The NFL is about to begin its season on Thursday, and the LA Rams open play on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, but college football began play (on a nation-wide scale) last weekend. That doesn’t mean that college football is just “back again like every other year” though because in 2021, college football is already unlike any other year in NCAA history.
College athletes can do paid endorsements now thanks to NIL deals.
Players were given the right to transfer once in their careers without having to sit out a year, a rule that may have kept many NFL draft hopefuls from reaching their full potential.
And most importantly as how it relates to the 2021 and 2022 drafts, the NCAA gave every college player an extra year of eligibility because of what happened in 2020. That caused a high number of players to go back to college and therefore the 2021 draft class had the most shallow talent pool in NFL history.
It also means that there could be a deep class of talent in 2022 and as of today, the LA Rams are set to have 10 picks in next year’s draft. The Rams might not have a first round pick in either of the next two years, but Les Snead plans to continue to make a lot of picks and we’ve seen a number of day two and day three selections become key plays for Sean McVay.
Every fan loves rookie players and who among us hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about Tutu Atwell, Jacob Harris, Jake Funk, Ernest Jones, and Bobby Brown? So while the Rams can’t look ahead to Week 2, I can look ahead. I can look all the way ahead to the 2022 draft without mucking up anyone’s gears.
These are 22 players who I’ve noticed either this week or this year, one for each starting position, plus a few reserves to take under consideration as well.
QB - Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
McCall is my favorite college quarterback and while he has to overcome long odds before he’s considered a Heisman contender or a 2022 NFL Draft prospect, I have no interest in starting this series off by hyping up somebody else’s favorite college quarterback.
Grayson McCall what a damn BALL!!! pic.twitter.com/RxP8FI5LgM— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 27, 2020
I was so high on Justin Herbert going into last season in part because I had learned that one of the reasons he wasn’t heavily recruited was due to the fact that he was skipping opportunities to gain national recognition in high school in favor of team practices. I like stories that easily explain away why quarterbacks weren’t four or five-star recruits (and there are many examples of elite QBs who were not heavily recruited coming out of high school), and it didn’t hurt that it was because Herbert was busy being a perfect teammate.
Well, I have no doubts about McCall as a great leader and teammate, but I think one of the reasons that he was overlooked coming out of Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail, North Carolina had to do with the quarterback who played down the road: Sam Howell.
In the same graduating class as McCall, Howell was a consensus top-five quarterback recruit in 2019 who eventually flipped his commitment from Florida State to nearby UNC. The two faced off multiple times in high school, and McCall regularly held his own and often looked just as much the part in those contests. But McCall ended up as a two-star prospect despite winning the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and turning Porter Ridge around from a 1-10 team during his freshman season into a perennial playoff contender that nearly won a state championship in his senior campaign.
Maxwell award watch list— Sun Belt Pages (@SBPages) July 19, 2021
Grayson McCall ☑️ pic.twitter.com/ezVemBtECh
The 6’3, 200 lb McCall wasn’t receiving many offers and Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell (who could also eventually find his way to the NFL) jumped at the chance to land the two-star recruit. His high school coach Michael Hertz didn’t understand what colleges were missing, thinking that McCall was either a system quarterback or more legs than an arm, but said “When the lights came on, he was great for us every time.”
Happy Grayson McCall Days away from Coastal Carolina Football pic.twitter.com/cGXBFzjfmS— Barstool CCU (@BarstoolCCU) August 23, 2021
McCall entered 2020 as a longshot to start for Coastal Carolina and the Chanticleers were predicted to finish last in their conference. As a redshirt freshman, McCall won the starting job, threw 26 touchdowns against only three interceptions, rushed for 569 yards and seven touchdowns, and led Coastal Carolina to a 10-1 record, with their only loss coming in the Cure Bowl to 10-1 Liberty and quarterback Malik Willis, a potential top-10 pick in the draft.
Coastal Carolina finished the season ranked 14th in the country.
