Media days have begun, preseason practice is nearing and our seven weeks of preseason college football position rankings wrapped up in early July. That means it's time for an annual Sports on Earth tradition: a comprehensive ranking of the best players entering the college football season.
These player rankings go 130 deep, matching the new number of FBS teams. (We'll rank all 130 teams in August before the season begins.) Like the position-by-position rankings -- which this article is adapted from, generally following those rankings -- the overall player rankings are based on a combination of talent, proven production and potential at the college level entering the 2017 season. They are not NFL Draft rankings; they are a guide to the main cast of players to know leading into another new season of football at the college level.
For deeper write-ups -- and possible snubs from this list -- check out the position rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends | Linebackers | Running Backs | Defensive Linemen | Offensive Linemen | Defensive Backs | Quarterbacks
130. Sean Welsh, G, Iowa. Iowa's offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for the nation's best O-line last year. Did Iowa really have the best line? Probably not. But it was another strong unit, and it's poised for bigger things in 2017, led by Welsh.
129. Austin Allen, QB, Arkansas. Allen replaced his brother, Brandon, and played a lot like him, just with a few more mistakes as a first-year starter. Brandon Allen, 2015: 65.9 percent for 3,440 yards, 30 TDs and eight INTs. Austin Allen, 2016: 61.1 percent, 3,430 yards, 25 TDs, 15 INTs.
128. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis. Miller formed an imposing duo with new QB Riley Ferguson last season and finished the year with over 100 yards in six of his last seven games. He caught 95 passes for 1,434 yard and 14 TDs after initially arriving at Memphis as a walk-on.
127. J'Mon Moore, WR, Missouri. The biggest beneficiary of Missouri's increased passing production, Moore made a leap from 29 catches to 62, cracking the 1,000-yard mark as a junior. He ended the season with three straight 130-yard games against SEC opponents.
126. Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana. Fant was a machine in pass coverage as part of a much-improved Hoosiers defense, recording a Big Ten-best 17 pass breakups plus three interceptions. He has 44 career pass breakups and was the clear leader of a 2016 Indiana defense that was the school's best against the pass in ages.
125. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Ohio State's secondary pulled off a ridiculously successful reloading job last year, and now the pressure is on to try to do it again. First-round cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore are gone, leaving Ward as the next big thing after he broke up nine passes as a sophomore.
124. Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt. Underappreciated as part of an offense that has been around the bottom of the SEC, Webb has often carried the unit. He has 3,347 career rushing yards and his coming off his best season: 250 rushes for 1,283 yards and 13 TDs in a bowl season for the Commodores.
123. Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State. Gallup racked up 702 receiving yards in his last five games, as the juco transfer became the Rams' top target in place of Rashard Higgins. The Colorado State offense took off in the second half of the season, and Gallup played a big role in the turnaround with QB Nick Stevens.
122. Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky. The South Florida transfer emerged as a star in Jeff Brohm's offense, replacing Brandon Doughty to put together a prolific season of his own: 4,363 yards, 37 TDs, seven INTs, 10.5 yards per attempt. Brohm is gone, but White is a proven passer for new coach Mike Sanford to build around.
121. Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee. The choice made by MTSU coach Rick Stockstill to name his son the starting QB at the start of 2015 has paid off. In two years, Brent Stockstill has thrown for over 7,000 yards and 61 touchdowns, particularly forming a devastating combination with WR Richie James.
120. Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, DE, Arkansas State. Rarely do defensive players earn overall conference MVP honors, but that's exactly what Rolland-Jones did in the Sun Belt last year. The 244-pound senior has 30 ½ career sacks, and he deserves more national love as the star of an annual conference title contender.
119. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State. Mark Rypien's nephew went to Boise State as a touted four-star recruit, and he's delivering on that promise with back-to-back first-team All-Mountain West seasons to start his college career. Rypien improved from 39th to 15th in passer rating as a sophomore, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt.
118. Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina. There were some rough moments, but Bentley showed off some advanced traits upon taking over as South Carolina's starting quarterback in the second half of last season … as a true freshman who graduated high school a year early … on one of the youngest offenses in the country. With a full year to prepare, he'll be at the center of an improved offense that returns 10 starters.
117. Deon Cain, WR, Clemson. The speedy Cain has had a specialized role his first two years, averaging 17 yards per catch as a freshman and 19 as a sophomore. He was sixth on the Tigers in catches (38) but third in yards (724) last year, and with Mike Williams gone, Cain is in line for a more well-rounded role.
116. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Smith's first year as a starter showed enormous upside, as he was the overwhelming team leader with 95 tackles. He's a dynamic linebacker with excellent burst and athleticism, and it's possible he'll emerge as the top player on what should become an excellent Bulldogs defense.
115. Tyrone Crowder, G, Clemson. The Tigers' line was inconsistent, but it's well-equipped for a big year protecting a new quarterback and blocking for a new starting tailback. The 340-pound Crowder is a first-team All-ACC performer with 28 career starts and is particularly strong in the run game.
114. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Evans is a familiar name despite never being a full-time starter, and last year he shifted from the outside to the inside and ended up with 53 tackles and four sacks. He's a phenomenal athlete who's ready for a bigger role wherever he lines up, ensuring that Bama will still be excellent at linebacker.
113. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State. According to 247Sports, Lazard is the only four-star recruit to sign with Iowa State in the past four classes. Predictably, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound senior is taking aim at Cyclones records, with 170 career catches for 2,419 yards and 16 TDs after a first-team All-Big 12 season.
112. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State. Weber didn't have more than 14 carries in any of the final six games in his first year as starter, but he still rushed for 1,096 yards and nine TDs as a redshirt freshman. Expect Weber's numbers -- and the numbers of the offense as a whole -- to go up under new coordinator Kevin Wilson.
111. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington. Early draft picks Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King are gone, but the Huskies still have a pair of standout safeties in JoJo McIntosh and Rapp. Rapp had 52 tackles and four interceptions to earn Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year honors.
110. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh. The versatile Whitehead is such an enticing athlete that Pitt has used him on offense, too, but his main job is leading the secondary, where he's been an All-ACC pick each of his first two seasons. Pitt's secondary was a huge area of concern last season, but Whitehead is an excellent player to build around.
109. Dante Pettis, WR, Washington. John Ross headlined the Washington receiving corps a year ago, but Pettis, like Ross, was excellent as both a receiver and return man. Pettis' special teams value came on punt returns, with two touchdowns and an average of 11.5 yards, and he also caught 53 passes for 822 yards and 15 TDs.
108. Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama. Quietly a rising star, Averett is likely to be Alabama's top cornerback, assuming Minkah Fitzpatrick sticks at safety. He went from little-known reserve to quality starter as a redshirt junior, breaking up eight passes for a defense that allowed just 5.9 yards per pass attempt.
107. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State. FSU's defense will be improved despite the fact that DeMarcus Walker is gone. The Seminoles have to find a way to replace those 16 sacks, though, and the new top DE is Sweat, a five-star recruit who had 4 ½ sacks in the final three games of 2016 and is being counted on to reach that high potential.
106. Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M. A three-year star in the Aggies secondary, Watts enters his senior season with 241 tackles and six interception. The hope is that he has a healthy final season after tearing his hamstring late last year, but he's been a complete player whose return to the secondary is big, given the pass rush talent the Aggies lost.
105. Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson. Joseph was overshadowed by Ben Boulware but just as productive last season, and now he's the Tigers' returning star at linebacker. He had 108 tackles, 12 ½ tackles and two forced fumbles for one of the nation's top defenses, and few players have a more advantageous situation, given that he gets to play behind Clemson's D-line.
104. Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo. Woodside averaged 7.6 yards per attempt in 2014, sat behind Phillip Ely in 2015 and re-emerged as a standout last year, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt with 45 touchdown passes. Woodside threw for 4,129 yards and completed 69.1 percent of his passes, and his return makes Toledo the MAC favorite.
103. Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford. Meeks was sidelined with an injury for each of the Cardinal's blowout losses last season, the two worst performances by a defense that finished 25th in passer rating. The presence of Meeks wouldn't have changed the results, but he has clearly established his value as a 6-foot-2 junior primed for an All-Pac-12 season.
102. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma. With All-American Eric Striker gone, Okoronkwo had nine sacks -- 6 ½ more than anyone else on the Sooners -- in a promising junior season in which he was a second-team All-Big 12 performer. Improvement in the pass rush is essential for Oklahoma, and Okoronkwo is the player the Sooners know they can count on to produce in that area.
101. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia. A promising career at Florida was derailed by a PED suspension midway through the 2015 season. Grier sat out last year as a transfer and is now poised for a breakout at West Virginia after completing 65.6 percent for 1,202 yards in six games with the Gators.
100. Travin Howard, LB, TCU. A 213-pound former safety, Howard has been as a great fit for TCU's 4-2-5 scheme, coming off a season in which he racked up 130 tackles and was named first-team All-Big 12. He teams with Ty Summers to give Gary Patterson an excellent linebacking tandem to build around.
99. Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas. The Jayhawks are showing some improvement, particularly on defense, and nowhere is that more evident than on the line. Armstrong had 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles in an All-Big 12 junior season, and he teams with tackle Daniel Wise to form one of the nation's top D-line duos.
98. Da'Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama. The biggest pro of signing with Alabama: contending for national championships ever year. The biggest con of signing with Alabama: competing for playing time with an endless supply of other blue-chip recruits. One of the biggest recruits in the country in 2014, Hand will finally go from valuable role player to likely star after patiently waiting his turn.
97. Mark Walton, RB, Miami. The Miami offensive line had mixed results in 2016, and Walton's season followed an up-and-down pattern in which the high ceiling was obvious. He rushed for 1,117 yards and 14 TDs as a sophomore, vaulting into the starting role and setting the stage for a 2017 season in which he's the ACC's top returning tailback.
96. Duke Dawson, CB, Florida. Another year, another potential All-American cornerback for the Gators. Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are gone, but Dawson still started seven games last year and had seven pass breakups and an interception return for a TD. He'll step into a larger role after shining as the nickel corner.
