The College Football Playoff presents two excellent semifinal games replete with NFL talent this coming Monday (New Year’s Day):
On Monday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET, the victors of those two games will square off in the CFP National Championship at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
NFL scouts will be closely observing the 40 guys from those four squads that I’ve highlighted below. With the exception of one freshman who has already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation (Texas DT Byron Murphy II), all of them are regarded as seniors for the 2024 NFL Draft, which will take place in Detroit from April 25–27.
While a couple of the other 25 players highlighted at the bottom of this file might move up to Day 2 or hear their names called on Day 3, the top 15 prospects are vying for spots in the top 100 pick. Zak Zinter, a guard for Michigan, is recuperating from surgery for a broken leg he sustained against Ohio State, therefore he is not mentioned. Both Texas cornerback Ryan Watts and Alabama running back Jase McClellan have NFL futures, but they have recently lost time with injury.Some of these talents could go back to school in 2024 in order to benefit from the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA granted to athletes who were on rosters during the 2020 season that was cut short due to the pandemic.Since the beginning of the season, Moore has made a positive impact for the Tide. In his rookie year, he intercepted three passes as opposing offenses tried to exploit the rookie. Moore struggled with injuries and inconsistent play during his sophomore season, but he has recovered over the last two seasons. NFL defensive coordinators looking for DBs on Day 2 will value Moore’s flexibility since he’s shown to be a skilled nickel defender who can cover tight ends and slot receivers, but his ball skills and tackling prowess may eventually make him a starting free safety.Ulofoshio was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2020, but he lost a lot of time in the next two seasons because of injuries. The former walk-on was healthy for the Huskies’ perfect 2023 season, earning him first-team all-conference and All-America recognition. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the best linebacker in college football. “Eddy” is an extremely dynamic run defender who safely tackles ball-carriers and battles off lineman blocks when he keeps gap control. Moreover, he has the ability to remain with tight ends and running backs downfield, frequently eliminating what opponents perceive to be a mismatch.Sainristil is a former wide receiver at Michigan (36-532-14.8, 5 TD from 2019–21), and he makes up for his lack of size with toughness, strong hands, and route understanding. At the next level, the second-team All-Big Ten pick will play in the slot as a nickel or corner safety, covering all receiver types inside and going after ball carriers while blitzing off the edge or supporting the run. As a rookie, Sainristil will be able to get on the field more quickly because to his rapid recovery time and eagerness to push receivers through the catch.Ford led the Longhorns in tackles with 91 and 10.5 tackles for loss so far this season, earning him a spot on the first team of the Big 12 for the second consecutive year. In the heart of an NFL defense, he is a thumper who attacks wide spaces to test quarterbacks in the pocket while going downhill in the run game. Ford can play both traditional and match-zone linebacker, though he probably won’t be a cover linebacker on Sundays. He can cause turnovers when given the opportunity, as seen by his six interceptions throughout the previous two seasons.This native of Georgia recovered from a neck injury that ended his 2022 campaign to rank first on the All-SEC team this year. Eboigbe’s 11.5 tackles for loss with seven sacks this season are about three times his career totals (4.5 TFL, two sacks), and he has already tackled as many ball-carriers as he has in the previous four years combined. The 6-5 lineman follows ball-carriers with tremendous strides. He can play with leverage and shed blockers because to his superb length and powerful lower body. Like a number of other Day 2 defensive lineman who have emerged from Alabama in the last ten years, he will make his NFL debut.Murphy’s first two seasons in Austin saw him start only one game each, but scouts were constantly keeping an eye on him. Whether lining up on the nose or at 1-technique, Murphy’s aggressive performance earned him first-team All-Big 12 and All-America honors in 2023 as a season-long starter. The DeSoto, Texas, native never stops going forward, using his fast feet and hands to get past man-up blocks and make double teams scramble to stay put. Because of his average stature, Murphy occasionally finds himself on the ground and is moved by superior lineman, but he can hold the line and shed in the run game.Corum, who had a knee injury in November 2022, makes me think of Nick Chubb’s rookie season in Georgia. After sustaining a catastrophic knee injury, Chubb needed some time to regain his full explosiveness, but he recovered to be a standout in college and has since made four NFL Pro Bowls. Although Chubb is bigger than the two-time Big Ten Running Back of the Year, both players are proficient north-south runners who can move quickly through narrow spaces and cut into the field. Corum’s debut season in the NFL, his