The Best 2015 NFL Draft Prospect for Every Major College Football Team
Going through draft withdrawal?
Or maybe it's draft apathy. After having endured months of hype and speculation leading up to last week's three-day extravaganza of professional football potential, the last thing you want to think about is who's on the "big board" for the 2015 NFL draft.
Like it or not, such projections are already out there. But while most of those try to predict who's going to go in next year's first round—without knowing who will draft when and what their needs will be—or just listing the 10 or 20 best overall draft-eligible prospects, we've taken this concept and widened it a bit more.
Not every team is going to have someone taken in the 2015 draft (cough, Texas, cough), but every program from a major college has at least one player on its roster that's considered a viable prospect for next year. It could be that senior who's toiled for many seasons and will peak at the right time, or the hot junior who's ready to leave early to get the clock started on a pro career.
It might even be a redshirt sophomore, someone who, for whatever reason, wasn't used in their first year of college but then exploded onto the scene once given a chance to perform. We can think of at least one of those games, someone who's become quite...famous because of it.
Enough with the buildup: here's our list of every major college team's best 2015 NFL draft prospect.
(NOTE: All draft rankings are courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com)
Alabama Crimson Tide
Amari Cooper, Jr., WR
While his numbers don't compare to some of the more prolific wide receivers in college football, the reason Amari Cooper is so regarded as a pro prospect is because of his intangibles. Namely, his hands and his route-running skills.
The 6'1", 205-pound Cooper had 45 catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns last season, all numbers that were down from a year ago. How he produces this year will be dependent on what direction Alabama goes with its passing game, but, whatever the numbers are, it's a certainty Cooper will make big plays and continue to wow scouts.
Austin Hill, Jr., WR
After missing all of last season with a torn knee ligament, Austin Hill is set to return for 2014 as part of a loaded group of receivers at Arizona. None have done anything close to what he's accomplished with the Wildcats, especially his big year in 2012.
Hill had 81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns that season, and his loss was felt in the passing game in 2013. With the Wildcats breaking in a new quarterback this fall, the 6'2", 210-pound Hill will be looked to as a consistent and reliable target that could cement himself as a top draft choice.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Jaelen Strong, Jr., WR
One season at the Division I level is all it's taken for Jaelen Strong to rise up the prospect rankings, as the 6'4", 205-pound wideout is considered the fourth-best receiver in his draft class, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
Strong instantly became Arizona State's top receiving target last year, finishing with 75 catches for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. He'll likely put up bigger numbers this season without a strong pass-catching option out of the backfield, as the Sun Devils had last year in Marion Grice.
Trey Flowers, Sr., DE
While nearly 100 underclassmen left college early last season in hopes of getting drafted, Trey Flowers decided to stay in school for one more season to beef up his draft stock. That means Arkansas gets one more season of his great pass-rushing skills, while opposing SEC quarterbacks have another year of dealing with him off the edge.
The 6'3", 262-pound Flowers had 13.5 tackles for loss last season and also forced three fumbles. Arkansas' defense struggled as a whole in 2013, but Flowers was consistently solid throughout the year.
Kris Frost, Jr., LB
While injuries early in his career slowed his development somewhat, since becoming healthy, Kris Frost has done nothing but get better with each defensive snap. This past season he rotated at middle linebacker with Jake Holland, but, by the end of the year, he was the one making the big plays.
Frost, considered the top inside linebacker of the 2016 draft class—though he's eligible to come out after the 2014 season—will be on his own this fall with Holland graduated. At 6'2" and 234 pounds, he's the star attraction in the middle of the Tigers defense, and the one that scouts are most interested in watching this season during Auburn games.
Bryce Petty, Sr., QB
Finally given a chance to start after waiting behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, Bryce Petty wasted little time showing everyone he was worth the wait. In 2013, the 6'2", 230-pound Petty had an astounding season, throwing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions.
Scouts are high on him as a pro prospect because of his accuracy—he completed 62 percent of his passes, despite throwing more than 400 times—as well as a sneaky amount of speed that enabled him to score 14 rushing TDs last year. Most of those were in the red zone, adding a hard-to-defend dimension to his game.
Boston College Eagles
Steven Daniels, Jr., LB
Boston College had a very senior-heavy team in 2013, with top talent graduating on both sides of the ball. This will lead to an inexperienced Eagles squad this season, but, of the veterans that remain, there's a very promising one in Steven Daniels.
The 6'0", 257-pound Daniels had 88 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season, playing alongside Seattle Seahawks fourth-round pick Kevin Pierre-Louis. The tandem was one of the best in the ACC last season, and, this fall, Daniels will look to assert himself as the main weapon on BC's defense.
Bronson Kaufusi, Jr., DE/LB
After two years of faring well on BYU's defensive line, as well as contributing to the school's basketball team, Bronson Kaufusi is ready for his next challenge: replacing the Cougars' top defender from last season.
Kaufusi is set to move to linebacker this fall to fill the spot left by Kyle Van Noy, a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions. At 6'7" and 282 pounds, Kaufusi will make for an imposing image as he patrols the middle of the field.
California Golden Bears
Kenny Lawler, So., WR
Because he redshirted in 2012, Kenny Lawler would be eligible for the 2015 draft if he were to depart California early. It's a stretch to think that would happen, but, if he's able to build off last year's solid opening season, it's not impossible.
The 6'3", 190-pound Lawler had 37 receptions for 347 yards and five touchdowns last year, and, though he never had more than six catches in a game, there were some big outings. His back-to-back performances against Arizona and USC in early November resulted in all five of his TD grabs.
Vic Beasley, Sr., DE/LB
One of the top pass-rushing defensive ends in college football last season, Vic Beasley is projected more as a linebacker in the pros, due to his 6'2", 235-pound frame. Despite his lack of size, though, he's managed to carve out a great career rushing the quarterback.
Beasley had 23 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season, pinning his ears back and going hell bent toward the pocket on obvious passing downs. He managed to force four fumbles as well, and got his hands on several passes, skills that will help him adjust to linebacker in the NFL.
Josh Tupou, Jr., DT
The majority of Colorado's defensive talent is from the freshman and sophomore class, but, among the veterans on the team, Josh Tupou has shown the most promise. Though his numbers weren't spectacular, his effort on the field the past two seasons has been noted by scouts.
At 6'2" and 320 pounds, Tupou clogs up the middle and makes it possible for Addison Gillam and other linebackers to make the tackle. With 19 starts already, he's an experienced piece of the Buffaloes' defensive line that will only continue to get better.
Duke Blue Devils
Laken Tomlinson, Jr., OG
Duke's renaissance in football began with bowl berths, then moved on to conference title games. Now, with Laken Tomlinson, it's moving toward producing top-tier NFL prospects.
Tomlinson, a 6'3", 320-pound right guard, has started all 38 games of his college career at that position. That stretch has coincided with the best three-year run in Duke history, and Tomlinson's skill blocking on the interior have been key to that success.
Dante Fowler, Jr., DE
While some top recruits step right in and dominate, Dante Fowler has gone through a more deliberate development during his college career. But after two seasons, he looks poised to make a big jump, both in terms of contributions to Florida and in draft stock.
The 6'3", 277-pound Fowler started all 12 games last season, teaming with 2014 first-round draft pick Dominique Easley to keep the Gators among the best in the nation in run defense. He'll have to pick up some of Easley's slack this season, which will mean working harder to get off the edge and disrupt outside runs.
Florida State Seminoles
Jameis Winston, So., QB
We could have picked any of a dozen different Florida State players for this selection, but it's hard to pass up the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Especially when Jameis Winston is not only draft-eligible (having redshirted in 2012) but also the most NFL-ready quarterback in the country, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
The 6'4", 235-pound Winston put together the best season in college football history for a first-year player, throwing for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while leading the Seminoles to the national title. Expectations will be high for him this season, but if he continues to perform like he did a year ago Winston could be locking up the No. 1 spot in the 2015 draft long before we know who will be picking there.
