The draft was full of underclassmen this past cycle, and nothing is changing in 2014.
The college football landscape is full of talented underclassmen who have already proven their worth at this level. One more season of domination will launch them into early declarations for the draft.
There are players from every conference who will make the leap, but these 10 are nearly guaranteed to take the next step in their football careers after this season concludes.
Arizona State lost a major playmaker at linebacker when Vontaze Burfict departed for the pros in 2012, but Carl Bradford made up the gap.
This fall, he will expand on his stellar sophomore campaign that saw him finish No. 5 in tackles for loss. He is a talented defender who plays with passion but carries a more level head that Burfict.
Bradford is a solid coverage defender, but his true impact is felt in pass rush and against the run. If he proves he can play consistently against the pass this fall, he will likely depart for the draft.
San Diego State has become a consistent performer on the West coast the past few seasons. Adam Muema has ushered along that success with a solid sophomore campaign that produced 1,458 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
He also added nine receptions and 147 receiving yards to his stat line.
The Aztecs are poised to have a strong season and could become this year’s hot pick for the BCS. Muema will become a draft selection in the process.
A lot of people will argue that this would be a bad move for Manziel, but after a Heisman winning freshman season and a sophomore effort that may bring similar results, what else would he have to prove?
He had a huge spring game that showed off his accuracy and the ability to stick in the pocket and rely on solid quarterback decisions to make plays.
Manziel is a proven commodity, and looking at the way that Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III have changed the league, he could make an immediate impact.
Watch for Manziel to increase his stock again in 2013, launching himself into the draft discussion by mid-November.
Since Robert Woods took off to the NFL after a mediocre junior campaign in Los Angeles, Marqise Lee has become the stud of the team and will take one more year to sharpen his skills before he follows in Woods’ footsteps.
Lee will be playing with an inexperienced quarterback this fall, but he will make plays once he gets the ball.
He is dangerous on a fly route, but his biggest impact comes in screens and mid-range throws. Once in space, Lee makes everyone miss. NFL teams are taking notice, and the allure of the league will pull him out of L.A. after 2013.
The NFL has adapted over the years to become an offense-driven league. Players with the skills of De’Anthony Thomas have changed the game with speed.
Next season, Thomas will be the driver for the Oregon offense, and in the process, will steal the spotlight heading into the draft.
Expect Thomas to be a first-round selection next year after a stellar junior campaign. Thomas is easily a Heisman candidate and will be the best athlete out of the Pac-12 in 2013.
Austin Franklin is on a terrible team, but his skills are undeniable.
He caught 74 passes for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns last fall for one of the worst programs in football.
At 6’2”, 180 pounds he has the size to attack any defender in the pros. Franklin may not be well-known now, but when he declares early after another solid season, he will become a proven commodity.
Jonathan Dowling finished last season No. 5 in interceptions with six picks on the year. He returned one for a touchdown and added 68 tackles to the stat line.
Western Kentucky took off last year, and under Bobby Petrino this season the Hilltoppers are expecting to become a BCS buster.
The Hilltoppers have built their success on defense, but with Petrino, the offense will become very potent. That will free up playmakers like Dowling to take more risks, but the reward will ultimately be chatter surrounding his early departure for the pros.
Teddy Bridgewater was a hot prospect a year ago as a winner for Louisville, but when he beat Florida like a drum in the Sugar Bowl, he hit elite status.
Bridgewater shredded a talented secondary and moved up the draft boards for a number of teams heading into the 2014 draft.
One more season and a BCS showing will make Bridgewater the No. 1 quarterback off the board next April.
Improve your accuracy, get drafted.
That should be written on Miller’s mirror. Every morning he should work to improve his accuracy.
Miller is one of the most athletic players who will take on the draft next season, and another strong season will make him indispensable in the draft.
The Buckeyes will be a premier program under Miller’s guidance, making him a commodity heading into next year’s draft cycle.
Jadeveon Clowney will be with the Gamecocks for one more season, entering the year as the most high-profile junior in the game.
He is gaining Heisman whispers and has earned the chatter with his play. His devastating blow to Vincent Smith last year in the Outback Bowl put the country on notice that Clowney was on a mission to destroy opposing offenses.
Another solid year with the Gamecocks will put Clowney in the driver’s seat to become the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft.