Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports asked me and several other college football aficionados to rank who we thought were the best players in the SEC going into the season. We were told that we could use any criteria we wanted for our lists. My list was made with the future in mind, ranking players based on how well I thought they would perform this year. You can check out the results here.
My rankings looks a bit different from our combined list, though. Here's how I voted.
15. Duke Williams - WR - Auburn
He's big, he's fast, and he's back on the team. Behind Sammie Coates last season, D'haquille was able to rack up 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns. This year, he'll be handed the reigns of Auburn's potent air attack, and I'm confident in his ability to at least match - and possibly surpass - Coates' production.
14. Alex Collins - RB - Arkansas
He's a Bret Bielema running back. With Jonathan Williams lost for the year, he should see an even bigger portion of the carries. Also, he's a Bret Bielema running back. He's running behind a MASSIVE, experienced offensive line, and he's a Bret Bielema running back. Basically, he's got all of the ingredients for an impressive statistical season as a Bret Bielema running back.
13. Derek Barnett - DE - Tennessee
I'm a bit lower on Barnett than some of my colleagues, but that isn't because I don't think he's a special player. The Vols are going to have a stellar defensive line, which means the sacks and tackles-for-loss are going to be harder to come by for Barnett. He'll still be a force up front, but less so as an individual.
12. Laquon Treadwell - WR - Ole Miss
Treadwell could certainly finish the season much higher on my list, it all depends on how well he bounces back from the gruesome leg injury he suffered last season. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has said multiple times that Treadwell would be at 100 percent this year, but I'll withhold judgement until we see him in-game. That said, a Treadwell at 75 percent would be the number one receiver for a lot of teams in the conference.
11. Kentrell Brothers - LB - Mizzou
The SEC's leading returning tackler falls outside my top ten and isn't even my highest-rated linebacker. @ me, #DisrespectTwitter.
Jokes aside, I'm much higher on Brothers than my colleagues, and it's not because I'm looking at him through my black and gold shades (those broke in 2012 along with the bones of so many Missouri football players). Kentrell is an aggressive linebacker that attacks the ball well and possesses the athleticism to excel in coverage. That doesn't really separate him from the pack of talented SEC linebackers, though. What does put him above (most) of the pack is the way that new defensive coordinator Barry Odom will use Brothers' skill-set. He's going to be active as hell all of the field, which should give him a legitimate shot at an All-SEC season.
10. Myles Garrett - DE - Texas A&M
Let me get this straight, the Aggies rewarded their freakishly athletic - and RIPPED - defensive end, fresh off a season where he set the single-season SEC freshman sack record, with John Chavis? You know, the former LSU defensive coordinator known for producing NFL-caliber pass-rushers on the regular? Is that really fair? How do I report this as a safety hazard? Uncle. UNCLE.
9. Reggie Ragland - LB - Alabama
He might not have been a first-round pick, but Ragland could certainly have declared for the NFL last year and heard his name called. Luckily for the Tide - unlucky for everyone else - he's back to lead what should be one of the best front sevens in all of college football. Ragland has a nose for the ball like few other players. He may even give Scooby Wright a run for his money in the forced fumbles department.
8. A'Shawn Robinson - DT - Alabama
Speaking of that front seven, its anchor should be pretty damn good too. In Robinson, you have a 300+ pound brick house that has previously lined up at defensive end for the Tide. Mizzou fans should be well acquainted with this man-monster. Unless, of course, they've completely blocked his nine tackles against the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game last season from their memory.
7. Pharoh Cooper - WR - South Carolina
Not only is Cooper possibly the best receiver in the conference, he also lays claim to the best twitter handle (@KingTutt_chdown). He did all for the Gamecocks last season, catching 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns; rushing 27 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns; and going 5-for-8 through the air for 78 yards and two touchdown. If you'll let him, he'll also walk your dog, do your taxes, and paint your back porch.
6. Laremy Tunsil - OT - Ole Miss
Tunsil is a grizzly bear in a human costume that Hugh Freeze tricked into playing football by promising him a never-ending supply of fresh salmon and a back-scratcher. He's an NFL starter playing collegiate football. He will maul you, then head to the second level and maul your linebacker.
5. Leonard Fournette - RB - LSU
Fournette is what happens when you breed an ox with a cheetah. He topped 1,000 yards last season as a freshman, and now he's back after spending an offseason working out and having his meals regimented by get-buff experts. As a Mizzou fan, I'm considering myself very fortunate that the Tigers don't have to unsuccessfully attempt to tackle this creature in 2015. Don't talk to me about 2016, I'll start crying.
4. Dak Prescott - QB - Mississippi State
Let me tell you all a story about a player named Tim Tebow. He quarterbacked Florida for a while a few years back, and he did a pretty swell job of it. Tebow was a big bruiser of a QB who was more than capable of trucking your starting middle linebacker, which can also be said about Prescott. Tebow took home the Heisman trophy in 2007 thanks in large part to his abilities as a player, but also thanks to the position that the offense he ran put him in. The man calling that offense was Dan Mullen, current head coach at Mississippi State. What is it that they say about history? That it tends to repeat itself? Well, those folks might want to pay attention to Dak this season. Time is a flat circle, after all.
3. Nick Chubb - RB - Georgia
What is there to say about Chubb that hasn't already been said by every media outlet in the business? He's real damn good. He's going to run for a lot of yards. He'll probably score a lot of touchdowns, too. Really, the only thing potentially holding him back is the witch's curse that Georgia seems to have picked up somewhere in its illustrious football history. As long as he can avoid that, Chubb is in line for a special season.
2. Robert Nkemdiche - DT - Ole Miss
HE'S COMIN'. Really though, he is. Nkemdiche was a force of nature last season, even if he didn't put up the gaudiest of numbers. There are very, very few people in college football that possess the ability to keep this man from eating their lunch, and he's going to be one hungry dude.
1. Vernon Hargreaves III - CB - Florida
How is Hargreaves only a junior? He's been so good for so long that it feels like he should be a redshirt senior. The Gators' offense may be in a large state of flux, but the defense will be just fine. That's largely because Hargreaves has the ability to turn half of the field into a no-fly zone. He's Darrelle Revis good. By that, I mean he's so intimidatingly talented that most offenses won't even test him. He won't have impressive numbers because he won't have the opportunity to record many, which is apt. He lives on a desert island where receivers get lost, never to be heard from again. It makes sense that statistics would be scarce.