CFB 24/7  

 

Top 100 players in college football for 2016

Print

Yes, the 2016 college football season is four months away. But with the 2016 NFL Draft in our rearview mirror, why not focus our attention on what's ahead?

Here's my ranking of the 100 best players in college football. This is a look at the top talents in the game -- it's not a list previewing a future NFL draft.

1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (6-foot-2, 210 pounds)
Watson has the mobility, arm strength and calm demeanor you want from a quarterback. I'm most interested to see if he shows the ability to keep his eyes downfield while moving within the pocket (or rolling outside the pocket), instead of taking off after one read.

2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (6-1, 230)
Everything that is said about Ezekiel Elliott right now goes for Fournette. The "five-tool back" has speed, power, agility, can catch the ball and block. His Heisman Trophy chances went by the wayside with his 43-yard performance against Alabama last season, but a strong finish to his 2016 season should lead to an invitation to the ceremony in December.

3. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama (6-3, 294)
Allen returned to Tuscaloosa for his senior year despite earning first-team All-SEC honors (12 sacks) in 2015. His versatility as a three- or five-technique at the next level will make him a coveted prospect.

4. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama (6-4, 237)
Explosive. That's pretty much all you need to say about Williams, whose 10.5 sacks ranked second on the Tide behind Allen. He has elite get-off, plays with physicality, and will only add strength to his 237-pound frame.

5. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (6-5, 262)
Opponents know Garrett's coming on every pass play, yet he's managed 26 sacks in his first two seasons with the Aggies. His burst, flexibility, length and acceleration make him a tough ask for any left tackle.

6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (6-0, 202)
In many other years, McCaffrey might have run away with the Heisman Trophy after breaking Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose yardage mark (3,864). Much like Sanders, McCaffrey's combination of toughness and agility makes you hold your breath every time he gets the ball.

7. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (Fla.) (6-4, 210)
This Los Angeles native improved in his second year as a starter for the Hurricanes. If this tall pocket passer's accuracy, poise and decision-making continue to ascend, the sky is the limit.

8. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee (6-3, 207)
Scouts and draft analysts will pick apart Dobbs' game, saying he's a one-read-and-run guy. I'm going to bank on the fact that his intelligence (aerospace engineering major) and athleticism will make him a top standout.

9. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (6-4, 210)
Rosen is the best freshman quarterback I've seen since Andrew Luck. Like Jared Goff, he'll need to get stronger, but there's no issue with his arm strength now. He's mobile, keeps his eyes downfield and is very accurate. Even with some of his top targets heading to the NFL after last season, Rosen will lead the Bruins down the field during 2016.

10. Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida (6-0, 199)
Is Tabor another excellent corner in the Joe Haden-Vernon Hargreaves mold coming out of Florida? Absolutely. While he's not the tallest corner in the country, there are none more competitive. His four interceptions and 14 pass breakups in 2015 portend big things this year, even if teams look away from him a bit with Hargreaves out of the picture.

11. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (6-1, 198)
As a redshirt freshman, Humphrey's coverage skills (three interceptions, eight pass breakups) made him the obvious choice as the Tide's next All-American cornerback. But the son of former Tide and NFL running back Bobby Humphrey impressed me most when stopping LSU stud back Leonard Fournette in the hole for a loss. Having the combination of speed (he was a high school track star)and physicality is the mark of a great player.

12. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (6-1, 208)
There's nothing Peppers can't do on a football field. He plays corner, safety and nickel on defense. He's also a threat as a runner and receiver on offense, and can return kicks and punts effectively. It's going to be fun watching him excel in every facet of the game in 2016.

13. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (6-6, 327)
A mountain of a man who carries 330 pounds extremely well, Robinson looks the part of an All-American left tackle. I'm looking forward to seeing how he improves his balance and lateral agility to handle SEC pass rushers in his third year as a starter.

14. Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson (6-3, 300)
Despite being overshadowed by defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, people around college football know about Watkins' talent. The first-team All-ACC pick had 3.5 sacks last year after waiting three years for his time to come (he redshirted in 2013 after being in a car accident).

15. Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State (6-7, 307)
In Johnson, the Seminoles found another athletic left tackle to protect the quarterback's blind side. He won Freshman All-American honors in 2014 and the conference's Jacobs Blocking Trophy as its top lineman last season, shutting down sackmasters with his length and footwork. The stronger he gets, the more difficult he'll become to beat off the edge.

16. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (5-11, 206)
Cook averaged 7.4 yards an attempt last year, with only a lingering hamstring injury preventing him from reaching the 2,000-yard mark. Cook's low center of gravity helps him make sharps cuts, and his ability to accelerate instantly out of the cut makes him a home-run threat. If he can stay healthy, there'll be no stopping him in 2016.

17. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC (6-2, 215)
Smith-Schuster's routes and hands are impressive. But I found his ability to play through injuries last season, while accumulating 89 catches for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving,  even more astounding.

18. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (6-4, 200)
Williams' 2015 season was cut short by a neck injury in the season opener. When healthy, the tall, rangy receiver creates separation down the sideline or seam using his length and innate ability to go up and get 50/50 balls. If fully recovered from surgery, he might be the best receiver in the country.

