Seven big-name college football standouts who could be in for long wait in 2024 NFL draft

For many of college football's most accomplished players, the NFL draft provides a signature moment as they transition to the professional ranks. Others, however, face a harsh fate – and wait – over the course of the three-day event.

This Thursday, the first round will be shaped by several marquee names, including USC's Caleb Williams, Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy. Yet there are plenty of other all-conference – and even All-American – selections who will be left to become late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents.

As the 2024 NFL draft kicks off this week, keep an eye on these seven notable figures who could be in for an extended wait before they're picked.

Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) reacts after scoring against the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium.
Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) reacts after scoring against the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium.

A sixth-year senior in 2023, Travis made the most of his extra time by notching an 11-0 mark with the Seminoles before being sidelined by a leg fracture in November. That injury undoubtedly complicated his pro outlook, but he likely was already facing an uphill battle to stick in the NFL for the long term.

At 6-1 and 200 pounds with arm strength that is passable at best, Travis doesn't have many starting-caliber traits to develop. But he also lacks the pocket composure and anticipation skills one would seek in a trustworthy backup. That all leaves a player who will be 24 as a rookie in a tough spot for the draft. Travis has shown enough to hear his name called at some point, but it seems like a long shot to happen before the final few rounds.

Sam Hartman, QB, Notre Dame

The highlight of Hartman's pre-draft process has been the visual of his hair flowing through the air during his 40-yard at the NFL scouting combine. Not a great sign when that's the biggest buzz that a quarterback prospect creates. Despite finishing his six-year career as one of the most prolific passers in college football history, Hartman doesn't seem like he'll warrant much more than a late-round flier.

When in a rhythm, Hartman demonstrates an impressive ability to put the ball in prime position for his receivers. But that talent will be mitigated at the next level by pedestrian arm strength, which will leave him little room for error. With a track record of spotty decision-making and erratic, turnover prone-play, Hartman is difficult to trust as a No. 2 option. If he finds a level of consistency, however, he could hang around thanks to his quick trigger, savvy and toughness.

Cody Schrader, RB, Missouri

That the former walk-on made it onto the pro radar at all should be considered a triumph. After transferring from Truman State, Schrader broke out in 2023 with a 1,627-yard, 14-touchdown campaign that earned him first-team All-American honors.

Still, it's hard to sell NFL teams on a 5-9, 214-pound back who lacks the long speed or agility to consistently break big plays. Schrader's determined approach should help him stick on a roster early in his career as a physical runner who could be a significant special teams asset. But he'll again be playing the role of the long shot as a likely late Day 3 pick.

T'Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas

The 6-4, 366-pound man in the middle for Texas became college football's latest supersized presence, winning the Outland Trophy and being named a unanimous All-American last fall. Sweat is truly a force and demands an offense account for his ability to move blockers backward and hold his ground. He's far from the current prototype at defensive tackle, but the appeal of adding a singular defensive presence up front should be readily apparent.

Still, there are significant drawbacks to Sweat's outlier build, too. Conditioning will be a persistent concern, and his effectiveness might hinge on coaches keeping him fresh. His limited initial explosiveness also suggests that his impact against the pass will top out with pushing the pocket, especially given his underdeveloped arsenal of moves. Additionally, an arrest earlier in April on suspicion of driving while intoxicated could raise a red flag for some teams. Ultimately, making it into the first three rounds could be tough for Sweat.

Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State

A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Eichenberg set the tone for the Buckeyes' defense as a two-year starter and team captain, racking up 200 tackles in that span. He's at his best when diagnosing run plays and meeting the ball carrier in the hole, as he's a reliable tackler whenever in position to make the play.

But coverage is another matter for the 6-2, 233-pounder, who looks out of sorts when asked to drop back. Eichenberg might gain a better feel for the nuances of operating in zone with some additional work, but it likely will never be one of his strengths. Those overall fluidity problems likely signal a middle-round landing spot.

Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson

It didn't take long before the son of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker and former Philadelphia Eagles standout Jeremiah Trotter stepped out of his father's shadow. The 6-0, 228-pounder made his mark at Clemson as a consistent downhill playmaker, collecting nearly 180 tackles with 28 ½ tackles for loss and 12 sacks over his two years as a starter.

Taking his game to the NFL, however, could be tricky. Finishing plays against the run might prove more difficult at the next level, as his range is not extensive and he can be too easily shaken in space. And while his instincts could help him become a solid contributor in zone coverage, he could be exposed in man-to-man matchups. The middle rounds seem like a sensible starting point for his pro career.

Kalen King, CB, Penn State

At this point last year, King earned premature buzz of a potential top 50 pick thanks to his hypercompetitive style and impressive ball production (21 passes defensed in 2022). Then, things started to unravel, as the 5-11, 190-pound cornerback suffered several shaky outings, including one in a showcase matchup with Ohio State wide receiver and projected top-five selection Marvin Harrison Jr.

The disappointing season heightened concerns about King lacking the recovery speed to replicate his playmaking prowess at the next level. His struggles at the Senior Bowl and 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine further sunk his stock. Being dropped into a zone-heavy scheme or moving to safety could help hide some of his shortcomings, but he still has to become a much more composed player when working downhill – particularly as a tackler. The middle of Day 3 seems like a reasonable range.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 NFL draft: Seven college football standouts in line for long wait