2024 Top 100 College Football Players: Where Do Shedeur Sanders, James Pearce Jr., and Abdul Carter Land?

    Spring games and the NFL Draft are in the rearview mirror -- now it's time to look ahead. Who are the best players returning to college football in 2024?

    Every year, the NFL Draft steals the best of the best from the college football landscape. But plenty return, and new names step up to fill the holes. So, who are the top players set to hit the field for the 2024 college football season?

    Ranking the Top 100 College Football Players Returning in 2024

    It’s important to note that this list does not weigh positional value and is not draft-focused. If that’s what you’re looking for, PFN has you covered: early 2025 NFL Draft top 100 prospects.

    With the table setting out of the way, let’s dive into the 100 names you need to know for the 2024 college football season.

    100) James Burnip, P, Alabama

    Only two special teamers crack the list, and both hail from Alabama. James Burnip is the best punter in the country, able to place the ball exactly where he wants it, when he wants it. He also puts an incredible amount of hangtime on each boot, allowing his gunners to get downfield and make the tackle or force a fair catch.

    99) Graham Nicholson, K, Alabama

    Special teams, special plays, special players. The 2023 Lou Groza Award winner, Graham Nicholson missed just one of 28 field goals last season, with 11 coming from 40+ yards out. He’ll continue Will Reichard’s dominance in the conference and help ease the offensive transition under Kalen DeBoer.

    98) Jeremiah Smith, WR, Ohio State

    If Jeremiah Smith plays significant snaps, he could crack the top 50 by the end of the season. If he doesn’t, he’ll fall off the list completely. However, all he has done in the spring is impress coaches, players, and fans alike.

    Ryan Day historically doesn’t play true freshmen WRs; even Marvin Harrison Jr. struggled to see the field early on. But Smith has shown he isn’t a WR1 for the future; he could be Ohio State’s leading pass catcher from Day 1.

    97) Donovan Edwards, RB, Michigan

    Exit Blake Corum; enter Donovan Edwards. He had a down year in 2023, especially coming off a sensational sophomore season filling in for an injured Corum. But Edwards is now the lead back, and even behind a completely retooled offensive line, he has the explosive skill set and next-level receiving ability to carry Michigan’s offense.

    96) Tacario Davis, CB, Arizona

    Despite a coaching staff change, Tacario Davis withdrew his name from the transfer portal. Remember when 6’4″ DBs that could actually move like a DB were rare? Davis racked up 16 pass deflections last season, using his length to completely envelop WRs. Just line him up in press man and watch up lock down his side of the field.

    95) Caullin Lacy, WR, Louisville

    Caullin Lacy quite literally had double the amount of games with 100+ yards (eight) than with less (four). But he was done with torching Sun Belt teams with South Alabama, as he transferred to Lousiville for a step up in competition. Lacy’s ability to stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally will open up the offense, increasing production for those around him.

    94) Kaytron Allen, RB, Penn State

    Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton eat into each other’s production, but with new OC Andy Kotelnicki calling the plays, the two should feast like they never have before.

    Kotelnicki helped propel Kansas’ Devin Neal into stardom, and his gap-heavy scheme fits Allen’s skill set to a Tee. He churns through tackles, is decisive in reading his blocks, and has the short-area burst and movement skills to cause defenders to miss entirely.

    93) Keon Sabb, S, Alabama

    Keon Sabb spent his sophomore season as a reserve safety on Michigan’s national championship-winning squad and played well in the title match against Washington.

    However, he transferred to Alabama this offseason and is immediately penciled in as the starting free safety with the range to make QBs pay downfield. If Sabb pans out how we think he will, he’ll shoot up the top 100 come the end of the season.

    92) Terion Stewart, RB, Bowling Green

    Unless you watched MACtion last year, as you should’ve, you may not know Terion Stewart. After missing the 2022 campaign due to academic and mental health issues, he returned to Bowling Green in 2023 and shook defenders out of their cleats.

    He missed the final four games of the season but forced more missed tackles than some solid backs produce in two full years as a starter. Turn on the tape, and you’ll see Stewart nothing into something on practically every down.

    91) Dani Dennis-Sutton, EDGE, Penn State

    Dani Dennis-Sutton saw both Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac go in the top 100 of the 2024 NFL Draft, and he’s up next. Even rotating behind two studs, DDS generated 3.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, and consistent pressure at 6’5″ and 270 pounds.

    Now in a full-time role, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dennis-Sutton tripled his production off the edge due to his bend, raw power, and explosiveness.

