This is my first list of college football players who are draft eligible this season. I will come out with a new list every month leading up to next April's draft.
Remember, this has nothing to do with where these players may get taken in the draft; it is just ranking the 40 best draft-eligible college players.
1. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
Barkley decided to stay in college to try to make it to the national championship, and his efforts will be closely followed by fans and scouts alike.
Listed at either 6'1" or 6'2", Barkley isn't that tall, but he has the arm, poise and experience to make him the early front-runner to be taken first overall.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
At 6'4" and 325 pounds, Lotulelei is an absolute beast. He has a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism that is reminiscent of Ndamukong Suh.
3. *David Amerson, CB, NC State
Last year, Amerson burst onto the national scene, as he picked off an incredible 13 passes. He has great size at 6'3" and 189 pounds, and his ceiling is sky high. If he has another outstanding season, he could be a top-five pick.
4. *Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
He's a promising talent who is athletic, has a great arm, and checks in at 6'6" and 262 pounds. The comparisons to Cam Newton can't be avoided, which isn't exactly a bad thing.
5. *Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Mingo fits the bill for today's NFL pass-rushers: He's big and explosive and has long arms and the athleticism to be a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is still a bit raw and needs to improve strength and awareness, but the potential is there.
6. *Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The most polished of all the tackles in the class, Joeckel is a clear step ahead the rest of the pack. He has the ideal frame for a left tackle, at 6'6" and 310 pounds. If he holds up against the great pass-rushers of the SEC, Joeckel should be a top-five pick.
7. *Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The most complete linebacker in the class, Jones can rush the passer and stop the rush and has impressive pass-coverage ability. He also led the SEC in tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5) last season.
8. *Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
He has drawn comparisons to Dontari Poe, and the resemblance is there. Hankins moves well with his 6'3", 335-pound frame, and his ranking right now is based more on potential than anything else.
9. *Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
As his stock increases, this kid will be loved by the media as much for his personality off the field as for his play on the field. But you can't joke about his talent or his 6'8", 302-pound frame, which needs bulking but makes for a tantalizing left-tackle prospect.
10. *Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen has a deadly combination of size (6'3", 206 pounds), strong hands and run-after-catch ability. He isn't a burner but still has good speed. He plays more like Michael Floyd than Stephen Hill, but his talent is right there.
11. *Eric Reid, S, LSU
Reid is an elite athlete who can deliver big plays anywhere on the field. He's an extremely big hitter who also has the athletic ability to cover and take picks back for touchdowns.
12. *Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas
Jeffcoat was Rivals' No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the country in 2010, and he has proven his worth thus far. He has great size, at 6'5" and 245 pounds, and the versatility to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.
13. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Te'o is a prototypical inside linebacker. He's about 6'2" and 255 pounds and has great ball instincts and a motor that never stops.
14. *Robert Woods, WR, Southern California
The 2011 consensus All-America wideout is as skilled as they come. Decently sized, at 6'1" and 185 pounds, Woods is smart and quick and has breakaway speed in the open field. Super productive in his first two seasons at USC, Woods could easily eclipse Keenan Allen as the top receiver.
15. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Wilson has the physical tools: He's tall and tough, has a cannon arm, and is strong in the pocket. But last season, his first as a starter, he had three wide receivers to throw to that were all drafted into the NFL, and some wonder how much he benefited from the offensive system of former coach Bobby Petrino. However, Wilson has the potential to be right there with Barkley and Thomas if he puts up big numbers again this season.
16. *Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
A little stronger than teammate Mingo, Montgomery is also a little better against the run but is a step behind when it comes to explosiveness. These two should be dominating this season.
17. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Surprisingly, the first Alabama player on the list comes in at No. 17. Jones isn't super big or athletic, but he has played both guard and tackle and is actually starting this season at center. His versatility, experience and leadership make him a great prospect.
18. *Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
If he hadn't torn his ACL last season, Hunter would probably be in the top 10 on this list. At 6'4" and 205 pounds, Hunter has an ideal frame and skill set for the NFL, but his future ranking will depend on whether or not his knee holds up throughout the season.
19. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Jenkins is a monster at 6'3" and 358 pounds. He has underrated body control and quickness, and if he continues to develop, NFL teams that play 3-4 schemes will want him.
20. *Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Like Hunter, if Lattimore hadn't torn his ACL last year, then he'd be much higher on the list. With durability becoming the biggest issue for NFL running backs, a major knee injury isn't a good sign.
21. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
I was a bit surprised when Scouts Inc. rated him as its second-best prospect, but there is no denying Warmack's talent. He started every game for 'Bama as a true sophomore in 2010 and has been one of the nation's best offensive linemen since.
22. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Like Amerson, Rhodes, 6'2", is big for a traditional cornerback, but with receivers getting taller and passing attacks becoming more dominant, NFL scouts will look for big, athletic playmakers like Rhodes.
23. Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist
Hunt is a bit of an unknown. He was born in Estonia and is a former world junior champion in discus and shot put. Take a look at his 6'8", 280-pound frame and watch his outstanding athleticism, and you can see why many think Hunt will be a breakout star this year. The picture of him was taken six years ago, when Hunt was only 19.
24. *Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Unlike Hunt, Lemonier is no physical freak, but he is a natural pass-rusher who has a lot of big-game experience. He needs to put on some weight but compensates with his motor and aggressive style.
25. Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
Son of former NFL player Brent Williams, Brennan is perfectly sized, at 6'7" and 315 pounds. He had a stellar first season in 2011, starting every game at right tackle for the Tar Heels.
26. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
People forgot about Jones last year amidst the 2012 NFL draft hype, but the senior is plenty talented and should be a high pick in 2013.
27. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
Porter is a solid linebacker with great instincts and toughness. He has appeared in every game since he arrived at A&M in 2009.
28. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
An exceptional player in coverage, Vaccaro has elite quickness and balance. He could rise quickly up the board with a productive 2012 season.
29. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker is more run-blocker than pass-protector, but he has the natural talent that linemate Jones lacks.
30. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Another tall cornerback, at 6'2", Banks is extremely versatile, playing cornerback, safety and special teams for the Bulldogs.
31. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
32. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
33. *William Gholston, DE, MSU
34. *Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
35. Johnathan Cooper, OG, UNC
36. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
37. *Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
38. *Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
39. *Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
40. *Tharold Simon, CB, LSU
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