One of the most-interesting things in college football is watching talented underclassmen throughout the season and tracking their NFL stock as it jumps up and down. Here are this year’s underclassmen, who are eligible for the 2019, to watch, who are in a good place to maybe jump to the next level after the season is over.
Khalil Tate Jr. QB Arizona - I haven’t heard much NFL buzz about Tate, but we will if he has another season like he did in 2017. He has Lamar Jackson capabilities and size. He’ll need to show more passing capabilities and progress in 2018 to be an early entry candidate.
N’Keal Harry Jr. WR Arizona State - Harry seems like one of the few locks to leave early. The 6’3 220 WR should be a second round pick at worst as long as he plays well in 2018.
Justin Herbert Jr. QB Oregon - Herbert has turned into the nation’s hottest NFL prospect. He has all the tools to be a top overall pick and could easily declare after his junior year, though he seems like the kind of player who could come back for a senior season.
Jake Hanson Jr. C Oregon - Hanson is one of the top centers on NFL boards right now and poised for a big junior season. Centers don’t jump early a whole lot, but he could take a look if he is projected as high as a first or second round pick.
Troy Dye Jr. LB Oregon - Dye is probably the most-dynamic linebacker in the Pac-12 and has an NFL body. I could easily see him declaring If he continues his progression and keeps looking like a 1st/2nd round pick.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Sr. WR Stanford - JJAW is one of those Stanford players who is listed as a senior but actually a redshirt junior. He emerged as one of the conference’s best WRs in 2017 and will be a great NFL prospect if he maintains his 2017 production with his impressive size.
Kaden Smith Jr. TE Stanford - Another Stanford NFL QB? Yes. Smith will be the next tight end drafted from Palo Alto. It’s just a matter of when. He’s actually only a redshirt sophomore so it seems likely he comes back, but Dalton Schultz left in a similar manner last year.
Nate Herbig Jr. G Stanford - 6’4 350 and first-team All-Pac-12 as a sophomore, Herbig is on the NFL radar. I don’t know how high up he is on that radar, but it has to be enough to where he is one to watch at the end of the season for a potential early declaration.
Caleb Wilson Jr. TE UCLA - A smooth pass catching tight end with NFL athleticism, Wilson has a good chance at heading to the NFL in 2019 if he comes back healthy and is productive in 2018.
Tyler Vaughns So. WR USC - The former blue chip recruit started to put it together as a redshirt freshman. He will get major NFL attention if he takes another step forward as a sophomore.
Christian Rector Jr. DE USC - Rector broke out as a sophomore and looks NFL ready as a defensive end with solid size and the ability to rush the passer. He will definitely give the NFL a long look after the season.
Zack Moss Jr. RB Utah - Moss is 5’10 215 and ran for more than 1,100 yards as a sophomore. He’s a major NFL Draft prospect for 2019 and has to consider leaving early.
Julian Blackmon Jr. CB Utah - The 6’1 corner was All-Pac-12 as a sophomore and should draw serious NFL interest if he can string together another all-conference season with his size, versatility and athleticism.
Byron Murphy So. CB Washington - Murphy’s so talented he is regarded as one of the top cornerbacks eligible for the 2019 draft and he only played a handful of games as a redshirt freshman. He’ll have to think about the NFL if he stays healthy and keeps excelling in 2018.
Taylor Rapp Jr. S Washington - Rapp’s already done a lot in two years. There’s a good chance he’ll be a first round prospect with good reason to leave a year early.
Jalen Thompson Jr. S Washington State - Thompson’s a ball hawk with the size and physicality to defend the run. That’s why he was an All-Pac-12 player as a sophomore and might leave early for the NFL after 2018.