    90) Barrett Carter, LB, Clemson

    Barrett Carter is the epitome of a modern linebacker with the size, speed, and power to be a chess piece on defense. Blitz him off the edge, send him to cover from the slot, or have him fill gaps in the run game from the box — he can do it all. Last year was his first playing full-time at the second level, and there were some growing pains, but he should only improve in Year 2.

    89) Kevin Concepcion, WR, North Carolina State

    The ACC Rookie of the Year and consensus Freshman All-American, Kevin Concepcion took the conference by storm in 2023. He outplayed any positional label, taking 41 carries for 320 yards and 71 catches for 839 yards and 10 scores, even throwing a 17-yard touchdown! With Grayson McCall now under center, expect more fireworks in Wake County.

    88) Tyler Booker, G, Alabama

    Tyler Booker is still honing his craft, but he should take a big leap in DeBoer’s offense. The 6’5″, 350-pound blocker is a fine cut of Wagyu beef bred for destruction, and if he gets his technique under control in 2024, SEC defenders will have to get comfortable being on the ground.

    87) Trevor Etienne, RB, Georgia

    While Trevor Etienne isn’t quite as dynamic as his brother, current Jacksonville Jaguar and former Clemson star Travis, he has the tools to hear his name called in the NFL Draft. He needs to keep his head on straight, but just one season as the Bulldogs’ RB1 could vault him into the top 50.

    86) Zachariah Branch, WR, USC

    There are many words to describe Zachariah Branch’s game, but one stands above the rest: electric. The USC WR is a Tesla Model S Plaid on the field, efficiently outperforming all the gas-powered engines on the field. He generated 332 yards and a score on punt returns and another 442 yards and one TD on kicks en route to becoming USC’s first-ever true freshman first-team All-American.

    85) Deontae Lawson, LB, Alabama

    Deontae Lawson could be a big riser come season’s end, but right now, he’s a bit too inconsistent in coverage to warrant a higher spot. Nevertheless, he is still a stellar run defender with the lateral agility to flow from gap to gap and the pop on contact to stun offensive linemen.

    84) Howard Cross III, DT, Notre Dame

    Howard Cross III has been a mainstay on Notre Dame’s DL since 2021, but he is coming off his best season. Although he only recorded two sacks, he routinely pushed the pocket up the middle, forcing QBs into the hands of his edge rushers.

    Yet, Cross makes his biggest impact against the run, where his combination of raw strength and get-off overwhelm offensive linemen.

    83) Jaydn Ott, RB, Cal

    Cal hasn’t exactly been an exciting football program since the early Jeff Tedford days, which is a shame because most people have likely missed out on watching Jaydn Ott run the football.

    He has largely been the offense the last two seasons, amassing 2,212 yards and 20 TDs on 416 carries. Ott’s receiving chops are also up to snuff, but Cal ought to hand him the ball as much as his body can take.

    82) Rueben Bain Jr., DL, Miami (FL)

    Rueben Bain’s debut rivaled Kanye West’s “The College Dropout,” as he produced hit after hit — on opposing QBs. He finished the season with 12.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles, lining up anywhere from 3 to 7-tech in Mario Cristobal’s system.

    Bain is still growing into his body and mastering his hand usage rather than relying on his physical gifts, but he’s already a game wrecker offenses have to scheme around.

    81) Jaishawn Barham, LB, Michigan

    After laying the boom for Maryland over the last two years, Jaishawn Barham is joining the reigning national champs. Much like Alabama’s Lawson, Barham is still developing his feel in coverage, but he is a menace from the second level. When he trusts his eyes, he explodes through holes and lays ball carriers flat on their backs.

    80) Maxwell Hairston, CB, Kentucky

    Maxwell Hairston tied Alabama’s Terrion Arnold for the most INTs in the conference last season (five), and he did so in two fewer games. But the Kentucky CB didn’t just snatch his picks and take a knee — he returned two for touchdowns (both against Vanderbilt).

    Now a redshirt junior with a season of starting experience under his belt, expect another standout campaign from Hairston in 2024.

    79) Elic Ayomanor, WR, Stanford

    Most remember Elic Ayomanor as the WR who toasted Travis Hunter and Colorado’s DBs to the tune of 294 yards and three scores. But the Buffaloes weren’t the only team that felt his wrath, as the Stanford WR also passed the century mark against Oregon State and Washington.

