College News & Analysis

Top 25 college football players in the transfer portal

Tampa, Florida, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) drops back to pass against the Missouri Tigers in the first quarter in the 2022 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman: After a dominant last two years, the new Notre Dame signal-caller is the top player in the transfer portal.

Jackson State cornerback Travis Hunter: The new Colorado Buffalo is the best defensive player in the portal after a dominant freshman season.

Missouri wide receiver Dominic Lovett: The new Georgia Bulldog is the top receiver in the portal.

Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins

College football teams can build their rosters in two ways: 1) the traditional way, recruiting high school athletes to join their program, and 2) via the transfer portal.

The latter has only increased in importance since its inception in 2018. In fact, this season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, entered the transfer portal just last year before finding his home at USC

Here are the 25 best players who have entered the transfer portal this season.

Last Updated: 7 a.m., Jan. 10

1. QB Sam Hartman (Wake Forest Demon Deacons)

Transfer Destination: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Not only is Sam Hartman the best quarterback in the transfer portal, he’s one of the best returning quarterbacks period.

Among Power Five quarterbacks over the past two seasons, only Alabama’s Bryce Young, PFF’s top prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft has a higher grade than Hartman’s 92.5 mark. He’s also the most valuable Power Five player over the past two seasons, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. Hartman will be under center for Notre Dame this season.

2. CB/WR Travis Hunter (Jackson State Tigers)

Transfer Destination: Colorado Buffaloes

Hunter entered Jackson State as the first five-star recruit ever to commit to a non-FBS school. Now, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2022 class will move to the Power Five level to show that his game can translate anywhere.

Hunter dominated in his true freshman season for the Tigers. His 84.0 defensive grade was a top-15 mark among all FCS cornerbacks as he picked off two passes and forced eight incompletions.

Those skills flashed on both sides of the ball. The true freshman also caught 18 passes for 180 yards and four touchdowns, one of which was to tie the game with no time left in the Celebration Bowl.

Hunter will follow head coach Deion Sanders from Jackson State to Colorado next season.

3. QB Devin Leary (N.C. State Wolfpack)

Transfer Destination: Kentucky Wildcats

Leary was one of the nation’s best signal-callers in 2021. His 31 big-time throws were tied for the seventh most in the FBS.

This year, the redshirt junior earned only a 64.8 passing grade before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season after six games. Leary is transferring to Kentucky next season, where he’ll replace Will Levis, who’s currently PFF’s No. 3 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.

4. QB DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson Tigers)

Transfer Destination: Oregon State Beavers

Despite being benched multiple times this year, DJ Uiagalelei showed improvement from last season. The former five-star recruit posted a 79.6 grade in 2022 after a 66.3 mark last year. 

The junior has the arm to make any throw asked of him; the issue has been inaccuracy, which stems from his footwork. Since 2021, his 23.8% uncatchable pass rate ranks 107th out of 134 FBS quarterbacks. If Uiagalelei can keep improving in that regard, he has a limitless ceiling. 

Next season, Uiagalelei will head to Corvallis and play for Oregon State, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel.

5. WR Dominic Lovett (Missouri Tigers)

Transfer Destination: Georgia Bulldogs

Dominic Lovett was quietly one of the best receivers in college football this season. His 83.7 grade ranked fourth best among Power Five receivers.

Lovett averaged 2.94 yards per route run, tied for the seventh most in the Power Five. Even more impressively, he did that as just a true sophomore, meaning the best could be yet to come.

Lovett will stay in the SEC next season, as he’s transferring to Georgia.

6. CB Fentrell Cypress II (Virginia Cavaliers)

Transfer Destination: Florida State Seminoles

Cypress put together a massive breakout season for the Cavaliers. His 87.8 grade ranked third highest among Power Five cornerbacks. 

The junior allowed only 0.53 yards per coverage snap, the fifth-lowest mark among the same group. Cypress will stay in the ACC with Florida State next season.

7. TE Jaheim Bell (South Carolina Gamecocks)

Transfer Destination: Florida State Seminoles

Get the ball in Jaheim Bell’s hands and good things will happen. Among Power Five tight ends returning next year, only Georgia’s Brock Bowers has a higher receiving grade over the past two seasons than Bell’s 88.8 mark.

