The quarterback in a Larry Fedora offense is always going to be good, but Trubisky has a chance to be excellent. The heralded prospect waited three years behind the perpetually underrated Marquise Williams, and now is ready to thrive. The numbers on Trubisky are limited, but he did complete 40 of 47 passes in limited time last year, so the bar is high.
A.D. Miller - WR - Oklahoma
This is a name that few outside of Norman know, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver is getting rave reviews from those around the Oklahoma program. The Sooners need someone to step up and replace Sterling Shepard if they’re going to compete for a playoff spot this season, and Miller might come out of nowhere and be the guy.
Sam Hubbard - DE - Ohio State
The redshirt sophomore actually finished with more sacks than Joey Bosa — 7 to 5 – last year, but in 2016 he won’t have to wait for playing time. The former safety turned tight end turned pass rusher is one of the nation’s most athletic players and he has a surprising amount of polish given his 346 career snaps.
Arden Key - LB - LSU
A super freak athlete, the only thing that’s holding back Key is his inability to put on weight — he looks like Kevin Durant chasing the quarterback. Even so, his responsibility will increase this year, and his production should dramatically increase on his 36 tackles and five sacks last year, which is scary to think about.
John Ross - WR - Washington
After a massive sophomore campaign in 2014, where he tallied seven touchdowns — averaging 75 yards on each of the scores despite a torn meniscus in his right knee — Ross missed the entire 2015 season because of a torn ACL in his left knee, but looks to have come back better than ever for the 2016 season. Washington even says that Ross ran a 4.25 40-yard dash this spring. Sorry Pac-12 DBs.
David Njoku - TE - Miami
With Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott out of the fold, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Brad Kaaya, is going to need a new top target. Stacy Coley might be viewed as the most viable option, but don’t sleep on the 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end who runs a 4.49 second 40-yard dash and was a former state champion high jumper.
Lamar Jackson - QB - Louisville
College football’s ultimate wild card, Jackson’s playmaking ability is perhaps second to none at the college level, but that swashbuckling play can backfire on the Cardinals at times too. If Jackson comes into the 2016 season with a more polished game and better understanding of Bobby Petrino's playbook, the South Florida QB could be in the Heisman conversation.
Soso Jamabo - RB - UCLA
Jamabo is set to take over for Paul Perkins as UCLA’s No. 1 back this season. If he can stay close to his 6.1 yards per carry clip from 2015, Josh Rosen is going to have no problem giving him the ball 300 times in 2016.
Marcus Newby - LB - Nebraska
Newby’s eight-tackle performance in Nebraska’s win over Michigan State last November told Big Red Nation that they had a possible star on their hands. Newby's explosiveness was his best quality as a recruit, but now he’s poised to convert that athleticism to the field in a full-time role.
D’Onta Foreman - RB - Texas
Foreman is a freight train masquerading as a football player. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound load runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash sheds tackles for fun. Foreman will have to split carries with Chris Warren, but it’s hard to see his talent being stymied.
Daylon Mack - DT - Texas A&M
Anchoring the middle of one of the nation’s top defensive lines, Mack enters his sophomore season ready to put up some major stats of his own. The frighteningly athletic big man might be the fastest 300-pounder you’ll ever see, and he has two of the best DEs in the nation taking away attention from him. Expect him to tackle the quarterback and running back simultaneously multiple times this season.
Taco Charlton - DE - Michigan
Charlton was so good in his not-quite full time role last year that he might not properly qualify for this list. The 6-foot-6 270-pound defensive end — always good against the run — became an excellent pass rusher last season, hitting the quarterback nine times. He should push for the national sack lead, and 15-plus is hardly out of the question.
Ryan Anderson - LB - Alabama
Like Charlton, Anderson might have already broken out — Alabama fans and those who watched the SEC Championship Game (two sacks, four hurries in limited time) certainly know who he is. His playing time will likely expand drastically in 2016, and that should make Anderson one of the nation’s top defensive players. Only at Alabama could a player this talented sit on the bench.
LJ Scott - RB - Michigan State
Scott led Michigan State in rushing last year, amassing 699 yards and 11 touchdowns. He doesn’t have to split carries this year and with a change at quarterback, the Spartans are going to lean on Scott to lead the way. A baseline expectation should be 1,500 yards — if the Spartans thrive, he should be in the running for the Heisman.
Derwin James - DB - Florida State
James is a generational talent, and while he was a force for Florida State last year, his 91 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, four breakups, and two forced fumbles as a true freshman were just the baseline. This is the year he enters the stratosphere. He has a legitimate shot at being the second defender to win the Heisman Trophy over the next 16 months. He’ll certainly make himself a household name this year.