    78) Debo Williams, LB, South Carolina

    Debo Williams returns as the SEC’s leading tackler and could repeat in 2024. He’s an expert dumpster diver, sifting through the trash at the line of scrimmage and wrapping up. His quick trigger allows him to corral pass catchers before they turn upfield, and he has the sideline-to-sideline range to limit YAC and chase down ball carriers.

    77) Damien Martinez, RB, Miami (FL)

    With Jonathan Smith and large swaths of the coaching staff off to Michigan State, Damien Martinez entered the transfer portal and landed with Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes.

    Miami tended to ride the hot hand at RB, but Martinez offers stability as a 6’0″, 230-pound bully on the run. Although he uses his bruising size to devasting effect, he can also make defenders miss in the open field.

    76) Wyatt Milum, OT, West Virginia

    As is usually the case with future NFL tackles, one minute of Wyatt Milum’s makes you say, “6’6″ and 317-pound men shouldn’t be able to move like that.” He explodes out of his stance and possesses the kill-or-be-killed mentality OL coaches drool over.

    75) Parker Brailsford, C, Alabama

    Parker Brailsford followed DeBoer from Washington to Alabama, and he’ll secure the interior of the offensive lineman between Jaeden Roberts and Tyler Booker. His smaller stature will need time to adjust to the SEC, but his quick feet and movement skills give him a leg up on the competition.

    74) Ricardo Hallman, CB, Wisconsin

    Ricardo Hallman tied for the most INTs in the FBS last season with seven, showcasing his obvious ball skills. He works to keep himself in position with the ball in the air and reads the field like a safety.

    While Hallman isn’t quite as sticky as some other CBs in man coverage, he has the discipline of a self-appointed hall monitor. He maintains his leverage and only flips his hips when necessary.

    73) Patrick Payton, EDGE, Florida State

    Look, I understand the first-round draft hype surrounding Patrick Payton, but he isn’t there yet. His motor runs hot and cold, and he has to expand his pass-rush toolbox.

    That said, his Gumby-esque frame at 6’5″ affords him room for error other pass rushers aren’t privy to. FSU’s roster lists Payton at 254 pounds now, which should help add strength at the point of attack and put sand in his pants against the run.

    72) Barion Brown, WR, Kentucky

    Barion Brown has been held back by Kentucky’s QB play, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He took three kick returns to the house in 2023 while producing a 43-439-4 receiving line and a 12-147-1 rushing line.

    71) RJ Harvey, RB, UCF

    Peny Boone is in town, but this is RJ Harvey’s backfield. He had the same number of 200+ yard games as he did with less than 70 (one) — and that was in UCF’s first year in the Big 12! His searing acceleration and ability to slip tackles allowed him to break off at least one 20+ yard run in all but three games last season.

    70) Hunter Wohler, S, Wisconsin

    Hunter Wohler racked up the second most tackles (120) in the Big Ten last year and earned first-team all-conference honors.

    Spending most of his time in the box certainly helped, but Wohler also spent significant time in the slot and at deep safety. He’s best deployed near the line of scrimmage, as he shoots out of a cannon downhill and has the range to chase down RBs from the backside of the play.

    69) Tre Harris, WR, Ole Miss

    Tre Harris transferred to Ole Miss from LA Tech and improved on his 2022 numbers, which should tell you all you need to know.

    On 54 catches, he moved the chains 37 times and scored eight TDs, meaning only nine of his receptions failed to make a significant impact. Harris is smooth in every facet of his game and has the body control to come down with passes other WRs could only dream of.

    68) JT Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State

    A former five-star recruit, it’s safe to say JT Tuimoloau has fallen short of expectations at times. He has the size and power profile NFL teams covet, but he needs his pass-rush arsenal to mask his lack of bend and finesse. But in Year 4, perhaps Tuimoloau takes his game to a new level and dominates tackles across from teammate Jack Sawyer (more on him shortly).

    67) Cam Ward, QB, Miami (FL)

    Cam Ward’s first season at Washington State was slightly disappointing, but he rebounded in 2023 with 3,735 yards, 25 TDs, and just seven INTs. His creativity in and out of the pocket will always draw the camera, and he has the arm talent to hit NFL-level throws. If he takes care of the football while layering passes all over the field, Miami will challenge for a CFP spot.

    66) TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State

    Although TreVeyon Henderson’s career hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations set by his true freshman campaign, he’s still one of the top RBs in the country. His dense 5’10” and nearly 215-pound frame was built for between-the-tackle runs, but he’s also a threat as a receiver and keeps the ball off the turf.