95. Jaylen Samuels, TE/WR/FB/H-back, N.C. State. No position label adequately summarizes Samuels' role in the North Carolina State offense. The 5-foot-11, 236-pound senior has done it all in his Wolfpack career, with 126 catches and 700 rushing yards, resulting in 31 total touchdowns. He's a crafty and versatile movable chess piece who's a two-time All-ACC pick and is in line for more honors as a senior.
94. Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State. Losing Raekwon McMillan hurts, but there are few worries about the state of the Ohio State linebacking corps. Baker is the new star, a 225-pound junior who finished second on the team in tackles in his first year as starter, showcasing speed and big-play ability.
93. Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin. The go-to target in this Badgers offense, Fumagalli had a team-high 47 catches last year. Like any Wisconsin tight end has to be, he's a proven blocker, but he's become one of the nation's top receiving threats at the position, too, with 580 yards for a team that ranked 118th in pass attempts per game.
92. Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State. One of the nation's biggest rising stars on the offensive line, Rankin started 10 games at left tackle, and despite seeing time at center in the spring, he's expected to stick on the left side as an emerging NFL prospect responsible for paving the way for Nick Fitzgerald.
91. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford. Stanford will miss Solomon Thomas, but Phillips is on the rise after dealing with injury problems his first couple years. He had 46 tackles and 9 ½ tackles for loss in 2016, and he's likely to be the top player on an experienced Stanford defense that has a chance to be the Pac-12's best.
90. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield loses a lot of weapons, headlined by fellow Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook. The top returning receiver? Andrews, who had 31 catches for 489 yards and seven TDs and will be leaned on heavily as the Sooners take advantage of the matchup problems he can create at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds.
89. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn. Stidham showed glimpses of the player he can develop into in three games in relief of Seth Russell at Baylor in 2015. He was subsequently knocked out by an injury, then transferred to Auburn after sitting out last season following Art Briles' firing. A high-profile recruit, Stidham is being counted on to energize the Auburn passing game.
88. Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa. One of two 1,000-yard rushers for Iowa last year, Wadley is the lone one returning, but he'll be joined by 1,000-yard Nevada graduate transfer James Butler. Wadley's ability is underappreciated, as he's an elusive and explosive runner who averaged 6.4 yards per carry and caught 36 passes as a junior.
87. Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah. A 310-pound space-eater, Lotulelei is not going to the be type of player who puts up huge stats. His job has been to help plug the middle and make those around him look better. The Utes always have a disruptive pass rush, and the physicality of Lotulelei makes it a lot easier to have success off the edge.
86. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington. Gaskin has rushed for over 1,300 yards each of his first two seasons, giving the Huskies a formidable backfield pairing with Gaskin and QB Jake Browning now both entering their junior seasons for a team that made a gigantic leap from 2015, when they started as freshmen, to the playoff in '16.
85. Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest. The ACC is loaded with talented defensive lineman, but Ejiofor will try to make a case that he's as good as any of the All-America caliber pass rushers in the conference. He had 10 ½ sacks and 17 tackles for loss last season, as he and a stellar defense propelled the Demon Deacons back to a bowl game.
84. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State. Hill rejuvenated the Oklahoma State running game as a freshman, rushing 206 times for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as he showed off burst and impressive cutting ability. The Cowboys can spread and stretch the field with a big-play passing game, which will give Hill plenty of room to run.
83. Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern. An All-Big Ten performer with 31 career starts, Igwebuike stands out as the top returning player on the Northwestern defense. He led the team with 108 tackles, and he also intercepted two passes and broke up seven, standing out in pass coverage as well as being reliable against the run.
82. Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State. Jesse Ertz was quietly one of five FBS quarterbacks to rush for 1,000 yards last year. That effort was aided by the presence of a blocker like Risner. A former center, Risner was a first-team All-Big 12 pick at right tackle as a sophomore.
81. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State. Here's how loaded Ohio State is at defensive end: Hubbard started every game last year, but we have him as the third Buckeyes DE this list behind Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa. Hubbard was more productive as a freshman than as a sophomore, but he's an athletic, high-upside pass rusher who actually played safety in high school.
80. Chase Hansen, S, Utah. The Utes were loaded at safety last year with Hansen teaming up with Marcus Williams. They lose Williams but return Hansen, a 220-pound former quarterback who's built like -- and can play like -- a linebacker. Hansen had 90 tackles and three picks last year and is the only returning starter in the Utes' secondary.
79. Porter Gustin, LB, USC. A valuable edge rusher, the 260-pound Gustin is a hybrid end/linebacker who led the Trojans with 13 tackles for loss and was second on the team with 68 tackles. He's the type of player who coordinator Clancy Pendergast can creatively use to attack and disrupt opposing backfields in a variety of ways.
78. Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama. A knee injury sidelined Hamilton for the playoff, but Nick Saban said that he should be ready for camp. Hamilton became a full-time starter last year and had 64 tackles, and his return from injury gives Bama a pair of standout veterans on the inside despite the loss of Reuben Foster.
77. Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky. Edwards was a breakout star of 2016, racking up 100 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and three picks. It's hard to get attention at a place like Kentucky in a conference loaded with great DBs, but Edwards was a second-team All-SEC pick and is the league's best safety who doesn't play in Tuscaloosa.
