In a short version of the Mind of Mike, which I hope to do more often, here are some random thoughts that have entered my brain recently regarding college football including NIL.
CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals100
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
1. RATTLER IS NO. 1
Let’s be clear, the No. 1 player for Name, Image, Likeness is Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler as he is at a program that has produced No. 1 NFL Draft picks and Heisman Trophy winners at his position in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Rattler won’t get rich off of NIL because it’s just starting but he heads my list as the most marketable player out there.
2. SKILL PLAYERS HAVE LEG UP IN MARKETABILITY
Skill position players are all the rage in college football and beyond so scoring touchdowns (or defending against them) will always be valued. Here are my 2-10 guys…
3. WHERE ARE THE ALABAMA PLAYERS?
You may notice that there were no Alabama players on my top 10 list, but we all know that won’t last. Linebacker Christian Harris, edge rusher Will Anderson, quarterback Bryce Young, receiver John Metchie III, running back Brian Robinson, offensive lineman Evan Neal and many others should cash in eventually. In fact, I see about 20 future first-round picks on the Alabama roster from freshmen to seniors as usual.
4. WOULD-BE NIL STARS FROM THE PAST
Who would be some of the most marketable players over the last 20 years or so of college football if NIL had been alive back then? Here’s my list…
5. LOOKING AT THE NFL DRAFT
Remember Evan Neal as a recruit? Remember his as a junior when he was carrying too much weight and then he slimmed down his senior season to around 360 pounds and ended up as our No. 8 prospect nationally and No. 1 offensive tackle? Well I’m here to tell you that despite his high ranking, I didn’t see this coming: Neal is right now the best offensive line prospect I’ve seen for the NFL Draft since Orlando Pace went No. 1 overall back in 1997.
Everyone loves to throw around the term generational talent and I hate that. Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent. Chase Young is not because we’ve had Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa and others at the same position. But Neal, he could be a generational talent because he has very rare athleticism for a 6-foot-7, 360 pounder and he is a tireless worker in the weight room. His box and split jumps are already a thing of legend at Alabama and he shows such power in his lower body with an impossible agility and lightness of foot.
He’s better at this stage than Alabama first round tackles DJ Fluker, Jonah Williams, Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood and I have him ahead of Penei Sewell who was labeled as a generational talent last year. Neal has a chance, with another great season and a combine workout that will blow everyone away, to be a top-five pick and could push for No. 1 overall, a rarity for offensive linemen. He’s an absolute freak.