19. Jarrad Davis, OLB, Florida (6-2, 240)
This downhill player who's capable of playing inside or outside will be a favorite among NFL coaches and scouts as they review his play as a senior.

20. C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa (6-2, 209)
The grandson of former NFL executive Bobby Beathard is a true leader, and has the arm strength and mobility to be an effective NFL starter.

21. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss (6-2, 209)
The nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly looks like an NFL starter at times, zipping throws into windows over the middle and putting touch on deep passes so his man can make a play. He's a tough competitor, as well. However, even if he succeeds in leading the Rebels to a great 2016 campaign, the reputation he gained as an immature young player at Clemson before transferring to junior college will be scrutinized by NFL teams.

22. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State (6-5, 235)
Thrown into the fire at the end of his true freshman season in 2014, Rudolph stood in and delivered. He's already proven his arm strength and deft touch over the top, as well as his continued improvement finding secondary targets, could make him among the best in the country.

23. Greg Ward, Jr., WR/RS, Houston (5-11, 185)
Ward should be in the Heisman race this year if he can stay healthy. He'll use his elusiveness to run for more than 1,000 yards while making deep throws from the pocket. At the next level, he could move to receiver, where he played earlier in his career with the Cougars. He's electric with the ball in his hands no matter where he lines up.

24. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (6-1, 212)
This gunslinger will miss leading receiver Sterling Shepard, but he'll still be one of the most fun players in the country to watch.

25. Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR, USC (5-11, 185)
There's no doubting Jackson's electricity as a returner; he scored twice on kickoff returns in 2014 and twice on punts in 2015 using great acceleration and elusiveness in tight spaces. The USC track star (long jumps/sprints) also caught 37 passes over his first two seasons with the Trojans, while intercepting one pass and breaking up 18 others in the secondary. If he becomes more physical as a tackler ... watch out!

26. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn (6-2, 257)
Lawson's a strong all-around edge defender, but he needs to stay healthy after missing a year and a half with injuries since the end of his freshman year.

27. Devonte Fields, DE/OLB, Louisville (6-4, 245)
The 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman at TCU (18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks), Fields' career was sidetracked by a foot injury (redshirted 2013 after just three games) and his dismissal from TCU in 2014. After one season at junior college, Fields returned to the FBS level last fall, racking up 11 sacks for the Cardinals. If his shoulder is healthy after offseason surgery, Fields will once again terrorize quarterbacks.

28. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama (6-1, 188)
The Tide needed a big play threat with Amari Cooper going to the pros, and Ridley delivered. A fluid receiver with excellent hands and vertical ability, he's able to beat any defender who fails to get a piece of him at the line of scrimmage.

29. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (5-11, 200)
Kirk has receiver speed, hands, and elusiveness but has a stocky running-back build. His returns are electric, as is his ability to take the ball to the house on every fly sweep, screen pass, or crossing route. He'll only get better as a route-runner with time.

30. Desmond King, CB, Iowa (5-11, 200)
King ranked among the nation's leaders with eight interceptions in 2015, winning jump balls on the sideline, jumping passes coming his way, and closing hard at the last second to get a hand on a well-thrown pass. His willingness in run support and open-field tackling ability will win him fans among NFL scouts this season, as well.

31. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (6-2, 225)
My guess is that Barrett will play even better in 2016, now that he's not looking over his shoulder due to the presence of Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller. His efficiency as a passer and ability to make plays with his feet if needed will make the Buckeyes a national championship contender ... again.

32. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (6-3, 219)
The nation's leader in total offense is frenetic in the pocket, running around like Fran Tarkenton before either taking off or finding a wide-open receiver downfield. It's hard to take your eyes off of him when Tech has the ball.

33. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6-6, 242)
When Alabama quarterbacks actually look Howard's way, the result is usually very good. A smooth athlete who destroys the center of the field, it will be interesting to see if he becomes a consistent part of the offense as a senior like he was in the national championship game (5 catches, 208 yards, two touchdowns).

34. Zach Banner, OT, USC (6-9, 360)
Banner is one of the biggest players in college football history, but was still agile enough to earn a spot on the Trojans' basketball team. He stays with most strong-side defenders just fine, but if he can effectively move to left tackle in his final year, he'll boost his stock.

35. Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri (6-3, 255)
Harris spent a lot of time in the backfield last year, leading the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss. I'll be looking for him to consistently win one-on-one battles against better SEC tackles this season.

36. Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State (6-6, 280)
In the Spartans' defense, McDowell plays at nose tackle despite his tall, relatively lean frame. He holds up well in the interior, however, holding up one or two blockers with solid leverage and arm extension. If he went out to the edge a bit more in another system, he'd be even more productive.

37. Des Lawrence, CB, North Carolina (6-1, 185)
A tenacious player, Lawrence's cover skills and tackling ability on the outside are worth the price of admission.

38. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan (6-3, 200)
Chesson finished the year on a high note with two 100-yard performances, against Ohio State (8 catches, 111 yards) and Florida (5 catches, 118 yards, TD). He possesses good foot quickness for his height and has the agility that many other 6-3 receivers can only wish for.

