I'm unveiling my rankings of the top 15 senior, junior, redshirt sophomore and true sophomore prospects in college football. Note that redshirt sophomores will be eligible to apply for entry into the 2017 NFL Draft, and NFL scouts will typically give cursory looks at those prospects unless they are high-end talents with early-round buzz headed into the college season.
1. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Marlon's father, Bobby Humphrey, was a solid NFL running back and outstanding at Alabama. Marlon is poised to continue building his own legacy this season. Marlon was a world class youth hurdler. He has terrific size, which is a combination that will have scouts salivating. His technique is just OK at this juncture, but that should improve greatly in his second season as a starter. With a devastating pass rush in front of him, Humphrey should be able to take more chances this year, which could lead to a jump in interceptions.
2. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Hubbard came to Ohio State as a highly rated athlete/safety, but he's all grown up now and ready to make a big impact on the Big Ten in his second season of play. Hubbard finished his maiden season with 6.5 sacks and that number should spike based on his size, athleticism, hand work and overall talent. His physical traits are what teams are looking for, and with more production, he'll boost his stock in the eyes of evaluators.
3. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Samaje Perine is going to get the much-deserved attention at Oklahoma, but NFL scouts know all too well that Mixon is legit as an NFL prospect as well. With outstanding size, burst and change-of-direction talent, Mixon has the ability to break tackles, elude defenders and burst around the edge. Mixon is also a quality pass-catcher and has all the traits of being a three-down running back in the NFL. Mixon served a season-long suspension in 2014 after being charged with punching a woman in the face. He accepted a plea deal in the case. That incident will draw scrutiny from NFL teams in the pre-draft process.
4. Jabrill Peppers, OLB, Michigan
Peppers will be making the move from safety to strong-side linebacker this year, which should help him take advantage of his playmaking ability. With the NFL looking for three-down linebackers who can stay on the field and cover against the pass, Peppers' experience in the secondary should provide him an advantage over some of the other linebackers that NFL evaluators will be studying. The one area of concern for Peppers that he will need to improve upon is his tackling technique. If teams sniff out a weakness in a player's tackling, they will attack him all day long.
5. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Ohio State had two talented quarterbacks heading into 2015, but it never fully clicked for the Buckeyes as they had trouble finding the right balance between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Notre Dame obviously thinks they can make a two-QB system work, as DeShone Kizer will split time with the 2015 season-opening starter Malik Zaire. Kizer is much bigger than Zaire, but still offers dual-threat qualities that are appealing in today's NFL. With an arm to make all the NFL throws, Kizer might have to share snaps with Zaire for now, but if he outplays Zaire over the first half of the season, I doubt that Brian Kelly will hesitate in handing the keys over to the talented redshirt sophomore.
6. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Scarbrough is more battering ram than polished running back at this stage of his development, but the talent is there. Scarbrough got very few totes with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake getting most of the work, but he has more wiggle than Henry while generating similar power upon impact. Scarbrough needs to prove he can run with better vision, but the numbers should start piling up for him beginning this season.
7. Mark Andrews, WR, Oklahoma
As a redshirt freshman, Andrews produced seven touchdowns on just 19 total catches and I counted at least two or three more that could have been touchdowns if not for a drop or an overthrow. Andrews is slick off the line of scrimmage and is a big slot target with the speed and athleticism that will make him a favorite of Baker Mayfield's this season.
8. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
For now, let's just all agree that Thomas flashes the ability to disrupt and make plays despite a current lack of a true, NFL position projection. Thomas plays inside at three-technique and on the nose for Stanford, but he'll need to continue to add weight and girth to his frame to project him to either of those spots at the next level. What he does have is outstanding strength for his size and quickness off the snap. He also has the ability to get off of blocks and into gaps quickly. His 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks are very good indicators of where he is headed.
9. Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
Schultz is long and lean with more room on his frame for added bulk, but everyone expects him to follow in the footsteps of Coby Fleener and Austin Hooper as the next, high-impact tight end to come out of Stanford. Schultz had just 10 catches last season for 121 yards and a touchdown, but he has the athleticism to step right into the roll of intermediate and deep seam threat that has been the calling card of Stanford tight ends of late.
10. Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
Brown is a player with an unusual amount of buzz for having only one career catch for nine yards. However, many around the Ohio State program expected big things from Brown last season before he was lost for the season due to injury. This year, Brown is back and is expected to be the top target for J.T. Barrett. Brown has very good size and is known for having a voracious appetite in the film room, so look for big things from him early on this season.
11. Christian Miller, OLB, Alabama
You probably won't hear much about Miller this season with Alabama loaded with pass rushers on the edges, but file Miller's name away for future reference. Miller is a former five-star prospect who recorded 38 sacks over his final two seasons in high school. He has the length and burst of a potential NFL outside linebacker. He still has work to do and production to post, but he should be in the mix some time soon.
12. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Brown is a massive left tackle who finished his freshman campaign as a second-team All-Big 12 selection. Brown has the same mammoth frame his dad had, and gets the most out of it. Brown is tremendously powerful and can shut down defenders once he latches on. While he can be dominant as a run blocker, he needs to continue to improve with his pass protection. With his size and power, Brown could end up bumping over to the right-tackle spot as a pro.
13. Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M
Alaka came on strong as a freshman and closed out that season with a defensive MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia in 2014. A season-ending injury last season forced Alaka to take a medical redshirt. Alaka is back with more bulk on his frame, and Aggie insiders are very excited about his potential as a speedy, sideline-to-sideline playmaker inside.
14. Mike Warren, RB, Iowa State
It isn't always easy getting the necessary running room at Iowa State, but Warren found yards and made his own pathways en route to becoming a first-team freshman All-American and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Warren could use more muscle in his lower half and needs to learn to run through contact, but his track speed and stride length give him opportunities to hit big plays once he finds daylight.
15. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Putting Lattimore on this list feels like a bit of a reach considering his long and troubling history of hamstring issues. However, with his size, speed and talent, I understand that NFL scouts are going to be patiently waiting on him to see if he can get and stay healthy. Lattimore came to Ohio State with much fanfare, and could elevate himself up this list with a healthy, productive campaign in 2016.