football Edit

Midseason Farrell 50: Nos. 26-30

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report

With the college football season just beyond the halfway point, it’s time for another installment of the Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. We take a quick look at how each ranked out of high school and if they are exceeding or simply living up to expectations. Today we look at 30-26, led by four of the game’s biggest defensive names.

MORE FARRELL 50: Nos. 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50


The skinny: Sutton, who was recruited as a safety by several schools, took official visits to SMU, Colorado and BYU before committing to the Mustangs on Signing Day. After a 2016 season that saw Sutton finish with 76 receptions for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns, many people wondered if he could maintain his high level of play when the national spotlight was on him. He has responded with 37 receptions for 570 yards and nine touchdowns, proving to everyone that he is one of the top receivers in the country.

Farrell’s take: We had Sutton projected as a defensive back, with his tall frame and good range. He also played some linebacker as well, but he has developed into an elite wide receiver. He was a big-play threat at wide receiver in high school, although not nearly as polished as he is now. Most wanted him as a defensive back, but his ball skills have transitioned well and his size, speed and hands make him one to watch in the first round of the NFL Draft. He struggled against TCU, but has been excellent otherwise and he opens up the offense for other wideouts.


The skinny: Landry named Duke as his favorite, but then surprised many by committing to Boston College soon after taking a visit to Chestnut Hill. The BC coaching staff then had to work overtime to fend away several schools in the weeks leading up to signing day. Landry impressed in 2015 and then took the nation by storm last season with an NCAA-leading 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. While his statistics this fall likely won’t match last season's, Landry has totaled 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks while battling through constant double teams.

Farrell’s take: I remember watching film of defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (now Georgia’s starting center) and seeing this defensive end come off the edge and making play after play. That was Landry, who we made a four-star player after that. Landry was undersized but he was strong, quick and had a tremendous shoulder dip. He’s turned into the elite pass rusher in college and has surpassed his rating. He’s that hybrid pass rusher the NFL loves, but he hasn’t had the same season as last year so far because of more attention and an odd lack of playing time.

The skinny: Lawrence took official visits to the Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, N.C. State and Alabama before committing to the Tigers. The Wolfpack made a late push to keep him in-state, but they couldn’t beat out Clemson. Lawrence had a memorable true freshman season last fall with 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Teaming up with Christian Wilkins on the interior, Lawrence’s stats may not reach the levels of last season, but he has continued to improve his game.

Farrell’s take: Lawrence was a massive high school prospect, tall and big, who had exceptional pass-rushing moves and worked off contact extremely well for a taller interior lineman. He had light feet, always had a counter for whatever an offensive lineman threw at him and was well-coached in the nuances of the position. He finished as our No. 2 overall player behind Rashan Gary in 2016, but was No. 1 at one point. The NFL scouts are drooling.

The skinny: James avoided any recruiting drama by committing to Florida State almost three years before National Signing Day. Amazingly, he never truly wavered and always held true to his word with the Seminoles. After bursting onto the national landscape with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks as a true freshman, James’ 2016 was cut short due to injuries. This season, James has experienced some inconsistencies, but has still been a very important part of the Florida State defense, with 37 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and four pass breakups.

Farrell’s take: I’ve said it before and I will say it again: James is the most athletic and dynamic safety I have ever scouted, and that’s saying something. After an average start, he came on and became a dominant defensive back as expected his freshman season. His sophomore season was a washout due to injury, but now he’s back. He can blitz, tackle in space and support the run, and he can cover a ton of ground in the passing game. And this is only the beginning, as he will be an absolute star beyond college football. That being said, he has dropped from No. 2 on my pre-season list down here to 27 because he’s struggled more than expected.

The skinny: Oliver pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 recruiting cycle by committing early to Houston. While he did take a closer look at Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Ole Miss during the fall, he put pen to paper with the Cougars. Coming off of a monster true freshman season that saw him finish with 50 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and five sacks, Oliver has continued to produce while being double-teamed on most plays. Currently with 42 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, Oliver continues to dominate the interior of the line this fall.

Farrell’s take: Oliver was a blocky but athletic defensive tackle when I first saw him. He grew into a stout, solid and super-quick gap shooter by the end of the rankings cycle. Oliver had such great instincts and followed the football so naturally that he was effective blowing up plays in the run game and getting after the passer. And his snap anticipation was off the charts, as well. Oliver was given his fifth star in our final 2016 rankings cycle and that was one of our better decisions, as he’s already a dominant college player and has an amazing future.