    65) Sonny Styles, LB, Ohio State

    The Buckeyes are moving Sonny Styles and his 6’4, 230-pound frame to linebacker after he started at safety last season. The move should prove beneficial, as Styles’ physicality and ability to sniff out runs is best utilized from the second level. And his athleticism should only help him neutralize larger threats in coverage.

    64) Tyleik Williams, DT, Ohio State

    Tyleik Williams has some eye-popping reps on his film, but he doesn’t routinely beat the man across from him. Regardless, his bull rush can collapse pockets, and he has no issue shedding blocks when he has proper hand placement.

    63) Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State

    Jack Sawyer’s 8.5 TFLs and five sacks may not look all that impressive, but he has the power to manhandle offensive tackles both as a pass rusher and run defender. Yes, his lack of speed and bend limit his pass-rush upside. Yet, at the college level, Sawyer’s raw strength is more than enough, and that’s not even counting his ability to blow up run plays.

    62) Jonah Monheim, OT, USC

    Jonah Monheim can line up anywhere on the offensive line but has played most of his career at tackle (both left and right). Mauling defenders isn’t rare from the USC lineman, but he’s clearly spent most of his time in the pass-blocking lab. He largely kept Caleb Williams’ jersey clean, and that wasn’t always the easiest with the pocket tendencies of the former Trojans QB.

    61) Devin Neal, RB, Kansas

    Across three seasons, Devin Neal has amassed 3,077 yards and 33 TDs, using his mobility and vision to maximize the lanes his OL provides him. However, as he showed last season, Neal has no issues creating space for himself on the move.

    60) Tez Johnson, WR, Oregon

    Tez Johnson has been overlooked due to the addition of Evan Stewart this offseason, but he should surpass the 1,000-yard mark yet again with Dillon Gabriel under center. A former Troy transfer, Johnson is a YAC monster who easily creates separation from the slot due to his searing short-area speed and acceleration.

    59) Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ohio State

    It just means more for Quinshon Judkins, who posted 1,567 yards and 16 scores as a true freshman in the SEC. Had he remained the RB1 in Ole Miss, he’d rank much higher, but sharing a backfield with TreVeyon Henderson limits both players’ ceilings.

    58) Harold Fannin Jr., TE, Bowling Green

    Harold Fannin Jr. hauled in 44 receptions (first among MAC TEs), 623 yards (sixth overall), and six TDs (second overall), putting his name on the national map. A former safety/wide receiver recruit, Fannin possesses sure hands, can make defenders miss in the open field, and easily separates from plodding linebackers.

    57) Ajani Cornelius, OT, Oregon

    After transferring from Rhode Island, you’d expect Ajani Cornelius would need some time to transition to the FBS, let alone the Power Five. He didn’t. Oregon kept him at his natural right tackle spot, and he proved to be one of the best in the nation, allowing zero sacks.

    56) Jabbar Muhammad, CB, Oregon

    At 5’10” and 187 pounds with gnat-like annoyance levels in coverage, Jabbar Muhammad logged three INTs and 16 PBUs in 2023. Now, his lack of towering size did give him issues when tackling and contesting passes vs. taller WRs at Washington, but Dan Lanning should put Muhammad in a better position to succeed with the Ducks.

    55) Tahj Brooks, RB, Texas Tech

    With a 5’10” and 230-pound frame, Tahj Brooks bounces off tackle attempts and runs through defenders’ arms like a hot knife through butter. He ran for over 1,500 yards and 10 TDs last season, doing most of his damage after first contact. But don’t get it twisted; Brooks can break one downfield if he gets a runway.

    54) Ashton Gillotte, EDGE, Louisville

    Inside, outside, it doesn’t matter — Ashton Gillotte will drive his opposition into the QB’s lap. His speed to power is his calling card and has resulted in 22.5 TFLs and 18 sacks in the last two years. The 6’3″, 275-pound ball of energy strikes fear into ACC offensive linemen; he’ll do the same in the NFL in 2025.

    53) Jaxson Dart, QB, Ole Miss

    In addition to throwing six fewer picks in 2023, Jaxson Dart tossed for 390 more yards and three more TDs than his 2022 numbers. He was far more efficient in Year 2 in Lane Kiffin’s offense, and with Tre Harris and Juice Wells on the outside, expect even greater production in Year 3.

    52) Jason Henderson, LB, Old Dominion

    After leading the FBS with 189 tackles in 2022, Jason Henderson totaled another 167 in 2023, earning second-team AP All-American recognition.

    Curious as to just how prolific he is as a tackler? His career 12.1 tackles per game ranks third in FBS history behind only Boston College’s Luke Kuechly and Marland’s E.J. Henderson. Oh, and last season, ODU allowed him to blitz more often, resulting in 4.5 sacks and over two dozen pressures.

    51) Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State

    Injuries slowed Emeka Egbuka in 2023, but as the new WR1 — at least while Jeremiah Smith gets his feet wet — he is primed for his best season yet. He knows how to get open and has the strong hands to reel in the football and turn upfield.

    50) Dorian Strong, CB, Virginia Tech

    One of the top CBs in the ACC, Dorian Strong logged eight PBUs and three INTs. But his impact extends beyond the stat sheet. Last season, he allowed practically nothing into his coverage, and QBs rarely looked his way.

    49) Trey Moore, EDGE, Texas

    2023 AAC Defensive Player of the Year. UTSA’s record holder for sacks in a season (14). It’s clear why Texas sought the pass-rush specialist. Trey Moore will put his skill set to the ultimate test in the SEC, but his traits should translate. He is sudden off the edge with the quick hands to keep himself clean around the arc.

    48) Jalon Daniels, QB, Kansas

    A back injury sidelined Jalon Daniels for much of the 2023 season, but what we saw was a far more accurate passer who was willing to air it out. It was only a three-game sample size, so we’ll need to see it once again in 2024. Yet, Daniels has the creation capacity and arm talent to cause defenses headaches.

    47) Dillon Thieneman, S, Purdue

    As a true freshman, Dillon Thieneman stuffed his résumé with accolades, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a spot on the AP All-American team.

    He made QBs pay from his free safety alignment, snatching six interceptions. But what really pops off the screen is Thieneman’s trigger downhill in the run game, obliterating unknowing ball carriers careening toward open space.

    46) Shemar Turner, EDGE, Texas A&M

    The decision to move Shemar Turner from DT to EDGE proved to be the right one for the Aggies, as he went from 6.5 TFLs and two sacks in 19 games to 10.5 and six in 12 contests last season. He even tacked on two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks for good measure. With Nic Scourton rushing opposite him, expect Turner’s numbers to escalate once again.

    45) Kenneth Grant, DT, Michigan

    At 6’3″ and nearly 340 pounds, Kenneth Grant is a grizzly bear rushing the passer. He won’t win at an elite rate, but when he does, QBs feel it. His sheer size and knockback power also allow him to plug multiple gaps against the run, and he fits right at home at nose tackle vs. smaller centers.

    44) Isaiah Bond, WR, Texas

    Xavier Worthy and AD Mitchell are gone, but Isaiah Bond could be even better than either pass catcher. He isn’t as big as Mitchell or as fast as Worthy, but his explosiveness and start/stop ability to torture CBs at the stem set him apart.

    43) Quincy Riley, CB, Louisville

    Over the last four seasons (first two at Middle Tennessee, last two at Louisville), Quincy Riley has notched 13 INTs and 39 pass deflections. So yeah, there are no concerns over his ball skills. ACC teams tested his side of the field often in 2023 — expect that to change in 2024.

    42) Donovan Jackson, G, Ohio State

    Donovan Jackson was born to play on the offensive line at 6’4″, 320 pounds, with 36″ arms. He is still refining his technique, but he has the movement skills to thrive in Chip Kelly’s offense.

    41) Ben Bell, EDGE, Texas State

    Despite splitting time and starting only seven games, Ben Bell set Texas State’s FBS program records with 16 TFLs and 10 sacks. He could not be stopped when on the field, and with several upperclassmen off the depth chart, Bell’s playing time will only increase. Sun Belt QBs better buckle their chin straps because their bells will be ringing against Texas State.

    40) Colston Loveland, TE, Michigan

    Colston Loveland was J.J. McCarthy’s safety net, as the first-round pick often looked the TE’s way on key downs. Tight ends rarely reach their potential at the collegiate level, but Michigan knows how to use their height/weight/speed threat, often lining him up in the slot and allowing him to devour smaller slot defenders and slower linebackers.

    39) Evan Stewart, WR, Oregon

    Evan Stewart puts DBs on the back of milk cartons due to his blazing twitch and burst on his routes, sending them to different area codes at all levels of the field. His slight frame (6’0″ and 175 pounds) limits his contested-catch ability, and he wasn’t much of a YAC threat at Texas A&M, but operating in Oregon’s offense should allow Stewart to set a new standard.