Grayson McCall (QB 10) from Coastal Carolina standing strong in the pocket and still completes the pass. Love the overall toughness I've seen from him. pic.twitter.com/7BrF2TWNWy— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) July 28, 2021
McCall is an option quarterback, but he is so skilled and adept with the ball in his hands that he could entice a team that is looking for that version of Taysom Hill that is 21, makes great decisions, has a ton of experience at quarterback, and who has a much better arm. I could go on about McCall forever, and I will, but we will see if his story unfolds like I — and so far from what I can tell nobody else — predict it will.
I would have no greater dream than seeing what Sean McVay could do with the opportunity to coach Grayson McCall, but even if I’m alone on this so far, I wonder if he won’t put himself out of the Rams draft range eventually.
What a fake by Grayson McCall! pic.twitter.com/3Cql309Xc1— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) December 6, 2020
In his first game this season, McCall completed 16-of-19 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown against Citadel.
Two more: Carson Strong, Nevada, Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
There is no consensus first round quarterback in next year’s draft, but most people expect that least four will go in the first round when this season and the draft process is done playing out. I believe that, there are a lot of interesting quarterbacks and I expect the trend of teams over-drafting quarterbacks in the first round to continue. I imagine that a few of them will even pan out.
If I had to pick a quarterback today who I think is most likely to go first overall, it would be Carson Strong of Nevada. He and Ridder both had strong starts to their seasons, while a couple of other quarterbacks — Spencer Rattler and Howell — did not. Ridder is building a strong case to solidify himself as a first round prospect before the end of the season.
RB - Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
There have been a number of monumental changes in the NCAA recently and one of them is a rule change that allows players to transfer once in their careers without having to sit out a season like they used to have to do. A lot of NFL draft prospects transferred this year and one of them was former Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet, a top-five running back recruit in 2019 who said Har-bye after falling out of favor in the Wolverines offense.
Charbonnet is back to being a prized recruit after rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns (on six carries) against Hawaii and then 117 yards and a touchdown against LSU. He is so far averaging 13.1 yards per carry in Chip Kelly’s offense. He also has two catches for 49 yards. Charbonnet could easily parlay a good season into being considered at least a mid-round draft pick.
Two more: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, Tyler Badie, Missouri
WR - Drake London, USC
The LA local is a potential first round pick and he had 12 catches for 137 yards in the first game of this season. Of course, there are a lot of college receivers who we could say have the potential to be a first round pick as of right now.
But how many of them are 6’5 anymore?
Brick by brick…We keep building. On to the next! pic.twitter.com/tTMD34pk0o— Dråkë (@DrakeLondon_) September 6, 2021
London was unhappy with San Jose State “gator wrapping” his legs and potentially causing an injury during his 12-catch performance.
He was also recruited to play basketball at USC and appeared in two games last year before deciding to give up his hoop dreams and focus on his second love, which he just happened to be much better at.
USC football/basketball commit Drake London with the 540 pic.twitter.com/IKZICpVLRA— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 25, 2019
WR - David Bell, Purdue
Bell is synonymous with “big catch.”
Incredible catch from Purdue's David Bell after falling down on his route pic.twitter.com/RNsg165RHe— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) November 30, 2019
David Bell wins the game for Purdue with this ridiculous catch pic.twitter.com/rZkEZHgxAa— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 31, 2020
DAVID BELL 89 YARDS— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 5, 2020
Purdue coming back...
In 18 career games with Purdue, the non-baseball David Bell has 147 catches, 1,794 yards, and 15 touchdowns.
WR - Jameson Williams, Alabama
Williams also transferred this year and gave up basement dwelling with Ohio State for basement dwelling with Alabama, two sad-sack programs that couldn’t win a raffle.
Two more: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama, Jahan Dotson, Penn State
TE - Cade Otton, Washington
Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
OT - Wanya Morris, Oklahoma
My favorite singer of the 90’s became my favorite tackle prospect of this article.
