The 2019 college football season may still be months away, but it's never too early to look ahead. Using career accomplishments so far, projected performance next season, positional importance and overall talent, Athlon Sports has ranked the 10 best college football players for 2019.
This list may look a little different by the fall, but there is no shortage of big names coming back or players poised to take a huge step forward next season. Keep in mind: This is not a list of accomplishments so far. Instead, we are projecting ahead, weighing overall talent/importance to their respective team and how the player has performed so far in their career.
Best College Football Players for 2019
10. A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Epenesa may not be a household name after his first two years on campus, but he’s primed to be one by the end of 2019. The former five-star prospect recorded 4.5 sacks as a freshman in ’17 and then really stepped things up (10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for a loss) as a sophomore. With Anthony Nelson off to the NFL and Parker Hesse out of eligibility, Epenesa will move into a starting role this offseason.
9. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Dynamic was the best way to describe Moore’s first season at the collegiate level. The Indiana native was a key pickup for coach Jeff Brohm on the recruiting trail and accounted for 313 total yards in Purdue’s opener against Northwestern. Moore finished 2018 averaging 170.4 total yards a game, leading the country with 114 receptions, and with 14 total touchdowns.
8. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit is back to anchor LSU’s defense after earning first-team All-America honors from Athlon Sports last fall. The Texas native stuffed the stat sheet in 2018, recording 74 tackles (9.5 for a loss), five sacks, five interceptions, and a forced fumble.
7. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Oregon is projected as the early favorite to win the Pac-12 North in 2019, and that’s largely due to the return of Herbert for his senior year. The Oregon native started every game for the first time in his career last fall, throwing for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns to eight picks and adding 166 yards and two scores on the ground.
6. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Fromm was pressed into the starting job as a freshman in 2017 and nearly guided the Bulldogs to a national championship. He took another step forward last fall, as Fromm tossed 30 touchdowns (up from 24) to six picks and completed 67.3 percent (up from 62.2) of his passes. With Fromm at the helm, Georgia is favored to win its third consecutive SEC East title in 2019.
5. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
With Ehlinger back under center in 2019, Texas will have a chance to unseat Oklahoma atop the Big 12. In his first full season as the starter in Austin, Ehlinger threw for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns to just five picks. Additionally, Ehlinger led the Longhorns by scoring 16 times on the ground and ranked third on the team with 482 rushing yards.
4. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Etienne had only 204 rushing attempts last season, but he certainly made the most of those opportunities. En route to winning ACC Player of the Year honors, Etienne rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns – averaging a robust 8.1 yards per carry.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Taylor was the only FBS running back to eclipse 2,000 yards in 2018, as he recorded 2,194 yards and 16 scores on 307 attempts. During his two years with the Badgers, the New Jersey native has rushed for 4,171 yards and 29 touchdowns.
2. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa are really 1A and 1B in this ranking. As a true freshman in 2018, Lawrence helped to guide Clemson to the national championship by throwing for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns to just four picks even though he didn't start the season as the starter. With a strong supporting cast in place at receiver and a full offseason to work as the starter, Lawrence is primed for even bigger things in 2019.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
As mentioned previously, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Tagovailoa are really 1A and 1B on this list. After guiding Alabama to a comeback victory in the national championship against Georgia two seasons ago, Tagovailoa earned the starting job for the 2018 campaign and posted 3,966 yards and 43 passing touchdowns (both single-season records for Alabama) to just six picks. Tagovailoa finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Kyler Murray.