I'm unveiling my rankings of the top 15 senior, junior, redshirt sophomore and true sophomore prospects in college football. Typically, the junior class has the most high-end talent and this season is no exception. However, there are some very talented senior pass rushers and a couple of senior tight ends who should get quite a bit of draft buzz this season.
1. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
Nicknamed "The Predator" by one NFL personnel man, Williams has tremendous get-off after the snap and can explode up the field to challenge the edge of the saltiest offensive tackle. What makes Williams particularly lethal is his combination of hand usage and cornering around the edge. Like most Alabama defensive linemen, he's excellent with his hands and plays with a mega-motor. His sack every 18.2 snaps he played in 2015 bodes well for his 2016 season and subsequent draft stock.
2. Jonathan Allen, DT/DE, Alabama
Allen's game might be more conducive to a higher draft slot than former teammates A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, who both went in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. While he's a little smaller than you like on the interior, he has the quickness and technique to be a disruptive gap shooter from the three-technique spot or a sturdy base end for a 4-3 team looking for bulk on the edge. Allen's talent and ability to rush the quarterback should make him a first-rounder, but he's not necessarily a clean fit from a positional standpoint.
3. Taco Charlton, DE/OLB, Michigan
NFL scouts are very excited about some of the flashes coming off the tape from Charlton. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, with long arms and a muscular build, Charlton has the size to play at defensive end in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. However, he also has the athleticism and quickness to be considered as a standup linebacker, as well. Charlton's 33 pressures and 5.5 sacks in just 43 percent of the Michigan snaps show off his ability to make the pocket noisy for opposing quarterbacks. Traits and production go early.
4. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard's complete and total annihilation of Clemson single-handedly reinvigorated his draft stock and had NFL evaluators debating his draft stock. Howard's decision to go back to Alabama might have had something to do with the fact that Nick Saban promised to get him more involved with the offense on a consistent basis this season. Howard has decent size and outstanding speed, and is good enough as a run-blocker to be considered the top "combo" tight end. With more production this season, he should be close to a lock to end up in the first round.
5. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Davis' physical traits and natural talent could push him into first-round consideration in the scouting community. Davis has a tendency to overrun tackles and play with a lack of patience at times, but he addressed those issues at SEC Media Days and said that he will concentrate on playing with more controlled explosiveness this season. Davis has an awesome blend of length and sideline-to-sideline range, and his explosiveness also makes him a quality blitzer.
6. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Some in the scouting community believe Foster will end up being a more complete NFL linebacker than former teammate Reggie Ragland based on his ability to cover in the passing game. Foster checks the typical "strong and physical" box that we're used to seeing with Alabama defenders, and he more than packs a wallop when he strikes his target. If the Crimson Tide decides to cut Foster loose as a blitzer more often in 2016, he might be able to add to his talent dossier.
7. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
King will be a classic test case of average measurables against outstanding ball production. Some teams will covet the measurables, while others will zero in on production and King was the ... well ... "king" of cornerback production last season. King consistently put himself in position to make plays, which is how he landed eight interceptions. It wasn't "right place, right time" with King, but rather, a combination of instincts and deft angles that get him to so many balls. As a tackler, he has no problems getting dirty.
8. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
Ole Miss has plenty of wide receiver talent returning, as well as one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the nation in Evan Engram. With quality weapons at his disposal, look for Kelly to shine. With explosive release quickness, arm talent and playmaking mobility, Kelly is one of the most unpredictable quarterbacks in the game for defenders to try to corral. The biggest concerns with Kelly will be some off-the-field issues from his past and a lack of patience at times on the field.
9. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
"Matchup tight end" has become a sexy NFL term, but the reality is that those players are usually just undersized tight ends who can't block but have some speed. Butt is a throwback tight end who combines size with outstanding toughness over the middle as a big, reliable target. Butt has vice grips for hands and he fears no traffic in the middle of the field. He's not the athlete that Howard is and he might be a little less consistent as a run blocker, but some scouts see him as a better version of Hunter Henry.
10. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana
Feeney has the athleticism and physicality to fit into any NFL blocking scheme, and has enough nasty for everyone around him. For guards to be selected in the first round, they have to have a little something extra in their game and Feeney has just that. Feeney will be a four-year starter who has led the way for both Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. With long arms and a burly chest, Feeney operates with a decisive, winning punch as a run blocker and in pass protection.
NFL Media analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at college football's top players for 2016.
- Michigan TE Jake Butt
- Miami QB Brad Kaaya
- Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine
- Alabama OT Cam Robinson
- LSU S Jamal Adams
- Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers
- Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan
- USC CB Adoree' Jackson
- Missouri DE Charles Harris
- Alabama TE O.J. Howard
- Florida CB Jalen Tabor
- Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly
- Alabama OLB Tim Williams
- FSU RB Dalvin Cook
- USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Alabama DL Jonathan Allen
- Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
- Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
- LSU RB Leonard Fournette
- Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
11. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
Chesson is loaded with confidence and toughness that comes through when you watch him play. Chesson's speed is just okay and he needs to post a little greater production this season, but I have a hard time believing that NFL scouts won't love his football character and competitive nature from snap to snap. Playing for Jim Harbaugh should also be a feather in his cap as NFL teams will likely get a better feel for Chesson from a former NFL head coach like Harbaugh.
12. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
If production and size are your thing, Davis is your guy. Not only is Davis an imposing, physical figure for the WMU offense, but he is the active leader in the FBS with 3,785 career receiving yards. He's just 402 yards shy of becoming the MAC's all-time leader in yardage. Davis carries himself like a top-dog wideout who wants the ball and fights aggressively for it when it is in the air. Unlike his brother, Titus Davis, Corey isn't as sharp a route-runner, but he does have better long speed than his brother had, which should help his draft stock.
13. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
There simply won't be a more talented "mirror-and-match" cornerback in college football than White, as his foot quickness and ability to shadow receivers in tight spaces is outstanding. With that said, there were some signs last season that White might lack the sub-4.5 long speed that teams look for outside from smaller cornerbacks. However, with so many teams working out of three wide receiver sets, White's ability to cover quick slot receivers could garner a higher draft grade than some might expect.
14. Zach Banner, OT, USC
Banner is really big and he is really strong. The biggest issue facing Banner is making sure that he doesn't get too big as his potential to balloon up will be a serious concern for some teams. The power in his hands is undeniable and once he latches onto a defender, they are usually finished. Banner is also an above-average athlete for a man his size, which is why keeping his size in check is so important. If he comes into the season in shape and plays with better consistency, he will be the first right tackle off the board.
15. C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
Beathard will be an interesting quarterback to watch this season, more for his pro potential than his expected college output. Scouts love his arm strength, but he needs to throw with improved accuracy and decisiveness as he holds onto the ball a shade too long too often. If you are ready to peg Beathard as an immobile quarterback, then you will be making a mistake as he has the sudden quickness to get outside the pocket and extend a drive with a scrambling first down.
Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.