Wanya Morris out here bullying dudes. Also destroyed the #1 player in the country later. pic.twitter.com/TfpejV3HGu— (@VolBlood) January 4, 2019
OT - Jarrett Horst, Michigan StateWarren McLendon, Georgia
Horst suffered broken foot (jones fracture) as a senior in high school and ended up going to a community college for one year, then earned a scholarship at Arkansas State. He also transferred this year and he’s worked his way from not getting any significant offers because of an injury to choosing Michigan State over Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas. Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III, another transfer, rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1.
Two more: Sean Rhyan, UCLA, Warren McClendon, Georgia
G - Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Texas A&M is one of those schools that you think would be great, has all the makings of a great college football school, produces talent to the NFL like a great college team, but has never really been that great. You know, like Arkansas. (Surely you would think that the state of Arkansas would at least have great college football teams.) They are currently ranked sixth and this might be that year that they are great, and Green could be the top-rated guard in the 2022 NFL Draft.
I think I'm starting to fall in love with Kenyon Green (Texas A&M LG 55) pic.twitter.com/fy3cJB59lj— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) June 29, 2021
G - Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Linderbaum is versatile and could end up playing any offensive line position in the NFL and he could be the next great Iowa offensive lineman.
Tyler Linderbaum talks about Iowa State and being offered by the Cyclones. pic.twitter.com/S3dIBT9YGi— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) September 7, 2021
Two more: Zion Johnson, Boston College, Chasen Hines, LSU
C - Matt Allen, Michigan State
This is Allen’s sixth season with Michigan State, as a result of another new rule by the NCAA, granting every player an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also had an issue with ongoing injuries, so pick up the phone, Les Snead. Your pick is in.
One more: Ben Brown, Ole Miss
DT - Jordan Davis, Georgia
Davis may have been the most dominant player of the week, as Georgia defeated #3 Clemson 10-3. He may have only recorded two tackles for a loss and one sack, but Davis was the Bulldogs player who was drawing double and triple-teams all night as Georgia held Clemson to three points in their own building.
Clemson had a 143-game record of scoring in the first half…— that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) September 5, 2021
UGA has Jordan Davis. pic.twitter.com/LCUmZG7W9b
DT - Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
Haskell Garrett survived a gunshot to the face last year and that’s one hell of a story to start off any combine interview. The fifth-year senior has only played in 23 games in his career but has established himself as one of the interior defensive linemen in the country.
ZACH HARRISON WITH THE STRIP AND HASKELL GARRETT WITH THE SCORE WOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/71cAc2tpfL— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) September 3, 2021
One more: Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
EDGE - Blaze Alldredge, Missouri
What more do you need to know other than his name is Blaze Judgedredd and he’s even more devastating on the field than he is on his driver’s license.
Blaze Alldredge is so impressive pic.twitter.com/Lb4WG4kqBI— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 4, 2021
EDGE - Amaré Barno, Virginia Tech
The @seniorbowl is looking live at @HokiesFB vs @UNCFootball. We anticipate Va. Tech EDGE Amaré Barno (@Ayye_Barno) to be one of highest risers in 2022 draft class this fall. Made tons of length plays (6042v, 34 1/4 arms) on junior .#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ #BestoftheBest pic.twitter.com/8G40tAb8Cl— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 3, 2021
Two more: Arron Mosby, Fresno State, Olakunle Fatukasi, Rutgers
ILB - Ryan Greenhagen, Fordham
Greenhagen set a record with 31 tackles in a 52-7 loss to Nebraska:
Fordham sports information director Joe DiBari said Monday that Greenhagen’s 31st tackle was realized after another player admitted that he didn’t actually get a sack that had been credited to him.
“I just had something happen that I have never experienced before in my 30-plus years in this profession,” DiBari said in an email announcing the record. “James Conway, who was credited with a sack at Nebraska, told me that it wasn’t him on the sack, it was Ryan Greenhagen [I’ve never had a player ask that I take away a tackle for him]. That gives Ryan a record 31 tackles in the game!”
