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Now is the time  in dynasty leagues when the good owners are trying to find ways to fortify their teams by looking towards the 2015 NFL Draft with prospects like Marcus Mariota and Devin Smith. dsmith One of the best ways to do that is by looking to the college players that might make the move to the NFL this spring.  Here are more of the players that stood out during the national championship game.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, rather a starting point for the 2015 NFL Draft and your own rookie fantasy draft!  I listed these players alphabetically:

DE-Arik Armstead, Oregon

This defender started the game like he was out of cannon.  Armstead has great leg drive; knocking the offensive tackle back into the pocket disrupting the passing lane, which forces quicker throws. He uses a strong punch to keep blockers off his body, leaving room to maneuver with effective spin and swim moves. The defensive lineman flowed up and down the line of scrimmage, chasing ball carriers down the field when necessary.  Armstead is a punishing tackler with good vision who tried to force runners back inside.  He recovered a fumble setting up the Ducks in the red zone.  After a very impactful first half, Armstead slowed down towards the end of the game.  This was the result of the Ohio State running game that had worn down the entire front seven of the Ducks. 

DT-Michael Bennett, Ohio State

This defensive lineman has a good motor and got good penetration off the snap.  He did well going against a single offensive lineman, but could not beat a double team.  Bennett was impactful early with a forced fumble that he caused while performing a spin move.  His versatility was on display as he lined up at both defensive tackle spots and kicked out to defensive end at times.  The defender has quick feet, uses good balance, and is very athletic for a man his size.  Bennett  sometimes did not raise his head while rushing the passer and couldn’t see what transpired around him.  He played better against the run than the pass.

QB-Marcus Mariota, Oregon

It was great viewing him on back to back weeks to get a better idea of the skill set he can bring to the next level.  The quarterback likes to make quick reads and get the ball out as soon as he can.  Mariota sells his fake handoffs well slowing the defense down, and does a good job setting his feet before throwing the pigskin.  He steps up in the pocket away from pressure when he can, but needs to do a better job deciding where the pressure is actually coming from.  There were a few times the young quarterback went right into the heart of the defense and got smashed for it.  I do like that he would rather run for a short gain than force a bad pass, which Mariota did for the majority of the game, but forced an unwise throw in the fourth quarter.

Mariota did not take a lot of shots 20+ yards down the gridiron; instead he concentrated on short, quick easy passes.  This, unfortunately, made it easier for the Buckeyes to defend him.  The young quarterback took a lot of punishment every time he touched the ball (running or passing) which wore on him as the game went along.  He did not bootleg much of this game, which speaks more about the Ohio State defense sealing the edges, than play design.  This prevented him from having better passing lanes and forced him to get rid of the ball quicker. Mariota had a nice 70 yard passing play where he found his receiver 40 yards down the field, hitting him in stride for the score in the third quarter, but those opportunities did not present themselves as much in the second half.  The signal caller got banged up and left the game for a short time, but came back.  While I like his athleticism, I have my doubts that Mariota can play in a traditional pro offense.  Hopefully at the next level, the young quarterback get coached by someone with an open mind that will use his quick decision-making, short yard accuracy, and running ability to its fullest.

WR-Devin Smith, Ohio State

This receiver saw limited action in the championship game, but he made an impact on the game setting up the Buckeyes twice on scoring opportunities.  Smith is a big play threat by running mostly nine routes (pure vertical pass pattern).  The wide out has the foot frequency to beat the jam off the line and quickly recalibrated his pattern to get down the field creating separation.  He was a willing blocker in the running game, showing a lot of effort.  Smith drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone that set up a short touchdown run in the first half on his first target of the night. The receiver tracks the ball well in the air and made a nice bucket catch showing good concentration and balance around the seven yard line setting up Ohio State for another score.  He is also a gifted returner, but that was not on display in this game. Smith could be an impactful WR3/returner at the next level, but does not have the body type to become an every down receiver.

OLB-Tony Washington, Oregon

Washington played a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position.  His play was quite inconsistent during the bowl game.  He was not strong at the point of attack and got sealed off a few times leaving Ohio State huge holes to run through.  The defender played better crashing down the line of scrimmage in the trail position running the ball carrier down from behind.  Washington is a solid wrap-up tackler and attacked the ball, attempting to force a turnover.  When dropping back into pass coverage, the backer looked a bit stiff hipped but flowed to the ball quickly.  He looked out of his element lining up against the slot and quickly passed them off to someone else in coverage.  Washington wasn’t impactful as a pass rusher either.  There was a play that he came in on a pass rush unblocked and whiffed on the sack because he tried to tackle the quarterback too high.  The defender might be best suited as a SLB in a 4-3 scheme dealing with blockers and playing against tight ends in passing situations, but will probably be drafted as a OLB in a 3-4 scheme.

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