The 2018 NFL Draft is over, and now we have four long months until college football begins again. To ease the pain, I've pulled together a list of the top 150 players I'm looking forward to watching come late August.
I primarily focus on upperclassmen for this list, although some sophomores are included based on their performances last season (no true freshman or redshirt freshman were included). Other talented young players that could be included here might make their way onto future editions.
Each player's rating is based partially on their value to their college football team and partly on their talent as an NFL prospect. No matter which way you look at it, these guys are going to be fun to watch next fall.
Oliver is the top player on my list for the second straight year. He can play anywhere on the line, and has rare sideline-to-sideline range for a 300-pound interior player. He's a difference maker who should garner Heisman consideration in 2018, but probably won't get his proper due. Oliver has already stated that he intends to apply for early entry in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Nick's ranking has nothing to do with his big brother Joey's success at Ohio State or in the NFL. Nick Bosa's simply a handful on every snap; if offensive lines don't account for him, he makes life miserable for them with his strength, athleticism and motor. He will play more nationally televised games than Oliver, so Heisman voters are probably more likely to give him their "defensive player" vote.
A big man with linebacker-like movement skills, Gary joins Oliver and Bosa as elite players on the defensive line. Big Ten tackles are not happy to see him line up across from them, as he can overpower them or out-quick them, depending on the situation.
Herbert's arm and mobility will entice scouts, as well as help Oregon overcome the loss of head coach Willie Taggart after only one season at the helm. Only a fractured collarbone kept him out of the national spotlight last season. A healthy 2018 puts him squarely in the Heisman conversation.
Fromm's freshman season was outstanding. He didn't look like a first-year player very often in the team's national runner-up season, running the offense and throwing the ball accurately to all parts of the field. Jacob Eason, who lost his job to Fromm due to injury, transferred to Washington. Fromm might get competition from top recruit Justin Fields, but for now, I'll assume he'll be among the best players in the country.
This Tiger has a great arm and is not a statue in the pocket, either. Scouts are going to love his skill set, and he also plays with an attitude that endears him to teams. Gaining consistency in his senior season, despite losing receiver J'Mon Moore to the NFL, Lock will lead Missouri to big places making him an irresistible prospect next April.
Despite not playing much in the first month of the 2017 season, Tate made a name for himself with his ridiculous running ability (1,411 yards, including 327 against Colorado). In the team's bowl game against Purdue, Tate threw for five touchdowns -- which might give him the confidence to move the ball through the air more consistently in 2018. If that happens, watch out!
It was shocking when Ferrell joined his talented Clemson teammates in returning to Death Valley for another year. He had 9.5 sacks last season and shows the ability to be a 4-3 base end or 3-4 edge rusher at the next level.
The 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up decided to return to help his team pursue a Pac-12 championship. He averaged more than eight yards per carry, including at least one 30-yard run in every game, on his way to 2,118 rushing yards last season. The Cardinal will be better this year than last, which portends another huge year for Love.
Bush is the new prototype for linebacker in college and the NFL -- not necessarily big, but fast and aggressive. He can blow through the A-gap to wrap up quarterbacks, attack gaps on stretch plays to bring down running backs in the backfield, and get out to the hash to cover receivers.
The Seminoles' struggles last season kept Akers' name out of the headlines for the most part, but his explosiveness with the ball in his hands is impressive. His willingness to lower his pads and take on defenders is not lost on scouts, either.
At 6-foot-7, 306 pounds, Davis is an impressive physical specimen. Despite that height, he's able to play inside with leverage. Few college players are as violent with their hands as Davis. He swats his opponent's mitts away while beating them with quickness.
Wilkins has played outside and inside during his career at Clemson, and could play either spot at the next level. He's almost overshadowed with Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant playing around him, but NFL scouts (and ACC offensive coordinators) have seen plenty of his length and agility.
Stidham did not shrink under the pressure of leading an SEC contender in 2017. He excelled in operating the Tigers' offense last fall, his third system in three collegiate seasons (2015 at Baylor, 2016 at McLennan Community College). Returning for a second year at the same school, and returning most of his top receiving weapons, should only help him utilize his strong, accurate arm.
Although White rushed for more than 5,000 yards as a high school running back, he has blossomed at linebacker for LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. He's a solid 6-1, 240-pound 'backer who runs like a gazelle and packs a punch as a tackler. He led the SEC in stops last season, attacking the ball at every opportunity.
