COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship - Michigan vs Washington
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The top of the 2024 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings are filled with players who were college football stars. But there are plenty of mega-productive college football players who aren't projected as first-round picks because NFL franchises look at a bevy of criteria beyond mere accolades and statistics at the collegiate level.

Among them is positional value and scarcity; that's why the highest-ranked running back in this year's draft class is at No. 72 in the prospect rankings. But for the sake of college football fans, let's strip away the NFL filter for a moment and take a look at the top 32 players in the 2024 NFL Draft based solely on their collegiate careers. 

You won't find former Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims here. He's a great pro prospect, but Injuries limited Mims to seven games in 2023, and he was a reserve in 2022 for the Bulldogs. Also, ex-Oregon receiver Troy Franklin edged LSU's Brian Thomas Jr. for a spot based on the grounds of collegiate production. Thomas is regarded as the better prospect, but that's not what this exercise entails. 

This is not a mock draft, and it's not about professional upside. It's about ranking the best players in the draft based on collegiate production.

1. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: Penix finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading the nation in passing yards (4,903). He threw 36 touchdown passes while guiding Washington to an appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Penix's 25-3 record as a two-year starter at Washington is the stuff of legend for a program that went 4-8 the year before his arrival.

2. Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia: Bowers is arguably the best tight end to ever play college football. He served a pivotal role in Georgia's 2021 and 2022 national titles and was a matchup nightmare for three seasons as the Bulldogs posted a 42-2 record. The athletic, 6-foot-4 human wrecking ball also scored five rushing touchdowns for UGA while earning a place in SEC and college football lore.

3. Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU: Daniels won the Heisman Trophy in 2023 while setting a single-season FBS record for passing efficiency (208). For good measure, he tallied 1,134 yards with his legs while becoming the only player in FBS history to pass for 12,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in a career.

4. Caleb Williams, QB, USC: Williams threw for 93 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while passing for over 10,000 yards in three seasons of college football between stints at Oklahoma and USC. He also totaled 966 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns. Williams essentially was the team at USC the past two seasons.

5. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: Ohio State was so unbelievably loaded at receiver in 2021 that Harrison caught just 11 passes as a true freshman. Over his next two seasons, he blossomed into the Buckeyes' only two-time All-American receiver. He is also the only Ohio State player to ever post multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

6. Johnny Newton, DL, Illinois: Newton wasn't just a run stuffer at Illinois. He also racked up 13 sacks over his final two seasons while emerging as one of the top interior defenders in college football. Among many other honors, he was a two-time CBS Sports All-American.

7. Blake Corum RB, Michigan: As an older running back with some injury history, Corum is unlikely to even be among the top players drafted at his position. But he's immortal at Michigan after totaling 27 rushing touchdowns for the national champions in the 2023 season and ending his career with a school-record 58 rushing touchdowns.

8. Rome Odunze WR, Washington: Odunze set a Washington record with 1,640 reaching yards and became only the second player in program history to record multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons after following up a huge 2022 season with an even bigger 2023 campaign. Odunze corralled 92 passes, including 13 touchdown grabs, during UW's 14-1 season.

9. Malik Nabers, WR, LSU: Nabers left LSU as the school's all-time leader in receptions (189) and receiving yards (3,003) in just three seasons. He caught 14 touchdowns passes during a spectacular 2023 campaign, which included nine 100+ yard receiving games.

10. Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State: A fractured leg ended Travis' college career on Nov. 18. But in just 10 games (and a small portion of an 11th), he threw for 2,756 yards with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Travis also ran for seven touchdowns while spearheading a special season for the Seminoles.

Syracuse v Florida State
Travis was instrumental in helping lead Florida State to an undefeated season before his November injury.  Getty Images

11. T'Vondre Sweat, DL, TexasSweat developed into one of the most imposing physical presences in college football over his five-year career with Texas. He capped it off by winning the Outland Trophy and taking home unanimous first-team All-American honors.

12. Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA: Latu led the nation in tackles for loss (21.5) and tied for third nationally in sacks (13) while earning CBS Sports First-Team All-American honors. He was credited with at least half a sack in every game he played except for in UCLA's beatdown of FCS foe North Carolina Central.

13. Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina: In just two seasons as North Carolina's starter, Maye surpassed 8,000 yards passing, threw for 63 touchdowns and ran for 16 more. He set a school record for passing yards in a season (4,321) and tied the program record for passing touchdowns in a season (38).

14. Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa: DeJean accounted for an outsized portion of Iowa's success over the last two seasons before a season-ending injury in November cut his Hawkeyes career a few games short. He was a lockdown corner and excellent punt returner who earned first-team All-American honors in 2023.

15. Bo Nix, QB, Oregon: Nix finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading the country with 45 touchdown passes and finishing second in passing yards at 4,508. Nix also rushed for six touchdowns while guiding Oregon to a 12-2 record and Fiesta Bowl victory.

16. Cody Schrader, RB, Missouri: Schrader helped carry Missouri to one of its best seasons in program history as he totaled a school-record 1,627 yards rushing. He became the 10th player in FBS history to run for 200 yards and surpass 100 yards receiving in the same game during a momentous win over Tennessee.

17. Joe Alt, OL, Notre Dame Alt rated as Pro Football Focus' top offensive tackle and earned unanimous All-American honors while serving as a team captain for Notre Dame in 2023. The Fighting Irish racked up 39.1 points per game with Alt as a critical piece of their foundation.

18. Jonah Elliss, EDGE, Utah: Elliss racked up 12 sacks in just 10 games before a season-ending injury. He was twice named Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week and still earned Second-Team CBS Sports All-American honors despite the abbreviated body of work.

19. Payton Wilson LB, NC State: Wilson amassed an absurd 138 tackles in 2023 while earning the Butkus and Bednarik awards. His 17.5 tackles for loss topped the ACC, and Wilson added three interceptions, six pass deflections and two fumble recoveries for good measure.

20. Zak Zinter, OL, Michigan: How does an interior offensive lineman make this list? By anchoring a unit that became the first ever to win consecutive Joe Moore Awards. Zinter was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2023 and a team captain as the Wolverines made a dominant run to the national title.

Michigan v Maryland
Zinter served as anchor for a dominant Michigan offensive line that won back-to-back Joe Moore Awards.  Getty Images

21. Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon: Franklin set program records for receiving yards (1,383) and receiving touchdowns (14) while proving to be one of the nation's most electric perimeter weapons. Franklin collected a bevy of all-conference and All-American honors while surpassing 100 yards receiving on eight occasions.

22. Taliese Fuaga, OL, Oregon State: Fuaga rated as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the FBS during his senior season, according to PFF. He earned first-team All-American honors from CBS and was a pivotal cog in Oregon State's 18-8 run over its final two years in the Pac-12.

23. Byron Murphy, DL, Texas: Murphy racked up 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks while emerging as dominant presence on the defensive line for a Texas team that reached the College Football Playoff. He was named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and earned second-team All-American honors from CBS Sports.

24. J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan: McCarthy completed 72.3% of his passes while leading Michigan to a national champoinship. He totaled 2,991 yards passing and 22 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Though not particularly flashy, he exited Michigan as the program's all-time leader in passing efficiency.

25. Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State: Verse could have been drafted early last year but opted to return for another season with Florida State and racked up another nine sacks to bring his two-year tally with the Seminoles to 18. The Albany transfer was a golden transfer portal find for coach Mike Norvell.

26. Olu Fashanu, OL, Penn State: Fashanu didn't allow a single sack as Penn State's left tackle in 2023 while earning first-team All-American honors from CBS Sports. Some of that was due to the Nittany Lions' utter lack of vertical passing game, but a lot of it was due to Fashanu's dominance.

27. Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M: Cooper led the SEC in tackles for loss (17) and recorded a team-best 84 tackles for Texas A&M while increasing his production for a third straight season. He was named a first-team All-American by CBS Sports.

28. Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama: Turner racked up 10 sacks and forced a couple of fumbles on his way to consensus first team All-American honors. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and ended his three-year run with the Crimson Tide with 22.5 sacks to his name.

29. Cooper Beebe, OL, Kansas State: Both a tackle and guard during his time at Kansas State, Beebe started 48 games over his career and won Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in back-to-back seasons. He was CBS Sports first-team All-American in 2023.

30. Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama: Arnold rated as PFF's No. 9 FBS cornerback after making five interceptions, 12 pass deflections and 6.5 tackles for loss in his redshirt sophomore season. He collected a variety of all-conference and All-American awards.

31. Jackson Powers-Johnson, OL, Oregon: Powers-Johnson won the Rimington Trophy for the nation's best center while helping to anchor an Oregon offense that ranked No. 2 nationally (531.4 yards per game). He earned first-team All-American honors from CBS Sports.

32. Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama: McKinstry's statistics statistics don't jump off the page because so few quarterbacks were willing to throw in his direction. He finished the year as PFF's No. 8 rated cornerback and as a CBS Sports first-team All-American.