College Football Players Who Will Be Future NFL Combine Stars
The NFL Scouting Combine is less than a week away, and while there will be plenty of elite prospects to keep an eye on, we're still a couple of years away from some other terrific athletes in the college football world who will tear it up in Indianapolis.
The combine may not carry the kind of weight for scouts that it does in the media, but it's still a great opportunity for star players to solidify their draft stock or relatively unknown players to show up in the national spotlight.
There are a handful of players who won't be going pro this offseason but are still tantalizing athletes, as documented by their on-field play or previous testing results as high schoolers. Let's take a look at a few of the most notable ones who could be future NFL stars.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Defensive backs almost have to be the most athletic players on the field. Having to stay stride-for-stride with explosive wide receivers while also tackling 220-pound ball-carriers can make it the most physically demanding job in the game.
Fortunately for Michigan's Daxton Hill, his elite athleticism has already helped him early in his college career.
As a true freshman for the Wolverines, Hill picked up 36 total tackles to go along with three pass deflections, an interception and two fumble recoveries. He also picked up 25 yards on a fake-punt reception against Army.
Hill was a 5-star recruit and the top-ranked safety in the 2019 class, in large part because of his incredible athleticism. His testing results in high school were off the charts, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.30 seconds, recorded a 20-yard shuttle of 4.13 seconds and had an absurd vertical jump of 43.6 inches.
Those numbers would be among the best for any player at the NFL Scouting Combine, let alone from a high schooler. As he continues to develop both physically and as a player, Hill could take the combine by storm in a couple of years.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
The parameters for a great athlete at defensive tackle are fundamentally different than those of a defensive back, but Florida State's Marvin Wilson could wow some NFL scouts at next year's combine.
Wilson could have been drafted early in the 2020 NFL draft but elected to return to Florida State to finish what he started. He was a disruptive force in the middle of the Seminoles defense, picking up 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and four passes broken up.
What makes Wilson such a dominant player is his elite functional strength, but he also deserves credit for his discipline to transform his body as a college football player. Wilson was listed at 332 pounds as a freshman but has since dropped to 311 pounds and gained explosiveness because of it.
Even with his heavier frame, Wilson tested well as a high schooler. He even ran the 40-yard dash in a respectable 5.17 seconds while also posting a 4.56-second 20-yard shuttle.
Wilson may not run a sub-4.3 40, but he's sure to be someone to watch during the bench press at next year's combine and a big name to keep an eye on in the 2021 NFL draft.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Athletic ability is only a small part of the equation when evaluating quarterbacks, but there are few QBs in college football who are as athletic as Ohio State's Justin Fields.
After transferring out of Georgia, Fields joined the Buckeyes and immediately made an impact as the starting QB, helping lead Ohio State to another College Football Playoff appearance. He finished the season with 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions while adding another 484 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
Thanks to a strong ground game behind him with J.K. Dobbins and a deadly passing attack, Fields wasn't forced to utilize his legs as much as other quarterbacks might. However, Fields' speed and athleticism were apparent anytime he escaped pressure in the pocket to extend plays or took off downfield.
In high school, Fields posted the fastest recorded 40-yard dash of any dual-threat quarterback, running it in just 4.51 seconds.
Fields is more worried about a chance at redemption and a national title run than anything else right now, but come this time next year, he could have a chance to turn some heads with a strong combine workout.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Anyone who watched Alabama running back Najee Harris play last season knows just how electric the Crimson Tide star is. With another season working on his body in college, Harris will likely take the combine by storm in 2021.
Harris spent his first two seasons with limited carries but saw his role expand drastically in 2019. As a junior, he ran for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 209 carries. His role in the passing game was significant as well, as he caught 27 passes for 304 yards and seven scores.
What makes Harris such an exciting player is his combination of size and athleticism. Harris comes in at an imposing 6'2'' and 230 pounds, and his athleticism was on full display on an epic touchdown catch-and-run against South Carolina this past season.
Although Harris' testing results out of high school didn't wow anyone like some of the other recruits, a full four years in Alabama's strength and conditioning program should help him impress plenty of scouts come this time next February.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
When it comes to bright young stars in college football, no one stands out more on the defensive side of the ball than LSU's Derek Stingley Jr.
LSU's official website describes Stingley's first college season as "arguably the most impactful true freshman in LSU history." That's fitting considering Stingley's accolades, which included a consensus All-America selection thanks to some dominant play that featured six interceptions, including this one, and 15 pass breakups.
As a high school recruit, Stingley was the No. 3 player in the nation and the top-ranked cornerback. He produced some remarkable testing numbers before heading off to Baton Rouge, running the 40-yard dash in 4.30 seconds and posting a vertical jump of 42 inches.
Stingley has already been tasked with covering some of the most explosive wide receivers in the country as a true freshman, and that will continue to be the case over the next couple of seasons. At 6'1'' and 190 pounds, he has great size and length for his position along with that aforementioned elite athleticism.
Pro scouts will be anxiously awaiting Stingley's NFL arrival, but they'll have to be patient for at least two more seasons. Still, once Stingley does come out, he'll destroy the combine before likely becoming the first cornerback taken off the board.