If you want power inside, Lawrence has plenty of it. When guards or centers are one-up on this young man, they have to work with all their might to keep him from plowing into the backfield. His production in the backfield slowed as a sophomore (8.5 tackles for loss in 2016, 2.5 in 2017), but his presence is still feared in the run game.
Sills is a monster on the outside, using his 6-4, 203-pound frame to shield defenders and also to attack passes in the air when necessary. He transferred from WVU to a junior college to play quarterback for the 2016 season, but returned to Morgantown in 2017 as a receiver. It's a good thing he did, as scouts are looking at him as a potential sideline and red-zone threat at the next level.
Looking for another prolific Big 12 passer to watch this year now that Baker Mayfield has moved on to the NFL? Grier's your man. He's coming off a great season with the Mountaineers after transferring from Florida. Grier had to sit out for a calendar year for violating the NCAA's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and missed about a season and a half before returning to the field in 2017. Dana Holgorsen's wide-open attack matches Grier's skills, so don't be surprised if he breaks 4,000 passing yards, as he's recovered from the broken finger he suffered late last season.
It's time for the next top Alabama defenders to step forward, and Wilson's the best of the group. He attacks the ball in the backfield, is a solid tackler, and can move quite well in coverage (he led the team with four interceptions last season). I suspect we'll be putting him on All-American teams after the 2018 season.
Williams led the SEC with five interceptions as a redshirt freshman, earning third-team All-American and first-team all-conference honors. The lean but tenacious defender has the foot quickness and anticipation skills to be a turnover machine for the Tigers.
New head coach Herm Edwards has one of the most talented receivers in college football on his squad. Harry's a physical specimen who can run and win jump balls. He already creates late separation like a veteran.
NFL teams had to be surprised that Harris did not leave school after his junior year. He's a strong back with more wiggle than you would expect at his size. Harris also works in pass protection, which will earn him playing time early in his NFL career.
One of the top players in the country coming out of high school, Quarterman has lived up to the hype in his first two campaigns with the Hurricanes. He's fast, instinctive, and a terrific tackler. A NFL team will give him the keys to the defense not long after he arrives.
This former top high school recruit has the tools to be the best tackle in the country in 2018. He possesses very good lateral agility and gets after his man whenever possible. Little has a great combination of athleticism, length, and a feisty nature.
Patterson has been cleared to play for Michigan in 2018 after transferring from Ole Miss. His frenetic play reminds me of Johnny Manziel at his Heisman-winning best, as he shows off great escapability on the run and an ability to move the ball through the air. Michigan has a group of young, talented receivers who can help him make big plays in 2018.
It's tough to leave the guy who led Alabama to a national championship out of the top 25, even if his playing time was limited and it's no sure thing that he'll start in 2018. His play in the title game was too good to ignore, as the lefty displayed toughness and agility on the run, as well as the arm to take advantage of a young but talented receiver corps. Once he learns not to stare down targets and puts more air on his deep throws, defenses are going to have their hands full.
Williams has been a fierce and sturdy lineman for the Tide since coming to campus, first starting on the right side in 2016 and then moving to the left side last season. He'll be an All-American in 2018.
The next great Wisconsin running back is coming off a dazzling freshman season. Taylor works the Badgers' zone-blocking scheme well, cutting hard and accelerating through the second level for big gains. He also brings some power to the table, making him difficult to bring down once on the move.
No, Morgan is not the son of the former NFL receiver of the same name. But he has an NFL future, to be sure, as he possesses the speed, size and physicality to win inside and outside at the next level. Morgan will need new Huskers head coach Scott Frost to develop a new quarterback this summer in order to maximize the receiver's talents in his senior season.
It was a bit of a surprise that Johnson returned to Miami after an All-American junior season. While he's not the largest safety (5-11, 190), he is a team leader and complete player. Johnson will make tackles in space and also reads the quarterback to make plays on the ball in the air.
One of the tougher quarterbacks in recent memory, Fitzgerald plows through tacklers as a runner in the Bulldogs' offense. He's still a project as a passer, but if he can shore up his footwork and transfer his weight appropriately, his stock will soar.
Brown was selected by the Padres in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, but I think his future is in the NFL. At 6-1, 225, he's as physical as you'd like on the outside. Defenders that think he might be a lumbering receiver quickly find out that he can beat them down the field and has some moves after the catch, as well.
