Who are the best pro prospects going into the college football season and, potentially, for the 2019 NFL Draft?
Get it close to the pin.
Last year at this time, LB DE Arden Key was a mortal lock to go in the top five of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry was a sure-thing for the top 15, too, and the idea of Baker Mayfield going as the No. 1 overall pick? It’s still crazy, but no way, no how was he considered any better than a third round flier, maybe second round if everything broke right.
But it’s not too early to have a starting point to go off of, considering teams have to look ahead to see what they have to develop.
So realizing that all this can, will and must change wildly over the next 12 months – and there are at least another 32 players who could be on this list – going into the college football season, here are what appear to be 32 of the top pro prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Top 32 Early 2019 NFL Draft Prospects
32. WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
While Samuel isn’t the same sort of physical bulldog, he’s a whole lot like Maryland’s D.J. Moore – the first receiver taken in the 2018 Draft, going to Carolina at the 24. The 6-0, 215-pound Samuel has a similar body type, but he’s quicker. He was knocked out for the year with a leg injury, but before that, he torched NC State, Missouri and Kentucky as both a receiver and a kick returner.
31. CB Iman Marshall, USC
The former superstar recruit has played up to the hype, coming up with 170 career tackles with 33 broken up passes and six interceptions. However, he didn’t pick off any passes last year. Even so, he’s got 6-1, 205-pound size, the potential to move to safety if needed – which might be his future considering he doesn’t have blazing speed for a corner – and decent enough hitting ability.
30. CB Julian Love, Notre Dame (Jr.)
At 5-11 and 193 pounds, he’s got the size and length to go along with the production. The problem? He’s not a blazer. However, he’s got the peerless ball-hawking skills that might push him much, much higher than this. A strong tackler with 113 stops in his first two seasons, he was second in the nation with 23 broken up passes taking two of his three picks for scores.
29. DE Zach Allen, Boston College
Yeah, Harold Landry was the flashier defensive end on the strong BC line, but the 6-5, 285-pound Allen might end up being drafted higher. Ridiculously active, he was second on the team with 100 tackles with six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Welcome to your ideal 3-4 end who can do a little of everything.
28. QB Ryan Finley, NC State
He doesn’t have the biggest arm, and he’s not all that mobile, but the 6-4, 210-pound former Boise State transfer is deadly accurate with just enough oomph on his deep passes to get by. While he’s not a special, franchise-making quarterback, he’s got the makeup and the skills to be a good-enough starter. In the 2019 NFL Draft, when it comes to quarterbacks, that will be enough.
27. WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss (Jr.)
Not quite as tall as you might like, the 6-1, 225-pounder is built more like a running back. But he can get deep, averaging 16 yards per catch over his career with an 11 score 2017 season. He’ll grab everything, and he’s tough, but he doesn’t have the NFL deep speed hovering around the 4.5 range.
26. CB DeAndre Baker, Georgia (Jr.)
While he wasn’t the typical superstar Georgia recruit, the 5-11, 180-pounder out of Miami has excellent 4.4 speed and terrific ball skills, breaking up 14 passes over the last two years with five picks. He closes like a flash.
25. WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State (Jr.)
Fast, fast, fast, the 6-1, 208-pounder will flirt with the 4.3 range when he gets to the Combine. The high school track star finally started to break out last season as a receiver – catching 40 passes for 584 yards and three scores – but he’s a devastating return man averaging over 30 yards per kickoff return.
24. OT Jonah Williams, Alabama (Jr.)
While he’s not your typical massive human being for the Crimson Tide line, he’s got the 6-5, 301-pound frame to handle a little more weight. A blaster of a run blocker, he can play either tackle spot, or at the next level, even kick inside. His lack of bulk, though, will drop him a bit.
23. LB Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Whether as an undersized defensive end or a huge outside linebacker, the 6-6, 241-pounder has a great frame and knows how to get to the quarterback. Fast off the ball and consistent, he turned it on after the first month of last year finishing with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.
22. DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State (Jr.)
Very smart, very active, and stout up front, the 6-4, 300-pound great get for the program has been every bit as good as his prep hype and upside. Quick in the backfield and an anchor when needed against the run, he made 100 tackles in his first two seasons with five sacks last season and 12 tackles for loss.
21. S Marvell Tell III, USC
A tall, muscular 6-2, 195-pounder, he’s a physical, tough tackler with 164 tackles over his career, he has enough speed to get around the play, and he’s a good hitter for his size. Now it’s about coming up with more big plays when the ball is in the air. He has four career picks, but he does far more against the run.