Todd Gurley, Jr., RB
While the 2014 draft wasn't a banner one for running backs, with none taken until late in the second round, that doesn't appear to be the case for the 2015 class. And assuming he comes out early, the leader of that charge will be Todd Gurley.
Though injuries cost him three games and limited his numbers last season, the 6'1", 232-pound Gurley still rushed for 989 yards while collecting 441 on receptions, scoring a combined 16 touchdowns. His six TD catches were most on the Bulldogs, and, with NFL rushers needing to be more diverse to hang around, Gurley's ability to catch out of the backfield will make him highly coveted next May.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Shaquille Mason, Sr., OG
With 26 starts over three seasons, Shaquille Mason has been an integral part of the blocking that's necessary for Georgia Tech's option run game to work. He'll continue to be a cog in that system in 2014, while also building toward a likely NFL career.
The 6'1", 311-pound Mason started every game for the Yellow Jackets last season, when they were No. 6 nationally in rushing, at more than 299 yards per game.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Wes Lunt, So., QB
Though he's yet to take a snap for his current team, Wes Lunt is still the most intriguing NFL prospect on Illinois' roster because of both his past work and expected potential. If he can improve on the former and live up to the latter, he may be tempted to head to the NFL after this season.
The 6'5", 215-pound Lunt started five games for Oklahoma State as a true freshman in 2012, and, while his overall numbers weren't spectacular, he had flashes of greatness, including 436 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Arizona.
Tevin Coleman, Jr., RB
Though probably still a year away from reaching his full potential, and thus maximizing his draft value, Tevin Coleman is the best draft-eligible prospect among several notable offensive players on Indiana's roster. His breakout sophomore season in 2013 was a great sign that he's got a chance to be a pro rusher.
The 6'1", 205-pound Coleman had 958 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, despite missing the Hoosiers' final three games with an ankle injury. Assuming he recovers fully from that ailment, and puts up another big year, Coleman could find himself wooed away from college a year early.
Brandon Scherff, Sr., OT
It takes an extraordinary effort for an offensive lineman to be his team's most valuable player, but Brandon Scherff earned that distinction last season after serving as a rock at left tackle for Iowa.
The 6'5", 315-pound Scherff was part of a unit that allowed only 15 sacks in 2013, part of the reason he's rated as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the 2015 draft class.
Iowa State Cyclones
E.J. Bibbs, Jr., TE
The 2014 draft saw 10 tight ends selected, including seven in the first three rounds. If the 2015 class is going to have that many players from the position taken, odds are it will include E.J. Bibbs.
The 6'3", 250-pound Bibbs had 39 catches for 462 yards last season, both numbers ranking second on the Cyclones. And though he only had two touchdowns, the junior college transfer was the only player on the team with multiple receptions in every game in 2013.
Isaiah Johnson, Jr., S
After spending a season at the FCS level (but never playing because of an injury) and one more in junior college, Isaiah Johnson finally got a chance to play under the spotlight in 2013. Given that opportunity, the 6'1", 210-pound defensive back shined.
Johnson was named the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year, starting all 12 games for the Jayhawks and recording five interceptions along with 73 tackles. He stepped in for 2012 standout safety Bradley McDougald and made Kansas hardly miss him.
Kansas State Wildcats
Tyler Lockett, Sr., WR
By the time the 2013 season was over, Tyler Lockett had become one of the most unguardable receivers in college football. Now, with a chance to become Kansas State's all-time leader in nearly every pass-catching category, he'll probably be that much harder to stop.
The 5'11", 175-pound Lockett had 81 catches for 1,262 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and enters the fall needing 75 receptions, 838 yards and nine TDs to top father Kevin's career marks in all three statistics. Lockett is also the school record holder in kickoff return yardage, and, with the ability to return kicks and catch passes, he's not going to last long in the 2015 draft.
Alvin Dupree, Sr., DE
Kentucky is in the midst of a talent surge under coach Mark Stoops, but one of the best players on the team is from the previous regime. Alvin Dupree has been starting on the Wildcats defensive line since late in his freshman season in 2011 and comes into this fall as one of the SEC's best ends.
The 6'3", 252-pound Dupree had 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles for Kentucky last season.