Adams is a massive human (6-8, 327) who is tough and nasty. He missed half of his junior year with a knee injury. Despite his height, he's able to move and stick with second-level defenders, and has the footwork to keep QB Jake Browning clean.
If Jennings is healthy after having surgery on his knee in January, he'll take over as the Tide's top edge rusher. He's a relentless player who's strong enough to lift tackles off the ground with a bull rush. He's able to find the ball consistently and track down its carrier. Mack Wilson, Jennings, Dylan Moses and Co. will keep Nick Saban's defense running at top efficiency.
Few players have had a more appropriate nickname than Devin "Motor" Singletary. The 5-9, 200-pound bowling ball of a running back keeps going, carry after carry, pounding the ball inside or taking off to the sideline for big plays. He scored 32 rushing touchdowns last year, third-most in FBS history (Barry Sanders had 37 in 1988, Montee Ball 33 in 2011). There's no reason to think there will be much of a drop-off with Lane Kiffin still leading the Owls.
At 5-9, 185 pounds, Hill is not among the bigger backs in college football. You'd never know it watching him run, though. His ability to plow through tackles at that size, staying upright with exquisite balance to juke opponents in the open field, makes him a fun back to watch. Maybe he'll get more publicity this year with Mason Rudolph and James Washington in the NFL.
McSorley's frame is slight, but his heart is big. Penn State's leader is a big reason for the program's resurgence. While he's not the most accurate passer, he can find receivers downfield and take off for long runs when the opportunity presents itself.
Dobbins was one of the top freshmen in the country last season, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. He jump-cuts or spins away from traffic inside, and he can turn the corner to find the sideline for a big gain. Dobbins isn't very big, but he'll churn through traffic and maintain his balance to keep moving forward.
Iowa's had a string of good tight ends over the years, but not since Dallas Clark have they had one this talented. Fant is big, strong and quick, making him a nightmare for defensive coordinators in the red zone (11 touchdowns last season) or down the seam.
Gustin's junior season was limited to four games due to injury, but he expects to be healthy this fall. He used his combination of strength and quickness on the edge to make 16 tackles, including three sacks, in those four games, following up a strong sophomore season where he earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.
Trying to tackle Dillon is like attempting to wrap your arms around an old oak tree and bring it to the ground. While he's not the fastest back in the country, he's difficult to stop once he gets moving. Dillon carried the ball 300 times as a freshman, and I expect he'll get 25 totes a game this year, as well.
Looking at Edwards now, it's tough to picture him as the option quarterback he was in high school. He's filled out his frame, and that's paid major dividends, as he's strong enough to handle bull rushes and still agile enough to reach linebackers to break open big runs for Jonathan Taylor and the rest of the Badgers' running back crew.
Scouts might tell you that there's nothing exceptional about Gaskin as far as size or speed is concerned. However, they should appreciate his reliability, patience and pure want-to as a runner. Already possessing a school-record 45 rushing touchdowns, Gaskin will pass the great Napoleon Kaufman as Washington's all-time leading rusher early in his senior season.
Scouts are going to like what they see from Froholdt when they turn on his tape. He's mobile, strong and tough, not unlike former teammate and 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow. He'll likely be the top interior O-line prospect in the 2019 class.
I expect scouts who were checking out 2018 second-round pick James Daniels' film this year also noticed the Hawkeyes' massive but nimble left tackle. His length and quick-set makes it tough to beat him around the corner, and he's effective moving in the Hawkeyes' zone scheme.
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has a Joker in hand in Winovich. The 6-3, 253-pound Pennsylvania native can rush from a two- or three-point stance. He can also be effective bringing pressure from the interior. Winovich is not shy about holding the edge in the run game, either, and should only improve under Brown's tutelage for another season.
Ivey started 11 games at tackle last season and had a respectable performance. However, his best position is guard, where he can use his size, foot quickness and power to move opponents in the run game.
The cousin of new Ravens QB Lamar Jackson might not get a lot of headlines with so much attention going to Clemson's talented defensive linemen, but he made quarterbacks pay for bad decisions last season (three interceptions, seven pass breakups). Mullen possesses the height, length and quickness to stay with pro receivers from the slot or outside.
Haskins will have competition to win the starting job this fall, but based on his performances in relief of J.T. Barrett last season, I couldn't leave him off this list. He flashed the arm strength to cover the field, as well as toughness to take hits and deliver them while on the run. If he beats out Joe Burrow for the top spot in the lineup this fall, he and head coach Urban Meyer will have a special season.