College football loses its biggest stars to the NFL draft on an annual basis, but in some cases, a highly talented player is prepared to move out from the shadow of his predecessor and into the spotlight. They weren't bench-sitters a year ago. In fact, most were starters. But they'll be thrust into a larger role in 2017 because of the void left behind. College Football 24/7 offers a look at 11 players replacing draft picks who might not be so badly missed (listed alphabetically):
- 'TOP 100 PLAYERS OF 2017'
▹ Ike Taylor's Rankings:
▸ 100-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51
- FIRST LOOK AT 2017 SEASON
▹ Why 'Hawks will regain their swagger
▹ Ranking the 5 best offseasons
▹ Who will snap playoff drought in '17?
▹ Projected Starters (NFC):
▸ East | North l South l West
▹ Projected Starters (AFC):
▸ East | North l South l West
Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
Cain's 38 catches ranked just sixth for the Tigers last year, but he put the ball in the end zone; his nine TDs ranked second. Expect him to be Clemson's No. 1 receiver this year as an explosive deep threat.
Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
Dawson moves from nickelback to cornerback this year as the Gators lose Tabor and Quincy Wilson at corner, both second-round picks. He made 24 stops last year and played well against slot receivers, but now draws a bigger challenge on the outside.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSUReplacing: Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Leonard Fournette
Due to Fournette's injury issues, Guice ran for more yards than his predecessor did a year ago (1,387 to 843), so he wasn't exactly a second-teamer. But this year, he'll get his first chance to be a weekly starter. And if he's healthy, he'll be every bit as effective as Fournette. LSU coach Ed Orgeron had a whopper of a comp for Guice last year, describing him as a mix of Warren Sapp and Reggie Bush.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
Hamilton made 13 starts for the Nittany Lions last year and caught 34 passes for 506 yards, but Godwin was unquestionably the team's No. 1 receiver. Now, Hamilton will be the primary target for QB Trace McSorley, and he's shown more than enough ability to fill the role.
Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
The Tigers' seemingly endless string of draft-quality cornerbacks won't be snapped with White. Jackson broke up eight passes last year playing opposite White, and is one of the fastest players in the college game. This year, he'll be the cornerback defensive coordinator Dave Aranda counts on most.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
Marshall started every game at cornerback last year for the Trojans, but it was Jackson who got all the attention on the other side. He's a big, physical presence who picked off three passes last year, and will be USC's top cover man in his third season.
Top NFL players from AlabamaTake a look at the top current NFL players who played for the Tide in college.
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Payne was a major part of the Crimson Tide's run defense last year, but he wasn't always on the field on third downs. With Allen moving on, he'll draw more attention from opposing offensive lines and is expected to be a full-time presence up front.
Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
Pettis played opposite Ross last year, but like Hamilton, he was clearly the No. 2 man at the position. Still, he managed 15 touchdown catches and was a reliable target for QB Jake Browning all season. With Ross gone, however, he'll become even more of a go-to guy.
Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
Burns was a pleasant surprise last year as a dynamic freshman, undersized as he was (6-foot-5, 218 pounds). The USA Today Freshman All-American notched 9.5 sacks, but ranked just 11th on the team in tackles (24). He'll look to be more of an early-down presence this fall.
Chris Warren III, RB, Texas
Warren was splitting carries with Foreman last year, and doing so with good success, until an injury ended his season after four games. The son of the former Seahawks RB by the same name should get his chance to shine in Austin this year.
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Williams dominated as a true freshman at right tackle last year; in fact, some program insiders believe he had a better season than Robinson. He moves to the left side for 2017, where he'll face tougher pass rushers, but all signs point to a smooth transition.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.