DeVante Parker, Sr., WR
One of the holdovers from Louisville's efficient 2013 offense, DeVante Parker figures to thrive in new coach Bobby Petrino's uptempo passing attack. That should help boost his draft stock, which was already high before he decided to stick around for one more year of college.
The 6'3", 209-pound Parker had 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and, for his career, has caught 28 TDs and averaged an impressive 17 yards per reception.
La'el Collins, Sr., OT
LSU sends so many players to the NFL on an annual basis—another nine were drafted this year—and loses not only seniors but juniors, you'd think every so often there'd be a dearth of draft-eligible professional talent.
The 2014 squad is once again stocked with pro prospects, and the most surefire bet for a high spot in the 2015 draft is La'El Collins. He could have been up there this year, but instead the 6'5", 315-pound Collins stuck around to once again protect the Tigers quarterbacks' blind side at left tackle.
Stefon Diggs, Jr., WR
A great freshman campaign in 2012 had scouts eager to see what Stefon Diggs could do for an encore last year. He was on his way to showing them, racking up 387 yards and three touchdowns in Maryland's first three games of 2013, before the team's injury bug caught up with him.
The Terrapins' offense struggled through the middle of the year, then Diggs broke his leg in a mid-October loss to Wake Forest, ending his season. The 6'0", 195-pound Diggs is expected back at full strength this fall, and he should be one of the best receivers in Maryland's new conference, the Big Ten.
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
Denzel Perryman, Sr., LB
Miami's five-year stretch without a first-round NFL draft pick could come to an end next year, and, if that's the case, it will be because of Denzel Perryman.
The 6'0", 240-pound middle linebacker is the Hurricanes' top pro prospect on the 2014 team. According to Bleacher Report's David Kenyon, he's getting listed on many people's early mock drafts as a first-round choice after tallying 108 tackles and five tackles for loss in 2013.
Devin Funchess, Jr., TE
Consistency was not a big part of Michigan's offense in 2013, with big points scored one game and negative rushing yards the following game. Yet Devin Funchess managed to go against the grain in that respect, serving as the Wolverines' most reliable option.
The 6'5", 230-pound Funchess caught 49 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns, the yardage setting a school record for a tight end. He's caught a pass in 14 straight games and, late last season, began getting touches as a rusher to help mix things up.
Michigan State Spartans
Shilique Calhoun, Jr., DE
With a few scooped up fumbles and a well-timed interception, Shilique Calhoun got an early jump on the nation's breakout defensive player last season. But he was much more than those three defensive touchdowns, as he terrorized Big Ten quarterbacks and rushers all year.
The 6'4", 250-pound Calhoun had 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2013, while also forcing two fumbles and recovering four of them along with that interception return for a TD. He could have gone pro after the big year, but instead is back to anchor Michigan State's defensive line and solidify what looks to be a slot in the first round.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
David Cobb, Sr., RB
With 65 career rushing yards entering the 2013 season, David Cobb didn't have much prior experience to build on when he became Minnesota's starting running back. But after gaining 1,202 yards and becoming the first Golden Gopher back to reach 1,000 in seven years, it's a wonder he hadn't received a chance beforehand.
The 5'11", 225-pound Cobb finished with seven 100-yard games, including 103 in Minnesota's bowl loss to Syracuse.
Denzel Nkemdiche, Jr., LB
While younger brother Robert is considered the more noteworthy overall player, it's Denzel Nkemdiche that will have the first chance at a pro career. If he puts up another solid season in 2014, that could happen soon.
The 5'11", 201-pound Nkemdiche only had 35 tackles last season, missing all or parts of three games early in the year. He was slow to get back to form, but, if healthy this fall, he should be a key piece of the Rebels defense from his outside linebacker slot.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Benardrick McKinney, Jr., LB
Originally recruited as a quarterback, Benardrick McKinney has developed into a solid pro prospect on defense who wisely chose to stay in school rather than leave after his redshirt sophomore season in 2013. Assuming he keeps progressing, that move should pay off in spades.
The 6'5", 245-pound McKinney had 55 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season after being named a freshman All-American in 2012. His long reach and lanky body make him hard to stifle, making him a matchup nightmare.
