College Football Players with Potential to Be a No. 1 Overall Pick

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2018

College Football Players with Potential to Be a No. 1 Overall Pick

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    Earning a college scholarship is immensely difficult. Making it to the NFL is even tougher. Becoming the No. 1 overall selection in a draft is borderline impossible.

    Nevertheless, a couple of players currently working toward the professional ranks will join that vaunted club in the near future.

    When fans and experts discuss the top pick in the 2019 and 2020 NFL drafts, defensive linemen tend to dominate the conversation. Given the quarterback craze of this era, however, it's reasonable to expect a couple of signal-callers to attract that level of attention.

    While there's no guarantee one (or two) of the following players will be the No. 1 choice—lots can happen over eight months, let alone 20—but based on past performance and future projection, they're early top candidates.

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

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    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    Could the younger Bosa best his brother by two picks? Joey went to the then-San Diego Chargers with the No. 3 overall pick in 2016, but Nick has an opportunity to walk across the stage a little earlier.

    In two seasons at Ohio State, he's collected 23 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Additionally, while he's only officially been credited with 12 hurries, Bosa has 39, according to CFB Film Room.

    Despite the talent on Ohio State's defensive line, Bosa has consistently demanded extra blockers. Though the special attention surely has affected his numbers, Bosa's gravitational pull is exceptionally valuable.

    And NFL teams won't overlook that next April.

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

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    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    On a loaded Clemson defensive line, Clelin Ferrell stands slightly above the rest.

    Dexter Lawrence is a gap-plugging nightmare but lacks the playmaking skills of a No. 1 overall choice. Christian Wilkins is a solid first-rounder yet not quite a top-tier talent. Austin Bryant—though a potential Day 1 pick—is the fourth-best of the quartet, as of now.

    Ferrell has game-breaking skill off the edge. Elite explosiveness at the snap helps him live in the backfield, where he's racked up 30.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

    Yes, the surrounding talent provides a boost for Ferrell. But he'd be a standalone superstar on any defense.

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

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    Draft-eligible year: 2020

    In an ideal world, perhaps Jacob Eason would still be the starting quarterback at Georgia. But football isn't an ideal place, and the once-prized recruit's knee injury created a chance for Jake Fromm.

    The freshman didn't waste it.

    While leading the Bulldogs to an SEC championship and national title appearance, Fromm collected 2,615 yards and 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions. His 9.0 yards per attempt tied for sixth-best nationally.

    Coincidentally, Fromm faces a similar situation and must hold off a talented freshman in Justin Fields. If injuries don't sideline Fromm, though, he should emerge as the class of the SEC in 2019 and face of the 2020 draft class.

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

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    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    This wouldn't be the first time Rashan Gary went No. 1.

    In the 2016 recruiting class, the defensive lineman stood atop the national rankings. He chose Michigan and has become a versatile force capable of playing both inside and on the edge.

    As a freshman, Gary held a situational role yet still posted 24 tackles with five stops behind the line of scrimmage. Last year, he moved into a starting spot and tallied 66 takedowns, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks.

    Gary will be the cornerstone of another top-rated defense for Michigan in 2018.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    Should he not navigate the year without missing time because of injury, Justin Herbert will be the subject of a red flag in the medical department.

    Otherwise, the Oregon star should be considered the top quarterback prospect. Herbert has thrown for 3,919 yards and 34 touchdowns to only nine interceptions in 16 career appearances.

    Last season, his 9.6 yards per attempt would've ranked fourth nationally had he qualified for the stat. Missing five games with a fractured collarbone kept him off the list.

    He has two years of eligibility remaining, so there's not exactly a rush for him to reach the NFL. But in a potentially thin 2019 quarterback class, the upcoming campaign offers a wide-open opportunity for Herbert to cement a positive perception.

Greg Little, LT, Ole Miss

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    NFL teams have recently been scrambling to take a quarterback at No. 1, but there's always a market for the blindside protector.

    Greg Little has excelled on the left edge for Ole Miss over the last two seasons, immediately earning a weekly role as a freshman. Then in 2017, he surrendered 12 hurries on 478 pass-block snaps, per CFB Film Room.

    Listed at 6'6" and 325 pounds, Little boasts ideal size with top-tier potential. If his efficiency improves, Little could creep to No. 1.

Walker Little, LT, Stanford

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    Draft-eligible year: 2020

    Perhaps the least-known player on the list, Walker Little is an emerging standout on the West Coast.

    Though an injury limited him slightly, the once-prized recruit appeared in nine games. He secured All-Pac-12 honorable mention status, as well as conference Co-Freshman Offensive Player of the Year honors.

    Little—who like his Ole Miss counterpart is anything but at 6'7" and 307 pounds—seems primed for a breakout campaign as he opens up running lanes for Heisman Trophy favorite Bryce Love.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

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    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    Top prospects know their value. However, they typically slow-play the media and say they're only focused on this year and this team.

    Ed Oliver cut to the chase. We know the truth.

    "I do plan on leaving this year," said Oliver, per Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle. "It's just the truth. I wish I could stay another year, but it's my time to go."

    Considering his production through two years, that's no surprise. Oliver has amassed 139 tackles with 39 in the backfield, including 10.5 sacks. He's also broken up 12 passes and forced five fumbles.

    Oliver has nothing left to prove at the FBS level. He's ready for the NFL, and front offices will be fighting for the chance to snatch him.

Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Draft-eligible year: 2019

    Michigan struggled in 2017, but Jim Harbaugh knows how to develop a quarterback. Thanks to that reputation, Shea Patterson's progression in 2018 will be monitored even closer.

    After all, it's not like he's flying under the radar. Patterson was a 5-star talent coming out of high school.

    In 10 career appearances for Ole Miss, he completed 60.7 percent of his attempts for 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Then, the combination of an injury and program sanctions pushed Patterson to Ann Arbor.

    Should the Wolverines thrive in the Big Ten this season, there's a good chance Patterson will have sparked the team's rise.

Jaelan Phillips, DE, UCLA

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Draft-eligible year: 2020

    A clean bill of health evaded Jaelan Phillips during his freshman campaign. The defensive end appeared in seven of UCLA's 13 games as a result of a lingering ankle injury.

    When he stepped onto the field, though, he was a menace. Phillips collected 21 tackles with seven in the backfield, 3.5 of which were sacks.

    During the 2018 offseason, he's undergone two wrist surgeries. The more injuries that pile up, the more damning that medical red flag will be.

    But his mixture of explosiveness and relentless energy in pursuit is tantalizing to envision leading an NFL defensive line.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.