With many analysts dubbing the 2014 NFL draft class the deepest and most talented group that they've seen in at least a decade, it's clear that the 2015 draft class is going to have a mighty tough precedent to live up to.
Since a record 98 underclassmen—including big-name stars such as Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins and Teddy Bridgewater—chose to declare for the 2014 draft, college football has obviously taken a major talent hit. Luckily, though, the sport still has plenty of established impact players and plenty more up-and-coming talents NFL scouts should be excited about.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Baylor QB Bryce Petty, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, UCLA QB Brett Hundley and Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory are just a few of the high-profile prospects who bypassed the chance to earn millions as high picks in the 2014 draft in order to return to school and continue honing their skills on the collegiate level.
They'll be some of the must-watch prospects to keep an eye on this fall, but there will be plenty of other notable names to watch out for as well.
Admittedly, trying to rank and project draft prospects this early in the process is simply an impossible task. Every year, we always end up seeing a few unheralded prospects rise from relative obscurity and become household names, while we also see highly touted commodities fail to live up to their preseason hype.
At this time last year, who would have thought that Blake Bortles would be picked ahead of Manziel and Bridgewater? Or that Greg Robinson would be the top offensive tackle taken? Or that once-overlooked prospects like Ja'Wuan James, Dee Ford, Marcus Smith, Deone Bucannon and Jimmie Ward would all end up being selected in the first round?
So much is bound to happen over the next 12 months that will change the complexion of the 2015 draft class. Still, it's never too early to get a jump on evaluating and discerning the next wave of top prospects.
Here's a very early, preliminary look at college football's top prospects for the 2015 NFL draft.