    38) Elijah Roberts, EDGE, SMU

    With his neck roll and aggressive play style, Elijah Roberts has shades of 1990’s Dolphin Bryan Cox in his game. Once he gains steam off the edge, Roberts bowls through opposing OTs and finishes with a strike on the QB (10 sacks in 2023). His heavy hands shock linemen and help him keep his chest clean.

    37) D’Angelo Ponds, CB, TBD

    D’Angelo Ponds received Sun Belt CB of the Year, Freshman CB of the Year, and Freshman All-American honors from CFN after generating 51 tackles, 15 pass breakups, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries in 13 games as a true freshman.

    The high school track star showcased his speed on the boundary last season, easily carrying routes downfield and sticking to WRs at the breakpoint. Ponds helped James Madison to an 11-2 record in the school’s second season in the FBS but is now looking for a new home — likely a top Power Five program where he can showcase his talent on the national stage.

    36) Tate Ratledge, G, Georgia

    Tate Ratledge stepped into the starting right guard role in 2022 and has been an immovable boulder there ever since. He is as reliable as they come in pass pro and isn’t averse to getting his nose dirty in the run game.

    35) Xavier Nwankpa, S, Iowa

    We all know about Iowa’s offensive woes last season, but the defense was brimming with talents who kept the score closer than it ever should’ve been. One such defender was Xavier Nwankpa, who is a complete safety at 6’2″ and 210 pounds. Line up in the box, in the slot, single-high, two-high, you name it, Nwankpa can do it — and do it well.

    34) Kaimon Rucker, EDGE, North Carolina

    Kaimon Rucker has a bit of a tweener build at 6’2″ and 265 pounds, but he was utterly disruptive on the edge, recording 8.5 sacks and 15 TFLs. Returning for his fifth and final season, the UNC EDGE will show opponents what it is like to play at Rucker Park.

    33) Noah Fifita, QB, Arizona

    Noah Fifita is only 5’11” and 194 pounds, but he is one of the most fun players to watch in college football. He escapes the pocket with the sole purpose of delivering strikes downfield, and he has the arm to fit passes into tight windows and take the top off defenses.

    Fifita showed all this in only his first season as the starter — and he didn’t take the reigns until Week 4! Expect even greater things to come from the Arizona QB in 2024.

    32) Ashton Jeanty, RB, Boise State

    What’s left to be said about the CFN first-team All-American? A terror in the open field, he broke a ridiculous amount of tackles last season and reached a top speed of 21.5 mph. Ashton Jeanty isn’t just the best RB in the Mountain West; he’s in the conversation for the best RB in all of college football.

    31) Xavier Watts, S, Notre Dame

    The reigning Nagurski Award winner, given to the nation’s best defender, Xavier Watts snagged an FBS-leading seven INTs last season and consistently made big plays when Notre Dame needed them. He has a knack for being where the football is and can fly around the field from any alignment.

    30) Harold Perkins, LB, LSU

    The Tigers didn’t know where to line Harold Perkins up last season, so they just lined him up everywhere. He split his time evenly between the slot, box, and defensive line, but he’s at his best rushing QBs off the edge. With the burst and bend to blow by OTs and the range to flow to the ball from the second level, Perkins should excel at WILL in new DC Blake Fisher’s scheme.

    29) Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State

    Denzel Burke’s sophomore slump after an impressive one-INT, 12-PBU true freshman campaign left a bad taste in the mouths of fans. However, the long, explosive CB bounced back in 2023, breaking up eight passes and intercepting one pass. He has to come to balance as a tackler to crack down on YAC allowed, but Burke is also a tenacious support defender against the run.

    28) Tory Horton, WR, Colorado State

    Tory Horton gave Colorado State fans a transfer portal scare but ultimately returned to the Rams for the upcoming campaign. There are few holes in his game, as he can win before the catch, at the catch point, and after the catch. Prepare for a third straight 1,000+ yard season from Horton in 2024.

    27) Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas

    Quinn Ewers is probably a better college QB than an NFL QB, and that’s OK! He isn’t the most accurate, but he has the arm and talent around him to lead Texas back to the College Football Playoff. Plus, with Arch Manning breathing down his neck, I expect Ewers to keep his foot on the gas pedal.

    26) Benjamin Morrison, CB, Notre Dame

    As a true freshman in 2022, Benjamin Morrison put his name on the map with six interceptions. And even though coverage numbers are usually volatile year over year, he came right back and put up 10 PBUs and three INTs in 2023.

