The best players in college football get all the publicity. From their skills to their innate ability to wow crowds on the football field, they give fans a million things to talk about during the entire year.
Football may have an offseason, but football discussions and debates do not. While some players on this list are heading into just their sophomore season, they all deserve to be here.
Johnny Manziel made his mark as a redshirt freshman, while others were late bloomers compared with the youthful Texas A&M quarterback.
Here are the top 25 college players and their pro counterparts, delivered in alphabetical order by the college players' last names.
*All college national rankings not individually linked are from ESPN.com.
Pro Player Comparison: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Tajh Boyd is a bit inconsistent, but he's excellent when he's on his game. It may seem insulting to compare him to the maddeningly inconsistent Michael Vick, but Vick will now be playing for Chip Kelly in an offensive system that plays to his strengths.
Looking at what Kelly did at Oregon with Marcus Mariota under center should give Philly fans hope that Vick can experience similar success this coming season.
Unlike Vick, Boyd is not a run-first quarterback, and he's a great passer. However, his passing stats took a major hit when he faced good defenses. On the season, he completed 67.2 percent of his passes. But against Florida State and South Carolina, he completed 55.6 and 45.8 percent, respectively.
Boyd struggles with inconsistency at times. When he moves to the NFL, he will have growing pains. If he rises to the occasion, he will leave Vick in his rear-view mirror. If not, he'll be compared to Vick for a long time to come.
Pro Player Comparison: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Teddy Bridgewater took Louisville to the Sugar Bowl against the No. 3 Florida Gators, and many didn't expect the Cardinals to compete.
Those prognosticators were right on one point: Louisville didn't compete. The Cardinals' offense dominated Florida, and the would-be Gators' comeback was stifled by the Louisville defense.
Bridgewater had a stellar season, completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Andy Dalton had similar stats in 2012, completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 3,669 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Dalton and Bridgewater performed admirably for each of their teams. Dalton took Cincinnati to the playoffs. Bridgewater took Louisville to a Sugar Bowl win over a powerful SEC defense.
It's not like either of them are surrounded by elite playmakers (though Dalton does have a few around him). Both these quarterbacks are responsible for a lot of their teams' success.
Pro Player Comparison: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Ka'Deem Carey finished the 2012 season as the nation's top college rusher, amassing 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns on 303 carries.
He proved that he could be a go-to tailback. Of course, his natural talent will carry him far in the Pac-12, which had only one team in the top 20 against the run in 2012, and that was Stanford at No. 5.
Though Rice is a little shorter than Carey, he is about 10 pounds heavier. That gives him a comparable center of gravity. By the time Carey makes it to the NFL, he may be able to outperform Rice.
Right now, he looks like an excellent eventual replacement for Rice if the Ravens can get him when he leaves college.
Pro Player Comparison: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
Comparing Jadeveon Clowney to himself would have been a cop-out, but it should be known that was heavily considered. Barring injury, he's a major candidate for the No. 1 overall draft slot in his class, and he is likely to start the 2013 season as the defensive player highest on Heisman watch lists all over the country.
Clowney is easier to compare to NFL-level players because he is NFL-caliber right now. Clowney, with work and coaching, of course, could be the best NFL defensive end in recent memory.
South Carolina would likely have lost the Outback Bowl to Michigan if not for Clowney's game-changing shift off the line that sent him into the backfield untouched where he caused a fumble and recovered the ensuing fumble. That play took the wind out of Michigan's sails immediately after the Wolverines had caught a break on a bad first-down call (also in the linked video).
Clowney will be an effective pass-rusher in his rookie season in the NFL, especially if he's drafted by a team that has a need in that department. Wake is nothing if not an effective pass-rusher.
Pro Player Comparison: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Amari Cooper is entering only his second season of college football. This comparison assumes that he will steadily improve each season before declaring for the 2015 NFL draft.