76. Marcus Allen, S, Penn State. Allen been a high-energy playmaker, particularly in run support. He's still searching for his first college INT, but he's coming off a big junior year in which he had a team-high 110 tackles, the blocked field goal that beat Ohio State and a Big Ten-clinching fourth-down stop with teammate Grant Haley.
75. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson. It's hard for the start of an offensive lineman's career to go much better, as Hyatt slid into the left tackle role blocking for two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson and helped lead the Tigers to back-to-back national title games Watson's impossible to replace, but the new QB will be happy to have Hyatt back.
74. Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma. With 28 career starts and two All-Big 12 selections, Thomas is the most acclaimed corner in the Big 12. As is the norm with Big 12 defenses, there's been some inconsistency, but Thomas broke up 17 passes and intercepted two more in 2016 and forms a potentially excellent duo with Jordan Parker.
73. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. Williams will slide from right tackle to left tackle to replace All-American Cam Robinson, and rarely has their been so little worry about a sophomore having to fill such big shoes. The five-star recruit fit right in as a Day 1 starter blocking for one of the nation's top ground attacks.
72. Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama. Harrison wasn't an All-SEC pick last year, but don't let that fool you. In his first year as a starter, Harrison played at an all-conference level and was merely lost in the shuffle with only so much attention to go around on a star-studded Alabama defense. That won't be a problem this year for the 6-foot-3, 216-pound junior.
71. Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee. The 5-foot-9 James came up just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2016, combining 1,625 receiving yards with 339 rushing yards, the later gained mostly in a 207-yard effort as an emergency wildcat QB against FAU. James is an automatic receiving target who has 212 catches only halfway through his eligibility.
70. Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State. Not everything went smoothly for Mississippi State in the season after the loss of Dak Prescott, but it would have been hard for the Bulldogs to find a better replacement behind center. Fitzgerald racked up 1,375 yards and 16 TDs on the ground (seven yards per carry), plus 2,423 yards and 21 TDs through the air. He burned Texas A&M and Ole Miss as a runner in big wins late in the season, proving to be another ideal QB for coach Dan Mullen.
69. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State. The nation's top tight end broke out in 2016, becoming a dangerous matchup problem with a 6-foot-6, 252-pound frame, impressive athleticism and improved ball skills, making him an integral part of a big-play offense. Gesicki had 48 catches for 679 yards, with seven catches of at least 30 yards, according to cfbstats.com.
68. Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida. Off-the-field trouble continues to pose questions for Callaway, whose status for the season opener is up in the air after being cited for marijuana possession in May. The junior is the biggest reason for optimism for the Florida offense, as he's an explosive receiver who caught 54 passes for 721 yards and three TDs in a limited passing attack last year.
67. Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana. The Hoosiers haven't had a linebacker picked in the NFL Draft since Van Waiters in 1988. Scales will change that. As part of Indiana's defensive turnaround under Tom Allen, Scales had a national-best 23 1/2 tackles for loss in a dominant junior season leading a revitalized unit.
66. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama. While Hurts' downfield passing left a lot to be desired, he burst onto the scene as a true freshman starting quarterback for a team that came within one stop of going 15-0 and winning a national title. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards -- something no Nick Saban QB has ever come close to doing -- and he was second in the SEC in passer rating in conference play. There's much left to prove, but he was named SEC offensive player of the year as a freshman.
65. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State. Jameis Winston set an impossible standard for redshirt freshman quarterbacks at Florida State, but Francois had a promising starting debut, despite issues on the offensive line and in the receiving corps. He took a lot of hits but threw for 3,350 yards, 20 TDs and seven INTs, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt in an Orange Bowl season. He's the ACC best QB not named Lamar Jackson.
64. Jordan Jones, LB, Kentucky. The speedy Jones is an entertaining player to watch, an explosive playmaker who was recognized as a second-team All-SEC performer by the league's coaches last season as a sophomore. Jones had 15 ½ tackles for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups and 109 tackles, an impressive breakout after serving as a backup in 2016.
63. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Allen rose from off the radar to NFL Draft darling in a hurry. In his first year starting, the strong-armed and mobile Allen completed 56 percent for 3,203 yards, 28 TDs and 15 INTs and rushed for 523 yards in a balanced, pro-style offense -- one similar to what Carson Wentz ran at North Dakota State. Allen has plenty of room for improvement, but he has a big arm and regularly produced jaw-dropping throws last year, particularly when on the move.
62. Cody O'Connell, G, Washington State. A breakout star of the 2016 season, the 6-foot-8, 354-pound O'Connell was an All-American and Outland Trophy finalist after barely playing his first two years on campus. The massive guard returns as the cornerstone of the line protecting prolific passer Luke Falk.
61. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP. Only three players rushed for more yards than UTEP's Aaron Jones, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry and piled up 1,773 yards. His best friend on the field had to be Hernandez, a 330-pound guard who has started 37 games and brings tenacity and power to a team that wants to have a physical identity.
