CFF All-America Team
In case you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll have noticed that we’ve been going draft mad these past few weeks. Our debut season of College Football Focus has seen us look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects and go into a level of detail never before seen.
But as we ready up for Roger Goodell to announce the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, we figured we’d take a slight detour. We’ve spent so much time looking at these guys as prospects that we probably haven’t given due to the players for their excellent performances during the year. So behold the first annual CFF All-America Team.
This isn’t about potential. This isn’t just about the draft-eligible guys out there. This is all about production and performance on the field of play in all FBS encounters. Let’s see who made it as first- and second-teamers.
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The highest-graded QB on the year regardless of conference, Mariota was a dual threat, grading out first overall with his passing and fourth with his running amongst his peers from behind center. He was near immaculate for most of the year.
Key Stat: His 131.2 NFL QB rating was highest of any QB with at least 200 drop-backs.
Second Team: Nick Marshall, Auburn
Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Made a statement with the eyes of the nation on him, leading Ohio State to a big win in the National Championship game in a performance that earned him our game ball. Consistently excellent runner who was asked to pass block seventh most in the nation as a true every-down back.
Key Stat: Elliot’s 7 yards per carry in Power 5 Outings were the second most of any back with at least 200 carries.
Second Team: James Connor, Pittsburgh
Wide Receiver #1: Amari Cooper, Alabama
Routinely made SEC football seem unfair, proving an utter mismatch with his talent and nous too much on an almost weekly basis. Underrated after the catch and near unstoppable before it, he was the leading light on an Alabama team that made it to the playoffs.
Key Stat: His 26 forced missed tackles were joint most of all wide receivers.
Second Team: Nelson Agholor, USC
Wide Receiver #2: Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Watch out for this guy, who led the nation with 17 touchdowns and was extremely prolific for CSU. Outside of a sluggish start to the season against Colorado he graded positively in every game (all bar two of which he had at least 100 yards receiving).
Key Stat: His 4.45 Yards Per Route Run were the most of any wide receiver in the FBS.
Second Team: DeVante Parker, Louisville
Wide Receiver #3: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
This favorite of Sam Monson (and pretty much anyone else who spares a couple of hours to watch him) finished third overall in our wide receiver grading with his ability to make plays down the field especially impressive.
Key Stat: 16 receptions of at least 20 yards in the air were third most of all receivers.
Second Team: Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tight End: Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Grading out in the Top 10 of both our receiving and run blocking rankings at the tight end spot, it’s easy to see why most view Williams as the top tight end available in the draft. A polished player his work in 2014 saw him romp to the highest grade of all his peers.
Key Stat: His 2.72 Yards Per Route Run were fifth most of all tight ends.
Second Team: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
Left Tackle: Jack Conklin, Michigan State
How good was Conklin? He graded at better than a +1.0 in all bar one game (a +0.1 grade against Oregon) has his player page filled with green (positive) marks for run blocking and pass protection. A stellar year from a player who was dominant blocking for the run especially.
Key Stat: Had the highest run blocking grade of any left tackle.
Second Team: La’el Collins, LSU
Left Guard: Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Puller. Their power scheme relied on Johnson being able to pull, locate targets and execute blocks quickly. That he did and while he wasn’t asked to do as much in pass pro, when you run block with the level of dominance he did, you still make the team.
Key Stat: Highest run blocking grade of any left guard.
Second Team: Arie Kouandijo, Alabama
Center: Greg Mancz, Toledo
Even accounting for some of the level of competition he faced, Mancz was still the most productive performing center during 2014. The Toledo Rocket proved an immense asset as he topped our rankings with a series of stunning displays.
Key Stat: Graded in the green in every single game.
Second Team: Joey Hunt, TCU
Right Guard: Matt Rotheram, Pittsburgh
Our top-ranked guard on the year was used to perfection in Pittsburgh. His polish and power was rarely not on show as he and Clemmings powered guys off the line of scrimmage and got their running back to the second level.
Key Stat: Graded positively in all bar one game for his run blocking.
Second Team: Laken Tomlinson, Duke
Right Tackle: T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
You can only beat what is in front of you and Clemmings really beat what was in front of him in the ACC. The level of opposition helped him somewhat in pass protection, but there’s no escaping that in the run game he was something else altogether. A complete bully, he punished anyone he got his hands on.
Key Stat: Highest graded run blocking tackles in FBS competition.
Second Team: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
Defensive Interior #1: Henry Anderson, Stanford
One of the more divisive draft prospects, the one thing nobody can deny is just how good Anderson was in 2014. Rushing the passer or playing the run there was no other like him as he made play after play after play after play.
