Identifying the top 25 underclassmen (players ineligible for the NFL draft) is one of the toughest projects of the year. Yet again, there's no shortage of worthy candidates and we drew on our film study in addition to nominations from ESPN.com conference writers to develop a lengthy list. We then took a closer look at each of the players on tape.
In ordering the top 25, we took the following factors into account:
• While players in their second seasons who were more polished and consistent were rewarded for it, we tried to balance out a first-year player's overall talent and potential when comparing the two against each other. This is a ranking of college ability, not pro potential, but there are plenty of players on this list with the chance to play in the NFL one day, and upside still played a role in the rankings.
• When we were stuck on how to rank one player in comparison to another, we asked ourselves the following question: If you could have two or three more seasons with any of these players at the college level, who would you recruit to play for your team?
This list tends to elicit a strong response from those who feel we missed the mark; while we enjoy the debate, this is a tough list to crack. Just take a look back at the 2012 list. Seven of the 16 players who were subsequently eligible and declared for the 2014 draft went in the first round -- including first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney -- and another five went in the second round.
With all of that in mind, here is our ranking of the top 25 underclassmen in college football for 2014, listed with their current class as of the 2014 season:
A key member of Ole Miss' fifth-ranked 2013 recruiting class, Tunsil graded out as the top offensive tackle prospect, according to ESPN Recruiting Nation. He hasn't disappointed. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, he has the power to generate push on short-yardage runs and the quickness to seal the edge on perimeter runs. In terms of pass protection, he has the length to take away the edge, the balance to mirror and the strength to anchor.