana-Lafayette: RB Le'Veon Bell, Jr., Michigan State
Ragin' Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth loves him some inside zone, and who better to hand off to than a 238-pounder with speed? Get the proper quarterback (South Carolina's Connor Shaw, for example) in a later round, and this could be a terrifying offense.
50. Utah State: CB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC
Robey's Culture Shock College Tour continues. The lockdown corner from tiny, citrus-industry dominated Frostproof, Fla., played his first two seasons in Los Angeles. Now he moves on to Logan, Utah.
51. Marshall: S T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
The run on Trojans continues. No one has taken a safety yet, but McDonald is simply too good to pass up at this point.
52. Western Michigan: QB Alex Carder, Sr., Western Michigan
Why would Broncos coach Bill Cubit want to keep his current quarterback with so many others available? Because Cubit has a really good quarterback. Surround Carder with AQ-conference linemen and skill players, and he'd be a household name. Last year, Carder threw for 3,873 yards and 31 touchdowns.
53. Central Florida: RB Giovani Bernard, So., North Carolina
Bernard ran for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Though he could leave for the NFL after his first season in Orlando, he also could spend three seasons with the Knights if he plays out his eligibility.
54. Connecticut: DE Barkevious Mingo, Jr., LSU
Paul Pasqualoni knows the havoc a light, fast defensive end can wreak. After all, Pasqualoni coached Dwight Freeney at Syracuse. Mingo is much taller, but like Freeney, speed off the edge is his specialty.
55. Navy: RB Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama
Meet the most devastating B-back the Midshipmen have employed. The dive play will never be the same.
56. Wake Forest: DT Anthony Johnson, So., LSU
On almost any other team, Johnson would have been a breakout star as a true freshman. At LSU, he split time with other excellent defensive lineman. For at least two seasons in Winston-Salem, Johnson will be the centerpiece of the defense.
57. Air Force: S Robert Lester, Sr., Alabama
Need to instill a championship attitude with new personnel? Do it with a versatile safety who brings two national title rings to his new team.
58. Virginia: CB Quandre Diggs, So., Texas
Last year's Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year has a guaranteed two seasons in Charlottesville, where coach Mike London is proving he can shine on the FBS level as well.
59. San Diego State: DE Aaron Lynch, So., South Florida
If not for his sudden transfer from Notre Dame making schools nervous, Lynch would have gone much higher. Would Lynch, who must sit out this season at USF because of transfer rules, be allowed to play right away? Like the NCAA, we're making up the rules as we go along here. So sure, let him play.
60. Pittsburgh: C Travis Frederick, Jr., Wisconsin
Panthers coach Paul Chryst, the former offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, grabs a lineman who knows his scheme. Frederick, who started all last season at guard, can pick up any new tweaks quickly. He chose his two majors so he can learn to design computer software and hardware. Given Frederick's cognitive skills, a few new line calls wouldn't pose a problem.