By Todd DeVries
Cold, Hard Football Facts High Character Guy
It's April, which means the draft firm of Mayock, McShay & Kiper is beginning their annual haunting of your television set. Be careful. Stare too closely at the fuzzy TV glow emanating from this trio, and you just might get sucked in.
If you are a zombie-minded disciple of these draft "pundits," you might fall prey to evaluating NFL prospects by their "good motors," "high character" and scholarly Wonderlic results
. But each is a useless indicator of actual ability to, you know, play football.
We here at Cold, Hard Football Facts believe that "good motors" are better suited for '69 Camaros. And when we hear the words "high character" we think of famous stoners like Spicoli or Wooderson.
We don't care how fast potential NFL draftees were able to run a straight line in a pair of spandex nut-huggers. We just want to know who will produce on the field. Who has proven they can make plays – and lots of them - in real, live football games?
In typical CHFF fashion, we scoured the 2010 college football landscape for a quantitative answer. After peeling back the numbers, we've compiled our definitive list of the Top 32 (draft eligible) college football producers. These are the guys who proved that they could play football on the field.
You'll notice quite a big difference between our top 32 and those of the so-called draft "experts." Our list includes the 32 players who should be drafted in the first round, at least if you value actual production. The lists provided by the "pundits" too often value style over substance.
Let's get to it.
Top 32 Producers in the 2011 Draft
1. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: As we chronicled back in December, Cam Newton produced a season for the ages in 2010. He finished second in the country in passing efficiency, passing for 2,854 yards with a sparking 30-7 TD-INT ratio. Cam's 1,473 rushing yards ranked sixth best in college football history for a quarterback. His regular season Passing Yards Per Attempt of 10.52 was the second best of any college quarterback since 2000! Newton won the Heisman trophy and lifted the BCS Title crystal ball in January.
2. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Kerrigan was a terror in 2010. He led the country with a whopping 26 tackles for loss. His five forced fumbles ranked him second in the land. He also logged 12.5 sacks and 70 tackles. Big Ten offenses will be happy to see this guy playing on Sundays.
3. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Mr. Bowers raised complete hell in ACC backfields in 2010. He led the entire country in sacks last fall with 15, and tacked on another 17 quarterback pressures to boot. His 24 tackles for loss resulted in 150 yards lost for Clemson opponents. Bowers also chipped in with 63 "regular" tackles, good for second on the team.
4. Patrick Peterson, DB/KR, LSU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Peterson lived up to lofty expectations in 2010 by racking up 42 tackles, four interceptions, six pass break ups, 1.5 tackles for loss, two punt return TDs, and a blocked field goal. He was a major reason the LSU defense ranked in the Top 12 nationally in scoring, pass and total defense. Peterson is also an excellent kick returner, ranking fourth in the nation in punt returns (16.1 average) and ninth in the country in kickoff returns (29.1 average).
5. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Fairley was dominant during Auburn's national title run, recording 11.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss - a school record. These are amazing stats considering they came from the defensive tackle position. Fairley played big when it mattered most with three tackles for loss and a sack in the national title game against Oregon.
6. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This Aggie had been an absolute nightmare for Big 12 quarterbacks over the past two years. Miller led the nation in sacks in 2009 with 16.5, and despite offenses keying on him in 2010 he managed to finish ninth in the country with 10.5 sacks. He also added 68 tackles and an interception on the season, leading Texas A&M to a Cotton Bowl berth.
7. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: To say Foster has a nose for the ball is a gross understatement. The dude is a tackling machine. His 163 tackles in 2010 were the most by a Pac-10 player since 1989. He had double-digit tackles in 12 of 13 games last fall. Over past three seasons as a full-time starter, Foster compiled 33.5 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, 10 sacks, 15 passes defended and four interceptions.
8. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The "Cyborg Gazelle", whose physique reminds many of Vince Young, is the only player in college football history to rush for 4,000 yards and throw for 9,000 yards in a career. In leading Nevada to its' best season in school history (13-1 record), he put up Cam Newton-like numbers – 3,022 passing yards, 1,206 rushing yards, and 42 total touchdowns.
9. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ingram won the Heisman in 2009 when he set an Alabama single-season rushing record (1,658 yards) while also catching 32 balls for 334 yards. He scored 20 touchdowns during that season, which resulted in a national title for the Crimson Tide. Ingram injured his knee early in the 2010 season and missed a couple games. He wasn't healthy until later in the year, but he still rushed for 875 yards and 13 scores in limited time. Ingram leaves Tuscaloosa with 42 career rushing touchdowns, most in school history.
10. Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Salas amassed 285 receptions, 4,345 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns during his time as a Rainbow Warrior. He was a man amongst boys in 2010, hauling in 119 pass for a nation-leading 1,889 receiving yards.
11. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This 5-foot-5 dynamo exits the Pac-10 as the sixth leading rusher in conference history (3,877 yards) – had he not left early for the NFL he might have topped the list! His 46 career rushing touchdowns is second most in conference history. Quizz had a remarkable 19 games with 100-plus yards rushing. He's also the Pac-10 career leader in receptions for a running back (151 catches), which resulted in an additional 1,046 yards and five scores.
12. Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: LeShoure had a monster year, setting single-season school records in both rushing yards (1,697) and touchdowns (20). He helped lead the Illini to their first bowl win since 1999. LeShoure's ridiculous 330 rushing yard performance against Northwestern was the highest total in college football in 2010.
13. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This ginger-haired Horned Frog quietly finished fourth in the nation in passing efficiency in 2010. His 66.1 completion percentage and 27 touchdown passes are both single-season school records. Dalton passed for 2,857 yards and a stellar 27-6 TD-INT ratio. He also proved to be a capable runner, rushing for 435 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Over his four years as a starter, TCU posted a remarkable 42-7 record.
14. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This "big ugly" logged 49 career starts for one of the most potent rushing attacks in college football. Behind Carimi's lead, the Badgers rushed for a total of 48 touchdowns in 2010 (second in the country) and nearly finished with three 1,000-yard running backs (RB Montee Ball fell four yards short with 996).
15. Sam Acho, DE, Texas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Acho stuffed the stat sheet with big numbers in 2010. You like fumbles? Acho led the nation in fumble recoveries (five) and finished second forcing them (also five). He also recorded 59 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 18 quarterback pressures last fall.
16. Prince Amukamara, DB, Nebraska
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Prince was so productive in 2009 (five interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble) that when 2010 rolled around, opposing offensive coordinators said "the hell with it" and only threw the ball his way 52 times the entire year. Only 18 of those passes (35 percent) were actually completed. That, my friends, is the definition of a lock-down corner.
17. Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Over the past two seasons as the Wildcats' starting running back, Thomas carried the ball 545 times for 2,850 yards and 30 touchdowns. He's also a threat out of the backfield, as evidenced by his 52 receptions for 428 yards over that time frame. In 2010, Thomas finished in the Top 5-7 in all major national rushing categories.
18. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: No interior defensive lineman has been more consistently productive over the past three years than Paea. Over that time frame, this two-time Oregon State team captain started all 38 games, compiling 129 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and 9 forced fumbles.
19. Aldrick Robinson, WR, SMU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Robinson finished his SMU career with a whopping 181 receptions, 3,314 receiving yards and 30 receiving touchdowns. In 2010, he ranked fourth in the nation among wide receivers in touchdowns (14) and eighth in yards (1,301).
20. Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Cannon anchored an offensive line that paved the way for the Horned Frogs to set single-season school records in touchdowns (70) and points scored (520). TCU finished ninth in the country in rushing yards per game (261.2), and only gave up 9 sacks (fourth best nationally). Cannon started 37 games over the past three years and was a key cog in the team's 2010 undefeated season.
21. Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This Dawg made life miserable for SEC signal callers, chalking up 17 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss and 62 quarterback pressures over the past two seasons. Impressive numbers for a linebacker.
22. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Watt ranked eighth in the nation in 2010 with 20.5 tackles for loss. The burly lineman led the Badgers in tackles for loss, sacks (7), quarterback pressures, forced fumbles and blocked kicks (3). He finished second on the team in tackles (62), pass break ups and passes defended. How's that for production in all phases of the game?
23. Titus Young, WR, Boise State
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: During his career on the Blue Turf, Young compiled 204 receptions, 3,063 receiving yards and 25 receiving touchdowns. He's also a dangerous playmaker in the backfield (7 career rushing touchdowns) and in the return game (2 kickoff return scores). In 2010, Young finished eleventh on the nation with 1,215 receiving yards.
24. A.J. Green, WR Georgia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In his 27 starts, Green scored 23 receiving touchdowns and amassed 2,619 receiving yards – nearly 100 yards per game. It's important to note that he put up these numbers while playing in an offense with a run-first mentality. And he did it competing against some pretty rugged SEC secondaries.
25. Jeremy Beal, DE/ILB, Oklahoma
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Last fall, Beal led the Sooners in sacks (8.5) and topped the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 18. Beal tied an OU record for career pass break ups by a defensive lineman (13), a skill that will help him in the NFL where he could see time at linebacker. He's the first Sooner in history to log 8.5 sacks or more in three seasons. His 29 career sacks and 57.5 career tackles for loss both rank second in school history.
26. Zach Hurd, OT, Connecticut
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Amazingly, Hurd blocked for FOUR different 1,000 yard rushers during his time in Storrs. This durable lineman set a school record by appearing in 52 games during his career, starting his final 39 outings. In 2010, UConn had their best season in school history earning a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
27. Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Todman was a workhorse in 2010, toting the rock 334 times (second in the nation) for 1,695 yards (fourth in the nation) and 14 touchdowns. He paved the way for UConn to reach their first BCS bowl game in school history – the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl versus Oklahoma.
28. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This Razorback gunslinger passed for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdown passes last fall. He finished in the Top 7 nationally in all major passing categories, and was a major reason his team earned a big BCS pay day in the Sugar Bowl.
29. Muhammed Wilkerson, DT, Temple
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Over the past two seasons, Wilkerson recorded 131 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and 16.5 sacks - impressive statistics from an interior defensive lineman. He started every game over the past two years in helping Temple compile a surprising 17-8 record over that time span.
30. Dontay Moch, OLB/DE, Nevada
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Moch anchored a defense that helped Nevada enjoy their best season in school history (13-1). His 22 tackles for loss was good for fourth in the country in 2010, placing him just behind Auburn's Nick Fairley. Moch racked up 24 sacks over the past three seasons and was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.
31. Tyler Sash, SS, Iowa
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Sash hauled in 13 interceptions over the past three seasons, a Big Ten best. During that time frame, he also had a hand in 14 pass break ups and two forced fumbles. Sash racked up 164 tackles (including 9 tackles for loss) over the past two Hawkeye campaigns.
32. Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In his two years as a full-time starter in Stillwater, Hunter put up 1,555 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2008, and matched those numbers with 1,548 yards and 16 scores last fall (he was injured in 2009 and missed most of the year). This shifty back averaged a remarkable 5.91 yards per rush for his career.