The good folks over at Pro Football Focus have released their list of the top 101 players in college football entering the 2016 season.
Not surprisingly, the list is full of SEC talent — 27 players, to be exact. That includes three of the top five players on the list.
Alabama, not surprisingly, is tops among all SEC schools on the list with seven players. Following the Tide with four players apiece are the Florida Gators and LSU Tigers. Sorry fans of Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina, not a single Wildcat, Bulldog nor Gamecock managed their way among the top 101.
There are a few notable names arguably missing from the list. Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs is the first to stand out among those omitted. Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns but also had 11 rushing touchdowns. That’s more scores on the ground than the eight punched in by Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey during his flirt with the 2015 Heisman Trophy.
However, Dobbs shouldn’t feel alone. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett — who had 11 more rushing yards than Dobbs’ 671 yards and the same 11 touchdowns as the Vols’ signal-caller — also failed to qualify among PFF’s top 101 best college football players.
Wide receivers Josh Reynolds of Texas A&M and Mississippi State’s Fred Ross fell outside the top-101 despite averaging more yards per game than Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (69.7 YPG), No. 48 on PFF’s list.
Not a single SEC offensive lineman made the list. Meaning no Frank Ragnow or Dan Skipper of Arkansas, Cam Robinson of Alabama nor Ethan Pocic of LSU, to name just a few of the conference’s offensive stalwarts.
Missing from across the line of scrimmage on defense is arguably some of the SEC’s best pass-rushers and pocket-collapsers, such as Marquis Haynes of Ole Miss (16.5 TFL, 10 sacks, both good for fourth-best in the conference) and Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
But rather than focus on the omitted, we must remind ourselves that Pro Football Focus has its own unique rating system that’s correct a lot more times than it’s wrong.
Here’s a look at the 27 SEC players that cracked Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 101 college football players entering the 2016 season and where they rank.
No. 2 — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett has 24 sacks in two seasons with the Aggies and has his eyes on becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
No. 3 — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The nation’s incumbent rushing leader (162.8 YPG) is among those on the preseason shortlist of Heisman hopefuls.
No. 4 — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett has 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons on Rocky Top. Expect that number to rise during his junior campaign.
No. 12 — Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb has rushed for 2,294 yards in 19 career games, during which he boasts an impressive 120.7 YPG. But that’ll be a moot point if the Georgia running back can’t recover from the devastating knee injury he suffered midway through the 2015 season.
No. 13 — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Harris led the SEC as a sophomore with an average of 1.54 tackles for loss per game and finished one TFL behind Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett (19.5 TFL) for the conference’s overall lead.
No. 15 — Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor is considered among the best cornerbacks in the SEC, courtesy of a sophomore year that saw him break up 14 passes while intercepting four more, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He gets a chance to step up with former teammates Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal off to the NFL.
No. 17 — Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Injuries have cost Lawson the entire 2014 season as well as all but seven games last year. When healthy, however, the Auburn defensive end should be regarded among the conference’s best — as demonstrated by his freshman year when he was named to the Sporting News and 247Sports freshman all-American teams.
No. 19 — Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Allen returns to Alabama for his senior year, dragging with him in tow 17.5 career sacks in three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
No. 22 — Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas
The Arkansas defensive line appears to be returning to its dominant form, that’s thanks in large part to Wise Jr. and his 13 career sacks, 8 which came last year as a redshirt junior.
No. 26 — Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Jonathan Allen believes Alabama can challenge Stanford’s single-season team record of 57 sacks. With Tim Williams (12.5 TFL, 10 sacks) chasing down opposing quarterbacks, the outside linebacker and Allen could, at least, improve upon the Tide’s NCAA team-leading 52 sacks in 2015.
No. 28 — Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster is the guy Alabama will ask to step up and replace Reggie Ragland at the interior linebacker position. The junior finished runner-up to Ragland for the team lead in 2015 with 73 tackles.
No. 30 — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Marlon Humphrey made one of the biggest plays of the 2015 season, snaring a fourth-quarter onside kick in Alabama’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game win over Clemson. It’s no surprise considering the freshman’s debut season in which he was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team.
No. 33 — Marcus Maye, S, Florida
Florida’s passing defense doesn’t fall off the cliff with the departure of Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal. Not as long as Maye and his 6.3 tackles-per-game, 160 career tackles and 7 forced fumbles (5 last season) in are in the Gators’ lineup.
No. 37 — Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
Anderson enters his senior year with 10.5 career sacks and could be among the most underrated players along the Tide defense.
No. 38 — Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt
Speaking of underrated, Cunningham might be the most underappreciated player in the SEC after a sophomore season that saw the Vanderbilt linebacker lead the Commodores with 103 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
No. 40 — Arden Key, DE, LSU
Arden Key opened some eyes as a freshman, registering 41 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks as a frosh. Expect him to challenge the best edge-rushers that the LSU Tigers and the SEC has in 2016.
No. 48 — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley debuted in Tuscaloosa by leading the SEC with 89 receptions. The freshman finished with 1,045 receiving yards, second only to Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell for the conference lead, and 7 touchdowns.
No. 51 — D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss
Jones ranked as the nation’s No. 27 best interior defensive lineman in his debut year in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus, with a +32.6 overall grade. Playing in all 13 of Ole Miss’ games, the big and athletic Jones tallied 40 tackles to go along with 5.5 tackles-for-loss and 4 sacks.
No. 53 — Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
Kelly is coming off a junior year in which he led the SEC in passing with 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns. With an additional 500 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the ground, Kelly is a major factor in the Rebels’ push for their first SEC West title. He’s also the lone SEC quarterback to make Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 101 players.
No. 59 — Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
The SEC is flush with talent among defensive linemen, and Florida’s Caleb Brantley is one example. The rising junior has posted 10.5 tackles for loss in two seasons and is a key piece for a Florida defense that should rank among the SEC’s best in 2016.
No. 64 — Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama
Jackson tied Georgia’s Dominick Sanders (who didn’t make the top 101 list) for the SEC lead with 6 interceptions, two of which he returned to the house for Alabama touchdowns.
No. 65 — Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk exploded on the SEC scene as a freshman, blistering his way to 1,789 all-purpose yards and 9 touchdowns as both a receiver and kick-return specialist for the Aggies.
No. 66 — Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU
Godchaux turned it around during his sophomore season, dropping opposing quarterbacks with 6 sacks and garnering another 6 QB hits. His +23.0 grade quietly made him one of the better interior defensive lineman in the country, according to Pro Football Focus.
No. 76 — Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
Just the third running back on the list, Hurd is a big, athletic back and a driving force of the Tennessee offense. The rising junior has 2,187 career rushing yards, 1,288 of them coming on the ground last year. Vols fans wouldn’t be wrong to argue that Hurd potentially belongs higher on the list.
No. 84 — Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
Sutton is one of the more dynamic playmakers in the SEC. The cornerback made 28 tackles in 2015 (27 of them solo) but was at home returning kicks, where he led the nation with an average of 18.7 yards per punt return to go along with a pair of returns for touchdowns.
No. 96 — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Adams picked off four passes in 2015, his second season in Baton Rouge. Combine them with his 10 career tackles for loss and LSU possesses one of the best safeties in the conference in Adams.
No. 97 — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Davis is more than just Florida’s returning tackles leader (98). The linebacker is considered one of the emotional leaders of a Gators defense looking to retain its SEC East title.
You tell us. Which SEC players would you add to Pro Football Focus’ list?
Christopher Wuensch is a contributor to Saturday Down South. Contact him at Christopher.Wuensch@gmail.com
Source: Saturday Down South