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Phil Steele sees big things for FSU football in 2016 and the next NFL Draft

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At least, that’s what his early projections suggest.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

National analyst Phil Steele is well known for his accurate predictions regarding college football seasons; a section of his latest college football preview magazine is dedicated to chronicling his unrivaled accuracy over the last 18 years. And that should have Florida State fans feeling pretty good about 2016, as he’s picked the ‘Noles to win the national title as a result of numerous nationally elite position groups. Steele also has some future Seminole professionals ranked quite highly at their respective positions concerning their NFL prospects.

Steele sees FSU making the 2016 College Football Playoff as the top seed and matching up with LSU in one semifinal. Across the way, he likes Alabama to best Oklahoma, while ultimately choosing the ‘Noles over the Tide in Tampa’s title game.

How does Steele see the Seminoles coming out on top? Behind a number of returning starters who bolster several top position groups. In descending order, he ranks the Florida State position groups as follow, nationally:

  • Offensive Line: 3rd
  • Running Backs: 5th
  • Receivers: 6th
  • Defensive Line: 9th
  • Linebackers: 12th
  • Defensive Backs: 21st
  • Special Teams: 34th
  • Quarterbacks: 35th

For the record, I think Steele’s estimation of the FSU OL is a bit high. Let’s put it this way: if the front five are that good, blocking for Dalvin Cook and company, then, yeah, they’re winning the national championship. I’m just not certain it’s earned as of yet— and I’d say the same for the receivers, although their potential abounds. On the other hand, the ‘Nole secondary looks far better than 21st in the land, and I’d be surprised if 34 other teams honestly prefer their signal-caller options to those of Florida State.

But to glance even farther into the future, Steele also prognosticates as to the leading draft-eligible prospects at each position, and various Seminoles ranked rather high. But the only player to top a position group may not be who you’d think. Yes, he’s a running back; but no, he’s not Dalvin Cook. Steele has fullback Freddie Stevenson ranked as the top FB nationally, with Cook the No. 2 tailback behind Leonard Fournette. Of course, Cook will still go way higher than Stevenson should the former declare next spring (spoiler: he will).

Junior left tackle Rod Johnson is also ranked second in the country, while senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker sits at sixth at his position and fellow senior Marquez White is currently slotted as the No. 14 cornerback. They’re all a very safe bet to be high draft picks.

After that, it gets a bit dicier. Steele has junior Travis Rudolph ranked as the No. 18 receiver, though I’ve my doubts about Rudolph coming out early. I think a second year catching balls from Deondre Francois — or a lone year receiving from Malik Henry — may entice him back to better his draft stock with another season in Tallahassee. Senior guard Kareem Are is marginal, ranked 20th at his spot (17 were selected in the last draft).

Other borderline draft-worthy prospects, per Steele, are junior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and senior strong safety Nate Andrews, though I think the stage is set for Nnadi to show out this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his current rank at No. 26 rose dramatically between now and season’s end. Of course, Nnadi is all but assured of a starting spot; Andrews may have a tougher time finding the field to improve his No. 15 SS rating. Steele also ranks senior FSU quarterback Sean Maguire as his No. 34 draft-eligible QB.