These are some of the best college football stars in the nation and will be the guys you won’t want to miss next season. They’ve all decided to play in college for at least one more season, and it seems like their stock keeps rising. Here, will predict what their future in football will look like. These guys didn’t want to be part of the 2017 draft class, but they will all likely see a spot in the 2018 draft and we are going to tell you what team is most likely to select the young star.
Some of these guys still have a lot to prove next season, while others just need to show up and stay healthy. Either way, these will be some of the biggest prospects heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Sure, a lot can happen before then, but we’re betting that anything these guys will do will enhance their future career prospects.
Unfortunately, some of these guys will cap off an amazing college career, get drafted high in the first round and then bottom out once they join the professionals in the NFL. We’ll let you know who those duds will be. There will also be a good chunk of players who will succeed for years to come in the NFL, and we’ll highlight where they’ll be able to do that.
So, those of you who are sick of reading about this year’s pool of talent ready to be drafted, this list is for you. This list takes a look at 15 NCAA superstars, and predicts what their future will look like in the NFL.
15 DERRIUS GUICE: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
LSU has a first-round prospect from the running back position in this year’s draft with Leonard Fournette. Derrius Guice may not be the same type of talent, but he’ll prove to be deserving of a first round pick when he does enter the NFL Draft. Though Guice has been a backup to this point, he would have been a starter on just about every other team in the country. As for his collegiate career, Guice has filled in for Fournette on occasion and recorded 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. That was with a stunning 7.6 yards per carry. Although he’ll likely fail to match that average as a starter, Guice will awe spectators as he takes over the starting role.
He’ll carry on that success in the NFL as he gets drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are working with Frank Gore, who will be on his way out as Guice enters the league. Plus, plugging a talent like Guice onto that type of team will make for a viable postseason threat and he could be seeing a ring within his first few seasons.
14 LAMAR JACKSON: DENVER BRONCOS
This dual-threat quarterback has a chance to see a top-15 draft pick in 2018 if he can build on the success seen last season. Lamar Jackson was so good last season that he was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Jackson tossed 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns. And he tossed only nine interceptions. What’s even better? He rushed for 1,571 yards and an additional 21 touchdowns.
There are questions about whether Jackson can successfully transition into the NFL as a quarterback. But the Broncos are used to taking chances like this in the first round (remember Tim Tebow). But unfortunately, the Broncos will soon realize they are being too risky for their first round picks. Sure, Jackson might win another Heisman next season, but he just doesn’t have the right frame or tools needed to be a NFL passer. Maybe that can change if he can improve his accuracy, but that doesn’t seem likely.
13 JOSH ALLEN: NEW YORK GIANTS
Josh Allen is big, athletic and scouts say that he has the tools to start as a quarterback on a NFL roster. Allen would have likely been a first round draft pick this year, but he decided to go back for another season in Wyoming. Good call. Allen would have sat on the bench or been tossed into the game far too early. Allen needs one more season to mature a bit before taking his talents to the NFL. When he does, a team like the New York Giants would be a perfect fit.
The Giants have a system that works and they have a quarterback who’s aging. Eli Manning has started every game since he’s joined the league, but he can’t possibly keep up that production much longer. Sure, Allen may still have to sit for a year or two before Manning hangs it up. But he’ll be growing behind one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
12 ARDEN KEY: NEW YORK JETS
There’s some questions surrounding Arden Key because he has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons. But he’s one of the most talented collegiate edge rushers and set the school’s single-season sack record, 12, as a sophomore in 2016. He seemed unstoppable last season, and a lot of NFL teams have a huge need for someone who can pressure the quarterback like Key is able to do. Although his leave is indefinite, he will return as one of the nation’s top pass rushers.
That type of talent will be welcome by just about any NFL team, but the New York Jets will be drooling from the mouth with the possibility of adding this type of talent to their defensive front. The Jets will likely fail again in 2017, leaving them in a prime position at the top of the 2018 draft. Unfortunately, the pressure in New York will be too much and Key will slowly fade out of the league.
