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Replacing 2018 NFL Draft picks: 8 prospects to emerge as stars

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With many of college football's biggest stars moving on to the next level in last month's NFL draft, a new crop of standouts is primed to emerge this fall. Here's a look at eight top college talents -- some more experienced than others -- whom we expect to fill the shoes of a departed draft choice with a big season in 2018 (listed alphabetically).

Stephen Carr, RB, USC

Replacing: Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round pick Ronald Jones.
Class: Sophomore.
The skinny: Although Carr missed spring drills due to back surgery, he's expected to be ready to take over for Jones this fall. With the Trojans also facing turnover at the quarterback position following Sam Darnold's departure, Carr could be a bigger part of the USC offense than Jones was a year ago. In his best game of the 2017 season, the former five-star recruit ran for 119 yards on just 11 carries against Stanford.

Travis Homer, RB, Miami

Replacing: Cincinnati Bengals fourth-round pick Mark Walton.
Class: Junior.
The skinny: Homer already has a feel for what replacing Walton is like, as he had to do it last year when Walton went down in early October with an ankle injury that required surgery. Homer ended up leading the team in rushing with 966 yards for second-team All-ACC honors.

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Replacing: Cleveland Browns first-round pick Baker Mayfield.
Class: Redshirt junior.
The skinny: Murray played a season at Texas A&M before transferring to OU, and backed up Mayfield last season impressively, though sparingly (18 of 21 passing, 142 rushing yards on 14 carries). Like Mayfield, he's an outstanding improviser with big-play ability. The former five-star recruit is the front-runner for the starting job over Austin Kendall, although Murray is also a highly regarded baseball prospect who's expected to be selected early in the June MLB Draft. Coach Lincoln Riley has said he expects Murray to be at OU in the fall.

Jawon Pass, QB, Louisville

Replacing: Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Lamar Jackson.
Class: Redshirt sophomore.
The skinny: Jackson's shoes are a big pair, and Pass shouldn't be expected to fill them heel to toe. Still, coach Bobby Petrino tends to get the most out of young quarterbacks, and Pass looked the part in the UL spring game (342 yards, 3 TDs). Pass got a bit of game experience last year, completing 23 of 33 for two TDs and no interceptions.

LaBryan Ray, DE, Alabama

Replacing: Detroit Lions fourth-round pick Da'Shawn Hand.
Class: Sophomore.
The skinny: Ray played behind Hand last season and flashed excellent pass-rush ability during a three-game stretch in which Hand was injured. A foot injury late in the season prevented him from establishing himself in Alabama's DL rotation, but his emergence is just a matter of time. Expect a breakout season from Ray this fall opposite budding star Raekwon Davis.

D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Replacing: New England Patriots first-round pick Sony Michel and Cleveland Browns second-round pick Nick Chubb.
Class: Sophomore.
The skinny: Georgia seems to have a tree that grows NFL-caliber running backs. Swift averaged 7.6 yards per carry last year as the No. 3 man in the Bulldogs' rushing rotation behind Michel and Chubb. There is every expectation that Swift will flourish in the No. 1 role this fall.

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Juwan Washington, RB, San Diego State

Replacing: Seattle Seahawks first-round pick Rashaad Penny.
Class: Redshirt junior.
The skinny: Washington is next in line in the Aztecs' wildly successful running game. Philadelphia Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey preceded Penny with a record-breaking SDSU career -- and there's no reason to doubt Washington can carry this torch. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry last year as Penny's backup, and will benefit from an offensive system that will feed him plenty of carries.

Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

Replacing: Tennessee Titans first-round pick Rashaan Evans.
Class: Junior.
The skinny: Wilson got plenty of experience last year when injuries beset UA at the linebacker position early in the season, and eventually he was among the injured himself. With a hard-hitting style and an instinct for pass coverage (he led the team with four interceptions), his game is not unlike that of former UA Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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