If that happens, he will be the next A.J. Green. (If he improves even more, he could be the next Julio Jones, but that's way too early to call yet.)
Green finished 10th in the NFL in receiving yards in 2012 and he caught less than 60 percent of the passes thrown his way (97-of-164.)
But Green is a great receiver who racked up 1,350 yards (13.9 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns last season.
Cooper, as a true freshman, caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards (16.9 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns last season.
Both receivers are integral to their teams' schemes, and both definitely earn their teams' trust and respect. Cooper is destined for a great NFL career if he simply pays attention to his coaches. Green's is already underway.
Pro Player Comparison: Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Chris Coyle should be on many of the watch lists for tight-end awards at the beginning of 2013. Not at the top, mind you, but he should be on them.
In 2012, Coyle caught 57 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per catch. He was a valuable and reliable part of Arizona State's offense last season.
He's not going to step into the NFL and replace Rob Gronkowski, but he can certainly have a career similar to the Carolina Panthers' Greg Olsen.
Olsen was fourth among tight ends in receiving yards last season with 843 on 69 receptions (also a 12.2 yards-per-catch average).
Olsen isn't exactly a game-changer at this point, but as quarterback Cam Newton) finds his rhythm in the NFL, Olsen's stats will climb.
Coyle is in the same boat. He's not going to make a bad quarterback look good, but he won't make a good quarterback look bad.
Pro Player Comparison: Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Stefon Diggs is the go-to receiver for the Terrapins, and he had more than double the catches of the team's No. 2 receiver.
Roddy White wasn't that much better than his No. 2, but his No. 2 was Julio Jones. There isn't a receiver in the NFL who is twice as good as Jones.
White was the Atlanta Falcons' top receiver, catching 92 of 143 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns.
It helped that he had Matt Ryan throwing to him, but he still did more than his share of work for Atlanta. Diggs will have the same type of career.
Diggs has work to do before he's a consistent starter in the NFL, and he isn't likely to go high in the first round. However, he's been making headlines as a receiver for Maryland. If you can do that, you can make headlines anywhere, as long as you have a decent quarterback throwing you the ball.
Pro Player Comparison: Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Mike Evans is yet another sophomore on this list. He's the player who beat out Ryan Swope for the top receiver position at Texas A&M last season.
Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. As much hype as Johnny Manziel received, Evans was responsible for almost 33 percent of Manziel's passing yardage.
Victor Cruz was the Giants' leading receiver with exactly 400 more yards than the team's next-most productive receiver. Cruz played his college ball at Massachusetts, and he has gone on to play for a true team.
The Giants don't have a ton of stars, but they do have players who know how to play together.
Evans will have the same style NFL career. He won't necessarily be a star, but he will get his share of Pro Bowl invitations.
Pro Player Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
Devonte Fields is one of the best defenders in the nation. In 2012, he racked up 53 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
He's a brick wall for TCU Horned Frogs and was an integral part of the nation's 30th-ranked scoring defense. That may not seem all that great, but the Horned Frogs were in their first Big 12 season and faced quarterbacks like Landry Jones, Collin Klein and Geno Smith.
Jason Pierre-Paul tore up opposing offenses for 66 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one interception and 6.5 sacks. The Giants went 5-1 in games in which Pierre-Paul had a sack.
Fields has every bit of raw talent that Pierre-Paul did when he was at South Florida. After two more years in college, he'll be ready to prove himself in the NFL.
Pro Player Comparison: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Todd Gurley was a freshman in 2012 and wasted no time getting onto the field for the Georgia Bulldogs. Gurley was the headliner for the rushing attack, finishing with 222 carries for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Gurley was a beast as a freshman, and he's one of two players on this list who are compared to Trent Richardson.
Richardson was the go-to tailback for the Cleveland Browns, He rushed for 950 yards and a touchdown on 267 carries. He wasn't a star in the NFL as a rookie, but he certainly worked hard for his money.
