On Thursday evening, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, putting an expected bow on a dream season. Entering the 2019 season, Burrow, despite a being high-profile transfer from Ohio State to LSU the year before, was still an under-the-radar player. But after a record-breaking, Heisman-winning year culminating in a national championship, everyone knows who his name.
Who will be this upcoming season's Joe Burrow?
The following players don't need to check off every box that Burrow did, but our staff picked their favorite player to watch for the upcoming season who should be a national household name by December -- or whenever the end of the season is for 2020.
Barrett Sallee: Alabama QB Bryce Young
Alabama folks got a glimpse of Mac Jones under center during the final few games of the 2019 season, but they haven't peeped the new King of Tuscaloosa yet. The top quarterback in the Class of 2020 will end the season a lot like Jalen Hurts did during the 2016 season. Hurts entered early vs. USC in that opener, and coach Nick Saban will do the same with Young again, coincidentally, against USC in 2020. Young will show that he's too electric to keep off the field. His got a cannon for an arm and his legs will bring an element to the offense that Jones just can't provide. Young will assert himself as Alabama's starter by the end of September, toss 25-plus touchdown passes and lead Alabama back to the top of the SEC peak (subject to change).
Chip Patterson: Ohio State DE Zach Harrison
We all just watched Chase Young fulfill his destiny as the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and I'm here to tell you that the next in that prolific line of Ohio State edge rushers is ready for the call to superstardom. The former five-star prospect not only flashed as a freshman like Young, but last season's circumstances really required him to play significant role in the rotation with two starts and appearances in all 14 games. Jonathon Cooper's early season injury and Young's two-game NCAA suspension allowed Harrison to get comfortable at the collegiate level as he totaled 3.5 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss, tops among returning defensive linemen in both categories. Young ran second to Nick Bosa as a freshman then took a leap during his sophomore season, and I expect Harrison will do the same. So get ready Big Ten, because the dominance of Ohio State's defensive line is not ending any time soon.
Tom Fornelli: Penn State LB Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons is not an unknown commodity to those who pay close attention to college football. The Penn State linebacker was named the Big Ten's Linebacker of the Year last season, and he was also named First Team All-Big Ten as well as an AP All-American. He finished his season by being named the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl (though, considering the final score was 53-39...). Still, while that's all impressive, Parsons is not what anybody would consider a household name.
But he will be.
Parsons is like Clemson's Isaiah Simmons in that he's the prototype defensive player of the future. He's a linebacker who also plays defensive end, and could probably play a little safety if he was asked to. Well, it's probably him doing the asking, as his coach James Franklin has said that Parsons is always asking him if he can play other positions. That's why he's currently listed atop Penn State's depth chart at kick returner. We don't know if it will actually happen, but it could! Parsons has that kind of talent. By this time next year, it'll be Parsons' name we're hearing called early in the NFL Draft. He's already a superstar, most of the world just hasn't noticed yet. They will this fall.
Ben Kercheval: Georgia WR George Pickens
Pickens actually led the Bulldogs in receiving a season ago as a true freshman with 49 grabs for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. Solid numbers for a debut or otherwise, but I can see him absolutely owning as a sophomore. Georgia gets an excellent transfer quarterback in Jamie Newman and an upgrade at offensive coordinator with Todd Monken coming to Athens. As such, Georgia should have a retooled, high-powered offense that should be stat-friendly and not a detriment.
What I like about Pickens as a player is that he's already shown to be a reliable target who also has a flair for the sensational, highlight-reel type of catches. PFF noted that he didn't drop a single catchable ball last year. Plus, he can do this:
With Alabama and LSU losing some big names at wideout -- though, to be fair, they also bring some big names back -- there's room at the table for Pickens to make a national name for himself. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the thick of the Biletnikoff conversation at year's end.