Bell has forced 24 missed tackles in that span, which is tied for the most among all FBS tight ends. This year, Bell also ran for 257 rushing yards, over 100 more than any other tight end in the country. Bell announced that he’ll be attending Florida State next year, where he should form a lethal connection with quarterback Jordan Travis.

8. C Drake Nugent (Stanford Cardinal)

Transfer Destination: Michigan Wolverines

Drake Nugent’s 80.2 grade this season ranked seventh best among college football centers. The senior particularly excelled as a run blocker, where he earned an 83.7 grade that ranked fourth best.

Next season, Nugent will play for Michigan. The Wolverines’ last center, Olusegun Oluwatimi, won the Outland Trophy this season as the best interior lineman in college football.

9. CB Jabbar Muhammad (Oklahoma State Cowboys)

Transfer Destination: Washington Huskies

Muhammad is the Big 12’s third-highest-graded and fourth-most valuable cornerback over the last two seasons, according to PFF's wins above average metric.

His 19 coverage stops in that span ranks second for Big 12 cornerbacks. \Muhammad will play for Washington next season.

10. QB Chance Nolan (Oregon State Beavers)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Chance Nolan’s 85.5 passing grade since last season is tied for ninth among active Power Five quarterbacks.

While Nolan threw 18 interceptions in that span, he made only 16 turnover-worthy plays, showing that he’s had some bad turnover luck. The redshirt junior played in just five games this year before suffering a season-ending neck strain. What he showed on tape last season warrants a spot in the top 10, though.

11. CB Darian “Duce” Chestnut (Syracuse Orange)

Transfer Destination: LSU Tigers

Duce Chestnut is the third-highest-graded cornerback in the ACC over the past two seasons. Those were also his first two seasons of college football. 

The sophomore’s 24 coverage stops in that span tie for the sixth most among cornerbacks. Chestnut will mirror receivers at LSU next year.

12. CB Denver Harris (Texas A&M Aggies)

Transfer Destination: LSU Tigers

This ranking is all about projection for Denver Harris, who was a five-star recruit and the No. 3 cornerback coming out of high school, according to On3’s consensus ratings.

The true freshman saw significant playing time in five games this season before being suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. He looked excellent across those snaps, as well. Among FBS cornerbacks with at least 95 coverage snaps, nobody allowed fewer yards per coverage snap than Harris (0.29 yards).

Harris will stay in the SEC West and play for LSU next season.

13. CB Jordan Anderson (Bowling Green Falcons)

Transfer Destination: UCLA Bruins

Anderson’s 87.3 grade over the past two seasons is a top-30 mark among all FBS defensive backs.

We say defensive backs because Anderson played safety last year before playing cornerback this season. The versatile senior will play for UCLA next season.

14. CB Lorando Johnson (Baylor Bears)

Transfer Destination: Arkansas Razorbacks

Johnson was one of the most lockdown cornerbacks in college football this season. 

The sophomore allowed only 0.34 yards per coverage snap, the lowest in the nation among cornerbacks. He’ll take his talents to the SEC and play for Arkansas next season.

15. WR Tez Johnson (Troy Trojans)

Transfer Destination: Oregon Ducks

Johnson was the fifth-most-valuable wide receiver in the country this season, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

His 89.9 grade this season trailed only Marvin Harrison Jr. among all FBS receivers. The sophomore averaged 3.52 yards per route run, which ranked second among the same group. Johnson’s 5-foot-10, 150-pound build may scare some teams off, but make no mistake: He can play.

Next year, Johnson will catch passes from his adopted brother Bo Nix at Oregon.

16. S A.J. Haulcy (New Mexico Lobos)

Transfer Destination: Houston Cougars

Coming out of high school, Haulcy garnered three FBS offers: Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Just one year later, he became one of the best safeties in the country. His 84.9 grade was the second-best figure among true freshmen defenders and tied for sixth among safeties overall. Haulcy will play for Houston next season in its inaugural season in the Big 12.

17. CB Charles Woods (West Virginia Mountaineers)

Transfer Destination: SMU Mustangs

An injury limited Charles Woods to just four games this season, but he was one of the nation’s best cornerbacks last year. 