Gurley is on a similar path. He has the ability to sense an open running lane and head for it long before it's actually open. Richardson has the same ability, but he's still getting used to the Cleveland offensive line and the speed of the NFL.
Pro Player Comparison: Bruce Irvin, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Jackson Jeffcoat will be the leader of the Texas defense in 2013 and has a bright future in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, he's going to shatter his 2012 stat line.
During his injury-shortened 2012 season (six games), Jeffcoat had 24 tackles, four sacks and a monstrous 9.5 tackles for loss. That extrapolates to 48 tackles, eight sacks and 19 tackles for loss if he'd maintained that pace and been healthy for 12 games.
Jeffcoat can have an NFL career as good as or better than Bruce Irvin if he rebounds from the injury well. Irvin may even fall behind Jeffcoat in number of tackles.
Irvin had 17 tackles, eight sacks and a forced fumble during the 2012 regular season, but he tacked on just two tackles and a sack in his two postseason games against Washington and Atlanta.
Irvin is a good defensive lineman for the consistently playoff-bound Seahawks, and Jeffcoat can be a solid contributor at the pro level just like him.
If he follows instructions from his coaches well, Jeffcoat could be even better. It all depends on how complete his recovery is from a ruptured pectoral muscle.
Pro Player Comparison: Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Now that North Carolina's Giovani Bernard is gone, Duke Johnson is the best running back in the ACC. He's definitely a top-10 running back nationally.
Johnson rushed for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns on 139 carries as a freshman in 2012, and Miami self-imposed a postseason ban which cost him an appearance in the ACC title game and a bowl game.
Johnson isn't even close to being finished with college football, and he's already worthy of comparison to some of the better tailbacks in the NFL.
Alfred Morris is a prime example. Johnson and Morris were both on teams with great quarterbacks, which made their jobs a bit less difficult.
Morris ran for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 carries in 2012. He's a workhorse running back for the Washington Redskins, and that's exactly what Johnson is for the Miami Hurricanes.
Give Johnson a couple of years in college to hone his skills, and Morris will have a peer in the pros.
Pro Player Comparison: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Marqise Lee is one of the best wide receivers in college football. He caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012 alone.
He figures to struggle some in 2013, however, as USC breaks in a new quarterback, whether it's Max Wittek from last year or someone else. But that will only affect his stat line, not his reputation.
Demaryius Thomas hauled in 94 passes from Peyton Manning in 2012 for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. The biggest similarity between the two receivers is their yards after the catch.
While the stats aren't kept in college like they are in the NFL, anyone who has seen Lee knows that he isn't done when he catches the ball. He's just getting started.
Thomas gained 512 of his 1,434 yards after the catch in 2012. Both of these players are incredibly athletic. The only thing left for the other NFL teams to do is pray that Lee doesn't somehow land on the Broncos when he comes out in the draft.
Pro Player Comparison: Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
Colt Lyerla is one of the best tight ends in the nation, and he benefited greatly from the mass exodus of tight ends in the 2013 draft class. Lyerla's stats weren't mind-blowing last season, but he's invaluable to the Oregon Ducks.
Lyerla caught just 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns. That means he scored a touchdown 24 percent of the time he touched the ball. That is mind-blowing.
Graham consistently produced yardage, which is an option Lyerla didn't have. With Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota, the Ducks were far too busy gouging their opponents on the ground and with deeper passes to hit Lyerla for many more yards.
With Barner gone, Lyerla will have the opportunity to play a bigger role for a year or two before jumping to the NFL.
Pro Player Comparison: Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets
Jordan Lynch is the quarterback for the Northern Illinois Huskies, and he's gaining priceless experience learning to read defenses in college.
He won't translate well to the NFL at the quarterback position, but his ability to break down defenses will translate well to either fullback, halfback or tight end.