    At 6’0″ and 185 pounds, Morrison doesn’t win with brute strength or suffocating length, instead relying on his movement skills and instincts to smother WRs.

    25) Kaidon Salter, QB, Liberty

    In his first season as Liberty’s full-time starter, Kaidon Salter showcased his dual-threat ability, throwing for 2,876 yards, 32 TDs, and just six INTs while rushing for another 1,089 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

    He led the team to a C-USA title and the program’s first-ever New Year’s Six bowl game. Despite a quick stint in the transfer portal, Salter is back in Lynchburg and ready to flame defenses once again.

    24) Walter Nolen, DT, Ole Miss

    Texas A&M had Walter Nolen anywhere from 1 to 7-tech, but he’s at his best penetrating through the B gap. Through two seasons, he has largely won on talent alone, but with improved technique and hand usage, he could take his game to new heights at Ole Miss.

    23) Sebastian Castro, DB, Iowa

    Few defenders made a bigger impact than Sebastian Castro in 2023. The Hawkeyes’ slot DB registered 67 tackles, eight TFLs, a sack, three picks, and eight PBUs. At 5’11”, 204 pounds, he’s a rocked-up nickel with the size to fill gaps in run defense and the athleticism to shut down the short and intermediate parts of the field in coverage.

    22) Malaki Starks, S, Georgia

    Since 2022, Malaki Starks has registered five INTs and 14 PBUs, highlighting his playmaking ability in coverage. But he’s also one of the best tacklers in the nation and revels in crashing the box and forcing negative plays for the offense.

    21) Deone Walker, DT, Kentucky

    6’6″, 348-pound defensive tackles that can create pressure on their own are rare, and that’s exactly what Deone Walker is. He accounted for 12.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks last season, using his free-moving and powerful build to open the floodgates on the interior.

    20) Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oregon

    Dillon Gabriel is one of the premier deep-ball artists in the game, and he drastically reduced his pressure-to-sack rate last season. He is also athletic enough to move the chains with his legs when he needs to, and he even ran for 12 TDs in 2023. With Tez Johnson and Evan Stewart on the outside and Jordan James in the backfield, expect big things from Oregon’s offense in 2024.

    19) Ricky White, WR, UNLV

    Losing Jayden Maiava stings, but Holy Cross transfer Matthew Sluka is a proficient passer in his own right. After starting slow against Bryant and Michigan, Ricky White III exploded for 12 receptions and 165 yards vs. Vanderbilt and never looked back.

    He can take any play to the house, hitting a top speed of 21.2 mph in Week 12 against Air Force. But the UNLV WR simply knows how to win on his routes, creating separation at an impressive rate.

    18) Princely Umanmielen, EDGE, Ole Miss

    Princely Umanmielen has taken shots at Florida since transferring to Ole Miss, complaining about his lack of development with the program. His film last season also showed several low-effort plays, so a change of scenery was best for both sides.

    If seven sacks and 11.5 TFLs were the result of Umanmielen without substantial coaching and living off his athletic tools, just how good could he be in 2024?

    17) Omarion Hampton, RB, North Carolina

    While Drake Maye conducted the offense, Omario Hampton was the engine. He rushed for 1,504 yards and 15 TDs, earning first-team All-ACC honors and finishing as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. His 6’0″ and 220-pound build can handle NFL-level volume, and his footwork and vision behind the line of scrimmage capitalize on his athletic gifts.

    16) Caleb Downs, S, Ohio State

    Caleb Downs stepped off the plane and immediately earned Alabama’s starting safety spot as a true freshman. He became the first Alabama freshman to lead the team in tackles (107) and also recorded two INTs, three PBUs, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

    His addition to an Ohio State defense already loaded with front-seven talent should translate to dominance in the Big Ten.

    15) Jay Higgins, LB, Iowa

    Disciplined. Good athlete. Sure tackler. Has a nose for the ball. Stop me if you’ve heard those adjectives describe an Iowa defender before, but Jay Higgins fits the bill. He racked up a country-leading 171 tackles as a full-time starter last season, but he can also blitz effectively and get to his drops in zone.

    14) Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado

    Off-the-field antics aside, Shedeur Sanders is a deadly QB, compiling 3,230 yards, 27 TDs, and only three INTs last year.

    Pressure got to him at times, but he has the effortless mobility, arm talent, and accuracy to dot up defenses, even in the Big 12. Does he have the talent around him to win more than four games and become a top-five pick in the 2025 NFL Draft? That remains to be seen.