Key Stat: 57 total pressures were the most of any defensive interior.
Second Team: Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Defensive Interior #2: Leonard Williams, USC
You can read more on Williams here but strictly on what he did during the 2014 season he was one to catch the eye. Not always healthy but rarely not dominant, he started the season with a couple of so-so games but ended like a man possessed.
Key Stat: 55 stops were the most of any defensive interior.
Second Team: Grady Jarrett, Clemson
Edge Rusher #1: Joey Bosa, Ohio State
The litmus test for all tackles. The question being not could they cope with Bosa, but rather just how badly would he beat them. As dominant a player as there is in the college game right now he was a menace all year long and really stepped it up when the team needed him.
Key Stat: Led the nation with 75 combined sacks, hits and hurries.
Second Team: Shane Ray, Missouri
Edge Rusher #2: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
No edge defender graded better against the run, but don’t think for a second that’s the only reason that Flowers is on this list. He himself produced a very impressive 61 quarterback disruptions as he proved a complete defensive end.
Key Stat: His 12.1 Run Stop Percentage was second among all 4-3 defensive ends; his 14.4 Pass Rushing Productivity score was third.
Second Team: Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
Linebacker #1: Scooby Wright III, Arizona
One of eight players to record 100+ tackles from the linebacker spot, Wright doesn’t just pile on, but makes plays like his life depends upon it. An able pass rusher (as his role required) and a beast in the run game, he’s a true force on defense.
Key Stat: 84 defensive stops were second most of all linebackers.
Second Team: Joshua Perry, Ohio State
Linebacker #2: Paul Dawson, TCU
The only man to record more stops than Wright, Dawson is a true playmaker. Incredibly aggressive and fantastically fun to watch he had the second most tackles and most picks of any of his peers, with near every contribution he made a meaningful one.
Key Stat: His 23.2 Run Stop Percentage was the best in the country… the next being a paltry 14.8%.
Second Team: Zach Vigil, Utah State
Cornerback #1: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
Had some troubles with Amari Cooper (who doesn’t) but the Tampa native was remarkable outside of that as he earned the highest coverage grade of all corners. More than a few teams are kicking themselves he’s not eligible for the draft this year.
Key Stat: Graded above +2.0 eight times on the year.
Second Team: Jacoby Glenn, UCF
Cornerback #2: Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
Not far behind Hargreaves was the impressive Golson who was the pacesetter before a slow finish to the year. Only allowed more than 50 yards into his coverage twice all year and was more likely to cause you harm that offer you help when throwing at him.
Key Stat: Led the nation’s CBs in picks (10).
Second Team: William Parks, Arizona
Cornerback #3: Garry Peters, Clemson
The super physical Peters became a favorite of Steve Palazzolo for how he handled himself on the field. Rarely earned anything other than positive marks and only missed two tackles all year.
Key Stat: Allowed just 0.62 yards per snap in coverage, eighth best in the nation.
Second Team: JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas
Safety #1: Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Arizona
Finished the season playing like a man possessed as he accumulated a massive 40 stops. Rarely exposed in coverage (the longest gain he gave up all year was 18 yards), Bondurant put himself on the radar of a number of teams.
Key Stat: 9.9 Run Stop Percentage was the highest of all safeties.
Second Team: Landon Collins, Alabama
Safety #2: Su’a Cravens, USC
The guy who can do a little bit of everything. Cravens earned positive marks in all bar one game despite missing 13 tackles. That’s just the way he plays with his 55 tackles and eight combined pass break ups and interceptions showing a knack for locating the ball.
Key Stat: One of only three safeties to score +10.0 grades in both coverage and run defense.
Second Team: James Sample, Louisville
Kicker: Brad Craddock, Maryland
Our top-graded kicker. Just a shame he was so poor at kickoffs.
Key Stat: Missed only one kick all year (and that was from 50+, a distance where he nailed two others.)
Second Team: Roberto Aguayo, FSU
Punter: Austin Rehkow, Idaho
The standard of college punting is questionable at best. But Rekhow is something else, already displaying a leg that would upgrade many an NFL team.
Key Stat: His grade was three times that of the next best punter.
Second Team: JK Scott, Alabama
Special Teamer: Kosta Vavlas, Georgia
A constant force on kickoffs for the Bulldogs.
Key Stat: Made nine special team tackles with four assists.
Second Team: Jonathan Truman, Kansas State
Returner: Jamarcus Nelson, UAB
Four touchdowns on kick returns? This speedster has the ability to hurt a unit.
Key Stat: 37.3 yards per kick return average the most of any kick returner with at least five returns.
Second Team: Marcus Murphy, Missouri