In 2021, Woods’ 87.2 coverage grade was the sixth-best mark among Power Five cornerbacks. The senior allowed only a 22.1 passer rating when targeted, the lowest among the same group. For comparison, spiking the ball in the dirt on every play nets a 39.6 passer rating. Woods will play for SMU in his final year of eligibility next season.

18. EDGE Rondell Bothroyd (Wake Forest Demon Deacons)

Transfer Destination: Oklahoma Sooners

Bothroyd’s 86.0 grade over the past two seasons ranks 10th among Power Five edge defenders.

The redshirt junior’s 36 run-defense stops in that span are the second most for ACC edge defenders, while his 14 sacks are tied for third.

19. QB Tanner Mordecai (SMU Mustangs)

Transfer Destination: Wisconsin Badgers

Mordecai’s 51 big-time throws over the past two seasons are 10th most among FBS quarterbacks. 

The senior’s 72 passing touchdowns in that span rank fourth most, trailing only C.J. Stroud, Sam Hartman and Bryce Young. Next year, Mordecai will be under center for head coach Luke Fickell and Wisconsin. Bothroyd will play for Oklahoma next season.

20. WR Dante Cephas (Kent State Golden Flashes)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Cephas missed three games this season due to injury, but he was one of the most efficient receivers in the country when on the field. His 3.12 yards per route run ranked seventh in the FBS this year.

He’s a menace with the ball in his hands, as well. Cephas’ 421 receiving yards after contact since last season places 10th among all receivers in college football. He’s also a big-play threat, as his 49 catches of 15-plus yards since 2021 also ranks 10th in the nation.

21. WR Jamari Thrash (Georgia State Panthers)

Transfer Destination: Louisville Cardinals

Thrash’s 1,123 receiving yards and 2.94 yards per route run were both top-15 marks in the country this season. 

The redshirt junior is also an excellent deep threat, as his 556 receiving yards on 20-plus yard throws were the sixth most in the FBS. Thrash will take his big-play ability to Louisville next season.

22. QB Brennan Armstrong (Virginia Cavaliers)

Transfer Destination: N.C. State Wolfpack

Among FBS quarterbacks, Brennan Armstrong’s 91.8 grade last season trailed only Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Kenny Pickett. All three were Heisman finalists. Armstrong racked up the fifth-most big-time throws in college football that season (35).

He’s so low here because of his 2022 season. His 58.4 grade was among the 20 worst out of 146 quarterbacks in the country. The senior had only 14 big-time throws compared to 19 turnover-worthy plays. A major reason for the sudden dropoff in play could be the departure of offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who left Virginia to become Syracuse’s play caller this year. Anae is now N.C. State’s offensive coordinator, and the Wolfpack lost Devin Leary to Kentucky. Armstrong and Anae will reunite at N.C. State next season.

23. QB Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State Cowboys)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Spencer Sanders took a step back this season. His 63.3 passing grade was nearly 20 points lower than his previous 81.4 mark in 2021. Sanders also had 17 turnover-worthy plays compared to only 10 big-time throws.

Like Devin Leary and Brennan Armstrong, you’re banking on that being an outlier season for Sanders, who’s proven to be an above-average Power Five quarterback.

24. WR Dorian Singer (Arizona Wildcats)

Transfer Destination: USC Trojans

Dorian Singer was forced to walk on at Arizona as a zero-star recruit coming out of high school. Two years later, he’s become one of the Power Five’s most productive receivers and should have no shortage of scholarship offers.

Singer’s 1,105 receiving yards this season were the fifth most in the Power Five. The sophomore also made 29 catches of 15-plus yards, tied for the fifth most in the Power Five. Now, he’ll link up with reigning Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams at USC.

25. DI Thomas Gore (Georgia State Panthers)

Transfer Destination: Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Gore has dominated for two years now. His 90.6 grade since 2021 ranks fifth among all interior defensive linemen in college football.

Gore excels in all aspects, sitting as one of only five interior defensive linemen with 85.0-plus grades as both a pass rusher and run defender in that span. He will play for Miami (FL) next season.

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