A month ago we had a look at some of the players to keep an eye on as the college season progressed. As we get closer to the finish line, it’s time for one final list.
1 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Huge potential and upside as an athletic outside linebacker in the NFL. He plays inside at Georgia but will likely switch to the WILL or SAM in a 4-3 at the next level. Minor character issues will concern some teams but Ogletree can do it all – pass rush, cover and read an offense.
2 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
He could move to offensive tackle and some teams will consider a Branden Albert-type switch. Cooper has elite pass protection skills and he pulls and gets to the second level better than any other guard in college. The best zone blocking lineman to enter the draft in a long time.
3 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Road grader type who specialises in run blocking. He consistently turns opponents with great technique, opening big running lanes for the Alabama tailbacks. He’s not quite as athletic as Cooper but he’ll play left guard for 10+ years and be a regular All-Pro.
4 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
It’s hard to ignore some of the opponents he’s faced this year, such as the duo at LSU. The SEC is filled with productive pass rushers, yet Joeckel and book-end Jake Matthews have looked superb. In a league where left tackles are valued second only to quarterbacks, Joeckel could be a contender to go first overall. For tape of his performance against Alabama, see the video above.
5 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
Fantastic cornerback prospect who does it all. Milliner is physical enough to play up at the line and he’s terrific in run support. You need to have recovery speed, deep speed and an eye for the ball to be a top-level corner in the NFL and Milliner has the entire package.
6 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
No receiver in college football has Coleman’s level of upside. He doesn’t have the production of some other players, but he’s 6-6 and 220lbs with the speed to get downfield. He’s also a pure hands catcher who can be more consistent, but he’ll get there. If he declares he’ll be an early pick.
7 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
Moore has 12.5 sacks this year to lead the NCAA. This isn’t just a one-off great year either, he’s had a major impact in pretty much every win for Texas A&M. He’s capable of playing in any scheme and should be a top-five pick in April.
8 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Notre Dame doesn’t have a lot of star players, but they have a great team capable of grinding out wins. Te’o has played such an integral part as the emotional leader of the group. It’s easy to forget he has six interceptions this year.
9 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
This has been a bitterly disappointing season for USC and Barkley. However, he still ranks as the best quarterback eligible for 2013. A team like Kansas City – which has a lot of weapons on offense and a not terrible line – could really use a quarterback who specialises in control, accuracy and production.
10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
A recent team-imposed suspension is a concern as Richardson is an intense character who might turn off some GM’s and coaches. Even so, he’s such a dynamic player. 100% effort on every down, he never gives up on a play. Ideal three-technique.
11 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
Playmaking safety with the build and speed to be a perennial All-Pro. Not enough people are talking about Elam this season and what he’s done for the Gators. In a year where the safety class is pretty thin, expect Elam to make a big move up the boards if he turns pro.
12 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
You’ll struggle to find a better run blocking tight end in college. He showed against Oregon he can lead an offense as a receiver too, making over 100+ yards and scoring a key touchdown with 90 seconds to go. A lack of top-end receivers will put the focus on Ertz, making him a likely top-15 pick.
13 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
Will the speed translate to the next level? At 6-5 and 240lbs, he’ll need to prove at the combine he’s more Von Miller than Aaron Maybin. He’s had a good year despite only getting four sacks, but I think he needs to feature in the 3-4.
14 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Nobody can deny how special this guy looks when he’s at his best. On any given snap, he can destroy a lineman to break into the backfield to make a splash play. Unfortunately, he’s just as capable of being dominated himself. Teams will love his upside, but not his inconsistency.
15 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
He’s looked like a proper defensive end this year. At 6-7 and 240lbs, he’s a good combine away from making a giant leap up the draft boards. Any team running a 3-4 scheme and needing a pass rusher who can drop into coverage will show a lot of interest here.
16 Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU)
Another athletic defensive lineman who could line up outside on standard downs and inside for passing situations. Ansah only has four sacks for the season but he’s looked better on tape. Like Jordan he’ll benefit from a strong combine.
17 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
He lost a lot of weight during the summer to try and max out his ability as a speed rusher, but I think he played better with the weight last year. Twelve months ago he looked like a J.J. Watt clone. That’s how much potential he has.
18 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
Impressive three-technique with the size to play every down. Williams flashes a great swim move and the ability to consistently make plays in the backfield. He’s played most of the year with a bad ankle, making his production even more impressive. He’ll turn 25 as a rookie next year and had some work ethic issues in high school and the JUCO ranks.
19 Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
One of the more impressive individual performances you’ll see this year came when Thomas met South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney. He flashed exactly why he could move back to tackle at the next level, showing great athleticism and power at the point of attack.
20 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
He’s not a flashy player, but he just finds a way to have an impact. Blue collar pass rusher who had four sacks against Wisconsin on Saturday.
21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Every week Mosley makes a big play. It could be an interception, a sack or just a jarring tone-setting tackle. He could line up at inside or outside linebacker and might be a top-20 pick.
22 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
It could be time to start considering Austin as a Percy Harvin type after all. On Saturday he rushed for 300+ yards against Oklahoma – from the tailback position. Austin has elite speed and the ability to score any time he gets the ball in space.
23 Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
Very strong at the point of attack and looks comfortable at nose tackle. Williams could play the one, three or five technique. He also has the ability to develop into more of a pass rushing threat. You sense there’s more to come from this guy the more he plays the game. Australian born and still learning.
24 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
He’d be higher if it wasn’t for the fact he’s playing right tackle. Ideally you want to see him protect the blind side, but he’s done a good enough job against some top pass rushers to warrant a first round grade. For tape of his performance against Alabama, see the video at the top of this piece.
