football Edit

Farrell Midseason 50: Nos. 1-5

With the college football season a little beyond the halfway point, it’s time for another installment of the Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. However, as usual here at, we take a quick look at how each ranked out of high school and if they are exceeding or simply living up to expectations. And with such a crazy season of injuries and disappointing seasons from some of the bigger names, you could be stunned at who’s missing from the list.

Today we complete the countdown by examining Nos. 5-1, led by the top two quarterbacks in the nation.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

MORE Farrell 50: 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50


The skinny: Fournette was always regarded as a heavy lean to LSU, and he committed to the Tigers over Alabama and Texas during the Under Armour All-America Game. After a consensus All-American season last fall when he rushed for 1,953 yards rushing and 22 rushing touchdowns, Fournette seemed primed for an even bigger season and a run at the Heisman Trophy. However, injuries have derailed a majority of those plans. While he has only played in four games this fall, against Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss, he has showcased all of his abilities in that time, totaling 670 yards and five touchdowns on 83 carries.

Farrell’s Take: We were obviously taken with Fournette, as he was the highest-ranked running back since Bryce Brown was No. 1 in 2009 and likely the best I’ve seen since Adrian Peterson or Reggie Bush out of high school. I wasn’t thrilled with all the comparisons to Peterson out of high school because I wasn’t sure he had the same explosion, but Fournette has obviously shown that’s not an issue. After a huge start, teams began to game plan for him and slowed him down last season, but he still rushed for nearly 2,000 yards when everyone knew he was getting the ball. This season he has been banged up but when healthy he has been even more physical and dominant than last year, something that’s hard to imagine.

The skinny: Cook originally committed to Florida before rumors of a possible flip to Florida State began to intensify during his senior season. He finally did pull off the switch during the week of the Under Amour All-America Game. Cook finished with an ACC leading 1,691 yards rushing in 2015 and is currently second in the ACC with 900 yards, only eight behind Lamar Jackson. Along with the 900 yards he has added seven rushing touchdowns and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Farrell’s Take: Cook has a ton of ability and was a guy who proved to us he was a five-star talent the more we watched him during that 2014 rankings cycle. He earned that fifth star during the last ranking and showed signs of living up to it early with his solid first season. Last year he took it to the next level and was more valuable to his team than anyone else in the country, hands down. This season he has continued his dominance, although not on the same national stage as FSU has struggled. He should be in New York as a Heisman finalist, a snub that was insane last year.

The skinny: Peppers narrowed his list to Michigan, Ohio State, LSU and Stanford by the spring after his junior season and committed to the Wolverines in late May. After a 2015 season that saw him play multiple positions on offense, defense and special teams, the buzz surrounding Peppers continued to grow as the 2016 season approached. He has not disappointed through the first half of the year, as he has totaled 37 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and two sacks on defense, rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on offense and averaged 17.8 yards on punt returns, which included one touchdown return.

Farrell’s Take: Peppers was one of the bigger names in the recruiting world, at least for the nearly 20 years I’ve been doing this. And he's up there with Brian Toal, Brian Cushing and Will Hill in recent Jersey lore. A cornerback and running back who also played some safety in high school, he’s been playing all over the field at Michigan, especially this season. From the first time I saw him as a freshman corner at Bosco to his dominant years at Paramus Catholic, this kid was always special and is one of the best playmakers in college football. And he’s a leader.

The skinny: Watson had no drama in his recruiting process as he committed to Clemson on National Signing Day in 2012. After leading the Tigers to the National Championship Game and winning the Davey O’Brien Award, annually given out to the nation’s top quarterback, last season, expectations were through the roof leading up to the start of the 2016 campaign. He has responded by passing for 1,950 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 274 yards and one score for the undefeated Tigers.

Farrell’s Take: Watson came on strong last season, as he didn’t even make my midseason list but was obviously way up on the postseason list. This year he was my No. 1 on the preseason list and still remains near the top. We loved his run-pass ability in high school obviously, based on his ranking, and he has grown into an excellent decision-maker and one of the most dangerous weapons in college football. It’s not unexpected at all for us, the only site to have him as a five star, but it was his character that really struck me when he was in high school. He’s still one of the highest character kids I’ve ever scouted, and all those who questioned his arm strength are looking silly now.

The skinny: Jackson committed to Louisville in late August heading into his senior year, but still took official visits to Nebraska, Florida and Mississippi State. The biggest push came from Florida, but on National Signing Day Jackson decided to stick with his original commitment and signed with the Cardinals. As a true freshman last fall, Jackson surprised many with his production. However, few expected the monumental leap he took from 2015 to 2016. He currently has 2,161 yards passing and 18 touchdowns, plus 908 yards, which leads the ACC, and an NCAA-leading 16 rushing touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if Jackson is able to continue this pace through the end of the season.

Farrell’s Take: Jackson was known for his arm -- he has a cannon with that whip delivery -- but in high school he did a ton with his legs as well but there was no way to see how explosive he’d be at the next level. His speed has translated much better to college than I expected, as I've been surprised with his ability to run away from people so easily. Jackson is still a bit raw as a passer, but he is so dominant as a runner that he gets a lot of a space when in or outside the pocket as the entire pass rush is geared towards run containments. He is simply the most dynamic player we’ve seen in college football in quite some time.