Last week, NFL Media’s Chad Reuter dropped his list of the top 150 players in college football. It’s worth bookmarking now to revisit in the fall when things get going as an obvious primer for the 2019 NFL Draft.
So keeping in mind the Los Angeles Rams’ impending free agents next year in free agency as well as the trade action that has already taken place (no second-round pick due to the CB Marcus Peters trade and no seventh-round pick due to the LB Alec Ogletree trade), here a couple names I’ll throw out there to talk about (obviously, bring up your notable prospects in the comments):
#1.) Houston Cougars DT Ed Oliver
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.
Oliver’s the most dominant player in college football, and it’s not close. What’s scary is consider how far along he is already. He’s still just 20 years old and started his career faster than Rams DT Aaron Donald did at Pitt. As an 18-year old true freshman in 2016, Oliver had 22 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. The only reason he shouldn’t be the #1 overall pick is if a QB, OT or EDGE rusher rises high enough to meet the need for a team with a roster weakness at the sport’s three premier positions.
#2.) Ohio State Buckeyes DE Nick Bosa
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.
If Bosa makes a similar improvement this year compared to last as he did last year from 2016, he could well be the #1 overall pick next April. Older brother Los Angeles Chargers DE Joey Bosa, a Buckeye from 2013-15, was more productive at this point, but Bosa’s more compact and explosive.
#4.) Oregon Ducks QB Justin Herbert
#5.) Georgia Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm
#6.) Missouri Tigers QB Drew Lock
#7.) Arizona Wildcats QB Khalil Tate
#14.) Auburn Tigers QB Jarrett Stidham
#18.) West Virginia Mountaineers QB Will Grier
#25.) Michigan Wolverines QB Shea Patterson
#26.) Alabama Crimson Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa
#32.) Mississippi St. Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald
#38.) Penn State Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley
#50.) Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
Skipping their write-ups, these are all the QBs in Reuter’s Top 50. Plenty of fluctuation to come, but two really intrigue me. What is the NFL going to do with Khalil Tate? He’s not a great passer, but he’s absolutely incredible on the ground. Is their an offensive staff who’s willing to gamble on a Mike Vick that isn’t as good of a thrower? And Michigan fans had their prayers answered when the NCAA declared Patterson eligible for this season after transferring from Ole Miss. While the Wolverines are stronger on defense (and man, that defense looks very, very good on paper right now), Patterson could be a game-changer for the offense. That season opener on the road against Notre Dame will obviously tell us a lot, but the rivalry dustup with Ohio State two days after Thanksgiving is NFL preview material.
And one note of reference: both Fromm and Tagovailoa were both true freshmen last year, so they won’t be eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft.
#20.) LSU Tigers CB Andraez “Greedy” Williams
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.
Right now, the cornerback class looks a bit barren at the top. Worth noting that both of the Rams’ starting cornerbacks, Peters and Aqib Talib, are scheduled to become free agents after the 2019 season. If the Rams stash a rookie in rotation for a year before easing him into the starting lineup, I wouldn’t be surprised. Williams might be a bit pricey for a rookie to sit for a year, but we’ll have to see how the season plays out and how stock settles.
#24.) Ole Miss LT Greg Little
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.
With the program burning down around him, Little has been a cool cat this offseason. He’s not transferring. He’s not talking about the draft. He’s publicly focused on the season ahead which figures to be a dead season with a bowl ban and a new head coach in Matt Luke who’s under no pressure to bring results to Oxford. A top recruit in 2016, Little’s tape is already good enough to make him an early draft pick. But how he handles this season and the aftermath (which syncs up pretty closely with, say, an NFL team that is struggling that could take him into a toxic environment with little hopes of turning things around quickly) will perhaps be more important to his short-term future.
#39.) Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins
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.
If we’re looking for a successor to former Penn St. and now New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley, Dobbins would be my vote for 2018. He’s likely still stuck in a job share with Mike Weber, but as a true sophomore he’ll be around for 2019 anyway.
#41.) USC Trojans LB Porter Gustin
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.
If we need a local kid to tie in, Gustin’s an easy fit. Gotta wonder about the injuries, but if he stays healthy in 2018 and checks out at the combine next year those will be concerns of the past.
#60.) Cal Golden Bears WR Demetris Robertson
Ugh. Injuries. I was really excited to see what he did in Year 2, but after two games he succumbed to a sports hernia and had surgery on it forcing him to miss the entire season. If he’s fully 100%, I could see him as a comeback player of the year candidate.
#73.) Iowa St. Cyclones RB David Montgomery
After his breakout season in 2017, what does he have in store for 2018? If he outpaces his last year, he’s likely going to be one of those Day 2 running backs that continues to prove you can get above the line starting talent in the NFL after the first round.
#77.) Clemson Tigers OT Mitch Hyatt
Could be a first-round talent. Might hinge on the difficulty of blocking for a mobile QB like Kelly Bryant or keeping the pocket clean for star freshman QB Trevor Lawrence.
#78.) Florida State Seminoles QB Deondre Francois
With the injury that shocked the college football world in the season opener last year behind him, how does Francois come back to lead the Noles under new Head Coach Willie Taggart?
#87.) USC S Marvell Tell III
Lamarcus Joyner’s replacement?
#108.) Stanford Cardinal G Nate Herbig
This is really low for me. I like Herbig. Could be a Top 50 candidate when all’s said and done.
#128.) Miami Hurricanes DE Joe Jackson
I could see him making a HUGE jump this year. And man does that season opener loom large. Just one day after the Rams are required to get from the 90- to the 53-man roster, Miami is taking on LSU on Sunday night in Jerryworld in Arlington, Texas.
#141.) Oregon LB Troy Dye
Size matters, but man. Kid makes plays. A looooooooooot of plays.
The crazy thing is these are the known candidates. We have a TON of guys that have been waiting in the wings that will blossom in 2018 along with freshman (true and redshirt) that are going to change the landscape.
Ugh, I want football here.