39. Jamal Adams, S, LSU (6-1, 211)
It seems like Adams is always around the ball, even in an LSU defense loaded with playmakers.

40. Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M (5-11, 200 pounds)
The Aggies' leading tackler in 2015 (126 stops, 83 solo) roams the field in search of a target. Once you're in his sights, forget about it; he's coming downhill for you.

41. Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State (6-foot-2, 240 pounds)
The 2013 High School Butkus Award winner played with two excellent prospects in Darron Lee and Joshua Perry last season, but he's now "the man" in the Buckeyes' defense. He has the athleticism to be a force between the tackles.

42. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (6-3, 257)
The Nashville native came on strong in his freshman year (20.5 tackles for loss) and managed 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Vols. While he's not as explosive off the snap as others on this list, he gets under the pads of blockers and works through the shoulder with nice bend, ultimately winning the corner.

43. Avery Gennesy, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 305)
Germain Ifedi is a talented player, but he didn't need to play left tackle for the Aggies because Gennesy filled that hole. The former junior-college star will receive his due recognition in 2016 if he continues to thwart speed and bullish pass rushers on the edge.

44. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (6-0, 180)
Losing receivers Corey Coleman and Jay Lee will impact the Bears' offense in 2016, but head coach Art Briles reloads with the aptly named Cannon. He shoots out from his stance and accelerates in a way that gives opposing defensive backs nightmares.

45. Derwin James, S, Florida State (6-3, 213)
A physical presence, James attacks receivers in the open field and pounds ball carriers into the ground when attacking the backfield. He's an enforcer, pure and simple.

46. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan (5-10, 175)
As far as pure cover ability goes, Lewis might be the top cornerback in college football. The confident defender is also willing to mix it up downfield and at the line of scrimmage, despite giving up 25-30 pounds and/or four or five inches of height to receivers. NFL scouts will wonder how he'll be able to handle full-grown pro receivers, though.

47. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas (6-3, 232)
Jefferson might end up in the top 20 of this list by the end of the year, as the rising sophomore is just scratching the surface of his potential. He could end up comparing favorably to Jaylon Smith by the time he's finished in Austin, thanks to his closing speed and tenacious tackling.

48. Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan (6-5, 303)
The Wolverines' five-technique started to come on in his junior year, racking up 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He looked especially agile and strong against Florida in the Citrus Bowl. More play like that will earn the respect of scouts.

49. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia (5-10, 220)
Going into last season, Chubb was one of my Heisman favorites. A knee injury suffered midway through the year, however, knocks him down this list a bit. As soon as I see him on the field displaying that elite cutting ability, acceleration and power, he'll jet back to the top 10-15 on this list.

50. Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6-2, 310)
Lowell's older brother, Star, was a first-round pick for the Carolina Panthers in 2013. Already a first-team All-Pac-12 pick, it will be interesting to see how far he can raise his game as a junior.

51. Kylie Fitts, DE/OLB, Utah (6-4, 265)

52. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama (6-1, 240)

53. Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech (5-11, 203)

54. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (5-11, 219)

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:

55. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB, Tennessee (6-0, 225)

56. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia (6-2, 205)

57. Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA (6-9), 310)

58. Orlando Brown, Jr., OT, Oklahoma (6-8, 325)

59. Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee (5-11, 185)

60. Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama (6-0, 194)

61. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh (6-5 300)

62. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State (5-11, 185)

63. Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina (6-0, 200)

64. Travin Dural, WR, LSU (6-2, 205)

65. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU (5-11, 191)

66. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA (6-3, 305)

67. Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee (6-4, 240)

68. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss (6-3, 227)

69. Marcus Maye, S, Florida (6-0, 210)

70. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State (6-3, 273)

71. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon (5-11, 230)

72. Pat Elflein, OG, Ohio State (6-3, 300)

73. Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU (6-3, 190)

74. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6-7, 310)

75. Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU (6-2, 252)

76. Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA (6-0, 200)

77. Daeshon Hall, DE/OLB, Texas A&M (6-6, 260)

78. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan (6-6, 250)

79. Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson (6-5, 255)

80. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6-0, 205)

81. Marquis Haynes, DE/OLB, Ole Miss (6-3, 200)

82. Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU (6-4, 293)

83. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (5-10, 234)

84. Justin Davis, RB, USC (6-1, 195)

85. Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin (6-3, 301)

86. Hardy Nickerson, Jr., ILB, Illinois (6-0, 225)

87. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State (6-4, 214)

88. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (6-3, 213)

89. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado (6-0, 205)

90. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson (6-1, 195)

91. Dalvin Tomlinson, DE, Alabama (6-3, 307)

92. Ethan Pocic, C, LSU (6-7, 309)

93. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana (6-4, 310)

94. Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin (6-4, 246)

95. Deatrich Wise, Jr., DE, Arkansas (6-5, 280)

96. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington (6-1, 195)

97. Donnel Pumphrey, RB/WR/RS, San Diego State (5-9, 180)

98. Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern (5-11, 190)

99. Lewis Neal, DE, LSU (6-1, 264)

100. Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor (5-9, 200)

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop