An early look at the top 32 NFL draft-eligible college football players taking the field in 2020
There's plenty of talent returning to college football this season
The NFL's early entry deadline has come and gone, which has brought the 2020 college football season into focus. Players like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will join an already-loaded 2021 NFL Draft class that will include some surprise returnees like Clemson running back Travis Etienne and Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard.
This is not a mock draft or a ranking of prospects. It's a list of the top players in college football in 2020 who could be playing their last seasons in college.
Who are the top draft-eligible players who will suit up in college football in 2020? Let's break down the best of the best:
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: There's no surprise here. The rising junior signal-caller has already cemented himself as a legend for the Tigers and has showed during his first two seasons that he can make all the throws and handle the spotlight on the game's biggest stage.
2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: Fields was nothing short of spectacular in his first season as the Buckeyes starting quarterback after throwing just one interception in the regular season. In a new NFL world that values dual-threat quarterbacks more than ever, Fields' ability through the air and on the ground will be highly sought-after if he chooses to leave after his junior season.
3. Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon: The reigning Outland Trophy winner will return to Eugene as the top offensive lineman in college football. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and Sewell will get another chance to show just how good he can be under first-year coordinator Joe Moorhead.
4. Shaun Wade, DB, Ohio State: Wade was one of the surprise returnees for the Buckeyes, who returned to their lock down defensive ways in 2019. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder has the coverage skills and length to be a star at the pro level.
5. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU: The Tigers had a mass exodus after winning the national title. Luckily for coach Ed Orgeron, Chase wasn't eligible to be part of that group heading to the next level. Former quarterback Joe Burrow got most of the love, but Chase was a big part of the Tigers offensive turnaround in 2019.
6. Patrick Surtain II, DB, Alabama: The former five-star defensive back emerged as a stud for the Crimson Tide with two interceptions and 42 tackles despite his team being able to pull starters in blowouts in several games. At 6-2 and 203 pounds, Surtain can play several different roles at the next level.
7. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson: One of the surprise returnees this year, Etienne will be the top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft class. His versatility as a force between the tackles, track star speed and ability to work out of the backfield as a receiver will make him incredibly valuable at the next level.
8. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State: Debating between Hubbard and Etienne is like choosing between $50 steaks at a nice steakhouse -- you're not going to be wrong with either decision. Hubbard's big-play ability coupled with his proven ability to shoulder the load will be important moving forward.
9. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami (FL): Other players might have received more of the spotlight, but Roche's decision to transfer from Temple to Miami will prove to be the biggest transfer of the 2020 offseason. The 6-4, 235-pounder had 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks for the Owls as a junior.
10. Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State: Davis had a breakout campaign for the Big Ten champions and spurned the NFL to come back for another season in Columbus. He will be the centerpiece of an offensive line that should contend for the Joe Moore Award in 2020.
11. Liam Eichenberg, OL, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have become known for churning out great offensive linemen, and Eichenberg is the next in line to make a splash in the NFL Draft. He'll be an anchor of one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2020.
12. Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke: Rumph quietly had 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2019. The 6-3, 225-pounder was a force off the edge, but also notched 47 tackles and proved to be a true every-down defensive lineman despite being mostly known for his pass-rushing ability.
13. Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama: The offensive tackle for the Crimson Tide passed on the NFL to return to school for his senior season. He was instrumental in the national championship win over Georgia two years ago and picked up right where he left off in 2019.
14. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: Like Leatherwood, Harris returned to the Crimson Tide despite being eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft. With Tua Tagovailoa gone and a wide open quarterback competition underway, expect Harris to be a work horse in 2020 -- especially early in the season.
15. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue: The rising junior has been a star from the moment that he stepped on the field, but had some nagging injuries that limited him as a sophomore in 2019. Assuming he's healthy, Moore will be one of the most electric players in college football.
16. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Parsons had a strong sophomore campaign with 109 tackles, and capped it off with 14 tackles including three for losses in the win over Memphis in the Cotton Bowl. Whether it's in the box or lined up in coverage, there is no weakness in Parsons' game.