Markus Golden, Sr., DE
Missouri lost two significant pieces of its rock-solid defensive line in last week's NFL draft, but the Tigers' depth in those spots means there shouldn't be much of a drop-off in 2014. Markus Golden has a big role in that transition.
The 6'3", 260-pound Golden, a converted linebacker, seemed a natural at his new position last season, when he registered 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss despite never starting one game thanks to the presence of Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.
Randy Gregory, Jr., DE
Early versions of draft big boards have to speculate on which underclassmen are likely to forgo eligibility to get a jump start on their professional careers. While nothing is certain, Randy Gregory is a common choice for an early departure after his breakout 2013 season.
The 6'6", 245-pound Gregory spent a season in junior college before coming to Nebraska, but played last year like he was a wily veteran, with 66 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. This is a player that can still get so much better, it's now just a matter of how much of that will happen with the Cornhuskers and how much will be on Sundays.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Landon Turner, Jr., OG
Since getting inserted in the lineup during the tail end of the 2012 season, Landon Turner has held onto his spot at right guard and played it as good as anyone in the country. It's why he's considering the fourth-best interior lineman in his draft class.
At 6'4" and 320 pounds, Turner is as much a blocker as a skilled knockdown artist, one who regularly had 10 or more knockdowns in multiple games last season.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Alex Barr, Jr., OG
With an offense that never found its footing last season, Alex Barr's play at right guard went mostly unnoticed despite being solid and efficient. But now, with North Carolina State expected to be much better in 2014 thanks to the arrival of Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, Barr has a chance to get a lot more attention for his work.
The 6'7", 322-pound Barr moved into the starting lineup in the Wolfpack's third game in 2013 and has held the position ever since.
Brandon Vitabile, C, Sr.
Northwestern was one of a handful of major college teams that didn't have any players drafted last weekend, but it's not likely that streak will reach two years for the Wildcats. Brandon Vitabile is going to make sure of that.
Vitabile, who has started 38 straight games since redshirting in 2010, has fared well at his job despite snapping to multiple quarterbacks in the same contest on many occasions over the past few years. At 6'3" and 300 pounds, he's on the bigger side for a center, but he's still as mobile as smaller guys at that position.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
DaVaris Daniels, Jr., WR
Notre Dame is coming off its best showing in the NFL draft in nearly 20 years, seeing eight players from the 2013 team get picked. Several more should get taken in next year's draft, and DaVaris Daniels has a chance to be the top choice among all of them.
The 6'1", 203-pound Daniels went from 31 catches and no touchdowns during Notre Dame's national championship run season in 2012 to 49 receptions and seven scores last year. With T.J. Jones and Troy Niklas drafted, Daniels becomes the top target for whoever starts at quarterback for the Fighting Irish.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Michael Bennett, Sr., DT
Defensive tackle is routinely one of the deepest positions in each NFL draft, and this past edition was no different, with 19 players who starred on the interior of the defensive line getting taken. The early list for that spot for next year looks as stacked as any, with Michael Bennett leading the way.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller put the 6'3", 285-pound Bennett as his most NFL-ready defensive tackle for this upcoming season, and any offensive lineman who had to try and stop him in 2013 can vouch for that. His seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last year should get topped this year, as Ohio State returns its entire defensive line.
Eric Striker, Jr., LB
While his performance in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama served as Eric Striker's coming out party, he was already establishing himself as one of the country's fastest rising stars through the 2013 season.
The 6'0", 219-pound Striker finished the year with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. And with news that he's possibly going to play some nickelback during the 2014 season, this dynamic player appears to be headed toward professional greatness.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
James Castleman, Sr., DT
Though never a star, James Castleman has managed to be a solid contributor to Oklahoma State's defense since his freshman year. Now a senior, it's his chance to step up and boost his draft stock enough to get scouts interested.
Castleman started all 13 games last year, finishing with 33 tackles and five tackles for loss. The 6'2", 300-pound Castleman takes up a lot of space in the middle and will continue to be an important piece of the Cowboys' defensive line.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Sr., CB
One of the best cornerbacks in the nation since his sophomore year, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's return to Oregon for his final year of eligibility was a bit of a surprise. But in reality it's more a testament to his dedication to improving and being a part of what should be another great Ducks team.
