The 2017 NFL draft class has yet to take a meaningful snap in the pros, but it’s never too early to take a look at the next potential crop of draft prospects currently in the college ranks. Here are 18 non-quarterbacks to keep an eye on for the 2018 draft.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, Junior
We may be in for another deep class of running backs in 2018, and it'll likely be between Barkley and Derrius Guice for the honor of the class's top tailback. The 5-11, 223-pound Barkley ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at a workout in March, according to a video on the team's Twitter account. On the field, the 2016 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year explodes into and out of his cuts and is very shifty in the open field. He's an all-purpose dynamo for the Nittany Lions, leading the conference in yards from scrimmage (1,898), total touchdowns (22) and rushing touchdowns (18) while finishing second in rushing yards (1,496) last season.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Junior
Leonard Fournette was one of the nation's most highly touted running backs the last few seasons. His backup at LSU could garner just as much draft buzz - if not more - next year. While Fournette was a between-the-tackles bruiser, the 5-11, 212-pound Guice is a well-rounded back who can beat defenders with speed, power and elusiveness. He has averaged an eye-popping 7.8 yards per carry in two seasons at LSU and has scored 19 total touchdowns on 248 career touches. He'll have less tread on his tires than most other running backs in the class, thanks to Fournette being ahead of him on the depth chart for the last two seasons.
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, Senior
Chubb took over for Todd Gurley as a true freshman in 2014 when the future Ram first was suspended and then injured, and ran for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns in just eight starts. Injuries have derailed the 5-10, 228-pounder since then - he tore his PCL and other ligaments in October 2015, costing him the chance to break Herschel Walker's record of 13 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. He returned his junior season and ran for 1,130 yards and eight TDs, but he wasn't quite able to return to his freshman form. Chubb's a powerful runner when healthy, but teams will want to be 100-percent sure his knee injury is fully in the rearview mirror.
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU, Junior
Sutton returned to SMU following a redshirt sophomore season in which he earned first-team All-AAC honors. Sutton is a big, physical target with excellent size (6-4, 216 pounds) and hands (127 catches in 26 games). His ability to outmuscle defenders was evident both on the football field and as a forward for SMU's basketball team (though he only played in three games and scored three points during his freshman season). He can make contested catches and dominate in the red zone.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M, Junior
Kirk has been on the radar since earning first-team AP All-SEC honors as a freshman. Kirk is an all-purpose player who excels both as a receiver (163 catches, 1,937 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons) and as a returner (623 career punt return yards, five punt return TDs and 558 kick return yards). He doesn't have ideal size at 5-11, 200 pounds, but his explosiveness on both offense and special teams shouldl make him a coveted NFL prospect.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, Senior
Washington chose to return for one last ride alongside well-regarded QB Mason Rudolph. The 6-foot, 205-pounder is a deep threat and averages 19.2 yards per catch in his career, tops among Power Five receivers. He can play outside or in the slot, is physical enough to beat defenders on contested catches and has the speed and athleticism to blow past them.
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, Senior
McGlinchey likely would have been a top offensive lineman in the 2017 class had he declared, but instead he opted to return for his senior season. The 6-8, 312-pound McGlinchey has excellent size and technique as both a run blocker and a pass protector. He also has experience at both tackle positions, giving him extra value.
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma, Junior
Put simply, Brown is a very large human being. The second-team AP All-American and Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year is listed at 6-8 and 360 pounds. Brown allowed one sack in 659 snaps last season, per the Sooners' website, and helped open running lanes for 2017 draftees Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. And if that name sounds familiar, it should - his father, also named Orlando Brown, was a 6-7, 360-pound offensive lineman who played six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and four with the Cleveland Browns.
Arden Key, Edge rusher, LSU, Junior
Key is widely considered to be the top pass-rusher in this upcoming class. He set the school's single-season record with 12 sacks and added 11 quarterback hurries in 2016, mostly thanks to his excellent speed off the edge. Key has a lanky 6-6 frame, and while he's listed on LSU's website at a lean 238 pounds, he recently tweeted that he has bulked up to "255 and ready." He is sitting out the spring on a leave of absence for what the team is calling "personal reasons," and though he's expected to return in the summer, the move could raise a few questions.
