Written by: John Stocco
The 2019 NFL Draft is behind us, and for the most part, every team has their core group of guys they’re looking to depend on in the 2019 season. What some of us may not know is who football fans can look forward to seeing in this college football season. This isn’t predicting who’s going to go to which team because I’m not even gonna try to contemplate predicting the unpredictable NFL season, but this is predicting the 32 best players we will see this year in college football.
1.) Tua Tagovailoa: QB, Alabama (JR)
This one is pretty obvious, as you’re already starting to see the “Tank 4 Tua” hashtags all over Twitter. The Alabama sensation, since he was a freshman, is coming into his junior year with everything he needs to win a national championship. There’s no more Jalen Hurts distraction, he’s entering his second season as the starter, and he has three receivers he can throw to who will be playing on Sunday’s. I know, Alabama and tremendous talent; what a shocker. Tua has special talent, and he’ll probably be the number 1 overall pick in 2020, but he has some things to prove. He got banged up towards the end of last year, and he was awful in the national championship game. Still, he’s QB1 in 2020.
2.) Jake Fromm: QB, Georgia (JR)
Fromm doesn’t get the love that other top tier college quarterbacks get, and I’m not sure why. Since he was a true freshman, he has produced as Georgia’s starting quarterback under the biggest spotlights in college football. He shows great poise, good vision, elite accuracy and decision making. Fromm needs to show teams that he can air it out to put those arm strength doubts to sleep. He will be talked about a lot more.
3.) Derrick Brown: DT, Auburn (SR)
If Brown decided to go into the 2019 draft, I believe he would have been a top 10 pick, but he decided to go back to school and I think it will make him a top-3 pick. Great size, pure bull rush power, and is quick enough that makes him an interior pass rusher that so many teams covet at the next level. Going back to school will help him clean up some technique issues.
4.) Chase Young: Edge, Ohio State (JR)
Chase Young showed us last season how high his ceiling is when Nick Bosa shut it down early last season. Young filled up the statsheet, recording 33 total tackles (14.5 for losses) and 9.5 sacks. He played like a top pick last year and the 6’5 edge rusher can solidify himself as a top pick candidate in 2020.
5.) Grant Delpit: S, LSU (JR)
Safety State University (aka LSU) has another elite prospect at safety. It’s hard to imagine a safety going third overall, but we’re talking about a player who makes an impact wherever he goes. A big hitter with excellent range and plus ball skills.
6.) Walker Little: OT, Stanford (JR)
Little is everything but little. At 6’7, 315 pounds, he just looks like a franchise left tackle. He’s very raw with untapped potential. He has the length and power to win the leverage battle, but I’m going to be studying his feet very closely. If he shows a strong base and the ability to move his feet quickly, you have a player that’s going to be highly regarded by decision makers in the NFL.
7.) Jerry Jeudy: WR, Alabama (JR)
Jerry Jeudy is on pace to being the best playmaker Alabama has had under Nick Saban. You don’t see many teams taking receivers in the top 10, but that will change if Jeudy enters the draft next season. Elite agility, changes direction with ease, and hits top speed from the snap of the ball until the whistle is blown.
8.) AJ Epenesa: Edge, Iowa (JR)
Production level was high for Epenesa as he finished up with 16.5 tackles for losses and 10.5 sacks with four forced fumbles. He’s tall, lengthy, and fast off the edge. When watching him play, you’ll notice he has a similar skill set to Brian Burns, who was just drafted by the Carolina Panthers.
9.) Andrew Thomas: OT, Georgia (JR)
A leader on and off the field. He moves well off the line of scrimmage and shows elite strength and potential to be a great all around blocker.
10.) Justin Herbert: QB, Oregon (SR)
He would have been the second quarterback taken in the 2019 draft, and in 2020, barring an epic collapse or a devastating injury, Herbert will be a top three quarterback coming into this class. It was smart to go back to school as he can spend his senior season adding to his resume and polishing his game. Pro level arm strength, he has unique athleticism matched with size, as he’s a 6’6 quarterback who runs like a wide receiver.
11.) Dylan Moses: LB, Alabama (JR)
A versatile player on a stacked Alabama defense. He’s physical enough to play inside and fast enough to play outside. The linebacker position is so important that Moses more than likely will get picked in the top 10. Moses checks all the boxes on the physical trait list, and on the field he’s fluid in his change of direction and can cover a lot of ground sideline to sideline.
12.) Bryce Hall: CB, Virginia (SR)
Hall switched sides of the ball in 2016, switching from receiver to corner. You see that and people immediately think he has bad hands. Not the case for Hall. He has hawk-like vision, with 17 passes deflected and two interceptions. Hall has good size, good frame, and in his third season at cornerback, we’re expecting to see a better Bryce Hall.
13.) K’Lavon Chaisson: Edge, LSU (JR)
A freakishly athletic edge rusher with a great burst crashing up the field. His number one personal goal should be to stay healthy as he’s dealt with some injuries in the past. If he stays healthy in 2019, he should be a no doubt first round pick.
14.) Laviska Shenault: WR, Colorado (JR)
Expect Shenault to put up monster numbers in 2019 as he did in 2018. He caught over 80 balls and racked up just over 1,000 yards. He’s got NFL size, NFL hands, and he can make tacklers miss after the catch. Colorado is an interesting team to look at this season with Shenault and quarterback prospect Steven Montez looking to breakout in 2019.
15.) Isaiah Simmons: LB, Clemson (JR)
Simmons is more of a hybrid than a traditional linebacker. He shows a good burst on film and also plays exceptionally well dropping back in coverage. One thing is for sure with Simmons: if you’re anywhere close to him, he’s bringing you down. Lengthy, strong, and he expands his tackle radius.