Another player who is in a similar circumstance is Tim Tebow. With a long delivery, Tebow was not well-suited for NFL quarterbacking. He figures to eventually be used as a fullback, halfback or tight end as well. (Unless he fixes his mechanics, of course.)
Tebow and Lynch have a lot in common, but if Lynch can improve his completion percentage in his final college season, he may just break into the NFL as a quarterback.
Pro Player Comparison: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Johnny Manziel can throw the ball accurately, and he is a first-down rushing threat every time he takes a snap. He's lethal with the football, and he's turned the Texas A&M into a national championship threat by turning the college football field into his backyard.
He can extend plays far beyond the normal timing, and he finds opportunities long after other quarterbacks would have thrown the ball away.
Manziel completed 68 percent of his passes in 2012 and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He's had one incredible season in college football, and he has a couple of years left before entering the NFL.
Cam Newton had a similar stint in college football, and he still has the talent to be one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks in history. Newton set rookie records when he came to the NFL, and there's plenty of success in his future.
The only real downside to Newton's game in 2012 was his touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has to to get better at reading defenses that are operating at pro-level speeds. As soon as he learns to recognize what defenders are in range of his receivers, Newton will put the Panthers on the map.
Pro Player Comparison: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel have a lot of similarities, and they both looked insanely alike during the postseason showdowns against Big 12 powerhouses Kansas State and Oklahoma.
Mariota and Manziel can both throw and run, and they both do it quite successfully. In fact, Oregon finished the 2012 season one game short of a national championship.
The Cam Newton comparison is just as valid here as it was in the previous slide, as the two college quarterbacks are almost identical.
Both need to put on weight to make the comparison complete. Mariota is listed at 196 pounds, Manziel at 200 and Newton at 245.
Newton is much more durable than the other two, but how many quarterbacks come out of high school weighing a muscular 250?
Pro Player Comparison: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
AJ McCarron has started two seasons for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and he's won two national championships.
McCarron is surrounded by great offensive linemen, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. His defense is completely capable of controlling a game with rare exception.
While his stats aren't Big 12- or Pac 12-worthy, he has the hardware to prove that he's doing all he needs to do. He was in control of the nation's 12th-ranked scoring offense in 2012, and he went 211-of-314 for 2,933 yards, 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Eli Manning is an NFL quarterback who is surrounded by talent as well. Manning completed 321 of 536 passes for 3,948 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season.
Those stats are normal for Manning, who has won two Super Bowls. How did he do it? Well, he played a role as part of a team that could accomplish more together than they could apart.
Sound familiar? It should. It sounds exactly like Alabama's run of three national championships in four seasons.
Pro Player Comparison: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Aaron Murray has led the Georgia Bulldogs to two SEC Championship Games in a row. LSU and Alabama won both of those games, but the Bulldogs have been getting closer to victory each season.
Murray has a strong arm, good pocket presence and the ability to pick defenses apart with ease...most of the time. Every now and again, he'll lay an egg like he did against South Carolina in 2012, but those issues are rare.
Murray completed 249-of-386 passes last season for 3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints went 422-of-670 for 5,177 yards, 43 touchdowns and 19 interceptions last season. He's the quarterback who led the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in 2009.
Like Murray, Brees is calm and collected in the pocket, but he does drop a game or two on occasion.
Pro Player Comparison: Blair Walsh, PK, Minnesota Vikings
Cairo Santos had a stellar season in 2012, connecting on all 21 of his field-goal attempts. Santos hit more than half of those field goals from more than 40 yards out. Two were farther than 50.
Santos was automatic for the Tulane Green Wave in 2012. If his 2013 season is even close to that good, he's on his way to the NFL through the draft.
The Minnesota Vikings' Blair Walsh made 35-of-38 field goals in 2012, and that translates to a 92.1-percent success rate. Walsh hit 10 from 50 or farther.
Walsh does have a good 30 pounds on Santos, though, so Santos will have to bulk up as soon as he gets to the pros.
