The success of the Russell Wilson experiment in Seattle could pave the way for Notre Dame's Everett Golson to have a legitimate shot to play quarterback in the NFL. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Golson would've been dismissed as an afterthought by evaluators a decade ago, when size standards (6-2 or taller) ruled the roost in draft rooms, but Wilson's thrilling play has opened door for other diminutive signal-callers to make their mark in the league.
Looking at the 2014 draft, Johnny Manziel (height/size), Teddy Bridgewater (weight/hand size), and Derek Carr (height/hand size) were early-round selections despite various concerns about their physical dimensions. The early returns on their pro potential have been positive, with Bridgewater and Carr flashing impressive talent and ability as rookie starters. Although Johnny Football has yet to make an impact despite the tremendous hype surrounding his arrival, the recent success of small-statured quarterbacks could help Golson fly up the charts in the evaluation process.
Golson, a senior, has been one of the most efficient passers in college football this season. In six games, Golson has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 1,683 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has displayed exceptional poise within the pocket and delivered accurate strikes to receivers at every area of the field. Golson capably executes the movement-based passing game for the Fighting Irish by routinely hitting receivers on the move following deft ball fakes on bootlegs and nakeds. Additionally, Golson has made enough plays on the perimeter with his feet (58 rushes for 209 yards) to make defenders respect him as a dual-threat in the backfield. With the majority of his runs coming on impromptu scrambles and occasional quarterback-designed runs, I believe Golson's game most resembles Wilson's play in the Seahawks' offense when I survey the collegiate landscape.
While I'm not ready to proclaim Golson will be the next big thing to take over the NFL, I do believe he exhibits the qualities needed to be a solid quarterback at the next level. He has grown immensely as a pocket passer throughout his career, and he has knack for spotting passing lanes through the trees at the line of scrimmage. Tracking his play in recent weeks, I haven't noticed a ton of batted balls or deflections from pass rushers in close proximity. Given the importance of finding windows for diminutive quarterbacks, the fact that Golson is unaffected within the pocket gives him a chance to succeed as a pro. Considering Golson's athleticism, leadership ability and game-management skill, there will be plenty of scouts who use Wilson's success as evidence that Golson can thrive as a pro.
College Football Playoff final four
1. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have ripped through a murderous schedule in spectacular fashion behind an airtight defense and a dangerous offensive playmaker in Dak Prescott. With Dan Mullen's crew already knocking off three heavyweights (LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn) early in the season, the Bulldogs could enter the College Football Playoff battle-tested and ready to roll to the title.
2. Florida State: The Seminoles haven't amassed impressive style points during their 6-0 start, but the defending national champions continue to stack up wins despite being slightly off their game. Jameis Winston helped the Seminoles break out of their malaise against Syracuse with a solid effort (30-of-36 for 317 yards and three scores) that showcased his efficiency and effectiveness from the pocket. Given the importance of quarterback play in the postseason, the fact that Winston is rounding into form bodes well for the Seminoles' title chances.
3. Ole Miss: Whenever a defense can shut out Kevin Sumlin's high-powered offense for a half, it speaks volumes about its talent, discipline and toughness. The Rebels put on a dominant performance against the Aggies, showcasing ball-hawking skills and relentless pressure at the point of attack. With Bo Wallace and the offense operating efficiently for the past two weeks, the Rebels are looking like a legitimate contender in the SEC West.
4. Baylor: If defense wins championships on the collegiate level, the Bears shouldn't be included in the playoff conversation based on their leaky "D" allowing 58 points in a win over TCU on Saturday. The unit failed to slow down the Horned Frogs' spread offense for most of the game, but came up with a few timely stops in the fourth quarter, allowing the offense to steal a win in the final moments. Although the effort kept the Bears unbeaten and in the playoff conversation, Art Briles will need to get better play from his defense to have a chance at making it to the winner's circle.
1. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott has been the catalyst to the Bulldogs' ascension to the top of the college football world. The 6-2, 235-pound junior has 22 total touchdowns as the dynamic director of the Bulldogs' spread offense. Given his overall impact on the nation's No. 1 team, it's time to consider Prescott the frontrunner for the prestigious honor.
2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: The Ducks' standout has put up spectacular passing numbers this season despite playing behind a leaky offensive line that's been ravaged with injuries. With a 17:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio complementing his five rushing scores, Mariota is a scoring machine worthy of recognition as the top playmaker in college football.
3. RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: After getting off to a slow start by his lofty standards, Gordon has been the most prolific playmaker in college football. Gordon has topped the 175-yard mark in each of the Badgers' past four games on his way to notching the second 1,000-yard season of his career. With 14 total touchdowns (13 rushing, 1 receiving), Gordon deserves to be in the conversation as one of the best players in college football.
4. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: Say what you want about Winston's immaturity off the field, there is no denying his immense talent and potential as a quarterback. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner delivered his best performance of the season (30-of-36 for 317 yards and three touchdowns) against Syracuse, showcasing his impressive arm talent and pocket poise. Given an opportunity to knock down a top-ranked opponent (Notre Dame) next weekend, it's too early to dismiss the redshirt sophomore's chances of sneaking into the winner's circle.
5. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: The system QB label might prevent voters from tabbing Petty as the top player in the country, but it is hard to deny his production directing Baylor's offense. The 6-3, 230-pound senior has compiled a 15:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and scored three rushing touchdowns in five games. Although he has struggled in recent weeks against Texas (7-of-22 for 111 yards and two TDs) and TCU (28-of-55 for 510 yards with six TDs and 2 INTs), the Bears' lofty ranking and ridiculous offensive output will keep him in the conversation for the rest of the season.