There are no two college football teams who could rival the sheer amount of NFL talent that will be on the field when Alabama take on Clemson in tonight’s National Championship Game. Whilst many of these players will make the jump to the NFL following the conclusion of tonight’s game, many of them will return for another year or two playing at the college level. It is these players I have decided to focus this article on. The players who are unable able to declare for the NFL Draft as they are not yet three years removed from high school. This game has an incredibly encouraging group of freshmen and sophomores who are worth getting excited about for future classes. Football fans have already started to investigate some of the top prospects in the 2019 draft, many of whom will be playing in this game. Names like Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell and Jonah Williams are all blue chip prospects in the 2019 class. However, the non draft eligible crop of players in tonight’s title bout may have an even brighter future.
Tua Tagovailoa, Sophomore, QB
Since his breakout performance in last years national title game, Tua has set the college football world on fire. With the strong armed Hawaiian at the helm, Bama have completely transformed their offense. Gone are the ground and pound days where a Bama offense would lull you to sleep watching them and here to stay (hopefully) is a dynamic RPO and vertical passing game manned by one of the most talented QBs in the country. Whilst Tua won’t be eligible until 2020, he is already attracting attention as a future franchise QB. The arm talent, precise downfield passing and sheer playmaking ability Tua offers will make him an intriguing prospect when the NFL comes calling. There are still areas where the true sophomore needs to improve, namely with his placement and mental processing, but his development will be fun to monitor as we get closer to the 2020 draft.
Jerry Jeudy, Sophmore, WR
Like Tua, Jeudy is only a true sophomore so won’t be eligible for the draft until next year. However, his skill set already screams next level star. A true deep threat, Jeudy also shows good quickness and nuance as a route runner. What makes Jeudy so fun to watch and makes his next level projection so interesting is his ability to make plays in space. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and incredibly sudden. Jeudy will compete for the top spot in a loaded WR class in 2020.
Devonta Smith, Sophomore, WR
Smith is another member of Bama’s ridiculous true sophomore class. He is an incredibly smooth athlete with instant burst, great body control, and natural hands. He needs to improve against press coverage, but the tools are there. Smith has a skillset very similar to Calvin Ridley.
Jedrick Wills, Sophomore, OT
Every time I have watched Bama this year, I have come away impressed with Wills. The sophomore took over the starting right tackle spot this year and has looked dominant in stretches. He has been a mauler all season as a run blocker and whilst he still has room to grow in pass protection, his punch is impressive for a younger player. If Wills can put it all together and take over from Jonah Williams on the left side next season, I expect him to get some early NFL buzz.
Dylan Moses, Sophomore, LB
Athletes like Moses don’t grow on trees. Moses was an all everything recruit and has made an impact on the Tide defense in both of his first two seasons. Moses is a violent hitter who has incredible sideline to sideline range. He has ridiculous close speed and his skill set reminds me a lot of Jaylon Smith. I know it is early to predict where sophomores end up in the draft and how they will translate to the next level, but I am extremely excited to see Moses continued development.
Trevor Lawrence, Freshman, QB
Lawrence is a true freshman leading his team to the Playoff Final. No matter how talented his supporting cast is, that is an impressive accomplishment. It is clear from watching Lawrence that he has the skill set to go very early in the draft. His arm talent is exceptional and he is already making tight window throws leading the Tigers offense. He throws a beautiful deep ball and has plenty of mobility, Lawrence has everything the NFL is looking for at the QB position. Any teams needing a signal-caller will need to wait until 2021 for the Clemson product.
Travis Etienne, Sophomore, RB
Etienne has been incredible this season, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. The Sophomore running back has incredible burst, balance and lateral quickness. He is a tough runner, but his suddenness is what makes him special. Etienne routinely makes the first man miss with his suddenness and creativity. He will compete for the RB1 spot in the 2020 class.
Tee Higgins, Sophomore, WR
Tee Higgins is a grown ass man. The 6’4” sophomore excels in jump ball situations and knows how to use his length and frame to dominate the catch point. He also has the juice to separate downfield and the quickness to win as an intermediate route runner. Higgins has an incredibly high ceiling and with Trevor Lawrence on campus for another two seasons, there is nothing to stop him from reaching his sky high potential.
Amari Rodgers, Sophomore, WR
Amari Rodgers is as explosive as they come. He is built like a running back and has the speed to burn defenses deep. The sophomore is already showing some nuance in his route running which is encouraging. The standout trait with Rodgers is his ability with the ball in his hands, he is strong enough to break tackles and sudden enough to juke defenders out of their skin. Rodgers won’t be eligible until 2020, but has the look of an early draft pick with his explosive ability with the ball in his hands.
Xavier Thomas, Freshman, Edge
Edge rushers who are explosive in their first step and know how to turn the corner at the top of their arc are always going to be coveted by the NFL. Clemson has one of the most hyped defensive lines in college football and Thomas has already carved out a role that will only expand after the likes of Ferrell and Bryant leave. Thomas has the tools to develop into a premiere college pass rusher. He won’t be eligible until 2021, but the quickness and bend are worth getting excited about.