B/R CFB 150: Top 150 Overall Players
Bleacher Report's CFB 150 is an annual ranking of the game's best players, regardless of NFL potential. Authors David Kenyon, Brian Pedersen and Barrett Sallee have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed down that list and sorted by position. Over the course of the past two weeks we've presented the best at each position in daily articles:
CFB Positional Rankings
Today, though, we've put them all together for one definitive list. (Editor's note: Some text from previous installments may reappear in this final edition.)
The 2016-17 college football season was a tremendous one with amazing games from opening weekend all the way through the thrilling national championship between Alabama and Clemson. And that couldn't have been possible if not for the efforts of the game's best skill position players, defensive stars, linemen and specialists.
The following rankings are based primarily on one's skills as a college player rather than how he would fare in the NFL. Though these players may be using this time to develop their game for the pro level, primarily their goals are centered on helping their teams succeed.
150. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
2016 Stats: 34 tackles (seven for loss), 1.5 sacks, five QB hurries
Michigan State's 3-9 season took a toll on McDowell, who—as MLive's Kyle Austin notes—called it a hard year both personally and collectively. He was basically the only threat on MSU's defensive line, subsequently receiving extra attention on almost every snap. Nevertheless, the junior made a constant impact outside of the box score.
149. Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse
2016 Stats: 94 receptions, 1,482 yards, 14 touchdowns
A graduate transfer who had 61 receptions in three seasons at Maryland, the 6'2", 202-pound Etta-Tawo passed that number in his eighth game with Syracuse. He then finished his career with 13 receptions for 178 yards and five touchdowns against Pittsburgh.
148. Ben Boulware, LB, Clemson
2016 Stats: 116 tackles (11.5 for loss), four sacks, one interception, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles
His goal-line interception in the season-opening win at Auburn set the stage for a tremendous final season. The two-year starter went out with a bang with six tackles and two tackles for loss in the national championship game win over Alabama.
147. Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana
2016 Stats: 33 tackles, 17 pass breakups, three interceptions, one TD
Though completions to Fant's assignment could result in big gains, getting the ball past him was difficult. He defended the third-most passes in the country (20). Fant's propensity for allowing long completions knocked him down the rankings, but he was instrumental in Indiana's 23rd-ranked opponent quarterback rating (117.26).
146. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
The top returner from our 2015 ranking of the best linemen, Robinson dropped from seventh to ninth. The slip came because of the strength of the position across the country and because of how Alabama's offense changed, but his versatility should help him when he heads to the NFL. Robinson allowed only one sack in 484 dropbacks in 2016, per Pro Football Focus, and he remained strong as usual in blocking for the run, as Alabama ranked 12th nationally in rushing offense at 245 yards per game.
145. Devonte Fields, LB, Louisville
2016 Stats: 45 tackles (nine for loss), six sacks, one interception, three pass breakups
Fields didn't have as big of a season as he did in 2015 for Louisville, his first after beginning his career at TCU and making a stop at a junior college, but he still got involved. Four of his tackles for loss and three of his sacks came in the Cardinals' November win against Wake Forest.
144. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, DT, USC
2016 Stats: 53 tackles (two for loss), 0.5 sacks
According to Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times, Tu'ikolovatu spent part of the summer living in his car. Once the season started, the Utah transfer changed locations and began dwelling in opposing backfields. Tu'ikolovatu made a minimal impression as a pass-rusher, but USC hardly could've had a more dependable player for its run defense.
143. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
2016 Stats: 39 tackles, nine pass breakups, five interceptions
Alexander's good easily outweighed the bad. Charlotte, Florida State and Virginia, among others, threw touchdowns against the sophomore, but Alexander also picked off two passes on Clemson's Deshaun Watson and added another multi-interception outing. While giving up touchdowns can be a problem for Alexander, the Charlotte and FSU games were well in hand when his target scored.
142. Nico Siragusa, OL, San Diego State
After almost every game this past season, as Donnel Pumphrey was either moving toward becoming the FBS career rushing leader or after he achieved that mark in the Las Vegas Bowl, San Diego State's star running back would make sure to give credit to those who helped make it possible. Though Pumphrey would refer to the entire offensive line, Siragusa deserved the most praise.
141. Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
2016 Stats: 31 tackles (9.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, three QB hurries
Saying he defeated LSU single-handedly is a bit generous, but Brantley seemed to make each critical play in the stunning upset. His ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage was on full display, highlighted by a pair of goal-line stands. He didn't put up big numbers because of his role, but that doesn't diminish his value to Florida's defense.
140. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
2016 Stats: 33 tackles, six pass breakups, three interceptions, one TD
Wilson was a consistent force opposite Teez Tabor, limiting opponents to 16 catches for 227 yards. Now, Wilson wasn't quite a lockdown corner despite the simple numbers. Each of LSU, Florida State and Alabama had a chance at a big play on him before a poor throw ended the threat. Regardless, Wilson had a more-than-respectable 2016 season.
139. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
2016 Stats: 39 tackles (6.5 for loss), five sacks, two QB hurries
Washington had several established stars, but Vea provided another interior presence to the talented group. Although the sophomore wasn't a major sack producer, he helped free teammates for those opportunities while shutting down opposing running games. Washington surrendered just 3.65 yards per carry, which ranked 23rd nationally.
138. Christian Kirk, WR/RS, Texas A&M
2016 Stats: 83 receptions, 928 yards, nine touchdowns; 13 punt returns, 21.7-yard average, three TDs
The 5'11", 200-pound Kirk led Texas A&M in catches for the second year in a row and had nearly 58 percent of his yardage after the catch. He also scored three times on punt returns to average better than 109 all-purpose yards per game.
137. Corn Elder, CB, Miami
2016 Stats: 76 tackles (three sacks), 12 pass breakups, one interception
Elder did a little of everything for a surprising Miami defense. Under new coordinator Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes ditched a conservative style. That fit Elder well since he's a smart player with a willingness to tackle. Elder consistently stood out as Miami's most reliable corner, and sporadic blitzes regularly ended with pressure from him.
136. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
2016 Stats: 314 carries, 1,709 yards, 23 touchdowns; 37 catches, 474 yards, four touchdowns
Running back success has been a trademark of the Boise State Broncos program, and McNichols solidified himself as one of the program's best in 2016. A workhorse on the ground and a reliable weapon out of the backfield, he made the offense click this season and kept his team in the division title race.
135. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
2016 Stats: 48 receptions, 691 yards, seven touchdowns
Hodges spent a large portion of his snaps split wide, but the hybrid is still technically listed as a tight end in the starting lineup. At 6'7" and 245 pounds, Hodges' size immediately screams "red-zone specialist." And yes, he backed up the billing. Six of Hodges' eight receptions inside the 20-yard line were touchdowns, per CFBStats.
134. Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
2016 Stats: 44 tackles (8.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, 15 QB hurries, one interception, one fumble recovery, one TD
Auburn exceeded expectations in 2016, largely due to a superb front seven. While Carl Lawson roamed the edge, Adams controlled the interior. He is a somewhat rare breed, often contributing more as a pass-rusher than run-stuffer, but he was still a menace in the middle and earned second-team All-SEC.
133. Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
2016 Stats: 52 tackles (17.5 for loss), 11.5 sacks, one fumble return, three pass breakups, four QB hurries, three forced fumbles
Graded by Pro Football Focus as the top overall edge-rusher, the 6'5", 258-pound Willis was the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. He had three multisack games in 2016, including in critical conference victories over Texas and Texas Tech.
132. Cole Madison, OL, Washington State
Madison has been Washington State's starting right tackle for all but four games the last three years, and in 2016 he allowed only three sacks as the Cougars averaged 362.5 passing yards per game to rank third in the FBS. His overall grade from Pro Football Focus of 35.1 was third-best among tackles.
131. Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
2016 Stats: 49 tackles (10.5 for loss), six sacks, two QB hurries
Nnadi immediately earned playing time as a freshman in 2014 and became a starter the next year, but he truly broke out this season. A 6'1", 312-pounder, he keyed Florida State's defensive resurgence that began after a loss to UNC. To that point, FSU ceded 191.2 rushing yards per game. After that, the 'Noles gave up a meager 88.5-yard average.
130. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
2016 Stats: 65 tackles, eight pass breakups, seven interceptions, one TD
Whether you want to call Kazee a ball hawk, playmaker or something similar, he fits the description. San Diego State's defense was an elite unit (No. 11 in total defense) with the pesky cornerback, who posted two multi-interception games. Most importantly, the Aztecs could rely on Kazee because he seldom had a poor showing in coverage or run support.
129. Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
2016 Stats: 134 tackles (10 for loss), 6.5 sacks, one interception, seven pass breakups, five forced fumbles
Kiser was one of the few bright spots for a Virginia team that won only two games in 2016. The third-leading tackler in FBS will have a shot at three consecutive 100-tackle seasons after announcing in December he will return for his senior year.
128. Haason Reddick, DE, Temple
2016 Stats: 65 tackles (22.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, three QB hurries, three forced fumbles
Temple's first conference title since 1967 was paced by its defense, which allowed 18.4 points per game. The 6'1", 230-pound Reddick patrolled the edge against the run and the pass with equal effectiveness, tying for third nationally in tackles for loss.
127. Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
2016 Stats: 232 carries, 1,133 yards, 17 touchdowns; 20 catches, 152 yards
Gallman capped off his final college season with a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the national title game win over Alabama. A tireless worker and a hard-nosed runner who was one of the best running backs in the county in pass protection, Gallman was one of the unsung heroes of Clemson's rise to the top.
126. Kevin King, CB, Washington
2016 Stats: 44 tackles, 13 pass breakups, two interceptions
King shined in coverage on a weekly basis. Plus, during the two biggest games of the season—the Pac-12 Championship and the Peach Bowl—King's opponents hardly made a peep.
125. Rawleigh Williams III, RB, Arkansas
2016 Stats: 245 carries, 1,360 yards, 12 touchdowns; 15 catches, 220 yards, one receiving touchdown
Williams stormed back from a scary neck injury to become one of the SEC's most reliable running backs in 2016. Behind an offensive line that was a work in progress, Williams bobbed, weaved and powered his way to a stellar season for head coach Bret Bielema's Razorbacks and set himself up for a potential Heisman run in 2017.
124. Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
2016 Stats: 38 tackles (five for loss), three sacks, three QB hurries
Vita Vea is likely the better NFL prospect, but Qualls put together the best season of Washington's defensive linemen. That was partly due to his versatility, sometimes shifting outside to allow Vea and Greg Gaines on the field at once. The 6'1", 321-pounder proved to be a run-stuffing force and achieved first-team All-Pac-12 status.
123. Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
2016 Stats: 63 tackles (three for loss), seven interceptions, 16 pass breakups, one quarterback hurry
Thompson was the centerpiece of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football in 2016. His seven interceptions tied for third nationally, his leadership helped vault Colorado back into the national spotlight and his play made the Buffaloes defense one of the best in the Pac-12.
122. Steven Taylor, LB, Houston
2016 Stats: 74 tackles (12 for loss), 8.5 sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles
Among the better run-stoppers at his position, Taylor logged a pair of sacks against Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and also took down finalist Baker Mayfield. His play helped Houston rank fourth in the nation against the run.
121. Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
2016 Stats: 67 tackles (18.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, two QB hurries
Smart was far, far from a household name. But there's no doubt American Athletic Conference foes were sick of the lineman. A three-year starter, Smart secured a first-team All-AAC nod for the second time. Plus, he ended 2016 tied for the second-most tackles for loss among all defensive tackles.
120. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
2016 Stats: 46 receptions, 546 yards, four touchdowns
A torn right ACL ended Butt's final college season in unceremonious fashion, but he put together a campaign that would've been worthy of a high selection in the 2017 NFL draft. The repeat Big Ten Tight End of the Year winner was a model of consistency. Butt's only costly drop of the season came early in the fourth quarter of the loss at Iowa.
119. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
2016 Stats: 26 tackles, eight pass breakups, four interceptions
The idea that Conley was Ohio State's third-best defensive back seems absurd. That doesn't make it untrue or any less impressive. During his second year as a starter, Conley posted the nation's No. 1 NFL rating by players with at least 300 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Conley allowed a mere 14 completions for 159 yards on 43 targets and intercepted four passes.
118. David Njoku, TE, Miami
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 43 receptions, 698 yards, eight touchdowns
Many college football fans are familiar with quarterback Brad Kaaya, but Njoku was the under-the-radar star of Miami's offense. A 6'4", 245-pounder who will be labeled an "athletic freak" when draft coverage picks up, Njoku blossomed from a potential-filled hybrid weapon to a relatively complete tight end.
117. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
2016 Stats: 62 tackles (8.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble
Texas' teamwide struggles on defense didn't carry over to Jefferson, whose numbers in 2016 matched the strong ones he put forth as a true freshman. All but one of his sacks and tackles for loss came in Big 12 play.
116. Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin
2016 Stats: 30 tackles, 12 pass breakups, four interceptions, one fumble recovery
The Big Ten was loaded at cornerback in 2016, so Shelton flew under the radar. But he deserved extra attention. Wisconsin ceded a mere 13 passing touchdowns in 2016, and the only receiver to best Shelton was Western Michigan's Corey Davis in the Cotton Bowl.
115. Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
The average college football fan will only know of Lamp because he capped his superb college career by catching a lateral and scoring from nine yards out in the Boca Raton Bowl win over Memphis. But there's much more to what made him such an integral part of the Hilltoppers' success—not just in 2016, but throughout his career. The 6'4", 300-pounder started 51 games in four seasons, 48 at left tackle. He allowed only two quarterback hits and one hurry while drawing a single penalty all season.
114. Carlos Henderson, WR/RS, Louisiana Tech
2016 Stats: 82 receptions, 1,535 yards, 19 touchdowns; 133 rushing yards, two TDs; 25 kickoff returns, 32.2-yard average, two TDs
Henderson was the FBS co-leader in receiving touchdowns and was really good on kickoffs. In addition to speeding past the coverage teams for a touchdown twice, Henderson opened the Armed Forces Bowl with an 82-yard return. The 5'11", 191-pounder led the nation with 12 all-purpose plays of 50 or more yards.
113. Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
2016 Stats: 46 receptions, 736 yards, seven touchdowns
The 6'5", 260-pound Leggett matched the "too fast for a linebacker, too big for a safety" definition that many tight ends are given. He was a tough target to handle on a Clemson offense that spread the ball around. In addition to being named a Mackey Award finalist, Leggett earned first-team All-ACC honors.
112. Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP
Never heard of UTEP's Will Hernandez? Don't feel bad, not much attention was put on the offensive line of a team from Conference USA that went 4-8 and lost 41-7 at Texas in its only game against a power-conference opponent. But amid that poor team performance was a tremendous individual one put forth by the 6'3", 330-pounder who has started 37 games at left guard for the Miners and was named by Pro Football Focus as the top pass protector in FBS for 2016.
111. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
2016 Stats: 225-of-357, 2,946 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 150 carries, 831 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns; one catch, four yards, touchdown
Dobbs didn't cap off his senior season with an SEC East title—like the media predicted he would when casting votes in Hoover, Alabama, in July. But he did lead the SEC in passing touchdowns while helping his team to another 9-4 record, and he capped off his career with MVP honors in a win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
110. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
2016 Stats: 196 carries, 1,060 yards, 12 touchdowns; 10 catches, 106 yards, one receiving touchdown
Perine took more of a supporting role behind Joe Mixon in 2016, but he still shone. He posted his third straight 1,000-yard season, provided more of a power threat to the offense for the Big 12 champions and kept the Sooners in the College Football Playoff mix.
109. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
2016 Stats: 71 receptions, 1,380 yards, 10 touchdowns
A deep-ball master who had 10 catches for 40-plus yards, the 6'0", 205-pound Washington had the nation's highest per-catch average (19.4) for a player with 70 or more receptions. His return in 2017, combined with quarterback Mason Rudolph, will make Oklahoma State a strong Big 12 (and possibly playoff) contender.
108. Orion Stewart, S, Baylor
2016 Stats: 76 tackles (five for loss), one sack, six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), five pass breakups
Baylor went through a down, up and down season over the course of the last year, but one constant was the steady play of Stewart. His tackle numbers and ball-hawking ability made him one of the nation's most complete safeties in 2016 and earned him first-team All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press.
107. Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
2016 Stats: 98 receptions, 1,730 yards, 17 touchdowns
The 6'1", 195-pound Taylor ranked third in FBS in yardage in 2016 with at least 100 yards in nine different games, including the Conference USA title game (194 yards and two touchdowns) and the Boca Raton Bowl (144 yards, one TD). He had 16 of his touchdowns in the final 10 games of the season.
106. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
2016 Stats: 237 carries, 1,373 yards, 10 touchdowns; 19 catches, 137 yards, one receiving touchdown
The Huskies passing game got the publicity, but Gaskin's ability to produce results on the ground was the biggest reason Washington made the push to the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed. The balance he consistently provided to the offense opened passing lanes for quarterback Jake Browning and took pressure off the passing game.
105. Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan
2016 Stats: 28 tackles (three for loss), one sack, 13 pass breakups, four interceptions, one TD
Jourdan Lewis received most of the acclaim, but Stribling was a breakout star in Michigan's secondary in 2016. Quarterbacks typically avoided Lewis, yet it was equally as difficult to find success on Stribling. He gave up just 19 catches on 63 targets.
104. Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
2016 Stats: 44 tackles (six for loss), four sacks, one pass breakup, one forced fumble
Biegel's raw numbers were down from the previous two seasons, when he totaled 15.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss, but he remained a force in Wisconsin's 3-4 alignment. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the No. 7 run-stopper in the country at his position, Biegel enabled the Badgers to rank third in the country in rush defense.
103. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
2016 Stats: 443-of-633, 4,468 yards, 38 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Seemingly out of nowhere, Falk led Washington State out of anonymity and into a regular-season finale against rival Washington with a Pac-12 North title on the line. He did it the way every Mike Leach-coached quarterback does: by slinging the ball all over the field.
102. Joe Mathis, LB, Washington
2016 Stats: 25 tackles (7.5 for loss), five sacks, one pass breakup
Might Washington have gone unbeaten during the regular season or been able to knock off Alabama in the playoffs had Mathis been available? We'll never know, as a foot injury suffered in early October robbed him of the final eight games of 2016-17. His overall grade of 27.6, per Pro Football Focus, still ranked him 13th among 3-4 outside linebackers despite only playing half the season.
101. Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State
2016 Stats: 23-of-25 FG (long of 59); 39-of-40 XP
During a season in which Gonzalez broke the FBS career record for most field goals, he also only watched two drift the wrong way. He never had an opportunity to win a game late, but he helped Arizona State crawl back against UTSA and scored the Sun Devils' final points in a three-point win over UCLA.
100. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
2016 Stats: 261-of-421, 3,532 yards, 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Kaaya capped off his stellar career with his third straight 3,000-yard season and announced after the Russell Athletic Bowl that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. He finished all three seasons as the starter averaging at least 8.3 yards per attempt, stabilized an otherwise unstable program that went through a coaching change and cemented his legacy as one of "The U's" all-time best passers.
99. Jadar Johnson, S, Clemson
2016 Stats: 60 tackles (two for loss), five interceptions, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble
Johnson made waves leading up to the Fiesta Bowl when he gave Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett bulletin-board material. He backed it up with four tackles in a national semifinal in which the Buckeyes managed just 215 total yards and were shut out for the first time since 1993.
98. Hunter Dimick, DE, Utah
2016 Stats: 54 tackles (21 for loss), 14.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, one QB hurry, one forced fumble
The 6'3", 272-pound Dimick followed up an injury-plagued 2015 with a tremendous final season, one that saw him tie for third in FBS in sacks. He spearheaded a Utah defense that averaged 3.31 sacks per game, tied for sixth-best in the country.
97. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 212-of-361, 2,925 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Kizer's Fighting Irish didn't live up to expectations this year and finished 4-8, but he was one of the lone bright spots during an otherwise gloomy season in South Bend. In his first full season as the starting quarterback, Kizer proved that he is one of the most pro-ready pocket passers in the country. He should be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in April during the NFL draft.
96. Jake Replogle, DT, Purdue
2016 Stats: 45 tackles (9.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, two QB hurries
Purdue stumbled through a porous 2016 campaign, but Replogle constantly stood out despite battling injuries. "He makes an impact as soon as he's on the field," linebacker Markus Bailey said, according to Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal and Courier. "He's so disruptive. Guys have to game-plan for him. He's so physical at the point of attack."
95. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 187 carries, 1,274 yards, 10 touchdowns; 37 catches, 538 yards, five receiving touchdowns; 21 kickoff returns, 494 yards, one special teams touchdown
Despite his off-field issues, you can't deny that Mixon is an ultra-talented running back. He was more of a feature back in Norman this year and was a weapon out of the backfield and a special teams ace in 2016.
94. Weston Steelhammer, S, Air Force
2016 Stats: 80 tackles (4.5 for loss), one sack, seven interceptions, four pass breakups, one forced fumble
While he didn't play on stages as big as some of the other players featured here, Steelhammer proved in 2016 that he was willing and able to stick his nose in on run support as often as Calhoun needed. His stats suggest that he could—and possibly should—be ranked higher than the ninth-best FBS safety. But the relatively weaker competition he faced compared to other top safeties makes it hard to project how effective he'd be against the big boys.
93. Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
2016 Stats: 50 tackles (13.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, four QB hurries, four pass breakups
Watkins' 13.5 tackles for loss led Clemson, which finished the season with the most tackles for loss in the country. He also saved two of his best performances for the biggest stage—the College Football Playoff—dominating Ohio State as a pass-rusher and regularly stalling Alabama's running attack.
92. Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan
2016 Stats: 263-of-377, 3,533 yards, 33 touchdowns, four interceptions
It was a storybook season for Western Michigan as the Broncos finished the regular season undefeated and nearly capped off a perfect season in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin. It was a fitting end to the career of Terrell, who solidified himself as a deep threat, didn't take chances, trusted his receivers and became one of the stars of college football's Cinderella.
91. Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
2016 Stats: 349 carries, 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns; eight catches, 67 yards
The Wyoming Cowboys surprised the college football world and earned a Poinsettia Bowl berth this year, and Hill was the biggest reason why. He tied San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey for the most carries in the nation, was reliable in pass protection and will move on to the NFL as one of the best players in program history.
90. Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
2016 Stats: 87 tackles, five for loss, four interceptions, eight pass breakups, one blocked kick, 428 kickoff return yards
Armani Watts might get the publicity, but Evans was Texas A&M's best safety in 2016 by far. He finished second on the team in tackles and was as complete as anybody at the strong safety position. His senior season got off to a great start with two interceptions in the season-opening overtime win over UCLA, and he added another pick in the overtime win over Tennessee and one against Alabama.
89. Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
2016 Stats: 43 tackles (9.5 for loss), four sacks, three QB hurries
Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton are the most recognizable pieces of the Michigan defense, but Glasgow quietly asserted himself as a dominant force. His skills were most evident against Wisconsin, which prides itself on running the ball but simply could not stop the senior.
88. Quadree Henderson, WR/RS, Pittsburgh
2016 Stats: 30 kickoff returns, 30.5-yard average, three TDs; 16 punt returns, 15.8-yard avg., one TD; 631 rushing yards, five TDs; 26 receptions, 286 yards, one TD
Perhaps the sport's most underrated versatile weapon, Henderson filled an important role on Pitt's offense but flat-out shined as the leader of both return units. He compiled the fifth-highest kick-return average and tied for third on punt returns. The sophomore scored three times on kickoffs and added an 84-yard return against Penn State. He also took one punt to paydirt and recorded 30-plus-yard returns in two more games.
87. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
2016 Stats: 70 receptions, 914 yards, 10 touchdowns
Smith-Schuster's overall numbers in 2016 weren't as good as those from his sophomore year, when he had 89 catches for 1,454 yards. But what he was able to do this past season had a greater value to his team, which, after a 1-3 start, won nine consecutive games to finish as one of the hottest teams in the country. The 6'2", 220-pounder produced first-down conversions on 70 percent of his third-down receptions, the same rate of catches he made in the red zone that resulted in touchdowns.
86. Marcus Maye, S, Florida
2016 Stats: 50 tackles, 1.5 for loss, one sack, one interception, six pass breakups
Maye was on his way to a storybook senior season in 2016 prior to breaking his arm in the win over South Carolina in mid-November. Before that, he was a big part of a defense that led the Gators to their second straight SEC East title despite enough offensive issues to fill The Swamp.
85. Christian Wilkins, DE, Clemson
2016 Stats: 48 tackles (13 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, five QB hurries, one blocked kick
At 6'4", 310 pounds, Wilkins played at the size of a nose tackle, but his speed and agility were too good for Clemson to keep him on the interior. But his instincts against the run were still present on the outside, as he ranked 11th among 4-3 ends in that category, per Pro Football Focus.
84. Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
2016 Stats: 136 receptions, 1,803 yards, 12 touchdowns
The 5'8", 178-pound Trent Taylor is among the best in the game despite not fitting the big-bodied mold that coaches so long for. He had the second-most catches in FBS in 2016 while leading the nation in receiving yards on a Louisiana Tech team that had big-time targets in him and junior Carlos Henderson. While Henderson was the deep man, Taylor did the work underneath from the slot, where he had 1,039 yards after the catch, 169 more than any other player.
83. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
2016 Stats: 45 receptions, 595 yards, three touchdowns
Even though he put up average stats in college, Howard is considered a top draft prospect at his position. Why? The same reason he's our No. 3 despite ending the year 13th in yards among tight ends: the man will block. Whether Howard hit defensive ends at the line of scrimmage or engaged defensive backs on the perimeter, he consistently sealed the edge and opened running lanes for teammates. You could make a highlight reel out of the senior's blocks alone.
82. Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida
2016 Stats: 207-of-331, 2,812 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 198 carries, 1,530 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns
When it comes to dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks, nobody outside of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson posed as much of a threat on the ground and through the air as South Florida's Flowers. He finished with the second-most rushing yards in the country among quarterbacks, led his team to an 11-win season and should be one of the chic picks to make a Heisman run in 2017.
81. Arden Key, DE, LSU
2016 Stats: 56 tackles (14.5 for loss), 12 sacks, three pass breakups, 11 QB hurries, three forced fumbles
Key ranked second in the SEC in sacks despite playing only 11 games, and he helped LSU finish 10th nationally in total defense. On a veteran-laden unit, the 6'6", 238-pound Key often made the biggest plays. He'll be the leader of the Tigers defense in 2017.
80. Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo
2016 Stats: 289-of-418, 4,129 yards, 45 touchdowns, nine interceptions
If you missed out on the Logan Woodside experience this year, man, you missed a lot. He led the nation in passing touchdowns, finished second in passer rating (183.3) and capped the season off with two touchdowns in the Camellia Bowl loss to Appalachian State.
79. Connor Williams, OL, Texas
Wonder how Texas running back D'Onta Foreman went from relative unknown to a 2,000-yard rusher in the course of one season? He had reliable blockers like Williams opening holes and setting the edge for him in 2016. The 6'6", 288-pound Williams has started all but one of the Longhorns' games the past two seasons, and in that time, he's helped Texas average nearly 235 rushing yards per contest when he's played.
78. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
2016 Stats: 62 tackles (5.5 for loss); three sacks, seven QB hurries
Given Alabama's defensive personnel, Tomlinson shifted from end to defensive tackle next to nose guard Da'Ron Payne. He was a perfect example of how box-score stats aren't the perfect way to measure impact at the position. Instead there was significant value in causing problems to lessen the already often-futile resistance against Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams.
77. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
2016 Stats: 120 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass breakups
Following a stellar junior season at Virginia, Blanding had an NFL decision to make. To the surprise of many, he returned to Charlottesville to play his senior season after establishing himself as a superstar. His 120 tackles rank first among Power Five defensive backs and rank him 16th nationally among all players.
76. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 41 tackles, nine PBU, four interceptions, one TD
Lattimore earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after contributing to a defense that registered the fourth-most interceptions in the country. His assignments mustered 18 catches, 226 yards and one touchdown on the season.
75. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
2016 Stats: 65 receptions, 926 yards, eight touchdowns
Engram wasn't a tremendous blocker, and he'd occasionally drop a well-thrown pass. But if the offense needed a big play, there might not have been a tight end more preferred for the situation. During his third season as a full-time starter, Engram accumulated the most yards in the country by a tight end. The senior reached the 75-yard mark in eight of his 11 season appearances.
74. Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
2016 Stats: 234 carries, 1,375 yards, 12 touchdowns; seven catches, 80 yards
Williams missed the entire 2015 season because of personal reasons but rebounded to be one of the nation's best running backs in 2016. He averaged 5.88 yards per carry on a Cougars team that went through an abrupt quarterback change and played one of the toughest schedules in the country.
73. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
2016 Stats: 304-of-447, 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns, six interceptions
Trubisky slid right into his first full season as the starting quarterback in Chapel Hill and made sure the Tar Heels offense clicked at the same elite level that head coach Larry Fedora expects. Complete with a big arm and laserlike accuracy, Trubisky should be playing a big role on an NFL team near you in the not-too-distant future.
72. Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern
2016 Stats: 90 receptions, 1,247 yards, 12 touchdowns
The Big Ten isn't known for its passing prowess, as no school from that conference averaged more than 300 yards per game for the third consecutive season. That made Carr's 2016 effort stand out even more; he had 16 more receptions than any other Big Ten player and surpassed the field by 252 yards.
71. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
2016 Stats: 284-of-448, 4,091 yards, 28 touchdowns, four interceptions; 83 carries, 61 rushing yards, six touchdowns
Very quietly, Rudolph established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Playing for a team that flew under the radar for the majority of the season following a controversial loss to Central Michigan, Rudolph proved to be an effective triggerman on a Cowboys offense that was one of the nation's most dangerous units. The former 3-star prospect who had only six FBS offers has transformed himself into an elite signal-caller.
70. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
2016 Stats: 42 tackles (13.5 for loss), 10 sacks, two pass breakups, eight QB hurries
Charlton missed two games early in the season because of injury, but he still tallied nearly 22 percent of Michigan's sacks and was its most productive defensive lineman. The 6'6", 272-pound Charlton was playing his best football at the end, tallying 7.5 tackles for loss in the Wolverines' final three games, including three against rival Ohio State.
69. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
2016 Stats: 35 tackles (four for loss), 14 pass breakups, two interceptions, one TD
When you don't hear a corner's name, that tends to be a good thing. Rarely was a negative word spoken about White on a broadcast—and especially not from someone in the LSU program. In addition to being named a finalist for the Thorpe Award, White received a first-team All-SEC nod.
68. Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
2016 Stats: 158 receptions, 1,746 yards, eight touchdowns
Jones doesn't look different than other wide receivers. If anything, his 6'1", 197-pound frame is unimposing. But where he separated himself from the rest of the pack is the sheer volume at which he produced for East Carolina, doing so at a level never seen before. The 2016 season saw him catch more passes than any player in FBS history, and he also became the all-time FBS leader in receptions, finishing with 399 for 12 more than former Pirates teammate Justin Hardy.
67. Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern
2016 Stats: 105 tackles (10 for loss), two sacks, one interception, one fumble return, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles
An injury to a teammate midway through the 2014 season opened the door for Walker to become a starter as a redshirt freshman. He never gave up that spot, as he excelled in the middle for Northwestern in a way that only head coach (and former Wildcats linebacker) Pat Fitzgerald could appreciate. The 2016 season was the second in a row in which Walker had at least 100 tackles and 10 tackles for loss—one of only three players in FBS to do that the last two years.
66. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
2016 Stats: 117 receptions, 1,700 yards, 17 touchdowns
Kupp is the all-time NCAA leader in receiving yards, regardless of division, with 6,464 yards on 428 receptions with 73 touchdowns. Discount these numbers for coming mostly against FCS competition at your peril since he didn't disappoint against top-level opponents. He faced four Pac-12 teams while at Eastern Washington and hauled in 40 catches for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns and helped the Eagles win two of those games.
65. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
2016 Stats: 216 carries, 1,092 yards, 16 touchdowns; 21 catches, 302 yards, four receiving touchdowns
Conner inspired the masses as a college football player after he recovered from Hodgkin lymphoma in the offseason and didn't miss a beat as one of the nation's top running backs. A true all-purpose back who is a weapon as a receiver, he stabilized the running game and allowed the Pittsburgh offense to thrive around quarterback Nathan Peterman.
64. Jaleen Johnson, DT, Iowa
2016 Stats: 55 tackles (10 for loss), 7.5 sacks, five QB hurries
After a much-criticized undefeated regular season in 2015, Iowa had championship aspirations heading in to 2016. A 3-2 start to the season shattered the Hawkeyes' dreams, but it also served as the springboard for a mini-turnaround led by the 6'4", 310-pound Johnson, as Iowa's run defense improved from 87th nationally in August/September to 31st during October.
63. Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh
2016 Stats: 45 tackles (23 for loss), 13 sacks, one pass breakup, 14 QB hurries, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick
Undersized and oft-injured, Price's career almost came to an early end after chest and back injuries eliminated almost three full seasons of action. Between 2012 and 2014, the 6'0", 255-pounder played only six games and sat out two campaigns entirely, only to come back with a vengeance in 2015 and continue that rise this past fall. Price had 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2015 and then, after being awarded a medical redshirt for a sixth season of football, somehow improved on that performance. By ranking second nationally in tackles for loss.
62. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 129 carries, 843 yards, eight touchdowns; 15 catches, 146 yards
Fournette injured his ankle in the season opener against Wisconsin and never fully recovered, which marred his season. Despite that, fans did see glimpses of the Fournette of old such as when he rushed for 284 yards in the win over Ole Miss, crushing safety Deontay Anderson in the process, and he had four 100-yard games.
61. Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
2016 Stats: 74 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 0.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight pass breakups, one quarterback hurry
Gerry's career came to an abrupt halt when he was suspended for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Prior to that, though, Gerry was a big reason why Nebraska hung around the Big Ten race for much of the season. A big-bodied safety (6'2", 220 lbs) who's a ferocious hitter and solid in coverage, he hearkened back to the days of the blackshirt defense in Lincoln.
60. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
2016 Stats: 60 tackles (six for loss), two sacks, four pass breakups
Florida's defense carried it for most of the 2016-17 season, but late in the year, there was a certain edge missing from the unit. This coincided with the games Davis was unable to play in because of injury. A sprained ankle suffered in mid-October never fully healed, causing him to sit out four games and play sparingly in a few others. Yet Davis still got involved whenever he was healthy enough to play, ranking second on the team in tackles and fourth in TFLs.
59. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 62 tackles (15 for loss), eight sacks, one fumble return, seven QB hurries, one forced fumble
After seeing what he did this season, it's hard to imagine Stanford had no use for Thomas as a true freshman in 2014 and opted to redshirt him. The 6'3", 273-pounder was instead brought along slowly, and that approach paid off in the form of a monster 2016, one that was tremendous from start to finish, as he led Stanford in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss. His final college play exemplified what he could do when he chased down North Carolina quarterback Trubisky for a sack on a two-point conversion to clinch a 25-23 win in the Sun Bowl.
58. Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
2016 Stats: 229 carries, 1,773 yards, 17 touchdowns; 28 catches, 233 yards, three receiving touchdowns
Jones was quietly one of the best running backs in 2016. Playing in Donnel Pumphrey's rather large Group of Five shadow, Jones finished third in the nation with 147.75 yards per game, averaged a whopping 7.74 yards per carry and left a year early to test his wares at the next level.
57. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
2016 Stats: 205-of-328, 2,758 yards, 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions; 81 carries, 332 rushing yards, five touchdowns
Kelly's final season ended prematurely when he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in early November and forced Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze to burn the redshirt of freshman Shea Patterson. It was a disappointing end to an up-and-down career for Kelly, who—despite missing a month—was one of the nation's most electric players in 2016.
56. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
2016 Stats: 33 tackles, six pass breakups, four interceptions, one TD
Although the offense stumbled through the campaign, Tabor and the nation's No. 5 defense carried Florida to a second consecutive SEC East crown. He entered the season with massive expectations and didn't disappoint.
55. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
2016 Stats: 25 tackles (3.5 for loss), 11 pass breakups, two interceptions
Being responsible for Florida State's game-winning touchdown in the Orange Bowl may sting, but Lewis—who in 2015 set a program record with 22 pass breakups—assembled a terrific senior campaign. After returning from injury, he faced 41 targets in 10 games. He allowed a mere 13 catches—the exact number of total passes Lewis knocked down or picked off, too.
54. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
2016 Stats: 87 receptions, 1,215 yards, 13 touchdowns
Baylor fell off the radar after it followed up a 6-0 start with six consecutive losses, but then Cannon made sure people paid attention to the Bears thanks to his mammoth swan song in the Cactus Bowl. His 14 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-12 blowout of Boise State reminded everyone what they'd been missing by not keeping tabs on Baylor in the second half of the season and what we'll miss now that he's on to the NFL.
53. Cody O'Connell, OL, Washington State
Interior linemen tend not to be as integral to pass protection as those on the edge, but Washington State's offense is an exception to that rule. With the linemen split wide, WSU required guards such as O'Connell to backpedal and block as if they were playing tackle. The 6'8", 354-pounder graded as the second-best pass-blocking guard in the FBS, per Pro Football Focus, which is saying something with the amount the Cougars threw. O'Connell played 649 passing snaps, and only one sack and one quarterback hit came as a result of his play.
52. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
2016 Stats: 102 tackles (seven for loss), two sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles
Ohio State's talent and depth on defense since Urban Meyer arrived have been such that plenty of great athletes end up having to wait their turn to get involved. Redshirts are plentiful, and starting jobs are hard to come by. Yet McMillan just completed his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and as a true freshman in 2014, he was on the field quite a bit during the team's national title run. That has resulted in his logging 275 tackles for his career with 17.5 for loss along with six sacks.
51. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 183 carries, 1,387 yards, 15 touchdowns; nine catches, 106 yards, one receiving touchdown; 11 kickoff returns, 223 yards
For the second straight season, Guice led the SEC in yards per carry at 7.58. This year, though, he did so in more of a starring role thanks to the season-long ankle injury that plagued star Leonard Fournette. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native, showed off his jets often, proved that he can be an every-down back and laid the groundwork for a potential Heisman Trophy campaign in 2017.
50. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 224-of-387, 3,614 yards, 29 touchdowns, eight interceptions; 146 carries, 365 rushing yards, seven touchdowns
McSorley came up short in a Rose Bowl for the ages, but don't let that distract you from one of the best seasons a quarterback put up in 2016-17. The first-year starter for Penn State dropped dimes against USC in the finale and against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
49. Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 209 carries, 1,224 yards, seven touchdowns
Auburn lost three running backs in the offseason and desperately needed somebody to be the workhorse for head coach Gus Malzahn's run-based spread attack. Pettway was that guy, and though he had carries in just nine games but averaged 136 yards in those contests. His emergence as a star in the middle of the season was one of the primary reasons Auburn reeled off six straight wins and earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
48. Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State
2016 Stats: 51 tackles (13 for loss), seven sacks, two QB hurries
Though it wasn't a spectacular season for Big 12 defensive tackles, the conference's best player at the position was a great one. Taylor, who capped the year as the Alamo Bowl defensive MVP, offered a balanced skill set. Whether it was a run or pass didn't matter; no, Taylor consistently owned his space up front.
47. Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah
2016 Stats: 64 punts, 47.70-yard average
Wishnowsky was far beyond "best punter in the nation." The gap between him and second place, quite frankly, was a chasm. The Australian continued Utah's unique specialist powerhouse, taking home the program's third straight Ray Guy Award. Wishnowsky's net average of 44.31 yards led the country, per Pro Football Focus.
46. Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
2016 Stats: 70 tackles, eight pass breakups, eight interceptions, one TD
His tape isn't spotless, but Douglas finished 2016 with an FBS-best eight interceptions and only five missed tackles. Oklahoma State's James Washington and Baylor's KD Cannon, two of the country's best deep threats, combined for one catch opposite Douglas.
45. Frank Ragnow, OL, Arkansas
A staple on the interior of Arkansas' line for the past two seasons, Ragnow moved from guard to center in 2016. The shift paid off for everyone involved. Pro Football Focus tabbed the 6'5", 319-pounder as the best offensive lineman in the country. In 949 offensive snaps this season, he did not allow a sack—though quarterback Austin Allen took 35 sacks on the year—and in 26 career starts, Ragnow has never allowed his QB to get taken down behind the line of scrimmage.
44. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
2016 Stats: 30 tackles (13.5 for loss), nine sacks, 24 QB hurries, one forced fumble
A fully healthy Lawson is a scary thing, but prior to 2016, it was also somewhat of a rarity. Yet this past season, the 6'2", 253-pounder avoided further injuries and was able to show his full potential, resulting in Pro Football Focus' fifth-best pass-rushing grade among edge defenders. He played all but nine of Auburn's 356 pass-rushing snaps and was credited with 67 total pressures, second-most in the country.
43. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
2016 Stats: 240-of-382, 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 191 carries, 954 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns
Hurts went from serving as the Deshaun Watson clone on the Alabama scout team as an early enrollee a year ago in preparation for the national title game to playing against Watson in the national title game as a true freshman. In the process, he revolutionized Alabama's offense into a multidimensional force, won the SEC title (the third straight for the program) and nearly joined Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway as the only other true freshman starting quarterback to win a national title.
42. Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn
2016 Stats: 28-of-32 FG (long of 53); 44-of-44 XP
When Auburn's offense struggled to finish drives, Carlson typically picked up the slack. He accounted for all 18 points in a five-point victory over LSU and buried the go-ahead kick against Ole Miss. Of the four field goals he missed, three came outside of 50 yards, and the other was during a win over Vanderbilt.
41. Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
2016 Stats: 45 receptions, 533 yards, 16 touchdowns
Though the All-America teams gave Roberts no love, his combination of production and blocking were unmatched. Boasting a 6'5", 270-pound frame, the first-year starter emerged as a dominant red-zone target and steady presence in the running game. Roberts' 16 touchdowns were twice as many as any other tight end and ranked sixth nationally overall.
40. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
2016 Stats: 76 tackles (7.5 for loss), one sack, one interception, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, four pass breakups, one QB hurry
Adams wrapped up a stellar three-year career in Baton Rouge by notching six tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup in LSU's Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl victory over Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. At 6'1", 213 pounds, he is the prototypical big safety—a hard hitter with quick hips who can cover the best wide receivers in the country.
39. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
2016 Stats: 68 tackles (21.5 for loss), 16 sacks, one fumble return, two pass breakups, four QB hurries, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick
Florida State has yet to update Walker's online bio to reflect what he did during the 2016 season, but when it does, it could just take the first line of the 2015 paragraph—which includes "put together his finest season as a Seminole"—and duplicate it because it still applies. The 6'4", 280-pounder managed to outperform his breakout junior campaign by ranking second nationally in sacks and tying for sixth in tackles for loss. His 26.5 sacks the last two years are the most in FBS.
38. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
2016 Stats: 39 tackles, six pass breakups, three interceptions
His box-score numbers aren't impressive, but when quarterbacks aren't throwing at Jones, it doesn't matter. He established himself as the most feared member of Washington's elite secondary. During the opening half of the season, he was the definition of a lockdown corner. Then, Cal and Washington State tested Jones, yet he ceded a single big play and zero touchdowns.
37. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
2016 Stats: 61 tackles (12 for loss), nine sacks, one fumble return, two pass breakups, 10 QB hurries, two forced fumbles
The defensive line at Missouri has been a breeding ground for NFL talent the past decade, and Harris may end up being the next great player from that group. The Tigers allowed 31.5 points per game this past season, nearly double its rate of 16.2 the year before, yet the 6'3", 260-pound Harris wasn't the reason for that decline. He led the team in sacks and tackles for loss for the second consecutive season while registering more than 30 quarterback pressures for a second year in a row, per Pro Football Focus.
36. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
2016 Stats: 233-of-379, 2,555 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 205 carries, 845 rushing yards, nine touchdowns
Barrett will return to Ohio State for his senior season, and the Buckeyes are lucky to have him. The Texas native is a perfect quarterback to run head coach Urban Meyer's offense. He didn't progress enough to land him in the Heisman mix in 2016, but with another year of eligibility left, he'll have one more chance to hone his skills, polish his passing game and lead OSU back to the peak of the college football world.
35. Budda Baker, S, Washington
2016 Stats: 71 tackles (10 for loss), three sacks, six pass breakups, one forced fumble, one QB hurry
Baker was one of the biggest reasons Washington rejoined the college football elite, won the Pac-12 and made the College Football Playoff. The 192-pounder plays much bigger than his frame, lined up in the slot against some of the best athletes the Pac-12 had to offer and has the hops to leap out of the building.
34. Jake Browning, QB, Washington
2016 Stats: 243-of-391, 3,430 yards, 43 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Browning's sophomore campaign came to an end at the hands of the fearsome Alabama defense at the Peach Bowl. But don't let that take away from what he accomplished this year. He solidified himself as one of the best and most reliable quarterbacks in the sport and led his team back into the national spotlight and into the College Football Playoff.
33. Adoree' Jackson, CB/RS, USC
2016 Stats: 55 tackles, five interceptions, 11 pass breakups; 26 kickoff returns, 29.5-yard average, two TDs; 20 punt returns, 15.8-yard avg., two TDs
The winner of the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, Jackson was honored for his reliable tackling as a cover man. But where he gained his most attention in 2016 and throughout his career was in special teams, where eight of his 16 career touchdowns were scored. That includes a game this past season against Notre Dame in which he scored on both punt and kickoff returns and also had a receiving TD.
32. Jabrill Peppers, LB/RS, Michigan
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 71 tackles (15 for loss), 3.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble; 10 kickoff returns, 26.0-yard average; 21 punt returns, 14.8-yard avg., one TD; 167 rushing yards, three TDs
Peppers parlayed his ability to play almost any position on the field into an invite to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, where he finished fifth. His bread and butter was on defense, where in his first season at linebacker, more than two-thirds of his tackles were of the solo variety, with Pro Football Focus logging 30 of those as resulting in offensive failures. In addition to his defensive efforts, Peppers tallied 740 all-purpose yards as a rusher, receiver and special teams returner.
31. T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
2016 Stats: 63 tackles (15.5 for loss), 11.5 sacks, one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles
The name sounds familiar, but even if you didn't know ahead of time that T.J. Watt is the younger brother of NFL standout J.J. Watt, you'd see the resemblance in their play. This season, Watt broke through as one of the most impactful edge-rushers in the country and helped Wisconsin return to the Big Ten Championship Game while navigating one of the nation's toughest schedules.
30. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
2016 Stats: 51 tackles (22 for loss), 16.5 sacks, one interception, four pass breakups, six QB hurries, seven forced fumbles
If not for its defense, Boston College would have had no shot at making a bowl game in 2016. And if not for Landry spearheading that unit off the edge, the Eagles would have broken more than it bent. The 6'3", 250-pounder led FBS in sacks and caused opponents to lose 143 yards on those takedowns. That included three sacks in the bowl-clinching win at Wake Forest in the regular-season finale and a combined three against notable ACC passers Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Deondre Francois of Florida State.
29. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
2016 Stats: 58 tackles, seven pass breakups, three interceptions, one TD
King returned for his senior season because Iowa had unfinished business. The Hawkeyes fell short of making playoff noise, but the cornerback continued taking care of his personal goals. En route to first-team All-Big Ten honors, King faced 53 targets yet gave up a mere 23 catches, 261 yards and one score. He returned one interception for a touchdown and should've had another during a win over Minnesota.
28. Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
2016 Stats: 61 tackles (18 for loss), 10 sacks, six pass breakups, three QB hurries, three forced fumbles
McKinley got a late start to his FBS career, playing a year of junior college and then arriving at UCLA midway through the 2014 season. Once he got on to the field, it was hard to keep the 6'2", 265-pounder off it with the way he was able to dominate against the run and the pass. He had more tackles for loss than any other two UCLA players, accounting for nearly 28 percent of the team's tackles for loss.
27. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
2016 Stats: 62 tackles (nine for loss), 6.5 sacks, six QB hurries
You can't teach size, certainly not Lawrence's size. The 6'5", 340-pounder was an absolute monster in his first college season. While he almost always made an impact on the quarterback, Lawrence excelled as a run-plugger. He earned second-team All-ACC honors and took home ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
26. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2016 Stats: 272 carries, 1,496 yards, 18 touchdowns; 28 catches, 402 yards, four receiving touchdowns
There's no other way to put it: Barkley is a video game cheat code. The 5'11", 223-pounder is deceptively dangerous in space, moves like a little guy and runs like a bowling ball between the tackles. The only reason he's not higher on this list is because there were so many good running backs in college football this year. Ranking them was like choosing between $50 steaks at a nice steakhouse.
25. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
2016 Stats: 349 carries, 2,133 yards, 17 touchdowns; 27 catches, 231 yards
Pumphrey capped off a sensational career by setting the FBS career rushing record in the Las Vegas Bowl. He finished his career with 6,405 yards, ahead of former Wisconsin running back and 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. Had he played for a Power Five school and had the same success, he would likely have been our top rusher on the list and maybe even No. 1 overall.
24. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
2016 Stats: 66 tackles (five for loss), one sack, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), seven pass breakups, one forced fumble
Fitzpatrick moved from cornerback to safety after Eddie Jackson's season-ending leg injury and shined. His second pick-six came in the SEC Championship Game win over Florida, and he evolved into one of the more complete defensive backs in the country regardless of specific role.
23. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
2016 Stats: 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, 17 touchdowns
Westbrook was a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Biletnikoff Award given to college football's top wide receiver, honors that were the product of his entire season of work but heavily influenced by a dominant run through the early part of the Big 12 schedule. From the league opener at TCU on Oct. 1 through an early November game at Iowa State, Westbrook was unstoppable, racking up six of his eight 100-yard receiving games (two topped 200 yards) as he caught 47 passes for 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns.
22. Ryan Anderson, LB, Alabama
2016 Stats: 61 tackles (19 for loss), nine sacks, one interception, two fumble returns, three pass breakups, four forced fumbles
Anderson is a ball hawk, plain and simple, which enabled him to be heavily involved in Alabama's massive number of defensive touchdowns. Of the 11 defensive scores the Crimson Tide managed this past season, Anderson either initiated or completed five of those. His 26-yard interception return for a TD against Washington broke open the Peach Bowl and helped Alabama to reach the national championship for a second straight year.
21. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Class: Redshirt freshman
2016 Stats: 246-of-366, 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 62 carries, 250 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Darnold didn't start the season as USC's starting quarterback, but he finished it off—with a bang, throwing for 453 yards in the Trojans' 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. His first start came at Utah in a game in which he threw for 253 yards. He played well in a tough spot in that loss and hasn't lost since.
20. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2016 Stats: 253 carries, 1,603 yards, 13 touchdowns; 37 catches, 310 yards, three receiving touchdowns; 96 punt return yards; 318 kickoff return yards
It would have been nearly impossible for Christian McCaffrey to match or surpass his 2015 season in which he set the single-season record for all-purpose yards. He tried his best, though.
Fighting through a midseason injury that limited him against Washington State and kept him out of the Notre Dame game, McCaffrey still managed to lead the nation in all-purpose yards per game (211.5). McCaffrey's ability to avoid big hits, weave his way through traffic and run away from defenses that he gets behind has been apparent for two years and should lead him to NFL success after he jumped early.
Here's what McCaffrey wrote in his farewell letter, per the team's official website:
I love Stanford more than anything. It will be extremely hard to leave. I feel humbled and inspired every day by the peers who surround me. I came to Stanford because I wanted to be challenged more than I ever have in my life. And that desire is shared by everyone who walks on this campus, by people who literally will change the world.
19. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
2016 Stats: 125 tackles (16.5 for loss), one fumble return, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one blocked kick
Vanderbilt held five opponents to 17 or fewer points in 2016, four of those SEC foes. In those conference games, Zach Cunningham collected 50 tackles, including 19 in the Commodores' upset of Georgia, a win that signified Vandy had turned a corner and could be competitive in the SEC.
We already knew that about Cunningham, who has averaged just short of 10 tackles per game since moving into the starting lineup early in the 2015 season. He graded ninth in Pro Football Focus' run-defense metric among 2016 inside linebackers, tallying 31.1 percent of Vanderbilt's tackles for loss that didn't result in sacks.
"His football IQ is extremely high," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said, per Creg Stephenson of AL.com. "He understands schemes, and he plays sideline to sideline. He's got great range and depth in terms of being able to cover receivers or blitz from inside and outside."
Cunningham's sheer volume of takedowns sets him above those just behind him on our list since he had to handle such a heavy load compared to the rest of the Commodores defenders.
18. John Ross, WR, Washington
2016 Stats: 81 receptions, 1,150 yards, 17 touchdowns
Watch a few minutes of film from this past season and there's no way of telling John Ross tore knee ligaments in the spring of 2015. Such an injury usually results in a reduction in speed and mobility, not to mention the potential to affect the player's willingness to take chances, especially since this was Ross' second such ailment in two years.
Instead, the time off enabled him to become stronger and more determined, resulting in a monster 2016 that helped Washington win the Pac-12 and reach the College Football Playoff. The 5'11", 190-pound speedster—who also scored touchdowns as a running back and kickoff man this season—tied for third in FBS in TD catches, and seven of those scores came on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield.
Of the 122 balls thrown his way, only one ended up getting intercepted, and Ross dropped only four potential receptions. He had five multi-TD games, tied for second-most in the country, and was one of 10 players in FBS with multiple three-TD performances.
17. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
2016 Stats: 52 tackles (six for loss), 11 PBU, four interceptions
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was so confident in Cordrea Tankersley throughout the 2016 season that he'd call a zone and leave the senior on an island in man-to-man coverage.
That's the description of a shutdown corner.
Tankersley played a pivotal role in Clemson's allowing a 100.2 quarterback rating, which ranked No. 4 nationally. Tankersley ceded 30 receptions and just one touchdown on 64 total targets.
One negative is the number of penalties—five pass interferences and one holding—and that'll affect how Tankersley is viewed through the ever-critical scouting lens.
But his prowess in coverage overshadowed a few mistakes. Without Tankersley, the Tigers wouldn't have reached the national championship game for the second straight season.
16. Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk didn't think he was good enough to play major college football when he graduated from high school, but after one season in the FBS, he's the best there is. Not bad for a player who began his career at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point and transferred to Wisconsin in 2015, sitting out that season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The 6'6", 314-pounder started all 14 games at left tackle in 2016 and rarely disappointed. Best known for his run blocking, his Pro Football Focus grade of 31 in the area was 5.6 points higher than any other tackle as he helped the Badgers average 203.1 rushing yards per game.
Wisconsin didn't throw much, but when it did, Ramczyk gave quarterbacks Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston ample time. He allowed one sack all season, with opponents managing just three QB hits.
15. Tim Williams, LB, Alabama
2016 Stats: 31 tackles (16 for loss), nine sacks, one fumble return, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles
Alabama's defense was on the field for 1,011 plays during the 2016 season, per Pro Football Focus, but Tim Williams' snap count was lined up for only 429 of those. So how did he manage to rack up the kind of sack and TFL numbers that put him in the top five among SEC players? When Williams pinned his ears back and came off the edge, it was a rarity that he didn't get deep into the backfield.
His 42.4 percent snap rate, per PFF, was the lowest of any top-graded linebacker this season, yet he still ranked second among 3-4 outside linebackers in overall grade, with the one player above him (Carl Lawson) a full-time defensive end.
Williams is the epitome of a pass-rushing specialist, the position he's held with the Crimson Tide the last two seasons. This past year, he played more than twice as many snaps as in 2015 and became more involved in stopping the run, but his main task continued to be flying around the corner and wreaking havoc on the pocket and the passer.
14. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
2016 Stats: 388-of-591, 5,052 yards, 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 131 carries, 285 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns
Texas Tech is known for producing quarterbacks with PlayStation statistics. Don't be fooled by the program's track record in the case of Patrick Mahomes, though. He's one of the sport's most talented quarterbacks and just so happens to play in an ultra-friendly quarterback system:
First clip shows Patrick Mahomes making plays in a muddied pocket. Second play ends the drive on a TD. pic.twitter.com/obs86RbFgg
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 4, 2017
Mahomes flew under the radar for the majority of his career due to Texas Tech's lack of success on the national scale. But his success within the system, combined with his raw skills as a passer, makes him one of the most intriguing players in next year's draft.
It's not his fault that his team disappointed this year. Mahomes put the Red Raiders on his shoulders and did all he could to keep them competitive. Had it not been for his performance, the season would have been totally lost in Lubbock.
13. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
2016 Stats: 288 carries, 1,765 yards, 19 touchdowns; 33 catches, 488 yards, one receiving touchdown
Dalvin Cook perpetually found himself sitting in the shadow of other great backs. Last year, it was Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. This year, it was D'Onta Foreman. Despite that, he set the program record at Florida State with 4,464 career rushing yards.
In 2016, behind an offensive line that was average at best and Deondre Francois—a redshirt freshman quarterback who was easing into the role—Cook shone brighter than ever before.
A 5'11", 213-pounder who hits like he's 250 and has feet like a ballroom dancer, Cook proved he was one of the most complete running backs in the country throughout his three-year career.
12. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
2016 Stats: 66 tackles (22.5 for loss; 5.0 sacks), nine PBU, seven hurries, three forced fumbles
When former Houston coach Tom Herman signed Oliver, the Cougars added a program-changing player in two ways. First, the local star made H-Town a worthy destination for a top recruit. And second, Oliver is just really good at football.
"This guy is an alien, beast, whatever you want to call him," teammate Steven Taylor said of Oliver, according to ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. "He's not from this world."
Oliver claimed first-team AP All-America, AAC Rookie of the Year and unanimous first-team All-AAC honors.
11. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
2016 Stats: 98 receptions, 1,361 yards, 11 touchdowns
Clemson made consecutive national championship games against Alabama, winning the most recent one in dramatic fashion. Had Mike Williams been available for the first meeting with the Crimson Tide, we might be discussing the Tigers as a dynasty instead of celebrating their first title in 35 years.
The 6'3", 225-pound Williams missed nearly all of the 2015 season with a neck injury suffered in the opening game, hurt while leaping in the end zone for a touchdown. The injury nearly ended his career but instead provided motivation to come back even stronger and have a tremendous bounce-back season, which included eight catches for 94 yards and a TD in the national title game.
"To see the run that we went on [in 2015] and not be able to play, that was tough on him," coach Dabo Swinney told the media. "He's a better player because of it."
Williams was nearly automatic on third down in 2016, as 23 of his 32 receptions went for first downs. Pro Football Focus rated him fourth overall in receiving thanks to a 69.2 percent catch rate and just six drops among the 104 catchable balls thrown his way.
10. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2016 Stats: 74 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 0.5 sacks, seven interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), four pass breakups
Hooker's 2016 campaign was flat-out filthy. He scored three times, got across the field to provide help over the top better than any other safety in the country and was the centerpiece of the Buckeyes' run to the College Football Playoff.
"He has the best combination of range and ball skills that I've ever seen in a college safety," wrote NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah. "His anticipation and awareness is off the charts."
Hooker plans to forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the NFL draft this spring. If Jeremiah is correct, he'll make Buckeyes Nation proud for years to come.
9. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
2016 Stats: 323 carries, 2,028 yards, 15 touchdowns; seven catches, 75 yards
D'Onta Foreman was "the other Foreman" during the recruiting process, but he stepped to the forefront in the race to be the nation's best running back in 2016.
The lone bright spot in an otherwise lost season at Texas, Foreman had 30 or more carries in six games this season, including 51 in the loss to the Kansas Jayhawks in November.
"I feel like I was overlooked, and I wanted to be right there next to him," Foreman told Bleacher Report. "Unfortunately, I wasn't. But that gave me a different approach for the game, and I want to prove a lot of people wrong. That provided fuel for the game."
That fuel kept Foreman's legs churning when others gave up. It kept him working when others thought about quitting. That will lead him to the NFL after a stellar junior season.
Texas didn't live up to expectations in 2016, but it wasn't Foreman's fault. However, because he couldn't single-handedly get the Longhorns into a bowl game he didn't rank higher overall.
8. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2016 Stats: 33 tackles (15 for loss), 8.5 sacks, one pass breakup, 10 QB hurries, two forced fumbles, one blocked kick
Injuries can have a significant impact on college football, and Garrett discovered just how much a sprained ankle can affect things. First hurt in late September, the 6'5", 270-pound Garrett missed the next game and sat out another later that month while hobbling through almost every other contest in 2016.
And yet he still ranked seventh in the SEC in tackles for loss and ninth in sacks while grading out as the fifth-best defensive end in the country working out of a 4-3 alignment, per Pro Football Focus.
"Myles is the best big athlete that I've ever been on the field with," Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis said, per ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. "You don't find guys that are 6'5"-plus that can bend and turn and run. He can do that better than any big athlete I've been around."
Garrett, who set the SEC freshman sack record in 2014—breaking the mark previously set by South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney—finished his career with 32.5 sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss.
7. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
2016 Stats: 56 tackles (19 for loss), 13 sacks, one interception, five pass breakups, 16 QB hurries, two forced fumbles
Even before becoming Tennessee's career sack leader in his final game, Barnett was already arguably the best defensive end the Volunteers have ever had. Getting that 33rd sack to pass Reggie White in the Music City Bowl only solidified his place in program history.
The 6'3", 265-pound Barnett was an instant success in Knoxville with 10 sacks as a freshman, and he had at least that many in each season while also racking up 52 tackles for loss. And he didn't pad those numbers against lesser competition, getting 12 of his 13 sacks in 2016 and 29 of his 33 total against SEC opponents.
"My opinion, he's the best defensive end in the country," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said after the Music City Bowl, per Omaha.com. "Best defensive player in the country. And he just works: He works his craft every single day, ultra, ultra competitive."
Pro Football Focus tabbed Barnett as college football's best pass-rusher by virtue of his amazing 16.1 percent pass-rushing productivity rate and the fact he never graded below average in a game in 2016. Had Tennessee not squandered its SEC East title hopes midway through the season, he might have been a little higher overall on the list.
6. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
2016 Stats: 254-of-358, 3,965 yards, 40 touchdowns, eight interceptions; 78 carries, 177 rushing yards, six touchdowns
Baker Mayfield fell one spot short of a trip to New York in 2015 as a Heisman Trophy finalist, but he received that elusive invitation in 2016, for good reason.
The junior signal-caller for the Oklahoma Sooners was sensational this year through the air and on the ground. His deep passes to Dede Westbrook were almost always on target, even when he was on the move. His touch also seemed to improve compared to a year ago, while his ability to scramble while keeping his eyes downfield are Johnny Manziel-ish.
The chip on Mayfield's shoulder is as apparent as a boulder. The two-time walk-on who randomly showed up on the doorstep of the Oklahoma program is used to fighting to be noticed, and he has succeeded thanks to an uncanny ability to make big plays and sustain a level that's nearly unmatched in the sport.
With one more year to go with the Sooners, Mayfield is a strong contender to finish atop this list in 2017.
5. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
2016 Stats: 97 receptions, 1,500 yards, 19 touchdowns
It may be debatable that Corey Davis was the best wide receiver in college football this past season. The same can't be said about where he stands among the all-time greats in terms of production, and for that he cracks our top five of the best overall players in the country.
Davis ended his career with 5,278 receiving yards, 273 more than anyone else in FBS history. That included 1,500 yards on 97 catches in 2016 when he tied for the national lead in touchdowns with 19. His 331 career receptions were the fourth-most ever, while his 52 TDs were second all-time.
"He's the real deal," quarterback Zach Terrell told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "Anybody that doubts that, just look at the highlights."
But numbers alone aren't why we put the 6'3", 213-pound Davis at the top of the list. It's what he did with those catches and how they made it possible for Western Michigan to post a perfect regular season, win the Mid-American Conference and reach the Cotton Bowl, despite the fact that every opponent worked overtime to try to prevent him getting the ball.
4. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
2016 Stats: 115 tackles (13 for loss), five sacks, two pass breakups
Few positions have defined Nick Saban's era at Alabama like linebacker, where all of his best teams have been stacked with standout players. And Reuben Foster may be the best of the lot.
Rated by Pro Football Focus as not just the top overall linebacker but also the best run-stopper, along with being well-graded as a pass-rusher and in coverage, Foster is that player every team wants to have in the middle of the field because he finds a way to get to the ball. This was shown by recording the most tackles of any Alabama player during Saban's tenure.
"Reuben plays well whether we're playing against a direct-run team or a spread team," Saban told Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh. "Reuben just happens to be a guy that can do both of those things very well."
Foster was credited with tied for the most quarterback hits (12) among linebackers in the 2016 season, and 68 of his 87 solo tackles resulted in a stop, per PFF.
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
2016 Stats: 230-of-409, 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 260 carries, 1,571 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns
In his first full season as the starting quarterback at Louisville, Lamar Jackson made history and became the first Heisman Trophy winner in program history.
He did it with style and substance.
His hurdle into the end zone at Syracuse in Week 2 was the first of many Heisman moments. His touchdown pass in the closing seconds to beat Virginia proved how effective he can be through the air in the clutch. His season will go down as one of the best by a quarterback in the sport's history:
Lamar Jackson jumped over a hapless Syracuse defender and into the Heisman conversation with a five-TD performance against the Orange. pic.twitter.com/kaTPANMESc— Nación ESPN2 (@NacionESPN2) September 29, 2016
A few less turnovers and sacks taken and he could have been first on our list. But with the top two guys headed to the NFL, Jackson is the early favorite to be the best in the game again next season.
2. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
2016 Stats: 69 tackles (16 for loss), 10.5 sacks, three fumble returns, two pass breakups, 15 QB hurries, one blocked kick
At 6'3", 291 pounds, Jonathan Allen should be listed as a defensive tackle. But that's assuming someone of his size doesn't have the speed and athleticism to come off the edge and disrupt in the same manner as if he's plowing through the middle, and you'd be dead wrong.
Allen can line up anywhere and find a way to be involved and wreak havoc, as Alabama's 15 opponents in 2016 and most of those in the previous seasons can attest. This past year, there was rarely a game where his name wasn't mentioned as being integral to a big defensive play, particularly in helping the Crimson Tide score an amazing 11 defensive touchdowns.
He scored two of those on a pick-six against Ole Miss and a fumble return against Texas A&M. The former allowed Allen to showcase tremendous speed by outrunning everyone for a 75-yard score.
Pro Football Focus considered him to be not just the best defensive player in the country but also the best overall player due to his great work against both the pass and the run, and so many aspects of Allen's game stand out. Had Alabama bested Clemson in the national championship game, he might have been our No. 1 player overall, but he'll have to settle for second-best.
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2016 Stats: 388-of-579, 4,593 yards, 41 touchdowns, 17 interceptions; 629 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns
Deshaun Watson didn't have the stats that Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had, but the Clemson quarterback has the most important aspect of the game covered: Winning, and that's why he tops our list of the best players in college football.
For the second straight season, Watson led the Tigers to a national championship game berth, but unlike last year, he came out on top this time. He lost only three games a starter in three years.
"What makes him special in all of those games, not just these playoff type games, is his preparation," head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. "The guy is an unbelievable winner, and he is incredibly attentive to details and a great, great student of the game. I mean, he just loves to grind to get ready, and then when it comes game time, he just goes and plays. He knows that he's prepared. He's put the work in."
Watson earned the top QB spot—and No. 1 slot overall—because of his personal success and what he did for his team. He was a proven leader, a proven winner, an ultra-talented passer and runner, and he's the best quarterback (and player) in college football.