Sam Hubbard, Edge rusher, Ohio State, Junior
Ohio State has two edge rushers who could go in the first round next year -- Hubbard and senior Tyquan Lewis, who also could have been on this list. We'll go with Hubbard here because of his well-rounded skillset. The 6-5, 265-pounder is powerful at the point of attack and consistently blows blockers back off the snap. He replaced Joey Bosa in 2016, and has shown that he can set the edge against the run or get after the quarterback.
Harold Landry, Edge rusher, Boston College, Senior
Landry led the nation last year with 16 1/2 sacks and seven forced fumbles. The 6-3, 245-pounder is very athletic and technically sound when getting after the passer. He also can hold his own against the run despite his average size. He may need to bulk up to play 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, but as it stands now he could make a fine 3-4 outside linebacker who can defend the edge and rush the passer.
Bradley Chubb, Edge rusher, North Carolina State, Senior
Chubb, the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb, finds himself in college football's top tier of pass-rushers. He had 22 tackles for loss in 2016, tied for fourth in the nation, and 10 1/2 sacks (with three coming against Notre Dame star offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey). He has ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end at 6-4, 275 pounds but also can play some rush linebacker if needed.
Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson, Junior
Don't let his 6-4, 310-pound frame fool you - Wilkins is very athletic for an interior lineman of his size. He has alternated between defensive tackle and defensive end his first two years at Clemson. The Tigers even had him take a direct snap on a fake punt for a first down, catch a fake punt pass for another first down and catch a pass as a fullback for a touchdown. Wilkins is an ideal three-technique defensive tackle, where he can use his explosiveness off the snap to penetrate and create interior pressure while also plugging gaps against the run.
Vita Vea, DL, Washington, Junior
While many of Washington's defensive stalwarts turned pro last season, Vea chose to stay and anchor the Huskies' defensive line in his second season as a starter. At 6-5, 344 pounds, Vea is the definition of a space-eating defensive tackle. He can take on double-teams and is very tough for blockers to move off the snap. He projects best as a nose tackle in the same vein as Danny Shelton, the man he replaced in Washington's starting lineup in 2016.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas, Junior
Jefferson played middle linebacker his first two years but is expected to move outside for his junior season. He has great size at 6-3, 238 pounds and is a very well-rounded linebacker. He has the instincts to diagnose the play and the athleticism and range to make it, whether it's stopping the run, dropping into coverage or blitzing.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama, Junior
Alabama always seems to churn out top defensive back prospects. Since 2012, seven have gone in the first two rounds. Fitzpatrick likely will be the next in line. The New Jersey native has good size at 6-1, 201 pounds and was a first-team AP All-American in 2016. Fitzpatrick is a natural cover corner with excellent ball skills, hauling in eight interceptions in two seasons, but it's what he can do afterwards that's special. Of those eight interceptions, a school-record four were returned for touchdowns, including a 100-yarder against Arkansas last season.
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State, Junior
McFadden entered the starting lineup last season after Jalen Ramsey went to the NFL. He made eight interceptions, tied for the most in the nation. Even more impressive: he did it with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He had surgery to repair it in March, so teams will need to be sure there are no lingering effects whenever he does turn pro. He has NFL-caliber size (6-2, 198), athleticism and ball skills.
Derwin James, S, Florida State, Sophomore
Jalen Ramsey was a do-it-all defensive back at Florida State who lined up at both safety spots, outside cornerback, slot cornerback and linebacker. James also can do all that -- and play some defensive end to boot. The 6-3, 211-pounder has excellent athleticism and explosiveness no matter where he lines up. He had 91 tackles (9 1/2 for loss), five passes defensed, 4 1/2 sacks, three hurries, two fumbles forced and two fumble recoveries en route to third-team All-ACC honors in his true freshman season. He redshirted in 2016 after a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee ended his season in Week 2. If his knee injury checks out, he could have another thing in common with Ramsey: being a top-five pick.