11 DERWIN JAMES: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
This guy might be the most talented athlete heading into the 2018 draft. Derwin James went down in September last year with a season-ending injury. But the Seminoles aren’t going far without James, who tallied 91 tackles with 9.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2015. He proved to be great at stumping the run, while also proving to be scary good with the blitz, and that’s all nothing compared to his coverage downfield.
James earned redshirt sophomore status after suffering the Week 2 injury last season. So, this will be one star who will wait an extra year and won’t see the NFL Draft until 2019. But when he does, a team like New England will be looking for young talent that can take them deep into the postseason. The only thing is, James will need to stay healthy if he wants to prove any type of success in the NFL.
10 MINKAH FITZPATRICK: HOUSTON TEXANS
Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to be a shutdown corner once he gets to the NFL. The pressure of the pros won’t be an issue as he’ll have three seasons playing in one of the most followed college football programs in Alabama. As a sophomore, he led the SEC with six interceptions. It wouldn’t be surprising if he leads the entire NCAA in interceptions next season. He was a first team All-American selection last year and now holds the all-time mark for pick-sixes in Alabama with four.
The thing with Fitzpatrick is that he will be drafted very high up in the NFL Draft, so we’ve got to look at teams who will fail to succeed next season. Although there will be a group of below-average teams looking to snag Fitzpatrick at the top of the 2018 draft, he will spend his initial professional years with the Houston Texans, who will need a boost to their aging defensive attack.
9 HAROLD LANDRY: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Harold Landry would have been a high draft pick this year, but his stock will surely rise with another season like he posted last year. But after playing a full career at Boston College, Landry’s stock will only be able to go so far. He’s playing against some top-notch offenses, but his school’s schedule doesn’t permit the type of competition that the likes of many football powerhouses see each year. But you can’t deny his talent that led him to setting his college’s single-season record last year with 16.5 sacks.
The Saints won’t be able to fix all of their issues until they place a hard focus on the defensive attack for the next couple of seasons. Sure, they’re also going to need to look at replacing the aging Drew Brees, but that could be better suited by taking a quarterback in the second or third round then letting him spend some time on the bench behind their current star.
8 CHRISTIAN KIRK: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Christian Kirk has a lot riding on next season after collecting 1,418 all-purpose yards last season. If all goes well, which we expect from Kirk, he’ll be a top-five draft pick in 2018. Kirk, though, will need to prove he can lead an offense, and he’ll have ample opportunity on the Aggies offense that is severely depleted. Kirk is now the primary target with the team who lost Josh Reynolds to graduation, while Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil both declared for the NFL Draft. It is likely that Kirk will lead this offense as it looks to replace its quarterback, Trevor Knight, who graduated after last season. Kirk has also proved to be a major asset as a return man on special teams. There will be no better fit for Kirk than the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have struggled to find a star wide receiver, and Kirk will be their guy. Plus, the Philadelphia’s current return men won’t hold up to that constant beating as they continue to age.
7 JOSH ROSEN: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Josh Rosen becomes a questionable pick when you factor in injury history. A shoulder injury kept him from the field during his sophomore season. During that time UCLA went 1-5. Everyone knew Rosen was a star, the downside is that no one expected him to miss so much time. That hurt his chances to quickly shift into the NFL. He needs a season with no issues, which is likely to happen in the coming year.
After getting back on track next season, Rosen will be a lock for the first round. The Steelers will likely balance out their receiving corps this season, priming the team for a young quarterback like Rosen. He may have to spend a season behind Big Ben while he waits for Roethlisberger’s retirement. But it won’t be long till Rosen takes over and leads the Steelers to a championship or two.
6 MALIK JEFFERSON: BUFFALO BILLS
Malik Jefferson is going to have to be one of the team’s biggest leaders heading into next season, and he’s not going to shy away from the pressure. In fact, he’s going to build on that momentum and take it to a first round draft spot before starring in the NFL for years to come. One of his biggest strengths is coming off the edge, and there’s no doubt that will improve next season under Tom Herman and his staff.