second after knee surgery, could be exciting to watch as a runner/receiver and in the College Football Playoffs.Penix was in the forefront of the Heisman talk throughout the first half of the season because of his accuracy from the pocket. He ultimately came in second place behind LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels in the vote for college football’s most prestigious honor. While Penix’s injury-plagued career in Indiana was somewhat offset by a second consecutive season of health at Washington, he struggled to escape a crowded pocket and strike targets on the run. The Maxwell Award winner’s effectiveness declined as the season progressed; in five of the final eight games, he completed fewer than 60% of his passes. However, Penix is a resilient guy who performs well against a pass rush and, if successful, will raise his draft status.While the younger Kris Jenkins is a defensive lineman like his father — a second-round pick by Carolina in 2001 who went on to make four Pro Bowls with the Panthers/Jets — he plays a different game. Best as a 3-technique or 5-technique at the next level, the second-team All-Big Ten selection is not the massive space-eater his dad was at Maryland and in the NFL. He can hold up his man using leverage in the run game, but is most effective attacking a gap or using his quickness outside or on twists. Like with his former Michigan teammate, 2023 first-rounder Mazi Smith, Jenkins’ stats (32 tackles, three for loss with one sack in 2023) don’t scream NFL star, but he will stand out in the right system.Burton fits the description of a “possession playmaker” in the vein of Stefon Diggs and Amon-Ra St. Brown. These players may not be as big or fast as other receivers, but they are tough to cover because to their good hands, agility, and route-running sense. After moving from Georgia to Alabama two years ago, Burton’s development as a receiver has been significant, and he is now a danger on short, intermediate, and deep passes. He will likely be a more effective professional than collegiate player as he gets used to his new quarterback and his technique improves.
In his fourth year on university, Braswell waited his moment to shine for the Tide, starting opposite All-American Dallas Turner. With eight sacks, the team’s top edge rusher, Turner just slightly lags him. With his strong long arm and powerful hands, he frequently slingshots past blockers who are leaning or bursts past offensive tackles to get the corner. He’s willing to play short-zone coverage and is disciplined in keeping the advantage against run games and mobile quarterbacks. Braswell may move up the draft boards with a strong postseason showing that includes victories over elite tackles and breaking free from blocks to pursue plays in the open field.
Regarding Fautanu’s NFL position, opinions differ; some compare him to Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, while others think he can stick at left tackle like Dion Dawkins of the Bills. The first-team All-Pac-12 and third-team AP All-American lineman, Penix, is undoubtedly a huge factor in the Huskies’ incredible season-long success. Despite his average stature and length, Fautanu’s flexibility and foot agility allow him to stay balanced and anchor in pass protection. He will be projected inside by teams searching for bigger tackles so he can exploit his agility to strike second-level targets and block inner defenders.Trice came back in 2022 to help the Huskies win a Pac-12 championship and qualify for the playoffs with a 13-0 record after thriving as a fourth-year player. He had a huge second half of the season, with four sacks and six tackles for loss in the last six games. NFL clubs have the 6-4, 274-pound player projected as a base end because of his strength maintaining the edge and shedding tackles. If he is standing up outside, he can also cover ground. While some teams prefer a more flexible edge, power rushers such as George Karlaftis, Myles Murphy, and Greg Rousseau have contributed significantly towards the conclusion of recent first rounds.In addition to being named to the first team of All-America and winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Longhorns’ first-year starter was named the nation’s best interior lineman and took home the Outland Trophy. Considering that he is 6-4 and weights 362 pounds, his stats (42 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks) are exceptional. On New Year’s Day, Sweat—who finds the ball after the snap and tosses aside blockers to devour ball-carriers—will be the show to see. He can overpower offensive lineman with his bull rushes when he plays with strong pad level, and he can also wrap up running backs or quarterbacks who are trying to evade him.Odunze, a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award, has been the catalyst for Washington’s explosive attack. With his quickness, deft hands, and late arm extension, he beat defenses downfield to earn 13 receiving touchdowns. He also covered a significant amount of ground after the catch on screens and intermediate routes. His most remarkable accomplishment, though, came when he recovered from an onside kick against Arizona in September, breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung. Two weeks later, he caught eight catches for 128 yards and two scores in Washington’s decisive victory against rival Oregon. That kind of tenacity and willingness to perform is valued by NFL organizations.