60. Azeem Victor, LB, Washington. The first-team All-Pac-12 choice missed the final four games of 2016 after breaking his leg. Before then, he excelled as an instinctive, speedy player in the middle of one of the nation's best defenses, finishing with 67 tackles. His stats weren't huge, but he was a vital weapon.
59. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. Michigan loses 10 starters on defense, but while there's no doubt that a lot of talent will be missed, that number can be misleading, particularly up front. Hurst has only four career starts, but he's coming off a season in which he had 11 ½ tackles for loss in a rotational role, and he's ready to be a star.
58. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Edmunds provided spark to the Hokies defense as a high-energy, disruptive athlete with a knack for big plays and being around the ball. A second-team All-ACC pick as a sophomore, Edmunds racked up 18 ½ tackles for loss, 106 tackles and an interception in his first year starting.
57. Cameron Smith, LB, USC. After a fantastic freshman year was cut short by an injury, Smith returned to an All-Pac-12 level as a sophomore, leading the Trojans with 83 tackles. Smith once had three interceptions in one game against Utah as a freshman and has more than proven himself as a well-rounded standout at middle linebacker.
56. Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State. The powerful Nnadi gives Florida State a reliable senior leader in the middle of its talented defensive front. Nnadi had 10 ½ tackles for loss last season, a first-team All-ACC performance, and his return is key as the Noles try to replace the pass rush production of DeMarcus Walker around him.
55. Vita Vea, DT, Washington. The return of the 346-pound Vea will make it a lot easier for Washington to stomach the early loss of Elijah Qualls. There's still a ton of talent in this defensive front, and it starts with the massive Vea, a second-team All-Pac-12 choice even though he started only five games.
54. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State. With 10,888 career passing yards already, Falk has a chance to join Graham Harrell in the 15,000-yard club among Mike Leach quarterbacks. (Case Keenum, Timmy Chang, Landry Jones and Ty Detmer are also in it.) Falk has completed 68.8 percent of his passes in his career, and he's led Wazzu to its best two seasons since the run of three straight top 10s from 2001-03.
53. D.J. Reed, CB, Kansas State. Another juco transfer making a big impact for a Bill Snyder team, Reed actually began his career at Fresno State, and after a juco stint, he made an immediate impact at Kansas State, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors with 16 pass breakups and three interceptions, plus late-season success as a kick returner.
52. Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida. The biggest reason why South Florida is viewed as the frontrunner for the Group of Five's major bowl bid, Flowers had Lamar Jackson-like rushing numbers last year, with 1,530 yards (7.7 per attempt) and 18 touchdowns. He also passed for 2,812 yards and 24 TDs, leading the AAC in passer rating. Flower led the Bulls to their first top-25 season, and he can lead them to their second one, too.
51. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The 329-pound Nelson has excelled as a starting guard the past two seasons on stellar Notre Dame offensive lines, bringing nastiness to the Notre Dame line at left guard. He teams with tackle Mike McGlinchey to form the best offensive line duo in the country.
50. Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. Jackson has never had a great O-line but has thrived with three straight thousand-yard rushing campaigns, including 1,524 yards and 15 TDs last year. While only 193 pounds, Jackson has shouldered a hefty load with 855 career carries, showcasing toughness and an impressive ability to create for himself.
49. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. A two-year starter, the 6-foot-8 McGlinchey has grown into one of the nation's top left tackles, one coveted by the NFL.. He moved from right tackle to left tackle last year, seamlessly replacing Ronnie Stanley, and he's one reason to expect a breakout season from new QB Brandon Wimbush.
48. Trey Adams, OT, Washington. Just as Jake Browning has grown as a quarterback, his left tackle has grown with him. Adams and Browning formed a tackle-QB pair as true freshmen in 2015 and are both All-America candidates as juniors in 2017. The 6-foot-8, 320-pound Adams has started 24 games in two years, becoming a first-team All-Pac-12 performer last season for an offense that improved to 10th in yards per play.
47. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia. The five-star recruit has amassed 358 tackles in three years, finishing with at least 115 each season, plus six career INTs. He's a three-time All-ACC pick with a decorated college career that will somewhat surprisingly continue for a fourth season, giving UVA a trio of defensive stars with LB Micah Kiser and DL Andrew Brown.
46. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Something's been missing from the Ohio State offense since Tom Herman left, and the hope is that the addition of Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator will unlock this offense's potential. Barrett averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt with a 61.7 percent completion percentage last year. He still rushed for 845 yards and threw only seven interceptions, and the hope is that chemistry will develop between Wilson, Barrett and a new crop of receivers to open up the passing attack for a talented player who finished fifth in the 2014 Heisman race.
45. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. He wears the same number, 97, as his older brother, and he might play like him, too. Like Joey, Nick was a five-star recruit. Like Joey, Nick made an instant impact as a freshman. The younger Bosa had had five sacks in 2016, flashing big-time ability as part of a rotation on a crowded line.
44. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami. There's no better returning receiver in the ACC than Richards, a rising star with clear NFL potential. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore was easily the nation's top freshman wideout, hauling in 49 passes for 934 yards -- 19.1 yards per catch -- and three TDs. He'll make big plays no matter who the new QB is.
43. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon. With 4,148 yards, Freeman is the active career FBS rushing leader. He had his best season as a sophomore, with 1,838 yards, 17 TDs and an average of 6.5 yards per carry, but he saw his production drop last year with injury problems behind a patchwork O-lin. A healthy Freeman will be the centerpiece of new coach Willie Taggart's first Oregon offense, one that will be deeper.
42. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia. Kirby Smart indicated that Chubb wasn't 100 percent last year, and that's no surprise. A superstar his first season and a half, Chubb suffered a brutal knee injury in October 2015. He made a quick recovery and played all 13 games last year, rushing for 1,130 yards, but after averaging well over seven yards per carry his first two seasons, he dropped to five. If he's healthier, and if the O-line improves, Chubb is still an All-America talent.
41. Braden Smith, OL, Auburn. Smith played a huge role in the emergence of Kamryn Pettway as a star at tailback last year, blasting open holes with an overpowering style of play. While he's mostly played guard, Smith spent the spring at right tackle, and he could be the SEC's top blocker regardless of which position he plays.
40. Ronald Jones, RB, USC. With a career average of 6.3 yards per carry, Jones feels a bit underrated, as he's rushed for 2,069 yards and 20 TDs over two seasons but should get more carries this year with Justin Davis gone. Explosive and quick, Jones had a big second half of last season and gives the Trojans a star-studded backfield for 2017.
39. Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia. After a medical problem resulted in Thompson leaving school in the spring, Kirby Smart said that the talented defensive lineman is ready to return from shoulder surgery. The No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2015, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Thompson flashed that high potential last year, with 56 tackles and 9 ½ tackles for loss, including three bowl sacks.
38. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State. Named the Big Ten's defensive lineman of the year, the senior Lewis is the most experienced of the Buckeyes' absurdly talented collection of defensive ends. He forced three fumbles and led the team with eight sacks, the second season in a row that he's hit that mark.
37. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State. Everybody already knew about star tailback Saquon Barkley; McSorley was a revelation, taking the reigns of the offense from Christian Hackenberg and proving to be an excellent fit for new coordinator Joe Moorhead. With mobility, the ability to expend plays and a fearless desire to push the ball downfield, McSorley averaged 9.3 yards per attempt with 29 TD passes and only eight INTs, helping to spark a Penn State resurgence that resulted in a Big Ten championship.
36. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan. The No. 1 recruit in 2016, Gary looked like a star when given a chance. He just had to deal with a crowded Michigan depth chart. With just one starter returning to the Wolverines' defense, it's time for a new wave of impact players to emerge. Nobody on the roster is a more enticing prospect than Gary.
35. Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss. The 225-pound Haynes is one of the toughest matchups in the country off the edge. He's undersized, but at the college level, his quickness off the edge poses huge problems for opposing lines. Haynes has led the Rebels in sacks and tackles for loss three years in a row, with 24 ½ sacks in his career.
34. Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas. Another year, another nationally acclaimed offensive lineman playing for Bret Bielema. Arkansas' line wasn't dominant last year, but Ragnow certainly is dominant, a 319-pound senior who has started 35 games in his career and is on track for All-America honors as a senior.
33. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Two years ago, defensive end Kevin Dodd broke out and stole the show in the playoff. Last year, Ferrell pulled off a similar feat, with six tackles for loss in Clemson's final three games. Ferrell was a redshirt freshman, so, unlike Dodd, he's back to follow up on that breakthrough on a loaded D-line.
32. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas. A budding superstar as a freshman, Jefferson -- like the rest of the Texas defense -- didn't have as strong of a season as hoped as a sophomore, but his talent and upside are undeniable. A five-star recruit in 2015, Jefferson had 61 tackles and will become a more consistent star under the new coaching staff as he shifts back outside as a junior.
31. Iman Marshall, CB, USC. With celebrated all-around athlete Adoree' Jackson off to the NFL, the USC secondary belongs to Marshall. A five-star recruit, Marshall has performed admirably in two seasons, starting 25 games with three INTs each year and a total of 17 pass breakups. Marshall is more than ready for USC's top corner role.
30. Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa. The Hawkeyes' leading tackler in back-to-back seasons, Jewell has been a reliable star, now owning 301 career tackles and 14 ½ tackles for loss. He also had four interceptions in 2015, and he continues to be an impact player both attacking the run and in pass coverage.
29. Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Tide lost Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson, but there is a proven starter back in Payne. Alabama never runs out of talented defensive linemen, and Payne, a 319-pound junior, is coming off a stellar starting debut in which he had 36 tackles for yet another dominant run defense.
28. Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn. After barely playing in 2015, the 235-pound Pettway broke through as an All-SEC star in 2016, racking up 1,224 yards and seven TDs on the ground despite getting carries in only nine of the Tigers' 13 games. He was unstoppable in the middle of the season, and he's in line for even bigger things with Auburn owning a stellar line and an improved passing game after the arrival of Jarrett Stidham.