The 5'10", 195-pound Ekpre-Olomu has developed a knack for getting his hands on the ball during his career, with seven interceptions and also seven forced fumbles. In 2013, he also showed off great instincts at the line of scrimmage, recording five tackles for loss.
Oregon State Beavers
Isaac Seumalo, Jr., OL
A hometown player, Isaac Seumalo has been a big a part of Oregon State's great offenses during his time at the school as any of the Beavers' great quarterbacks or wide receivers. It's why he's consideed the No. 1 junior guard in the country heading into the 2014 season.
He first made history in 2012 by becoming the first true freshman to start at center for OSU since the 1970s, then last year was moved to tackle. He's rated high as both a guard and center, showing how versatile the 6'3", 305-pound Seumalo has become.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Zach Zwinak, Sr., FB
While at Vanderbilt, James Franklin gained a lot of credit for the players he was able to develop into NFL draft picks, including three more this past season. At Penn State this trend should continue, but he'll also get to work with guys like Zach Zwinak, who have already set themselves up for pro careers.
The 6'1", 240-pound Zwinak has nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons, but the emergence of Bill Belton at running back will likely shift Zwinak to more of a blocker this year. That's where he projects well in the pros, where his size and strength will make him a great guy to open holes.
Ray Vinopal, Sr., S
After starting multiple games as a true freshman at Michigan in 2010, Ray Vinopal headed back to a school closer to his Youngstown, Ohio home. Pittsburgh was the beneficiary of this homesickness, and the reward was a solid defensive back who hits hard and makes tackles.
The 5'10", 200-pound Vinopal started all 13 games last season, fitting into a hybrid linebacker position in the bowl game against Bowling Green to utilize his on-field instincts. He finished the year with 83 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks while also recording three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Akeem Hunt, Sr., RB
Purdue's offense was one of the worst in FBS last season, averaging less than 15 points and a mere 67 rushing yards per game. Akeem Hunt had the bulk of those yards, rushing for 464 yards and a touchdown.
But where the 5'9", 184-pound Hunt was most valuable, and what makes him a legitimate pro prospect, is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Last year he had a team-high 38 receptions for 340 yards and two TDs.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Kaleb Johnson, Sr., OG
With 37 career starts, Kaleb Johnson enters his senior year as one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the country. Even more impressive is how diverse those starts are, with 11 at right tackle as a freshman, 13 at left tackle as a sophomore and 13 last year at left guard.
The 6'4", 305-pound Johnson has shown the ability to slide into any spot on the offensive line, something that will enhance his stock heading into the 2015 draft. A year blocking against Big Ten defenders will also beef up his credentials.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Mike Davis, Jr., RB
If not for injuries that have limited his college touches, Mike Davis could be in line to break rushing records at South Carolina. But with running backs becoming less used at the pro level, all Davis needs to do is continue to show he can be prolific in small bunches to remain a top prospect.
The 5'9", 216-pound Davis still managed to rush for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and, if he can remain healthy, he'll go on the first or second day of next year's draft.
South Florida Bulls
Sean Price, Jr., TE
A position like tight end tends to get drafted based more on potential and physical skills than on actual college production. That's a good thing for Sean Price, since he hasn't gotten many chances to show off his offensive ability the past two seasons.
The 6'3", 249-pound Price has only had 21 receptions in each of the last two years, scoring just one touchdown during that span. South Florida's offense should be much improved this year, and it would make sense that this big target would get thrown to more often.
Andrus Peat, Jr., OT
A Stanford offensive lineman getting taken in the NFL draft seems like an annual event, especially since the Cardinal have returned to national prominence in college football. Andrus Peat should be next off the board, whether it be a year early or in 2016, based on his consistent blocking and protection work in his first two seasons.
The 6'6", 312-pound Peat has been playing since his true freshman season, and last year was so solid at left tackle that Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was only sacked 16 times in 14 games. That's the kind of statistic that will get Peat taken in whatever draft he enters.