16.) Calvin Throckmorton: OT, Oregon (SR)
A lot of scouts are going to be staying in Eugene, and I wish I can follow them on the ride. Not only will they be watching Justin Herbert and linebacker Troy Dye, they will also have their eye on a potential day one starting offensive lineman. Throckmorton shows explosiveness and good lateral quickness, but will need to fix his angles and hand technique to become a sure fit in the first round.
17.) Kristian Fulton: CB, LSU (SR)
When you watched LSU’s defense last year, you would have thought Fulton was going to be the number one ranked corner over Greedy Williams in the 2019 draft. Quarterbacks did everything they can to avoid Fulton last year because of his incredible ball skills. He fights the receivers he’s covering and he’s a nightmare matchup in the secondary. The sky's the limit for Fulton in 2019.
18.) Tee Higgins: WR, Clemson (JR)
The talent at Clemson is just insane, and Higgins might be the best overall player at that program. Speed, hands, and route running all pop out when you watch him on film. Future number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence is going to break records passing to Higgins.
19.) Kenny Willekes: Edge, Michigan State (SR)
A smaller athletic edge rusher with a high motor. He’s got great burst and makes his presence felt all over the field, whether it’s crashing the line of scrimmage to stop the run, rushing the quarterback, or deflecting passes.
20.) Raekwon Davis: DE, Alabama (SR)
When looking at Davis, you know you’re looking at a beast. He’s strong, and for someone who’s 6’7 on the defensive line, he moves relatively well. He shows good hand usage as he rips through lineman to put himself in a position to make a play on the ball carrier. To move up the charts, he must prove that his athleticism is up to par with NFL talent.
21.) CeeDee Lamb: WR, Oklahoma (JR)
Speed, agility, athleticism, hands, footwork, you name it, it’s off the charts. I don’t wanna get too ahead of myself here, but Lamb is going to be a scout’s dream when you watch him at the NFL Combine. With Marquise Brown, and now Lamb, Oklahoma is becoming a hot spot for future NFL playmakers.
22.) Paulson Adebo: CB, Stanford (JR)
Tall, lengthy, and strong. He shows that he can defend receivers vertically and shows enough physicality to put a play on the ball at all times. I’m predicting Adebo will end up being one of the most underrated corners in college.
23.) Yetur Gross-Matos: Edge, Penn State (JR)
I can’t wait for Roger Goodell to announce this guy’s name on draft night in Vegas. Yes, I’m getting ahead of myself, but Gross-Matos can play football. He’s physically ready to play in the NFL, and his production is off the charts with 20.5 tackles for loss. Gross-Matos is a player high on my radar for favorites to watch this fall.
24.) Tyler Biadasz: C, Wisconsin (SR)
Raw power, good hand usage, and choppy feet that never stop moving. He’s a workhorse at the line of scrimmage, and just like Frank Ragnow and Garrett Bradbury, he’s worth reaching for as a guy you can build an offensive line around.
25.) Travis Etienne: RB, Clemson (JR)
Etienne is lightning quick. Excellent agility with great vision, he anticipates where defenders are coming from and changes direction in a blink of an eye to miss the tackler. He production is ridiculous; as a sophomore, he averaged 8.1 yards a carry and found the endzone 24 times. Again, ridiculous.
26.) Trevon Diggs: CB, Alabama (SR)
A corner who prides himself on technique and his athleticism. Trevon Diggs is a pro ready corner with exceptional skills in coverage.
27.) Albert Okwuegbunam: TE, Missouri (SR)
Okwuegbunam has a frame like no other. He stands at 6’5, weighs in at 260 pounds, and uses that frame to muscle coverages. He’s a heavy favorite in the red zone, and I think his stock will rise higher and higher as the season progresses with Kelly Bryant now the starting quarterback.
28.) Trey Adams: OT, Washington (SR)
The injury history is starting to pile up for Adams. He tore his ACL in 2017 and suffered a back injury that sidelined him throughout the 2018 season. He’s a massive player with incredible strength, and he should be much higher on my list. I just can’t with the injuries he’s suffered in Washington. He’s facing the biggest “prove it” year for any collegiate prospect.
29.) CJ Henderson: CB, Florida (JR)
Henderson is raw, but he earned a lot of playing time as a sophomore and turned some heads with the opportunity. He’s shown the potential to be a shutdown corner, and you have to expect he’s just going to get better with age. He must add muscle to his frame to keep up physically at the next level.
30.) Alohi Gilman: S, Notre Dame (SR)
A physical safety in space, Gilman is a player that puts a beating on receivers or tight ends when they’re running routes. He’s disruptive in the passing game and shows great support against the run. However, his flexibility and his angles are areas which must show improvement. Need to see more ball production from Gilman this year.
31.) Jaylon Johnson: CB, Utah (JR)
Johnson showed great ability to go up and get the football. His production spiked with more playing time as a sophomore, recording four interceptions, and he showed return ability taking one of those to the house. Like Henderson, he needs to add muscle to his frame, but his ball skills will make him succeed no matter what.
32.) Jonathan Taylor: RB, Wisconsin (JR)
Thanks to the disappointing season from Wisconsin, it felt like a disappointing season from Taylor, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rather, he was a lot better. His freshman year he ran for 1,977 yards (6.6 per carry) and scored 13 touchdowns. Last year he ran for 2,194 yards (7.1 per carry) and scored 16 rushing touchdowns. Taylor is phenomenal, but he has two things to prove: he has to show that he has dependable hands and prove he’s not just another Badger running back.