The 2018 NFL Draft class is prepared for formal introductions. In a word, this draft is loaded.
And it starts at the top, with several prospects to watch at football's most important position.
This is but the intro to the 2018 draft class.
The rise of last year's top quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, from second-stringer at the University of North Carolina to No. 2 overall selection by the Chicago Bears proves yet again how much can change in a year of college football.
Based on film review over the summer, however, these are the top 32 NFL prospects (potentially eligible for the 2018 draft) in college football.
1. Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal, 6-3, 225, 4.74, Redshirt Sophomore
Darnold wowed us all last year, showing all of the physical traits -- including a strong, accurate arm, mobility and the stout frame necessary to hold up to punishment -- that scouts are looking for in a quarterback. It was the poise and polish of a quarterback much more mature than his years, however, which really helped Darnold separate from his peers last season. With USC losing many of its offensive line and receiving corps last year to graduation and the NFL, Darnold will have to be even better this season to match the start-to-finish perch atop the Big Board that soon-to-be-star for the Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett enjoyed last year.
2. Derwin James, SS, Florida State, 6-2, 211, 4.52, Redshirt Sophomore
A moveable chess piece capable of playing defensive back, linebacker or even edge rusher, James stood out as a true freshman on a defense loaded with NFL stars in 2015, recording 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks to go along with five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. James has to prove his health after missing all but the first two games following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. When healthy, he's a proven difference-maker with the versatility and explosiveness scouts crave.
3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, 5-11, 223, 4.49, Jr
Given the number of quality running backs drafted into the NFL in 2017, some were surprised to see the most gifted runner in the country -- Barkley - return to Penn State. Bigger than Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, more dynamic in the open field than Leonard Fournette and without the off-field concerns which dogged Joe Mixon, Barkley is a rare bell-cow running back worthy of top five consideration.
4. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, 6-3, 220, 4.97, Junior
Past injuries and an outspoken personality may scare off some but no one in this class spins the ball better than Rosen, who reminds of a young Jay Cutler. Recall Rosen had scouts most excited at this time a year ago, before Rosen's year was cut short due to an injury to his throwing (right) shoulder which required season-ending surgery.
5. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, 6-4, 233, 4.76, Redshirt Junior
Based on only raw traits, Allen is a level above his peers. He is bigger, has a stronger arm and is more athletic and aggressive with the ball in his hands as any passer in the nation not named Lamar Jackson. For all of his exciting tools, Allen comes with obvious level of competition questions and is also the more sporadic passer of the top quarterbacks, struggling especially with passes that require putting some touch on the ball.
6. Arden Key, DE, LSU, 6-5, 238, 4.74, Jr
Key is not yet as polished as some of the other top edge rushers in this class but the combination of length and speed off the corner intrigues, not to mention he is stronger at the point of attack than he appears. A big-play specialist still growing into his frame, with some refined technique Key could be even more effective in the pass-happy NFL than in the SEC; a scary thought considering he recorded 14.5 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks a year ago.
7. Connor Williams, OT, Texas, 6-5, 320, 5.31, Jr
The Longhorns have not produced a single first-round pick on offense since Vince Young was selected No. 3 overall by Tennessee back in 2006. Williams is a strong bet to end that dubious streak. A bit of a throwback, Williams pairs power and aggression as a run blocker that scouts covet with the athleticism, balance and girth to stone pass rushers.
8. Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS/CB, Alabama, 6-0, 201, 4.52, Jr
Looking for the next top 10 NFL draft pick for Alabama? Focus on Fitzpatrick. While bouncing back and forth between starting at cornerback and safety over the past two seasons for the Tide, he already set the school record with four touchdowns scored off of interceptions. Fitzpatrick is athletic enough to handle corner duties in the NFL but his build, instincts and physical, reliable tackling project even better to safety.
9. Vita Vea, DT, Washington, 6-4, 344, 5.34, rJr
In terms of raw ability, Vea competes with only Houston true sophomore Ed Oliver as the most exciting defensive line prospect in the country. As his size suggests, Vea can dominate as a run-stuffer. He is also incredibly athletic for a man his size, surprising opponents with his initial burst and speed in pursuit.
10. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M, 5-11, 200, 4.39, Jr
The NFL's thirst for playmakers has never been more obvious and Kirk is this year's most dynamic pass-catcher. Kirk possesses the squatty frame of a running back, using terrific lateral agility, balance and pure speed to be a threat to score any time he touches the ball as a receiver or returner. Kirk led the country with three punt returns for touchdowns last year, giving him five in just two seasons.
11. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, 5-11, 212, 4.52, Jr
Guice is not the freakish combination of size and speed that his predecessor Leonard Fournette is but he may prove an even more effective all-around back, a theory supported by the fact that he led the SEC with 1,387 rushing yards (averaging 7.6 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns despite splitting carries. Guice has a squatty, powerful frame as well as excellent balance and a determined running style, which help him consistently bounce off would-be tacklers.
12. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, 6-3, 310, 5.04, Jr
From his off-beat personality to his versatility along the defensive line, Wilkins is one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. He earned All-American honors at defensive tackle as a true freshman, recording an eye-popping 84 tackles before moving out to defensive end last season and boosting his big plays, registering 13 tackles for loss (among 56 total stops) and setting a new school record among defensive linemen with 10 passes broken up. Wilkins projects best inside as a penetrating three-technique at the next level.
13. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, 6-1, 190, 4.50, Jr
Expectations were huge for Ridley last season after breaking Julio Jones' school record for receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman (89 for 1,045). A stacked roster and the development of young Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts resulted in less production (72 for 769 yards) for Ridley last season but his polished routes, deceptive speed and strong hands remain just as impressive on tape. A late enrollee at Alabama, Ridley is a bit older than most of the top prospects, turning 23 in December.
14. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma, 6-7, 358, 5.47, rJr
The son of the late Orlando "Zeus" Brown (a 13-year veteran who played with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens), the Sooners' behemoth blocker's sheer size and strength make referring to him as "junior" almost laughable. While lacking the nimble feet to likely remain at left tackle in the NFL (where he's started the past two years for the Sooners), Brown's rare arm length, powerful base and surprising balance make him a quality pass protector and not just the bulldozer in the running game that his bulk suggests.
15. DaRon Payne, DT, Alabama, 6-2, 308, 5.38, Jr
Payne may lack the imposing size and burst of some of the other top defensive linemen but his pure strength (including a 545 pound bench press) and motor stand out, even amongst the NFL junior varsity team that is the Alabama Crimson Tide. As his statistics last season (36 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks) suggest, however, Payne's value lies with his ability to be a two-gap run stuffer not a consistent pass rush threat.
16. Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State, 6-1, 198, 4.49, Jr
After losing Jalen Ramsey early to the NFL and Derwin James (my top-rated defender in 2017) to injury, any question about the depth and talent in the Seminoles' secondary was emphatically answered by McFadden last year, who simply tied for the national lead with eight interceptions in his first starting season. McFadden offers an exciting upside with the quick feet, instincts and soft hands scouts covet, though his focus as a tackler and in coverage can wane.
17. Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College, 6-2, 250, 4.76, Sr
Landry led the country with 16.5 sacks a season ago, surprising many with his decision to return for his senior campaign. Landry lacks elite length but he possesses terrific burst and bend off the edge, showing the balance, core strength and athleticism to handle either stand-up or hand-down rush duties in the NFL.
18. Billy Price, OG, Ohio State, 6-3, 312, 5.19, rSr
A three-year starter and reigning All-American guard, Price is about as safe as it gets in preseason NFL draft prognostication. He could have made the NFL jump a year ago and been one of the first interior offensive linemen selected but should only improve his stock by returning and proving his versatility, making the switch to center this season. Built like a cinder block (and just as tough), Price's initial quickness and power play a key role in the Buckeyes' offensive attack.
19. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State, 6-3, 275, 4.84, Sr
Ranked 11 spots higher than his cousin, Nick (the star running back at Georgia), Chubb deserves family bragging rights after a breakout 2016 campaign in which he recorded career-highs in tackles (58), tackles for loss (22) and sacks (10.5). Named a captain as a true junior after the former linebacker gained 25 pounds of muscle in the off-season, Chubb has the work ethic to go along with his strength and tenacity.
20. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, 6-2, 200, 4.42, Jr
Jackson quite literally ran away from the competition for the Heisman Trophy a season ago, showing off the raw speed and playmaking ability that has earned him plenty of comparisons to 2001 No. 1 overall selection Michael Vick. Like Vick at Virginia Tech, Jackson -- the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in history -- remains a work in progress as a passer, needing to show greater recognition and precision in the pocket for most NFL offenses.
21. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State, 6-4, 265, 4.76, rJr
Powerful, fundamentally sound and tenacious against the run and pass, alike, Hubbard is one of the better all-around defensive ends in the country and comes with relatively high floor. That said, Hubbard does not possess the quick-twitch explosiveness to consistently threaten the edge, recording just 3.5 sacks a season ago.
22. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan, 6-2, 282, 4.93, rSr
With today's focus on the quick passing game in the NFL, "undersized" defensive tackles who can collapse the pocket from the interior are much more valuable than in previous years. Hurst, the son of the former New England Patriots cornerback of the same name, saw his tackles for loss jump from 6.5 in 2015 to 11.5 last season. Another big jump could be in the cards this season.
23. DaShawn Hand, DE, Alabama, 6-3, 282, 4.87, Senior
With just six combined sacks over his first three seasons at Alabama, Hand has been unable to live up to the lofty expectations of recruiting experts, many of whom tabbed him as the No. 1 prep edge rusher in 2013. Hand looks the part of an NFL player with a powerful, well-proportioned physique, long arms and impressive timed speed for his size. Unfortunately, while fast in pursuit downfield or on the track, Hand shows below average initial quickness off the ball, thus far limiting his effectiveness as a rusher.
24. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, 6-7, 312, 5.27, rSr
With a full season of starts at both left tackle (2016) and right tackle (2015) already under his belt in Notre Dame's pro-style attack, McGlinchey enters his final season of college football as one of the more established blockers in the country. He is not in the same class of athlete as his former teammate and 2016 first round pick, Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore Ravens), but NFL offensive line coaches will appreciate his experience, versatility and technique.
25. Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist, 6-3, 218, 4.58, rJr
The Mustangs have not churned out a top 50 NFL selection since 1986 but clubs on the lookout for a prototype split end will certainly be intrigued by Sutton, a physically imposing receiver with the height, strength and aggression to beat NFL defensive backs for contested passes. Sutton has averaged nearly 17 yards per reception over the past two seasons with 19 combined touchdowns grabs over that time.
26. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson, 6-5, 295, 5.08, Jr
Skill position superstars earned most of the hype on the Clemson offense a year ago but Hyatt played a key cog in the Tigers' national championship run. Hyatt is well suited to Clemson's spread offense, showing light feet and good balance for a nearly 300 pound offensive lineman. To boost his NFL stock, he'll need to continue to get stronger at the point of attack.
27. Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama, 6-2, 214, 4.57, Jr
A major question mark heading into his first season as a starting safety, Harrison emerged as a legitimate star by year's end, finishing second only to Butkus Award winning linebacker Reuben Foster for the team lead in tackles (86) and proving to be a big play magnet. When under control, Harrison can also be a weapon as a hitter, specializing in cleaning up the play with a stiff shoulder to stop a ball-carrier in his tracks, though risky pursuit angles and grabby hands in coverage must be improved in 2017.
28. Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas, 6-2, 240, 4.66, Jr
A Texas native, Jefferson signed with the Longhorns amid great fanfare and seemed to justify it in his first season, earning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors with 61 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks at outside linebacker. Jefferson posted slightly better numbers last year (62-8.5-5.5) after being moved inside but looked out of position, rarely playing with the fast-flowing reckless abandon that characterized his freshman season. Placed back outside by new Texas head coach Tom Herman in a more aggressive scheme, Jefferson could be on the verge of a big comeback season.
29. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, 5-10, 228, 4.54, Sr
Chubb surprised many with the decision to return to Georgia for the 2017 season after proving the health of his surgically-repaired knee with 1,130 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. As his squatty frame suggests, Chubb is powerful. He also shows excellent vision, balance and lateral cuts to elude defenders. With 562 career touches already, however, there will be questions as to how much punishment his body has absorbed at the college level.
30. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan, 6-5, 330, 5.39, Sr
A year ago it was Broncos' right tackle Taylor Moton (selected No. 64 overall by Carolina) who captured scouts attention at the Senior Bowl. Okorafor, bigger and more athletic than his former teammate, has the potential to go even higher with a big final season.
31. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State, 5-10, 191, 4.43, Jr
Ward served as the nickel corner alongside 2017 first round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley last season, tying with Lattimore for the team lead with nine passes broken up. Ward lacks the starting experience and length scouts would prefer but he is a superb athlete who plays bigger than his size.
32. Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah, 6-1, 320, 5.22, Sr
Like his older brother, Star, with the Carolina Panthers, Lotulelei's vending machine-like frame and awesome power make him tough to move off the ball, helping him to project as a run-stuffing interior defensive tackle. While effective in this role, Lotulelei does not offer much in terms of a pass rush, recording just 8.5 combined sacks over the first 38 games of his career.
Just Missed The Cut:
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville, 5-11, 192, 4.45, Jr
Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State, 6-1, 225, 4.62, Jr
Cameron Smith, ILB, Southern California, 6-1, 245, 4.76, Jr
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 205, 4.50, Sr
Trey Adams, OT, Washington, 6-7, 320, 5.30, Jr
--Rob Rang is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, owned and distributed by The Sports Xchange.