Sean Hickey, Sr., OT
Two seasons of sitting on the bench without a snap motivated Sean Hickey to work even harder, and, once he got into the lineup at Syracuse, he hasn't left it. A solid blocker at both tackle positions, he's shown versatility and drive and will get himself into the NFL after this year.
The 6'5", 291-pound Hickey protected a pair of quarterbacks in 2013, allowing just 18 sacks over the course of the season.
TCU Horned Frogs
Devonte Fields, So., DE
A foot injury robbed Devonte Fields—and us—of most of last season, but even an ailment that has kept him out of a game since last September hasn't sapped this phenomenal pass rusher of his potential.
Before the injury, the 6'4", 240-pound Fields was showing amazing skills as an edge-rusher, especially during the 2012 season, when he was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year after logging 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. His absence last year led to TCU's defense taking a step back when it came to pressure up front.
A.J. Johnson, Sr., LB
The return of A.J. Johnson for one more season was a blessing for Tennessee's defense, which has become dependent on his presence in the middle of the field since he started 10 games as a true freshman in 2011 and led all first-year SEC defenders in tackles.
At 6'2" and 243 pounds, Johnson has the right size to be an NFL linebacker, and this final year of college can help him rise up the draft boards a little more. A consistent tackler who has 324 takedowns and 21.5 tackles for loss in his career, Johnson will be involved in most of the big plays made by the Volunteers defense.
Cedric Reed, Sr., DE
The most recent NFL draft didn't include any picks from Texas, the first time that's happened since 1937. Had Cedric Reed not decided to stay for his final season of eligibility, though, we wouldn't be talking about the end of the Longhorns' great draft streak.
The 6'5", 258-pound Reed would have been taken in the upper half of the draft based on what he did in 2013, when he had 79 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 10 sacks while also forcing five fumbles in his first year as a starter. Another season like that, and he'll live up to first-round projections for the 2015 draft.
Texas A&M Aggies
Cedric Ogbuehi, Sr., OT
Texas A&M produced arguably the most exciting college player in years in Johnny Manziel, but what the program really needs to be recognized for is its ability to churn out top-tier offensive linemen. Cedric Ogbuehi appears to be the next big blocker that will go in the first round, following Luke Joeckel two years ago and Jake Matthews this past season.
The 6'5", 300-pound Ogbuehi began his career as a guard, then moved to tackle in 2013, and now this fall may be on the left side after spending last season as the right tackle. If he can play well at each of those positions, there's no doubt he'll go high in next year's draft.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Le'Raven Clark, Jr., OT
With NFL teams moving toward more wide-open offenses, the time has come for the offensive linemen they draft and develop to already have some of those blocking schemes as part of their repertoire. That's one of many skills that will get Le'Raven Clark into the NFL, thanks to his already extensive experience with Texas Tech.
A guard as a freshman and then a tackle in 2013, the 6'5", 320-pound Clark may be tempted to jump to the draft after this season. It will depend on how he fares once again protecting Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb out of Tech's wide-split blocking formation.
Brett Hundley, Jr., QB
The public explanation for Brett Hundley's return to UCLA, despite being draft-eligible as a redshirt sophomore, was a desire to help his school win a national title, according to Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer. The reality is that Hundley could benefit from another year dominating in college, while at the same time working on things he'll need to perfect to be a solid pro.
The stats are all there for Hundley, who has a career passing accuracy of 67 percent and who has back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons while also scoring 20 rushing touchdowns. If the 6'3", 227-pound Hundley can put up another big year, he'll be among the first quarterbacks taken next May.
Leonard Williams, Jr., DT
A lot of talented players left USC after the 2013 season, some as graduates, and others as early NFL entrants. But the most promising player on the team, at least in terms of professional upside, still had another year to go before he was eligible to get drafted.
Now that the 6'5", 290-pound Williams is entering his junior year, plenty of attention will be given to how he fares this season as he moves toward what seems like a very high draft rating. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has him going second overall in 2015 thanks to his ability to play inside or as an edge-rusher, depending on the alignment he plays in.
