Meet the college players stepping in to replace top NFL draft picks
If an NFL team uses a top-10 pick on a player, it’s essentially declaring that prospect a potential franchise player. College teams, unfortunately, don’t get to hold on to their franchise players for more than three or four years, and while roster turnover is constant, replacing a player of that magnitude can be particularly daunting.
Here’s a quick primer on the college players being counted on to replace last week’s newly selected yop 10.
Next in line: Redshirt sophomore Chase Forrest or redshirt freshman Ross Bowers.
The 6-2, 205-pound Forrest, yet another QB export from Orange County prep power Mater Dei, backed up Goff last season and came into spring the favorite to succeed him. But he’s yet to distance himself from Bowers, a 6-2, 190-pound Washington native. Well-traveled senior transfer Zach Kline is also in the mix. Whoever wins the job will be working with a green receiving corps; Cal must replace its top six pass-catchers from last season’s 8-5 team.
One potential wild card: Texas Tech grad transfer and two-year starter Davis Webb, long assumed to be heading to Colorado, could still end up at Cal. If so, the job is likely his.
Next in line: Redshirt sophomore Easton Stick
The Bison won their fifth consecutive FCS title in 2015 despite Wentz missing more than half the season with a wrist injury. Stick filled in admirably, going 8-0 as the starter and completing 61.2 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also ran for 498 yards. Coach Chris Klieman said after the Bison’s spring game the 6-2 Omaha native has beefed up to 220 pounds since last winter’s playoffs. "He’s going to run the ball," said Klieman, "so I want to make sure he’s durable."
Next in line: Redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard
It’s asking a lot to follow a two-time All-American, but Hubbard certainly flashed star potential as a freshman. The 6-5, 265-pound Cincinnati native notched 28 tackles, 6.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in 2015. Hubbard either filled in for Bosa (suspended for one game and ejected from another) or rotated in with then-sophomore Tyquan Lewis. Now he and Lewis will be de facto veterans on a reloading defense. "Sam has to be one of the next stars,"coach Urban Meyer said this spring. "I really think he will be."
Who’s next in line after the next in line? None other than Bosa’s younger bother Nick, an incoming five-star recruit.
Next in line: Redshirt freshman Mike Weber
Ohio State won a heated recruiting battle with rival Michigan for the four-star prospect from Detroit. The 5-10, 215-pound Weber often draws comparisons to former Buckeyes star Carlos Hyde with his running style. He shined in the spring, culminating with a spring game performance in which he scored two touchdowns. But it’s unrealistic to think Weber alone will replicate Elliott’s 1,821 yards and 23 TDs a year ago. Expect him to share the backfield with senior Bri’onte Dunn, all-purpose threats Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson, and possibly incoming freshman Antonio Williams.
Next in line: Sophomore Tarvarus McFadden
A former five-star recruit from Fort Lauderdale, McFadden saw action as a true freshman and competed well in the spring alongside classmate Marcus Lewis. Both are extremely athletic with much the same build (McFadden is listed at 6-2, 201). Of course, one of the things that made Ramsey so special was his versatility; he played safety his first two seasons. Fortunately for FSU it’s well stocked at that position with veteran Nate Andrews and budding sophomore star Derwin James. The latter will need to step up and fill the considerable leadership void left by Ramsey.
Next in line: Fourth-year junior Mike McGlinchey
As Stanley did two years ago, the 6-7 1/2, 315-pound McGlinchey is moving from starting right tackle to starting left tackle. The Irish should be in good shape on the left side of their line with returning starters McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. But the Irish must also replace another draftee, starting center Nick Martin, and identify a new right tackle. Notre Dame spent the spring experimenting with various combinations on the right side. "I think we’re going to come out of [spring] with really a good rotation — maybe four guys for two positions — but they’ve been together for a while," said Irish coach Brian Kelly.
Next in line: Fifth-year senior T.J. Daniel or junior Henry Mondeaux
Handicapping who will replace Pac-12 defensive player of the year Buckner’s 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss is a little tricky due to Oregon switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Brady Hoke. Several former outside linebackers, including returning starter Torrodney Prevot, are moving up to the D-line and could emerge as important pass rushers. But Mondeaux and Daniel were the primary backups last season to Buckner and Tui Talia and have been mentioned frequently in practice reports this spring. Hoke will need all the help he can get to improve last season’s 98th-ranked defense nationally.
Next in line: Redshirt junior Dennis Finley
Six months removed from a broken leg suffered during his first career start, the 6-6, 282-pounder participated just fine in the Spartans’ spring game and remains the favorite to take over former walk-on Conklin’s spot. "He has surprised us by how much he has done," MSU quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said after the game. But Michigan State has other holes to fill on its offensive line. All-American center Jack Allen has moved on, as has right guard Donavon Clark. Allen’s younger brother Brian and senior Kodi Kieler are known commodities, while redshirt freshman Cole Chewins could start at the other tackle spot.
Next in line: Junior Lorenzo Carter
The 6-6, 242-pound five-star recruit flashed star potential as a true freshman two years ago, starting five games, recording 41 tackles and notching 4.5 sacks. The Norcross, Ga., native earned the program’s Newcomer of the Year Award. He appeared to take a step back last season, producing just 19 tackles and no sacks. "Everybody talked about the sophomore slump, that kind of thing," new Dawgs coach Kirby Smart said this spring. "We’ve really tried to challenge him to be more physical." By all accounts, he’s responded. There’s little question Carter will be an every-down player this season, pairing up with fellow outside linebacker Davin Bellamy.
Next in line: Fourth-year junior Gareon Conley
Replacing an NFL cornerback is nothing new for the Buckeyes, who lost Bradley Roby in 2014 and Doran Grant last year. Conley started opposite Apple last fall and assumes the title of Ohio State’s No. 1 corner in 2016. The 6-foot, 195-pounder from Massillon, Ohio, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore. The Buckeyes’ competition to start opposite Conley will continue in August, with third-year sophomore Marshon Lattimore holding a slight edge over sophomore Denzel Ward.