27. Tavarus McFadden, CB, Florida State. McFadden tied for the national lead with eight interceptions as a sophomore, and he also had six pass breakups and three tackles for loss in a breakout season after he barely played as a freshman in 2015. Derwin James isn't the only All-America talent in this FSU secondary.
26. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Alexander's sophomore season is best remembered for the 69-yard punt return touchdown in the rout of Florida State, but his chief value to Louisville was as a lockdown corner. He had five picks and nine pass breakups for a stellar Cardinals defense, and teams won't throw at him often.
25. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. If Alabama's passing game expands under new coordinator Brian Daboll, the biggest beneficiary will be Ridley. Ridley is capable of being one of the nation's top big-play receivers; he just didn't get as many opportunities last year and ended up averaging 10.7 yards per catch. Ridley has 161 catches in two seasons, and he's a complete, polished wideout.
24. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Ben Davis stepped into a tough situation as a freshman quarterback for SMU, but he had one advantage that few QBs anywhere in the country could match: the presence of Sutton. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Sutton has both an NFL build and NFL skills, and he's coming off a spectacular sophomore season in which he hauled in 76 passes for 1,246 yards and 10 TDs, averaging 16.4 yards per catch.
23. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. There's no more physically imposing college lineman than Brown. The 6-foot-8, 360-pound junior has started all 26 games at left tackle the past two years and was named Big 12 offensive lineman of the year in 2016. Brown has protected Baker Mayfield in back-to-back big seasons and also opened holes for the prolific running duo of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.
22. Billy Price, C, Ohio State. Price has the ability to do exactly what Pat Elflein did for Ohio State last year: go from All-American guard to All-American center. Elflein, in fact, won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, and Price, who has started 41 straight games, may be the leading candidate entering his senior year.
21. Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia. A two-time first-team All-ACC pick and two-time leading tackler for the Cavaliers, Kiser returned for his senior season after amassing 134 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5 ½ sacks, seven pass breakups, five forced fumbles and an interception, proving to be a productive all-around playmaker yet again.
20. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Rosen averaged 8.3 yards per attempt with 1,915 yards, 10 TDs and five picks in six games in a sophomore season lost to a shoulder injury and problems with his supporting cast. A potential No. 1 NFL Draft pick, Rosen took a beating from opposing defenses, as the Bruins' offensive line, running backs and coordinator all struggled. Rosen's season ended in October with a shoulder injury. He's trying to bounce back healthy under the direction of new coordinator Jedd Fisch, who came in from Michigan to fix a long list of things that went wrong. Rosen is still as gifted a passer as any quarterback in the country.
19. Jake Browning, QB, Washington. After showing potential in an uneven freshman year, Browning made a big leap as a sophomore, along with the rest of the Huskies in a playoff season. A shoulder injury hindered Browning's play late in the year, but he threw 43 TDs and only nine INTs, completing 62.1 percent for 3,430 yards. Browning was dominant before the injury, and if he's back to 100 percent, he's capable of being as efficient as any quarterback.
18. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State. The leader of a talented, experienced defensive line that makes the Wolfpack a sleeper, Chubb is in no way flying under the radar individually. A second-team All-ACC pick as a junior, Chubb had 21 ½ tackles for loss, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles, making him an enticing pass rush weapon in the eyes of the NFL.
17. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rudolph decided to return for his senior season after throwing for 4,091 yards, 28 TDs and only four INTs, with an average of 9.1 yards per attempt, for an offense that finished fourth among Power Five teams in yards per play. Baker Mayfield is the state of Oklahoma's top Heisman candidate, but Rudolph is poised for a huge senior season throwing to the nation's top receiving corps.
16. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College. The Eagles continue to build stellar defenses, and Landry gives them a superstar senior pass rusher who easily could have made the leap to the NFL after last season. Landry led the nation with 16 ½ sacks and seven fumbles, and he also intercepted a pass and broke up four more. The 250-pound Landry is a terror off the edge and is capable of back-to-back All-America seasons.
15. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama. Two things stand in the way of Scarbrough becoming the third Alabama running back under Nick Saban to make a Heisman runner: health and competition for touches. Scarbrough has only 125 career carries, but he made the most of his opportunities late last season -- especially with 180 yards vs. Washington -- before breaking his leg during the national title game. Even if he's 100 percent, Scarbrough shares a backfield with thousand-yard rusher Damien Harris, productive running QB Jalen Hurts and five-star true freshman Najee Harris, plus Joshua Jacobs and B.J. Emmons. The flashes of talent from the 235-pound Scarbrough have, however, been otherworldly.
14. Connor Williams, OT, Texas. Williams has helped turn the Longhorns offensive line from weakness to strength, immediately sliding into the starting lineup at left tackle as a freshman. He's gone from freshman All-American to All-American in two years, serving as a reliable pass protector while also helping to pave the way for D'Onta Foreman's 2,000-yard season on the ground.
13. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson. Wilkins' fun versatility -- catching fake punt passes, blocking in goal-line packages -- can overshadow just how good he is purely as a defensive lineman, whether he lines up at tackle (freshman) or end (sophomore). Wilkins can play anywhere, and he's coming off a season at end in which he had 13 tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups. He's a high-energy, productive player in any role.
12. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M. An instant-impact freshman in 2015, Kirk has been a dynamic weapon since he arrived in College Station. Over two similar seasons, he has hauled in a total of 163 passes for 1,937 yards and 16 TDs and returned five punts for touchdowns. Kirk is a natural receiver with great hands, and he's also a big-play threat after the catch, which is what makes him so dangerous on returns, too.
11. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Fitzpatrick has effortlessly moved around the Alabama secondary, shining as a nickel corner, an outside cornerback and a safety. He shifted to safety after Eddie Jackson's injury last year, and he may stay there this fall. Wherever he is, he's an All-America performer who has intercepted eight passes and returned four of them for TDs in two years. He's the top player on another absurdly talented Bama defense.
10. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. Washington could have easily decided to turn pro, but he jointly announced with Mason Rudolph that he'd be back for his senior season. A big-play threat with great ball skills, Washington averaged 19.4 yards per catch last year, catching 71 passes for 1,380 yards and 10 TDs. The Cowboys have a deep receiving corps that will allow them to spread the ball around, but nobody commands targets like Washington.
9. Arden Key, DE/LB, LSU. Key took a leave of absence in the spring and is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but Ed Orgeron said at SEC media days that Key is expected to be ready. Key is the most valuable edge rusher in college football, an explosive talent who has rare speed off the edge. While bulking up will be essential in the NFL, Key had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles last year and returns as the top candidate for SEC defensive player of the year.
8. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. We are already well aware of what Leonard Fournette's replacement is capable of. With Fournette limited by an ankle injury, Guice led the SEC in rushing, piling up 1,387 yards and 15 TDs on 183 carries. The 212-pound junior has averaged 7.8 yards per carry over two seasons, proving to be a consistent big-play threat who runs with shiftiness and some power to make him dominant in space.
7. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Mayfield finished fourth and third in the Heisman race the past two seasons, forming a prolific partnership with play-caller Lincoln Riley, who's now the head coach. Mayfield loses his best weapons, but he's still playing in a Riley offense behind a veteran line. Last year, Mayfield set the FBS single-season passer rating record (196.4), completing 70.9 percent and averaging 11.1 yards per attempt with 40 touchdowns. The big plays may decline a bit, but Mayfield has a good chance of making a run back to New York.
6. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. The Tigers have produced so much D-line talent that it can be hard to stand out, but Lawrence had no such difficulty, immediately. As a true freshman, the five-star recruit looked like an All-America talent and potential top draft pick. A second-team All-ACC selection, the 340-pound Lawrence had 62 tackles and nine tackles for loss as part of one of the nation's most dominant defenses. His potential is unlimited.
5. Sam Darnold, QB, USC. After taking over as starter in Week 4, Darnold lost once, then led USC to nine straight wins capped by a phenomenal Rose Bowl. Darnold looked like a future NFL franchise quarterback as a redshirt freshman, completing 67.2 percent for 3,086 yards, 31 TDs and nine picks. Big and mobile, Darnold can move the pocket, throw on the run and fit passes into tight windows. A potential No. 1 pick playing quarterback for a playoff contender at USC sounds like a Heisman recipe.
4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. For two years, Barkley has broken off highlight-reel run after highlight-reel run, gliding past, spinning around, running through and even leaping over defenders, making it all look effortless with his rare blend of athleticism and size. Now, he's in a newly respected and experienced offense that sets the table for a massive junior campaign behind a deeper O-line. Every game brings at least one stunning highlight, but one run in the Rose Bowl says it all:
3. Derwin James, S, Florida State. A knee injury cost James most of his sophomore season, but he returned healthy in the spring and is ready for a massive season before presumably heading to the NFL. A safety who looks like a linebacker and can cover like a cornerback, James is a freakish athlete who can do it all for the Seminoles defensively. As a true freshman in 2015, the 6-foot-3 James racked up 91 tackles, 9 ½ tackles for loss and five pass breakups, shining it whatever role Florida State asked him to fill.
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The Heisman Trophy winner had over 5,000 total yards -- 3,543 passing, 1,571 rushing -- and 51 total touchdowns. He did this despite playing behind a flawed offensive line, and despite drops from receivers. Jackson's sophomore production was absolutely Heisman-worthy, and he's still a developing player in terms of accuracy and decision making. Jackson is an electric quarterback with the type of athleticism rarely seen from anyone at the position. The scary part is that it's possible for him to get even better.
1. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. Rarely can a strong argument be made for a Group of Five player being the best in college football. There are several worthy candidates for the honor, but there's no doubt that Oliver makes a compelling argument. A five-star recruit who chose to play for his hometown Cougars, Oliver made an immediate impact as a true freshman, looking like the best player on the field in Houston's Week 1 win over Oklahoma last September. He played all over the Houston line that game and had two sacks, and he didn't let up the rest of the year: He had 66 tackles, 22 ½ tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two sacks for a defense that ranked 13th in yards per play. Oliver shined in Houston's most high-profile games, too, adding a dominant performance against Louisville to the big night against Oklahoma. He was a freshman who looked nothing like a freshman, a Group of Five player who looks like he should be starting in the NFL right now.
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