Dres Anderson, Sr., WR
A seemingly non-stop shuffling of offensive coaches at Utah the last few seasons has affected much of the Utes' scoring and production consistency, yet Dres Anderson has continued to develop into an NFL-caliber receiver.
Despite Utah's struggles last season, the 6'1", 187-pound Anderson still put together a solid year with 1,002 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. More use out of him on sweep runs this season could be the key to fixing the offense, and the key to the son of former NFL great Flipper Anderson rising on the draft charts.
Joe Townsend, Sr., C
Flash and flair can help with the image for players at some positions, but all scouts and coaches want to see from a center are solid fundamentals and minimal miscues. Joe Townsend has been as textbook and efficient as they come at that spot during his tenure with Vanderbilt.
A starter since his sophomore year, the 6'4", 305-pound Townsend was effective in working with both of the Commodores quarterbacks last season. That flexibility can help him fit into a variety of NFL systems.
Anthony Harris, Sr., S
After leading the FBS in interceptions last season with eight, Anthony Harris very easily could have ridden that momentum into an early NFL draft declaration. Instead, he provided Virginia with its biggest takeaway of the offseason by choosing to come back and help mentor what should be a much-improved defense.
The 6'1", 190-pound Harris, who also had 80 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss last year, will work double-duty in 2014. Besides anchoring the Cavaliers' secondary, he'll be tasked with guiding 5-star safety Quin Blanding, the No. 6 overall recruit in the 2014 class. By grooming his successor, Harris will not only keep Virginia strong at the position, but also enhance his stock in the character department.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Luther Maddy, Sr., DT
Virginia Tech's defense finished fourth in the country in yards allowed last season, faring equally well against the pass and the run. Luther Maddy was also an equal opportunity defender, not discriminating against quarterback or running back when tackling someone behind the line of scrimmage.
The 6'1", 291-pound Maddy had 6.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and 16 hurries in 2013, and, with 29 starts over the past three seasons, he's become one of the country's most consistent interior defenders.
Shaq Thompson, Jr., LB
While he's as much of a line-of-scrimmage linebacker as most players in college, Shaq Thompson has seemed to thrive most in the open field and dropping back into coverage. It's why his tackling numbers aren't as high as other comparable players, but his ability to disrupt further down the field is far enhanced.
In two years with the Huskies, the 6'2", 231-pound Thompson has averaged 76 tackles and six tackles for loss per season, while intercepting four passes and defending another 11. In 2013, he had an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oregon State, showing off speed and moves that prompted new coach Chris Petersen to consider using Thompson at running back this fall.
Washington State Cougars
Darryl Monroe, Jr., LB
For as well-known as Washington State has become on offense, thanks to pass-happy coach Mike Leach, the school somehow keeps producing top-notch defensive prospects. Safety Deone Bucannon was a first-round pick last week, and next year it could be Darryl Monroe.
An Achilles injury robbed him of most of his freshman season in 2011, leading to a medical redshirt, but, since coming back, the 6'1", 235-pound Monroe has been amazing to watch. He's started all 25 games at middle linebacker, racking up big tackle numbers and also getting into the backfield for sacks and tackles for loss while still managing to disrupt passing lanes.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Karl Joseph, Jr., S
West Virginia's defensive issues are well-chronicled, with last year's team finishing 106th nationally in defending the pass. Yet hidden with that poor effort as a team was another solid year from Karl Joseph at free safety.
The 5'10", 200-pound Joseph led the Big 12 with four fumble recoveries in 2013, along with 68 tackles and four pass breakups, and he enters this season as the top-rated free safety in his draft class.
Melvin Gordon, Jr., RB
After rushing for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns on just over 200 carries last season, Melvin Gordon surprised many by not getting an early start on his pro career despite being draft-eligible as a redshirt sophomore. Another year like that, though, and it's unlikely he'll stick around again.
Pegged as more of a third-down back in the NFL, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the 6'1", 207-pound Gordon has averaged 8.1 yards per carry for his college career. His lack of carries would likely be looked at positively by scouts, who wouldn't have to worry about him being too banged up.