Pro Player Comparison: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Lache Seastrunk has already set his sights on the 2013 Heisman, and Baylor has waited a long time to see him shine. He had a breakout half-season at the end of 2012, and he looked good enough to appear on at least the preseason Heisman watch list.
The 205-pound Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns on 131 carries last season. That may not seem too impressive, but he rushed for 831 of those yards in the final six games. If he maintains that pace all through 2013, he'll top the 1,500-yard mark before bowl season.
Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller rushed for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns on 207 carries. Spiller is listed at 200 pounds, or basically the same size as Seastrunk. Seastrunk and Spiller are similar in style, size and in contribution to their teams.
If Seastrunk can continue his improvement through 2013, Spiller may not be his role model for long.
Pro Player Comparison: Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Will Sutton is one of the best defensive tackles in the country. He finished third nationally in sacks in 2012 and had 63 tackles, 23.5 for loss, 13 sacks and three forced fumbles. He still has his senior season to go.
Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He had 53 tackles, 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012.
These guys would be a lethal combo in the NFL. Other teams had better hope the Bengals aren't in a position to draft Sutton in 2014.
Pro Player Comparison: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Against Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, De'Anthony Thomas proved that he is a scoring threat any time he touches the ball. He took only 12 seconds to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown to put Oregon up 6-0.
Thomas is a speedy tailback with great hands and a desperate need to bulk up before he hits the NFL. He lists at 173 pounds, which makes him a solid situational back.
Thomas ran for 701 yards on just 92 carries and scored 11 touchdowns for the Ducks in 2012. He also made 45 receptions for 445 yards and another five touchdowns, and he returned 13 punts for 22 yards and three kickoffs for 52 yards.
Rodgers and Thomas are both offensive wild cards who have the ability to fit into any aspect of their respective offenses, including the return game. While that may not get Thomas drafted in the top 10, that versatility will certainly extend what figures to be a great NFL career.
Pro Player Comparison: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Kyle Van Noy is a ruthless beast of a linebacker who should strike fear into anyone that lines up against him. Van Noy 52 tackles, 22 for loss, 13 sacks, two interceptions, six forced fumbles and two blocked kicks in 2012.
Some of those stats would be good for a college career, but Van Noy posted them all in one season. He even scored two touchdowns off a fumble and an interception against San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
If an offense doesn't know where Van Noy is at all times, they might as well hand him the ball as soon as they see him. It would be far less painful.
Clay Matthews fits the same description in the NFL. Of course, the flowing hair out the back of his helmet identifies Matthews wherever he lines up, so he's a little easier to see than Van Noy. However, that doesn't make Matthews any easier to stop.
Matthews had 43 tackles, 13 sacks and one forced fumble for the Green Bay Packers in 2012. He is the one defender who you have to prepare for if you want to beat the the Packers.
The same is true of Van Noy at BYU, and it will also be true of him in the NFL after the 2013 season.
Pro Player Comparison: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
T.J. Yeldon came out of high school with no intention of waiting to play for Alabama. The Crimson Tide watched as he enrolled early and earned player of the game honors for the 2012 spring game.
Yeldon wasted no time in 2012 proving that Nick Saban made the right decision putting him on the field, either. Yeldon tore through defenses for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 175 carries. He finished No. 2 in all those statistical categories for the Crimson Tide.
Much like Trent Richardson looked better than Mark Ingram at times, Yeldon looked better than Eddie Lacy during his time in the backup slot at Alabama.
Richardson went on to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns, and he earned the starting slot at tailback in his rookie year. He rushed for 950 yards on 267 carries in his first season, and he proved that he is more than capable of carrying the NFL workload.
Yeldon and Richardson are both shifty and difficult to bring down with first contact. Richardson will improve each season he's in the NFL, and Yeldon will follow just a few years behind him.
If things work out for the Browns, they may just get to draft either Yeldon or Todd Gurley to join Richardson for the 2015 season.