17. Samuel Cosmi, OL, Texas: Cosmi elected to return to Austin instead of jumping to the NFL Draft and will play a pivotal role on a Longhorns team that is facing plenty of pressure to return to glory. Whether it's in run or pass blocking situations, he has proven to be one of the nation's best up front.
18. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: Smith burst onto the scene in the Crimson Tide's walk off national championship win over Georgia three seasons ago and chose to come back to Tuscaloosa after 1,256 yards and a team-high 14 touchdown receptions in 2019. He'll be the primary target for whoever wins the quarterback battle in 2020.
19. Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State: New coach Mike Norvell is known for offense, but he convinced the 6-5, 311-pound monster in the middle of the defensive line to return instead of jumping to the NFL following a mid-season injury. He will be counted on to be a disrupter in the middle of that line, and could be this year's version of former Auburn standout Derrick Brown.
20. Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State: Hill initially intended to leave Starkville early but had a change of heart once Mike Leach was announced as the program's new head coach. Hill had 1,350 yards rushing despite playing in a one-dimensional offense a year ago and should get plenty of chances as a receiver out of the backfield in Leach's wide-open system.
21. Jay Tufele, DL, USC: Tufele opted to return to the Trojans and could cement himself as a first round pick with another sizzling season in Los Angeles. The 6-3, 305-pound space eater will anchor a defensive line that will be undergoing a switch to a new defensive scheme in 2020.
22. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: Waddle might be the most electric player in college football in 2020. The rising true junior was a force as a receiver and punt returner last season and will become more of a focus on offense this season now that Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are off to the NFL.
23. James Skalski, LB, Clemson: The importance of Skalski was on full display in the College Football Playoff National Championship loss to LSU when he was ejected for targeting in the second half. The rising senior was one of the most important pieces of the Tigers' defensive puzzle and should get more of the spotlight with Isaiah Simmons off to the NFL.
24. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC: The rising junior had 77 catches for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns a year ago and should be more of a deep threat in 2020 now that Michael Pittman is gone. Couple that with an entrenched quarterback in Kedon Slovis and a system that will remain the same, and St. Brown has star written all over him.
25. Richard LeCounte, DB, Georgia: LeCounte had 61 tackles and four interceptions for one of the best defenses in the country a year ago. The 5-11, 190-pound rising senior is great in coverage and one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the country.
26. Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma: Centers rarely get love, but Humphrey's decision to return to Lincoln instead of jumping to the NFL could prove to be one of the most important decisions of the offseason. The Sooners will be breaking in a new starting quarterback, but Humphrey has seen it all and will help ease that transition.
27. CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon: Verdell topped the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the second straight season, and the redshirt junior tailback will be the focal point of the Ducks offense in the post-Justin Herbert era. The 5-9, 210-pound home run hitter is one of the most electric players in college football.
28. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson: Tee Higgins is gone, which means that Ross will be counted on to be the No. 1 receiver for coach Dabo Swinney's squad. He can stretch the field deep, win 50/50 balls and will have the best quarterback in the country tossing him the football in 2020.
29. Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State: It seems like Purdy has been in Ames for a decade, but the rising junior has plenty left in the tank. The dual-threat star can do it all for a Cyclones team that has to get the most out of their star players in order to contend in the Big 12 title race.
30. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama: The quarterback of the Crimson Tide defense missed all of the 2019 season with an injury but should be back to full strength in 2020. His speed and athleticism, combined with his absence from the game for a full year, will make him one of the most intriguing players in 2020.
31. Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC: Pittman is gone, Slovis is entrenched at QB and the Trojans' offense looks like it's going to be a force in 2020. Vaughns was third on the team in receptions (74) and receiving yards (912) in 2019.
32. Big Kat Bryant, DL, Auburn: Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson are gone, which means Bryant will be the star of a new-look Tigers' defensive front. Can he handle the spotlight as the centerpiece? All signs point to yes.
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