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Published: Sept. 2, 2016 at 10:45 a.m.
Updated: Sept. 5, 2016 at 10:56 a.m.

10 seniors who'll be NFL starters in Week 1 of 2017

The top college seniors around the country are looking to start strong on opening weekend as they embark on their final season of auditioning for scouts before entering the NFL.

Which of this year's seniors will be starting for an NFL squad a year from now? Here are my top 10 most likely candidates.

Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the top-rated prospects for next year's draft. Underclassmen are not included here, and quarterbacks, pass rushers, and other future playmakers often have to wait until the end of their first year or later to get the starting nod over veterans.

10 Photos Total

  • Allen is made to be a stud five-technique in an NFL 3-4 base scheme.  I expect he'll be playing up front on Day One. He'll play three downs, moving inside on third downs to take advantage of his explosiveness off the snap. 10

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

    Allen is made to be a stud five-technique in an NFL 3-4 base scheme. I expect he'll be playing up front on Day One. He'll play three downs, moving inside on third downs to take advantage of his explosiveness off the snap.

  • Banner's sheer size will earn him a job at right tackle for an NFL offensive line. If he continues to improve his consistency during his senior year, he'll solidify himself as a top-five tackle prospect. 9

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    2. Zach Banner, OT, USC

    Banner's sheer size will earn him a job at right tackle for an NFL offensive line. If he continues to improve his consistency during his senior year, he'll solidify himself as a top-five tackle prospect.

  • Receivers have a difficult transition to the NFL, but Jim Harbaugh and his staff will prepare Chesson enough that he'll be on the field early. 8

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    3. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan

    Receivers have a difficult transition to the NFL, but Jim Harbaugh and his staff will prepare Chesson enough that he'll be on the field early.

  • Elflein is just another tough, intelligent, NFL-ready Buckeye lineman. He's moving to center this year after starring at guard the past couple of seasons. I won't be surprised if he's starting at either spot on Sundays. 7

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    4. Pat Elflein, OG/C, Ohio State

    Elflein is just another tough, intelligent, NFL-ready Buckeye lineman. He's moving to center this year after starring at guard the past couple of seasons. I won't be surprised if he's starting at either spot on Sundays.

  • The Pennsylvania native was rated as a tackle coming out of high school, and has played that position for the Panthers. However, his agility and strength make him an outstanding guard prospect who will be coveted by coaches that put a premium on mobility in their linemen. 6

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    5. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh

    The Pennsylvania native was rated as a tackle coming out of high school, and has played that position for the Panthers. However, his agility and strength make him an outstanding guard prospect who will be coveted by coaches that put a premium on mobility in their linemen.

  • This corner-turned-safety found a home in the deep part of the secondary. NFL teams will appreciate his size, ball skills, and ability to cover ground. He could be a plug-and-play guy for a team in need of a free safety. 5

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Pre

    6. Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama

    This corner-turned-safety found a home in the deep part of the secondary. NFL teams will appreciate his size, ball skills, and ability to cover ground. He could be a plug-and-play guy for a team in need of a free safety.

  • Young corners can get thrown into the fire early -- and that won't faze King. This Hawkeye isn't just a ballhawk who intercepted eight passes last season; he's also a fierce competitor on the outside who will challenge run plays coming to his side of the field. 4

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Pr

    7. Desmond King, CB, Iowa

    Young corners can get thrown into the fire early -- and that won't faze King. This Hawkeye isn't just a ballhawk who intercepted eight passes last season; he's also a fierce competitor on the outside who will challenge run plays coming to his side of the field.

  • One of the more underrated corners in the country, Lawrence possesses the length, tenacity, and closing speed to be an instant starter. 3

    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    8. Des Lawrence, CB, North Carolina

    One of the more underrated corners in the country, Lawrence possesses the length, tenacity, and closing speed to be an instant starter.

  • McDermott's game reminds me of 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker, who is likely to start at left tackle for the Lions this season.  The Bruins' starter on the blind side has the strength and footwork to hold off defensive ends at the next level. 2

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    9. Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA

    McDermott's game reminds me of 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker, who is likely to start at left tackle for the Lions this season. The Bruins' starter on the blind side has the strength and footwork to hold off defensive ends at the next level.

  • One of the strengths of this senior class is its offensive line prospects, so it's no surprise multiple "big uglies" are showing up on this list. Pocic is a three-year starter for the Tigers who's able to play center or either guard spot. NFL teams relying on zone schemes will enjoy watching his footwork and mobility, which belie his 6-foot-6 frame. 1

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Pre

    10. Ethan Pocic, OG/C, LSU

    One of the strengths of this senior class is its offensive line prospects, so it's no surprise multiple "big uglies" are showing up on this list. Pocic is a three-year starter for the Tigers who's able to play center or either guard spot. NFL teams relying on zone schemes will enjoy watching his footwork and mobility, which belie his 6-foot-6 frame.