Jefferson’s athleticism will get the NFL scouts attention, but his blitzing ability will make him a star in the NFL. Jefferson will see his first contract come in from the Buffalo Bills, who will be at the top of the draft board next year as the team will look to rebuild its defensive attack.
5 MIKE McGLINCHEY: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
There’s nothing that tends to bother fans than a team drafting an offensive tackle when seemingly bigger holes need to be filled. But generally a bad offensive attack is due to increased pressure from the defense. That increased pressure often stems from an offensive line that needs more help. Mike McGlinchey (#68) would have most likely been the best (or one of the best) offensive tackles in this year’s draft. But he decided to return to school.
That leaves him up for grabs in 2018, and there will be no shortage of suiters for this star O-lineman. The Jaguars have a good receiving unit and Blake Bortles has shown strength at times. But he’s getting pressured way too often. McGlinchey will be the leading force changing that trend and will help turn the Jaguars into a playoff-bound team.
4 CHRISTIAN WILKINS: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Christian Wilkins can play on the D-line wherever he is needed for the reigning National Champions. Wilkins versatility will allow him to leap into the NFL without missing a step. Wilkins shifted and started as a defensive end last season and recorded 48 tackles (13.5 for loss) with 20 quarterback hurries and 10 pass breakups. Not many players have been able to accomplish what Wilkins has through his first two collegiate seasons.
That’s why ESPN named Wilkins as one of the five defensive players who could win the Heisman Trophy in 2017. Although Wilkins won’t win the Heisman, he’ll see continued success as he gets drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s no doubt that Wilkins will continue his talented gameplay with the Chiefs.
3 SAQUON BARKLEY: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Saquon Barkley will be in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy by the end of next season. And as Penn State will move forward with a new quarterback, Barkley will lead the way to the top of the Big Ten for the Nittany Lions with his awesome combination of power and speed. As a sophomore, Barkley recorded almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage with 1,496 rushing yards and 402 receiving while scoring 22 touchdowns.
Barkley led Penn State to a Big Ten Championship last season and he will lead in the NFL similar to the way Adrian Peterson led the Vikings to the playoffs in his prime. And speaking of the Vikings, they’ll be in need of a running back to match up with Sam Bradford, who is turning into a solid NFL quarterback. The Vikings are going to need a star running back in 2018, and Barkley will be a crucial part for a Minnesota playoff run that year.
2 JAMES WASHINGTON: ATLANTA FALCONS
This young star wide receiver would have been a first-round draft pick this year. Barring any injuries, teams will be fighting for James Washington in the first round of the 2018 draft. Everything is lining up perfectly for Washington. He’s coming off a huge season. And his quarterback, Mason Rudolph (who only tossed four interceptions last season) will be an added benefit as the duos chemistry together will likely cause a lot of touchdowns and big plays.
There will be no better fit than the Atlanta Falcons. Washington will benefit from playing opposite of Julio Jones, who will create a lot of opportunities for the college star. Plus, Matt Ryan will be looking for a Super Bowl win before he hangs his jersey up for good, and Washington will prove to be the missing link for Atlanta’s offense.
1 SAM DARNOLD: CLEVELAND BROWNS
Sam Darnold is 9-1 as USC’s starter. The redshirt freshman led USC to its first Rose Bowl win since 2008. He recorded 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. In each of his nine wins, he tossed at least two touchdowns. Darnold is part of a quarterback class that is widely considered better than the quarterback class going into the 2017 draft. And he’s going to be at the top of that group after he continues on the success he from last season, which concluded with a comeback victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl as he tossed 453 yards and five touchdowns.
With all the team’s struggling to find a quarterback going into the 2017 season, we can expect not all will find good fortune at the league’s most important position. Without a doubt, one of the NFL teams at the top of the draft will fail in finding a signal caller and will be taking Darnold with the first overall pick in 2008. Welcome to the Cleveland Browns, Darnold. The Browns will again this year fail to find their quarterback and will be forced in selecting one with the first pick in 2018, but Cleveland will finally find its football savior with Darnold.
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