College football is something that every fan of the NFL should be paying attention to because it gives an indication of who the future stars will be. Every season the NCAAF produces a raft of promising players and the pipeline from it to the NFL – via the draft – is well established.
Despite all of that though, many dedicated football fans still don’t keep an eye on the college leagues. For the benefit of those people, here we will take a look at some of the hot prospects in this season of college football that could be lighting up the NFL next year.
Oklahoma Sooners had high hopes of lifting their first NCAAF Championship in two decades going into this season and those hopes are still intact. One of the major reasons for that optimism is quarterback Spencer Rattler.
Rattler did not always look like the star-in-the-making that he does now. Early on in 2020 he found himself benched for a match against the Texas Longhorns after six turnovers in just 10 quarters of football.
A lesser player might have let it affect them long-term, but Rattler went on to rack up 3,031 yards in throws, seven interceptions and 28 touchdowns before the end of the season. His pass completion stats were the ninth best across all football.
That marked his card as one to watch in 2021 and he has lived up to the hype as Oklahoma have won seven out of nine so far this season.
Neal plays as an offensive tackle for Alabama Crimson Tide in the Southeastern Conference. Weighing in at 350 pounds and standing 6 foot 7 in height, what you would not really expect is speed and agility to go alongside strength and power.
That is precisely what Neal has though, ensuring he stands out. This season he was expected to become the heart of the offense for Alabama, after Alex Leatherwood was drafted by the Raiders, and he has looked every inch the part.
Alabama are currently topping the college football betting markets with championship odds of +120 and Neal is being linked with a move to the New York Jets. The two are not co-incidental.
Derek Stingley Jr.
In his two years as a cornerback for the LSU Tigers, Stingley Jr. has amassed impressive stats and awards. He has been chosen on two occasions for both the All-SEC and All-American teams and when you look at his stats it is easy to see why.
Last season alone he ended with six interceptions, 21 pass blocks and 65 tackles from the 22 matches that he played. He also offers versatility, being able to play receiver as well as cornerback, putting him firmly on the radar of many NFL sides.
Thibodeaux broke into the starting line-up for the Oregon Ducks almost exactly two years ago and he immediately made the defensive end position his own. Despite not playing for much of the season he still ended it ranked sixth.
He is currently the best edge rusher to be found in the college game, which makes him a player that can turn matches in his team’s favor. Thibodeaux is probably the defensive player with the most intimidating reputation.
All of this means he is being linked with a move to both the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions. There is a very good chance that this will be his last season in college football before he enters the big time.
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Playing as a quarterback for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Howell might have the best overall stats in the league for his position. Two years ago he shattered a number of passing records previously held by Trevor Lawrence before – almost unbelievably – going on to beat his own records last year.
During 2020 he had a pass completion rate of 68.1% and threw a total of 3,586 yards throughout the season. He is one of the most effective offense players in the league and helped revive a team that lacked an offensive cutting edge.
Howell is also developing into one of college football’s best passers of the ball from deep positions. His adjusted completion rate for this currently stands at more than 50 across his career so far, which is among the league’s best 20 in any season.
These states were achieved while playing for a side with a less than stellar record. North Carolina is 3-5 so far this season, but Howell is still a top prospect.
All of these players are already finding themselves strongly linked with moves to the NFL for next season. It will be interesting to see whether they are able to make the grade if they do make the move.
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