“Nebraska has made the change, so it’s official.”
No player had officially been credited with more than 30 tackles in either an FBS or FCS game since tackles became an official statistic 22 seasons ago. Greenhagen had become the fourth player to get 30 tackles in a game in the immediate aftermath of the loss. Now he’s the only player with 31 tackles — and he’s also the only player to tally 30 or more tackles against an FBS opponent. The other three 30-tackle games had all happened against FCS opponents.
One more: DeMarvion Overshown, Texas
OLB - Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd will play on Sundays pic.twitter.com/v6JUQR9LEK— James Fragoza (@JamesFragoza) September 3, 2021
Will the Rams draft a linebacker in 2022? Will they have a chance to draft Devin Lloyd?
Lloyd recorded 11 TFL and 6.5 sacks in 2019, then 10 TFL and two sacks in only five games in 2020. In Utah’s first game of this season, Lloyd had 12 tackles, two TFL, one sack, one forced fumble, and one interception.
OLB - Mike Jones, Jr., LSU
Father is not the Mike Jones who made the famous tackle, but incredibly, his dad was an NFL player and he did play for the St. Louis Rams. He was the other Mike Jones on the Rams defense in 1998.
Jones, Jr. also has a weird story: he lost to LSU as a freshman at Clemson two years ago, but then transferred and is now on the Tigers.
“I’m glad LSU won it,” he said, then caught himself and started laughing. “Well, not glad, because I lost. But being here now, congratulations. I’m glad we won it. We won. It’s been really interesting seeing it from the other side.”
Two more: Ventrell Miller, Florida, Darien Butler, Arizona State (2 INT)
CB - Riley Moss, Iowa
Two interceptions. Two touchdowns. And Indiana quarterback Michael Penix is a pretty good quarterback prospect.
Riley Moss with the pick six for Iowa pic.twitter.com/E5D4WUmke0— Justin Groc (@justgroc) September 4, 2021
It was a “that just happened” moment:
“I was ready to break on it and tackle him, and then I see the ball pop up and I got super excited. I was foaming from the mouth, caught the ball and took off quick,” said Moss, a high school track star. “It happened quick, and I didn’t realize I scored a touchdown until I was on the bench and I was like, ‘Holy cow, that just happened.’”
CB - Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Another player who wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, Williams also had to make a brief stop at community college before getting the OK to move up to the Division-I level. Witherspoon earned a job as a true freshman and he is now the team’s best cornerback. He has six pass breakups in his first two games this year, including four against Nebraska.
Two more: Elvis Hines, Kent State, Tyric LeBeauf, Boise State
Dillon Gabriel under throws his receiver & is picked off by Tyric LeBeauf, who goes 100 yards to the house. What a turn of events. Boise State strikes first in the Bounce House.— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) September 3, 2021
BOISE STATE 7
S - Jalen Catalon, Arkansas
Jalen Catalon. Best safety in the country IMO. pic.twitter.com/rVGQaVYUN8— SportsTalkSEC (@SportsTalk_SEC) September 7, 2021
“I would just say I became a student of the game,” Catalon said. “I just gained so much knowledge and just kept learning and it just kind of translates to the field. I think God blessed everybody with some type of athletic ability, but you can never study too much film, so I just stayed in the film room, learned some different things and schemes.”
Catalon had two interceptions in Week 1.
S - Leon O’Neal, Jr., Texas A&M
This is one way you stop Texas A&M from underwhe&ming.
Leon O’Neal Jr!!! Pick 6 pic.twitter.com/VE0XsOuBZC— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) September 5, 2021
“I call (No. 8) Madea,” said O’Neal with a huge smile when talking about 6-4, 290-pound teammate DeMarvin Leal. “8’s got a big trunk, so I followed that big trunk the whole way.”
O’Neal also has two interceptions.
No relation to Mike Jones.
Two more: Deontai Williams, Nebraska, Quentin Lake, UCLA