Who will be the next Baker Mayfield? Who will be the explosive playmaker to spin defenses in circles or the next pass-rusher to wreak havoc on quarterbacks? There are dozens of players who could emerge in the coming season. To help you draftniks get acquainted with a few of them, we’ve picked out 10 stars for the coming season who have football doppelgangers (or at least pretty darn close comparisons) who were high-profile selections in this year’s NFL draft.
Pro: Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall pick)
The next undersized flamethrower eager to prove the world wrong resides in Happy Valley. Most colleges that recruited McSorley wanted him to play safety because of his size (Penn State lists him generously at 6-foot), but he was tall enough to throw 57 touchdown passes in the past two seasons while leading a resurgent Nittany Lions offense.
The doubters this coming season will ask whether McSorley can be as productive without Saquon Barkley next to him in the backfield or offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead (who became the head coach at Mississippi State) calling plays on the sideline. McSorley may not have the same fiery off-field personality as Mayfield, but on Saturdays he’s a versatile playmaker who plays with an attitude.
Neither Herbert nor Darnold are going to make scouts drool with any particular physical tool, but both may turn out to be the most well-rounded, prototypically sized quarterback prospects in their respective classes (the 6-foot-6 Herbert has a couple of inches on Darnold). Herbert, like Darnold, was a three-sport athlete in high school. They have nearly identical completion percentages in college. Herbert hasn’t yet suffered the same turnover troubles that Darnold encountered at USC, but he hasn’t had the chance to play a full season yet at Oregon.
Grier could post some gaudy numbers in his final season as a Mountaineer. He passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns a season ago in 10 complete games. He’ll have his top target back in wide receiver David Sills. That duo — much like Rudolph and former Cowboys wideout James Washington — are likely to be the Big 12’s most dangerous big-play threat this coming fall. Rudolph throws the deep ball particularly well, connecting on 17 passes of 50 or more yards last season. Grier threw for 50-plus yards on a play 12 times last year, and that number could grow in his senior season.
Pro: New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (No. 2 overall pick)
Barkley’s explosive power made him hard to bring to the ground and gave Penn State plenty of options on how to deploy him against Big Ten defenses. Out on the West Coast, Love was running through and around Pac-12 defenses at an even more productive pace. Barkley may have a few pounds on Love, but both run with a tenacity that inevitably leads to big plays and jaw-dropping highlight reels.
Gaskin is a smart, low-to-the-ground back who led the Huskies with 24 touchdowns during his junior season. Like Michel did during his time at Georgia, the Washington native uses great vision to help set up his runs and moves that make defenders look silly. Michel’s impact in the passing game faded during his final college season, but both backs have proved they’re capable of keeping linebackers honest by catching a couple of dozen passes out of the backfield on an annual basis.
Brown has yet to make it through a season at Ole Miss with a consistently healthy quarterback. Moore knows how he feels. The former Maryland standout broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark despite a torrent of injuries to his quarterbacks. Brown has a chance to be the nation’s best receiver in 2018 even if the Rebels struggle to compete through sanctions. Both he and Moore take advantage of sturdy frames to create space for themselves while running routes. Brown, slightly larger than Moore, will be a target worth watching all season.
Perhaps the best carbon copy for Bosa is his big brother, Joey, who was selected third overall in 2016 draft. From this year’s draft group, Chubb fits as a strong comparison because both fearsome pass-rushers used their speed off the line to overwhelm tackles and then a mixture of strength and athleticism to finish their trip to the quarterback. A strong year for the junior at Ohio State could propel him to be selected as high as his brother in a year that is jam-packed full of quality defensive linemen.
Oliver very well could have been a first-round pick this season if he wasn’t just finishing his second year of college football. He and Payne are both capable of disrupting the passing game from their posts in the middle of the defensive line — an added bonus from a position usually relied on more for its run-stuffing abilities. Oliver will remain the focal point for his hometown Cougars this fall (unlike Payne, who was surrounded by NFL talent on Alabama’s defense), but he should be able to keep pushing around interior linemen in the AAC for one more year before turning pro.
This is more of a mountainous duo than the Oliver-Payne combination. Lawrence is listed at 340 pounds, just a little shy of the 347-pound Vea. That kind of tonnage isn’t supposed to move as quickly as these two guys are able to get off the line. Vea and Lawrence blew up plays before they had a chance to get started last season. Lawrence has the benefit this year of playing alongside a couple of other potential first-round picks who will force opposing offensive lines to make some tough decisions.
The six interceptions Williams made as a redshirt freshman last season tied for the most in the SEC. He added 11 more pass breakups for the Tigers before opposing offenses figured out they ought to look elsewhere to complete passes against LSU. His production may dip in 2018 now that quarterbacks are more aware of his talent, which is something Alexander (five interceptions in 2016 and just one last year) will understand well. At 6-foot-2, Williams has better size than any of the high-profile corners taken in this year’s draft, but his aggressive and ball-hawking style aren’t much different from how Alexander played at Louisville.