Farrell Postseason 50: Nos. 1-5
With the college football season in the books, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell releases his postseason Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. This list is based on this year's performance balanced with the level of competition each player has faced and how they've fared when the pressure is on.
Today’s countdown: Nos. 1-5
5. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU | New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine (five-star, 2014)
The skinny: No. 4 overall, the No. 1 running back and the No. 1 recruit from Louisiana, Fournette was always regarded as a heavy lean to LSU, and committed to the Tigers over Alabama and Texas during the Under Armour All-America Game. Midway through the season, Fournette was considered the heavy favorite for the Heisman Trophy. However, as LSU tumbled in the second half of the season, so did Fournette’s chances at the award. Despite this collapse, Fournette still finished his consensus All-American season with 1,953 yards rushing, 22 rushing touchdowns, plus 253 receiving yards and an additional score.
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. I wasn’t thrilled with all the comparisons to Adrian 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 which shows that a great running back is dependent upon a serviceable quarterback to be successful each game.
4. RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State | Miami (Fla.) Central (five-star, 2014)
The skinny: No. 18 overall, the No. 2 all-purpose back and the No. 3 recruit from Florida, Cook was an early commitment to Florida, before rumors of a possible flip to Florida State began to intensify. He finally did pull off the flip during the week of the Under Amour All-America Game. Cook dealt with a few nagging injuries during this season, but still produced consistently for the Seminoles. He finished with and ACC leading 1,691 yards rushing and 19 rushing touchdown, plus added 244 receiving yards.
Farrell’s take: Cook has a ton of talent 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 season last year. This year, he has taken it to the next level and is more valuable to his team than anyone else in the country. He should have been a Heisman finalist.
3. QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson | Gainesville, Ga. (five-star, 2014)
The skinny: No. 31 overall, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 2 recruit from Georgia, behind only Raekwon McMillan, Watson had no drama in his recruiting process as he committed to Clemson on National Signing Day in 2012. Watson earned immediate playing time as a true freshman at Clemson and quickly became the starter. However, injuries to his hand and knee hindered slowed his progress and eventually cut his season short. Watson quickly hit his stride this season and has led the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking. Winner of the Davey O’Brien Award, annually given out to the nation’s top quarterback, Watson passed for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Watson didn’t even make the mid-season list, if you can believe that, because he had a few too many turnovers, wasn’t dominating games as he did down the stretch and he was being outplayed by other quarterbacks. How quickly things can change. We loved his run-pass ability in high school and he has grown into an excellent decision-maker and arguably the most dangerous weapon in college football. It’s not unexpected, but the way he’s matured the last half of the season has been fun to watch.
2. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford | Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian (four-star, 2014)
The skinny: No. 77 overall, the No. 3 all-purpose back and the No. 1 recruit from Colorado, McCaffrey was always considered a heavy Stanford lean. With his father, Ed McCaffrey, considered a legend by the Cardinal, it came as no surprise that his son committed to Stanford in early May. In his two seasons at Stanford, McCaffrey has become the top all-purpose player in the country. This season, he rushed for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns, had 645 yards receiving and five touchdowns, plus 1,200 return yards. His 3,864 all-purpose yards broke Barry Sanders’ previous record of 3,250, which was set during his 1988 Heisman Trophy-winning season.
Farrell’s take: No one saw this coming and if they say they did, they are related to him or lying. We loved McCaffrey's versatility out of high school, but we expected him to be more of a slasher/third-down guy instead of the workhorse he has been and it’s a shame he doesn’t get goal line carries as he should. He's not big, but he's sneaky strong, super quick and has smarts and vision. I'm proud of our ranking here of a kid from Colorado who played against average competition.
1. RB Derrick Henry, Alabama | Yulee, Fla. (four-star, 2013)
The skinny: No. 36 overall, the No. 5 running back and the No. 6 recruit from Florida, Henry was an early commitment to Georgia, but re-opened his recruiting process in the summer of 2012. After trimming his list down to Alabama and Tennessee, Henry committed to the Crimson Tide and enrolled for the spring semester. After waiting his turn at Alabama, Henry flourished this season as the lead back. He rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns, which earned him the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s best running back, and the Maxwell Award, given annually to the nation’s best college football player. Oh yeah, and he won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship as well. Not too bad.
Farrell’s take: Henry was very close to that coveted fifth star and broke all sorts of records on the ground in high school, but we didn't pull the trigger because we thought he might be too tall and upright to be elite. He’s clearly shown that was the wrong decision as he’s had one of the best seasons in SEC history and is a Heisman winner. He’s just an amazing talent.