The state of California is home to a handful of universities that always seem to have one or two teams each year in the national spotlight. This past year, Stanford running back Bryce Love was the Heisman runner-up. Two of the top three quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft also hailed from the west coast in Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA).
There is always a plethora of talent in the Chargers’ backyard, something we’ve seen the team take advantage of recently with the selection of former-Trojan Uchenna Nwosu in this year’s second round.
Below I’ve listed my top-5 NFL Draft prospect from the state of California in order to give you all some names to jot down prior to the 2018 college football season.
RB Bryce Love - Stanford- 5’10 196 pounds
Love found himself joining the “Stanford-Heisman Runner-Up Club” with notable alumni Andrew Luck, Christian McCafferey, and Toby Gerhart. However, without a lower-body injury towards the end of the season, Love may have ran away with the award over Baker Mayfield.
Love finished second in the nation with 2,118 rushing yards and 162.9 yards per game. His 19 rushing touchdowns were fifth-best while his 8.05 ypc were fourth best among FBS backs.
A unanimous All-American, Love also took home the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
After the 2018 season comes and goes, the more important question will not be what round Love goes in but will the prolific running back choose football over his dream of being a doctor?
OG Nate Herbig - Stanford - 6’4 350 pounds
I affectionately refer to Herbig as “The Hawaiian Hogmolly” because he is one HUGE piggy. At a svelte 350 pounds, Herbig is a load to move and an absolute pain in the rear end to try and get past.
Herbig saw significant playing time as a true freshman in Palo Alto. He suited up in all 13 games while earning six starts at the left guard position, en route to being named an ESPN Freshman All-American. As a sophomore, he solidified his starting job and started all 13 games. He was unsurprisingly selected to the All-Pac-12 First Team.
Heading into 2018, the Hawaii-native is a Preseason First-Team All-American by Phil Steele and will play an integral part in Bryce Love’s campaign for the Heisman Trophy.
TE Kaden Smith - Stanford - 6’5 253 pounds
Smith is a former 4-star recruit from Marcus (Texas) that was rated the second-best tight end in the country by ESPN. After taking a redshirt year in 2016, Smith was an efficient option in the passing game as he had to split reps with Dalton Shultz, who is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
In 14 games this past year, Smith hauled in 23 catches for 414 yards and five touchdowns. With the departure of Shultz, Smith is expected to take a prominent role in the passing game as he looks to establish himself as the next great Cardinal tight end. Expectations will be high as Smith was recently named a Preseason Third-Team All-American by Athlon Sports.
OLB Porter Gustin - USC - 6’5 255 pounds
After leading the Trojans in tackles during the 2016 season, Gustin’s junior season was cut short after four games following a toe injury suffered in the second game of the season. In those four games, Gustin was still able to collect 16 tackles and three sacks before he needed to shut things down.
When healthy, Gustin is the top pass-rusher on USC’s roster and one of the best in the entire Pac-12. As a former five-star recruit out of high school, expect Gustin to wreak havoc as one of the most “freaky” athletes in college football.
LB Cameron Smith - USC - 6’2 250 pounds
Smith is the prototypical linebacker that all NFL teams should covet in the present day. Not just seen as a tackling machine, Smith makes plays all over the field in every possible aspect.
In 9 starts as a true freshman, Smith stuffed the stat sheet as he collected 78 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery, six passes defended, and three interceptions (one for a touchdown). As a sophomore, Smith upped his overall game as he increased his total tackles to 83 to go along with 7 tackles-for-loss, another sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and four passes defended. He was named a Second-Team All-Pac-12 selection for his efforts.
In 2017, Smith kept the production arrow pointing up as he totaled 112 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, and four passes defended en route to being named a Third-Team All-American.