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Week 8 update of Colorado State Rams in the NFL

Former Colorado State University football players continue to impress in the professional ranks. Recent Rams who are currently in the NFL have not only exceeded expectations and their draft positioning, but some have thrived as vital parts to their organization’s game plans. A group highlighted by stand-out Shaquil Barrett has seen other alumni contributing at the pro level. Entering the halfway point in the NFL season, we take a look back at where former Rams are and how they are performing.

Edge Rusher – Shaquil Barrett

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Barrett has been on an absolute tear this season and is making a strong case for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Barrett, a Super Bowl winner for the Denver Broncos, signed a one-year contract this past offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barrett certainly has earned himself a new contract with his stellar play this season.

Barrett is the league leader in sacks with nine. He also has three forced fumbles and an interception. Barrett has been one of the most versatile players in the league, showing the ability to stop the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage when needed. After Week 4, Barrett was the first player since sacks became an official statistic, back in 1982, to have eight sacks and an interception through the first four weeks.

He has cooled off since that historic start that included a four-sack-game. Barrett was the steal of the offseason and has proven he learned a lot from DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller in his time in Denver.

Wide Receiver – Michael Gallup

Senior wide receiver Michael Gallup brings in the reception over a Nevada defensive back during the 2017 Homecoming Game. (Collegian file photo)

Every die-hard CSU football fan knows Michael Gallup. The receiver is one of the all-time great Rams at the position, drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft. Gallup has solidified his spot as the Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver behind star Amari Cooper. Cooper is known as one of the best route runners in the entire league, and it appears that Cooper has taught Gallup a trick or two.

Gallup is second on the Cowboys in both receptions (27) and receiving yards (421). These statistics are impressive given that Gallup missed two weeks of the season when he sat out Weeks 3 and 4 with a knee injury. Gallup also notched a touchdown this season in his return from an injury against the Packers in Week 5.

Gallup looks like one of the best up-and-comers in the league, and he gets plenty of attention playing in a big market like Dallas. The bright lights have only seemed to motivate Dak Prescott’s favorite deep threat. With his current trajectory, Gallup projects to finish the season with well over 50 receptions and 800 yards.

Wide Receiver – Rashard Higgins

CSU has produced numerous receivers with NFL talent in recent years. Rashard Higgins may be the receiver that started this movement. Perhaps the most proven offensive player in the NFL from CSU, Higgins is in his fourth year with the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland expected the trusty receiver to be a solid backup to Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.

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Instead, Higgins has spent much of the year helping from the bench. Higgins suffered a knee injury after a promising Week 1. In his first game of the year, Higgins had 46 yards on only two catches, proving his big-play ability. In their last game against the Seahawks on the 13th, Higgins was active for the first time since that first week.

He didn’t play in that game as the Browns try to slowly integrate him back into the team’s game plan, but after recovering during their bye week, expect Higgins to return in Week 8. The Browns will need every contributor they can get against the Patriots, who remain one of the best teams in the league with Tom Brady and company.

Wide Receiver – Olabisi Johnson

Olabisi Johnson pushes through Utah State defenders during the game Nov. 17. (Collegian file photo)

Olabisi Johnson, the Vikings rookie seventh-rounder, notched his first career game on Sunday. The 5-2 Vikings started the year with a very underwhelming and stagnant offense. After top receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen complained about the passing game, quarterback Kirk Cousins really picked up his play the last two weeks.

Not only have Diggs and Thielen received more production, but Johnson has as well. Against the Lions on Sunday, the Vikings scored 42 points in their third straight win. Johnson’s touchdown in the game highlights the coaching staff’s trust in his ability, as his score was a designed play created to get Johnson open in the end zone against man coverage. 

If Thielen is unable to play this Thursday against the Washington Redskins due to a hamstring injury, Johnson figures to be slotted as the Vikings’ No. 2 receiver behind Diggs. 

Wide Receiver – Preston Williams

Preston Williams signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie this season. The Dolphins have struggled as an organization with their league-low 0-6 record, but Williams has shined. Williams is the team leader in receptions (23), targets (44) and receiving yards (314).

Williams hasn’t scored since his incredible toe-tapping snag in the back of the end zone in Week 1 but has emerged as the clear No. 1 receiver for the Dolphins this year. Whether it be Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, Williams has been the go-to playmaker for a team struggling to generate offense.

The Dolphins have traded key contributors like Kenny Stills, Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick for draft capital. The Dolphins have three first-round picks in next year’s draft. For a team that is clearly rebuilding, Williams looks like one of the long term core players for Miami.

Center – Weston Richburg

Weston Richburg has been the anchor on the O-line for an undefeated 49ers team. The 49ers have far exceeded expectations this season, and a lot of that has to do with the guys in the trenches. The front seven on the defensive side of the ball have gotten most of the attention with big names Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and DeForest Buckner, but the 49ers offensive line has been top-notch as well.

Colorado State Running Back Dalyn Dawkins runs down the field during the second quarter of play against the Boise State Broncos on Nov. 11. (Collegian file photo)

That all starts with Richburg, who as the starting center controls everything. High prized quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has had a clean pocket all year. The running back committee of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman has had a solid year as well.

Running Back – Dalyn Dawkins

Former CSU running back Dalyn Dawkins is still on the Tennessee Titans. Dawkins hasn’t played a lot this season, as he is covered on the depth chart by proven backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, but Dawkins is the type of fighter who will keep working until given an opportunity.

With the Titans not liking the direction of the franchise and replacing starting quarterback Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill, maybe Dawkins will eventually get his chance.

Long Snapper – Trent Sieg

Trent Sieg is the long snapper on the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders sit at 3-3 and are in second place in the AFC West behind the Kansas City Chiefs. Although the team is always filled with drama, Sieg appears to be a steady presence and may be their long-term answer at the forgotten position in the NFL.  

Colorado State offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo (72) was drafted with the 59th overall pick by the Denver Broncos in Friday’s NFL Draft. (Collegian file photo)

Offensive Tackle – Ty Sambrailo

Sambrailo won the 2015 Super Bowl along with Barrett on that 2015 Broncos squad. Since then, he has moved on to the Atlanta Falcons where he has carved out a nice niche as the first guy off the bench for the offensive line. Sambrailo’s versatility allows him to come in for replacement of any starter, as he can legitimately play all five O-Line spots. 

Linebacker – Josh Watson

Although he is not on an active 53 man roster, Josh Watson has stayed in the Rams’ community eye because he stayed home. Watson is currently on the Denver Broncos practice squad. The inside linebacker hasn’t been promoted to the active roster yet, but with the Broncos struggling, expect the CSU product to see game action later in the season.

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.

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