25 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
Explosive, amazing, stunning athlete. Yet being diagnosed with spinal stenosis is a concern and has to come into consideration. Some teams will strike him off the board completely. He might only play for 4-5 years.
26 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
He needs to land on a team that spreads the field out and uses a lot of 4WR sets. In Green Bay or New Orleans, he’ll be a terror running across the field. You can’t expect him to be a true #1, but he’ll excel in an air-raid attack.
27 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
Sturdy linebacker who plays with intensity and great range. He’ll go sideline-to-sideline effortlessly. He isn’t asked to do much pass rushing which is a slight knock, and his decision to quit Miami and return home makes you wonder if he’s adaptable.
28 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
I’ve only seen one game, but he’s an intriguing guy. Hasn’t played a lot of top-level opponents but ticks all the boxes as a potential blind side blocker. He could be a late first round pick, just like another former Central Michigan lineman – Joe Staley.
29 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Nobody can argue this guy is a consistent receiver who will make a lot of solid catches. He’s a pure home run hitter, who will frustrate as much as he excites. Patterson is explosive though and will put cheap points on the board as a runner, receiver and kick returner.
30 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
Nose tackle prospect with massive size (340lbs+) and great mobility. If you’re a 3-4 team looking for a cornerstone, this is your guy. He’s a better overall prospect than Dontari Poe who went #11 overall last April.
31 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
He has a lot of the characteristics you look for in a franchise quarterback – decent technique, leader, arm strength. Unfortunately he also struggles to go through his progressions, forces passes and can be streaky.
32 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Just a solid, no-nonsense lineman in the mould of another former Wolverine Jake Long. He’s not close to the stature of Long, but teams needing a left or right tackle will look at Lewan in the first or second round.
33 Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
I like everything about this player. Wheaton isn’t the biggest receiver at 6-1, but he is tough to stop and is making a lot of plays for Oregon State this year. Off the field he’s a modest individual and that will appeal to teams trying to avoid the latest diva prospect at receiver.
34 Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
Started the season on fire but has regressed a little. He’s still a big, physical corner and that’s what the league is looking for right now.
35 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Roby’s having a good year and he’s made some big plays. Teams have started to avoid him. He had a tremendous day against Nebraska with two big interceptions including a pick-six.
36 Shawn Williams (S, Georgia)
Williams could easily end up in round one. He called out the Georgia defense during a slump and it seems to have done the trick. Another good player on a talented Georgia team that could make the BCS Championship game.
37 Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford)
He’s had some sloppy drops recently and he needs to be more consistent. At 6-8 you expect Toilolo to be dominant in the red zone, but Stanford are looking for Zach Ertz more than Toilolo.
38 Brennan Williams (T, North Carolina)
He’s still a bit raw and learning – Jonathan Cooper is constantly instructing him what to do pre-snap. But it’s hard to ignore his athletic skill-set and potential to protect the blind side.
39 Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
He’s not quite as impressive as Barkevious Mingo off the edge and I’m not convinced he can switch to linebacker.
40 Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
He could be a top-15 pick if he wants to be. It’s that flash of brilliance you see every now and again which makes you wonder why he’s so underwhelming the rest of the time.
41 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
This has been a chaotic year for the Razorbacks and Wilson has suffered as a consequence. He doesn’t have an ideal throwing motion and he’s made a lot of basic errors this year – but he’s a gun slinger with surprising athleticism.
42 Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
Everyone’s looking for the next Jimmy Graham and it could be this guy. He’s 6-6 and a pure pass-catcher who will create problems for linebackers in coverage. Don’t expect him to do much run blocking.
43 Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
Another player who has flattered to deceive at times this year. Like Hankins, he has the potential to be so much more. He can be brilliant. So why is there so much mediocre tape?
44 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
I’ve never once watched Allen and thought, “Wow… this guy is going to be great in the NFL.” It’s OK having the size and the pedigree (he was a top recruit and almost went to Alabama). I get that his quarterback situation isn’t ideal (although he chose Cal to play with that QB – his brother). The combine will be huge for Allen and he has to prove he has the upside a lot of people claim he possesses.
45 Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin)
Without Russell Wilson keeping the offense honest, he’s had some tough games. Even so, a smart team will draft Montee Ball and get a few years of hard running and production.
46 Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
His effort at the second level could be better, but that’s a trait we’ve seen a lot with Virginia lineman over the years. In a man-blocking scheme he could be a useful tackle.
47 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
He’s not looked completely comfortable this year. Whether he’ll ever be 100% again after a serious knee injury remains to be seen. I wouldn’t hang my hat on this guy as a #1 at the next level.
48 Giovani Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
For the first time at the weekend I appreciated the size concerns some people have with Bernard. He’s a good running back, but is he going to carry a heavy work load? I’m not convinced.
49 Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
Solid inside linebacker prospect. Hits hard and gets around the field. Doesn’t have great size but he’s sturdy enough to stay in the middle.
50 Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
I just don’t see a great deal of difference between Eifert and the last two big-name Notre Dame tight ends – Carlson and Rudolph. Which is why I have him in the same range as they were drafted. He’ll likely be a solid player at the next level.
Just missed out: Cornellius Carradine (DE, Florida State), Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn), Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas), Bennie Logan (DT, LSU), Shariff Floyd (DT, Florida), Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia), Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse), Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor), Alex Okafor (DE, Texas), Chase Thomas (LB, Stanford), Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State), DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson), Ed Lacy (RB, Alabama), Bacarri Rambo (S, Georgia), Chris Whaley (DT, Texas)