    13) Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama

    Yes, Jalen Milroe isn’t the most accurate QB and has a ways to go, but he showed exceptional growth after being benched early in the season, and he now gets to work with QB guru DeBoer. That’s not even including his dynamic ability as a runner — just ask LSU.

    12) Nic Scourton, EDGE, Texas A&M

    What do Fresno State, Syracuse, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana have in common? They were all victims of Nic Scourton’s brute force last season. The Purdue EDGE transfer brings his nauseating spin move and raw power to College Station after crushing the Big Ten. He is only 19 years old and is already coming off a 10-sack, 15-TFL campaign — talk about “breakout age.”

    11) Tetairoa McMillan, WR, Arizona

    With Noah Fifita slinging him the rock, Tetairoa McMillan exploded for 1,402 yards and 10 scores last fall. The 6’5″, 210-pound skywalker obviously has contested-catch appeal but is actually quite flexible as a route runner.

    10) Travis Hunter, WR/CB, Colorado

    The NFL will need to figure out where Travis Hunter will play full-time (the answer is CB), but at the collegiate level, he can be football’s Shohei Ohtani. His smooth athleticism and body control make him dangerous as a receiver and a playmaker as a corner.

    Hunter quite literally makes plays no other player can, but playing two positions certainly caps his out put at both.

    9) Kelvin Banks Jr., OT, Texas

    Kelvin Banks Jr. set foot in Austin and immediately shined at left tackle, particularly in pass protection. The former five-star recruit has lived up to his billing and then some, and with another commanding season, he could be a top-10 NFL Draft prospect.

    8) Will Johnson, CB, Michigan

    Will Johnson could’ve started in the NFL last season — that’s how good he is. At 6’2″ and 202 pounds, he has all the physical tools to be a shutdown corner, not to mention his easy-to-see intangibles: competitiveness, patience, and high football IQ to recognize route concepts.

    7) Will Campbell, OT, LSU

    Will Campbell has started at left tackle since his true freshman season in 2022 and has never looked back. The 6’6″ and 325-pound OT is a mauler in the ground game and didn’t allow a sack in 2023.

    He’s balanced, has strong hands, and is explosive off the ball with the range to pull in the run game and mirror twitchier edge rushers. Don’t let the “shorter than you’d like” arm-length discussions distract from what he’s put on film.

    6) Carson Beck, QB, Georgia

    While Carson Beck isn’t the flashiest athlete or the biggest arm, he has the poise, anticipation, and layering ability of a future NFL QB. He passed for nearly 4,000 yards, 24 TDs, and six INTs last season and operates the collegiate bulldozer that is Georgia with the efficiency of a Tesla.

    5) Luther Burden II, WR, Missouri

    Luther Burden III is a Heisman candidate as a true junior and the top WR in the country. After displaying his playmaking ability as a true freshman, LBIII torched SEC defenses to the tune of 1,212 yards and nine scores last season. With the speed, body control, and route-running nuance of a future pro, college DBs stand no chance.

    4) Abdul Carter, EDGE, Penn State

    Abdul Carter has been a force to be reckoned with at linebacker, but a full-time move to EDGE this offseason will result in widespread paranormal activity in the Big Ten. The 6’3″, 250-pound defender puts offensive linemen in a blender with his combination of power, speed, and bend.

    3) Mason Graham, DT, Michigan

    With Kenneth Grant occupying space next to him, Mason Graham often benefits from more 1-on-1s — and he takes advantage. He moves like a man 20 pounds lighter but possesses the heavy hands to club offensive linemen and jolt them backward. His lateral quickness and first-step explosion make him a nightmare to handle against the run.

    2) James Pearce Jr., EDGE, Tennessee

    James Pearce Jr. isn’t only the best returning player in the SEC; he is one spot away from being the best returning player in the nation. As a true sophomore, he tallied 14.5 TFLs, 10 sacks, one INT, two pass deflections, and two forced fumbles, using his length and explosiveness to devastating effect.

    1) Ollie Gordon II, RB, Oklahoma State

    Ollie Gordon II won the Doak Walker Award and generated over 2,000 yards of total offense (1,732 rushing and 330 receiving) — he was the obvious choice for No. 1. His jaw-dropping flexibility, contact balance, and eyes gain every inch physically possible on every carry.

    Gordon presses holes, manipulating defenders into giving him space to operate, and has the speed to turn plays behind the LOS into home runs.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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