Five Early-Season College Football Stars

Five names to keep an eye on throughout the 2021 season and in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft
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Football season is in full swing as all colleges have played a couple of games and the NFL regular season finally kicked off. This was also a weekend of high emotions as we recognized the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks; it simultaneously served as a reminder of how beautiful our country is and how unifying sports are. As every stadium put on wonderful tributes, people of every different background came together and not only to commemorate a terrible event but just to be back together celebrating America’s game of football. With all that being said, it’s time to turn the page and instead of looking at the past, let’s look into the future. It’s never too early to start looking at what college players will be starring on Sundays and who your team can draft to build a brighter future. Here are five players who have shown up so far this season and where they should be graded right now.

McKenzie Milton, Quarterback, Florida State:

After his promising career was derailed by injury, McKenzie Milton has shown promise in his return. 

After his promising career was derailed by injury, McKenzie Milton has shown promise in his return. 

It is so exciting to write about Milton because it looked as if his career was over two years ago. As a freshman, he led UCF to an undefeated (National Championship) season, but the following year suffered one of the worst leg injuries imaginable. Though it seemed he would have an outcome like that of Bo Jackson, Milton was relentless in his rehab and worked his way back to being able to play. Unfortunately, UCF couldn’t wait for the comeback, and Milton is now at Florida St. In his first game action since the injury, Milton took Notre Dame to the brink and led a rally that forced overtime. Florida St. lost the game, but Milton looked fantastic and threw the ball all over the field. He even had a couple of good runs. He honestly looked like he didn’t lose a step and should be considered one of the top quarterback prospects this year. There will, of course, be some bumps in the road due to the severity of his injury, but if he keeps taking steps forward and can get back to what he was at UCF, he has the chance to be a real special player.

Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame:

Arguably college football and the 2022 NFL Draft's best player, Kyle Hamilton is an outstanding safety. 

Arguably college football and the 2022 NFL Draft's best player, Kyle Hamilton is an outstanding safety. 

If you’re looking for a game-changing player on defense, then Kyle Hamilton is your guy. The junior safety out of Notre Dame is big, fast, and incredibly smart. He can cover the entire field and is strong against the run. He has excellent ball skills and the athleticism to track almost any pass and has the potential to be a ball hawk like Ed Reed. Hamilton has been a stud since the moment he arrived at Notre Dame, no moment ever seems too big for him, and he shows outstanding leadership, especially with the effort he gives on every play. He should be the first defensive player off the board this upcoming draft because he can be that much of a game-changer.

Jalen Wydermyer, Tight End, Texas A&M:

A refined route runner with strong hands, Jalen Wydermyer is one of the nation's top tight ends. 

A refined route runner with strong hands, Jalen Wydermyer is one of the nation's top tight ends. 

Though he has just over 100 yards on the season, Wydermyer is one of the most athletically gifted tight ends in the country. He can stretch the field but can also make the more critical and challenging short catches. He needs to work on his blocking technique, but he always gives great effort and isn’t afraid of doing it, so he should have no problem improving with some professional-level coaching. He is very comparable to David Njoku but is a better blocker than Njoku was coming out of college, and Wydermyer gives maximum effort on every play. Depending on his performance the rest of the season and how he tests during the draft process, Wydermyer could easily be a first-round pick.

CJ Verdell, Running Back, Oregon:

C.J. Verdell has a chance to cement himself among the 2022 NFL Draft's top running backs. 

C.J. Verdell has a chance to cement himself among the 2022 NFL Draft's top running backs. 

Here’s a great example of a player that 2020 did a massive disservice to. Verdell started his college carrier with back-to-back thousand-yard seasons but had his momentum derailed like many did last season. Verdell is a tremendous all-around running back because he has a powerful build yet still possesses excellent breakaway speed. Playing in the offense he does, receiving skills are required, so that is another box he checks. Over the first two weeks of the season, Verdell seems to be back to form, as he has put together a couple of excellent performances. If Verdell can build upon his strong start and put together another big season, he should be considered a top running back prospect and will be a late first-round to early second-round pick.

Darien Butler, Linebacker, Arizona St:

Darien Butler (20) is an intelligent linebacker who can make an impact in the NFL. 

Darien Butler (20) is an intelligent linebacker who can make an impact in the NFL. 

It’s not easy turning around a college football program, but Coach Herm Edwards is doing just that, and his team seems to take big steps forward every year. Darien Butler is an excellent example of this. He is a well-balanced linebacker who can do a bit of everything and is a high-character player who leads that defense. He is an intelligent player who can diagnose an offense quickly and will always be around the ball. He was in a great situation at Arizona St, because he got a lot of professional knowledge from the coaching staff, and he is the type of player who can transfer that knowledge to the field, which will help at the next level. Butler isn’t the flashiest player and probably won’t get a very high draft grade, but he is that middle-round pick that will have everyone wondering how they miss him. 

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