• USC's Caleb Williams: An obvious choice, Williams is projected to be the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft as things stand.
• Penn State's Olu Fashanu: He didn't give up a single sack on 281 pass-blocking snaps in 2022.
• Georgia's Brock Bowers: He earned an elite 90.0 overall grade and a 90.0 receiving grade while serving as a plus blocker for the Bulldogs.
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As we try to put into context just how good this upcoming 2024 NFL Draft class might be, diving into the top prospects — those who are already playing at a pro level — is an interesting exercise.
With one season to go for each of these prospects, here are five players at the college level who could be NFL starters today.
QB CALEB WILLIAMS, USC
Williams feels like the obvious one here. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner could have very well been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, had he been age-eligible. Williams earned a 92.2 overall grade with a 90.4 passing grade and an 83.4 rushing grade in 2022. He made 31 big-time throws to just nine turnover-worthy plays as a passer during the season. He also recorded the second-most big-time throws to non-first reads (6), earning a 79.4 passing grade in that category.
And when it came to play under pressure, no quarterback in the FBS had a higher passing grade when pressured than Williams’ 79.4 mark. He recorded 13 big-time throws, just three turnover-worthy plays and a 65.8% adjusted completion percentage when pressured.
He would be a Week 1 starter in the NFL if age-eligibility restrictions didn’t exist.
WR MARVIN HARRISON JR., OHIO STATE
As just a true sophomore in 2022, Harrison was one of the best receivers in college football, posting an elite 90.7 receiving grade. In an offense that had plenty of playmakers, he commanded a 29.7% wide receiver usage rate and posted a very impressive 137.1 quarterback rating when targeted. He already showed so much polish and playmaking ability well beyond his years. If he can continue to dominate with a quarterback change in Columbus, there won’t be many knocks on his scouting report.
When it comes to how high we’ve seen receivers get drafted in recent years, Ja’Marr Chase and Corey Davis went No. 5 overall in their respective drafts in 2021 and 2017. Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins and A.J. Green went No. 4 overall in 2015, 2014 and 2011. We haven’t seen a wide receiver get drafted in the top three since Calvin Johnson was selected No. 2 overall in 2007. Harrison has the hype to threaten that streak.
OT OLU FASHANU, PENN STATE
Fashanu returning to Penn State after this past season was one of the biggest shocks of the 2023 draft cycle. The redshirt sophomore was draft eligible after a stellar season starting eight games at left tackle, earning an 85.6 pass-blocking grade while not giving up a single sack on 281 pass-blocking snaps. He redshirted his true freshman season two seasons ago, and in 2021 he made just one start. So, the timeline for him to return for a fourth season made sense after just one year of full-time starting experience.
But if he would have declared, it’s hard to think he wouldn’t have been a top-15 lock — perhaps even OT1 — considering the rest of the offensive tackle class. His foot speed, play strength and balance all project to his being a starting-caliber blindside protector in the NFL.
OT JOE ALT, NOTRE DAME
Fashanu isn’t the only offensive tackle we think could be a starter at the NFL level right now, but the difference is that Notre Dame’s Joe Alt didn’t have the choice of whether to come back for the 2023 college football season; he was only a true sophomore during his breakout 2022 campaign.
Notre Dame has Alt listed at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds. He recorded a 92.3 overall blocking grade in 2022 and was the best offensive tackle in the Power Five, posting a 91.3 run-blocking grade while yielding just a 2.1% pressure rate in pass protection. Another solid year of production, and he’ll lock up a first-round selection — and likely much closer to the top of the order than the bottom.
TE BROCK BOWERS, GEORGIA
If Bowers could have declared for the NFL after his true freshman season, he would’ve — at least by our standards and recommendations. In his first year of college ball, he recorded a 92.2 overall grade with a 91.6 grade as a receiver. Last season, he remained elite with a 90.0 overall grade and a 90.0 receiving grade. In both seasons, he also was a plus blocker with grades in the 70s in pass protection and run blocking.
Over the past two seasons, Bowers has recorded more than 1,000 yards after the catch as one of the most dynamic inline players in the country. He’s listed a bit smaller than typical tight ends at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, but there is no denying what he’s been able to do in the toughest conference and on the biggest stages with back-to-back national championship seasons.
Kyle Pitts went No. 4 overall in 2021. Bowers will be talked about in that same draft range to start the season.