Alabama running back Derrick Henry is one of many college stars who are poised to be high picks in the draft.
The NFL draft is still more than two months away, but focus on college prospects will take off soon with the scouting combine coming up in two weeks.
To give an early breakdown, we ranked the 11 most intriguing draft prospects right now. Keep in mind this is not a ranking of prospects' value - Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa are expected to be among the earliest picks, but the two established stars didn't make the cut for this list.
11. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: The Heisman Trophy winner wasn't happy when he was given a second-round grade by the NFL draft advisory board, and he's got plenty to prove between now and the end of April. At Alabama, Henry's value was as a workhorse back. No NFL running back carried the ball more than 31 times in any game last season, but Henry did it in five games for the Crimson Tide. That workload, along with a rigid running style, might alarm NFL teams. But it's hard to ignore a 6-3, 242-pound ball carrier who finishes his runs the way Henry does.
10. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: A four-year starter for the Spartans, Cook is probably the draft's most established quarterbacks. Yet he's not without his questions marks.The 6-4, 219-pound signal-caller at times looks like a savvy veteran, but his accuracy has been spotty and he has been prone to wild lapses with his footwork and decision-making. There's plenty of demand for a quarterback with his skill set, but when will a team be ready to pull the trigger?
9. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: There's not much left for Elliott to prove after a prolific collegiate career. His value as a test case for the NFL's evaluation of running backs earned him a spot on this list. Elliott might be the most well-rounded player in the draft, but teams still might be reticent to take a running back in the top 10 given the position's history of providing bargains in later rounds. But one year after Todd Gurley starred as the No. 10 pick for the Rams, Elliott could convince a team to move on him very early.
8. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Lynch';s inclusion here would have seemed odd at the beginning of the season, but he was plenty impressive while leading the Tigers to an 8-0 start this season. A crash-landing in his bowl game against Auburn, in which he completed just 16 of 37 passes for 106 yards, raised a few concerns after a season mostly spent picking on lower competition. With a 6-7, 245-pound build and the ability to move around, Lynch has plenty of attributes teams seek in a quarterback. A team patient enough to bring him along slowly could provide the setting for him to flourish.
7. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: As the draft's best big-play threat, Coleman is an instant offensive jump-start. The Biletnikoff Award winner is extremely difficult to cover downfield, and he wins on contested catches despite being just 5-11 and 190 pounds. Coleman's route-running and run blocking are underdeveloped after playing in Baylor's system, and he'll have to cut down on his drops. But teams won't ignore his ability to pick up yards in big chunks.
6. Jared Goff, QB, Cal: The front-runner to be the top quarterback taken, Goff is about to go through the NFL's ringer of pre-draft scrutiny. He throws with remarkable anticipation and displays impressive pocket awareness. But questions about how he'll advance from Cal's simplistic offense will linger until he gets to work with a team. But with so much to offer, Goff shouldn't be on the board long before a team is convinced of his ability to the reins to its offense.
5. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame: Smith has the make-up of a top-notch three-down linebacker, but he's just a month removed from tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. Now, medical evaluations at the combine could prove crucial for his stock. His ability to run down ball-carriers in the open field is nearly unmatched, but how will teams value off-ball linebackers in an age where pass-rushers are prized above almost everything else?
4. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Much like Smith, Jack will need to check out medically after he suffered a season-ending torn meniscus in September, though the UCLA product is further along in his recovery. If he recaptures his pre-injury form, Jack offers tantalizing versatility. Though he lacks ideal size at 6-1, 245 pounds, he can alter games from almost anywhere on the field. The biggest challenge for a defensive coordinator might be deciding how best to utilize his talents.
3. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky: Spence's career at Ohio State came to an abrupt end when he was banned from the Big Ten in 2014 after two failed drug tests. But with NFL teams mining the draft for elite traits, Spence didn't stay out of the spotlight for long. His explosion off the edge makes him one of the draft's most dynamic talents. But to be drafted as early as his talent warrants, Spence will have to convince a team he's learned from his past.
2. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: Reconciling potential with production will prove difficult in Nkemdiche's case. He resembles a top talent with incredible disruption on occasion, but he never fully assumed the role with consistent play. He also was banned from Ole Miss' bowl game after being charged with marijuana possession. The athleticism is enticing, but Nkemdiche could be in for a wait if teams can't account for his shortcomings.
1. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: No player is as likely to confound and divide opinions in the same manner as Wentz, a 6-5 signal-caller who at the FCS level went unnoticed by many. To some, his body of work at North Dakota State indicates a physical and mental readiness to be a high-end starter after an adjustment period. But any slip-ups will draw close inspection, as he is bound to be one of the draft's most scrutinized players. And for all the talk of Wentz due over the next few months, fans and teams might be in for a long wait before they get a read on how he'll fare in the NFL. Accept the mystery.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
Prospects with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses will be barred from attending the annual scouting combine.