I am a long time NFL watcher, but I’m always a little bit lost when it comes to college football or the college football players to watch in 2020. More often than not I only pay attention to potential draft prospects in the final month running up to the draft.
In the hopes of doing things a little differently this year, I have compiled a list of the top players to watch throughout the next College football season (provided it still goes ahead). If you happen to catch a game this year, look out for some of these players who look set to dominate at their respective positions.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson Tigers
2019 Stats – 3665 yards, 36 TDs, 8 INTs; 563 rush yards, 9 TDs
Lawrence already projects to be the #1 draft prospect in 2021, and more than likely would have been a 1st round selection in 2020 had he chosen to enter the draft. This is what makes him one of my favourite college football players to watch already because he is a proven prospect. The Clemson product returns to college for 1 more year, hoping to win his 2nd College Championship in 3 seasons, after getting beaten in the Championship game by Joe Burrow’s LSU last season.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes
2019 Stats – 3273 yards, 41 TDs, 3 INTs; 484 rush yards, 10 TDs
Having narrowly lost to Lawrence’s Clemson last season, Fields will hope to challenge for the Championship this time round. Fields was the 1st QB in Big Ten history to pass for 40 touchdowns and run for 10 touchdowns in the same season. The 6’3″ QB was also a Heisman trophy finalist last year.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU Tigers
2019 Stats – 84 receptions, 1780 yards, 20 TDs
LSU won the Championship title with Burrow at the helm, but he didn’t do it without a lot of help from Chase. Chase’s SEC-leading yards and touchdowns totals included an impressive 9 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown in the Championship game against Clemson. He would arguably have been the top WR taken in the 2020 draft had he been eligible.
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State Nittany Lions
2019 Stats – 109 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
Named Big Ten Linebacker of the Year in 2019, Parsons is a unique talent. Initially recruited as a Defensive End, Parsons is explosive off the edge and continually makes plays in the backfield (14 tackles for loss in 2019). His impressive season ended with him dominating the Cotton Bowl against the Memphis Tigers, racking up 14 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, earning him the Defensive MVP award in a 53-39 win.
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
2019 Stats – 68 receptions, 1256 yards, 14 TDs
Devonta Smith was eligible to enter the 2020 NFL draft and, if he had have done so, would almost certainly have been a 1st round prospect. He was the #1 receiver in yards and touchdowns at Alabama a season ago in a team that included Jerry Jeudy (drafted 15th overall) and Henry Ruggs III (drafted 12th overall). If Smith can repeat this success in 2020 he will join Ja’Marr Chase atop an elite wide receiver class in 2021.
Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon Ducks
At 6’6″ and 330 lbs, this Polynesian O-lineman is the real deal. Did I mention he is only 19 years old? Over the last 2 seasons Sewell has only allowed 1 sack in 1376 snaps. He had the top-rated season for an O-lineman in Pro Football Focus (PFF) history and won the Outland trophy for best interior lineman (Offence or Defence) in 2019. Sewell might just be the top non-QB prospect in next year’s draft.
Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami Hurricanes
2019 Stats – 15.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 54 tackles
The Hurricanes 6-7 record might not have set college football on fire in 2019, but Gregory Rousseau did. His 15.5 sacks are just 1 behind Chase Young’s stats from a season ago, and Young was many experts #1 prospect heading into the 2020 draft. If Rousseau can lead the league in sacks in Young’s absence, he could be a top 10 prospect in 2021. At 6’6″, this rangy DE can take over a game.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida Gators
2019 Stats – 54 receptions, 649 yards, 5 TDs
On paper there were no really exceptional tight-ends in the 2020 draft, but Pitts could change that in 2021. He led his team in receptions last season, and was only 8 yards behind wide receiver Van Jefferson (drafted in 2nd round by LA Rams). Pitts could well be a 2021 1st round prospect for many teams in need of a receiving TE.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama Crimson Tide
2019 Stats – 42 tackles, 2 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
Surtain II will follow in the footsteps of his father, who played cornerback for the Miami Dolphins, and later the Kansas City Chiefs. At 6’2″, Surtain has the size to take on some of the NFL’s elite receivers. His side and speed draw comparisons to Jalen Ramsey, and he will look to back up these comparisons with a strong 2020 campaign in the hope of being the #1 cornerback selected in 2021.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
2018 Stats – 1658 rush yards, 24 TDs; 78 receiving yards, 2 TDs
2019 Stats – 1614 rush yards, 19 TDs; 432 receiving yards, 4 TDs
Despite being eligible for the 2020 draft, Etienne opted to return to college for his Senior year. A dynamic back and a productive runner, he has 2 very strong seasons already behind him. He will look to help Clemson, and Lawrence, win their 2nd Championship title in 3 years. The only thing that might work against Etienne going into the 2021 draft will be just how much he has been used during his college career. NFL teams tend to want running backs with plenty of tread left on the tyres.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
2019 Stats – 1224 rush yards, 13 TDs; 304 receiving yards, 7 TDs
If, like me, you like to watch hard-hitting running backs, look no further than Najee Harris. Straight out of the same school as Derrick Henry, Harris very much plays with a similar style. At 6’2″ and 230 lbs, Harris is just a little bit smaller in stature than Henry, but he has also been more effective in the passing game. If Harris can put together another stellar season he could make a splash in the 2021 draft.
For more about NCAA football you can go to Gridiron Blogs!
If you want a look at all the college football players you can watch in the 2020 season take a look at The Draft Networks definitive list!