The 2016 college football season is just around the corner. With several great players moving on to the NFL, including Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, the door is open for new players to step up and prove themselves. Which players are going to step up? Who is going to have a breakout season? Which players are going to lead their team into the College Football Playoff? Let’s dig in on my list of the Top 10 Players Entering the 2016 CFB Season!
10. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (So.)
2015-16 Stats: 292/487, 3670 YDs, 23 TDs, 11 INTs
It may be a little bit of a stretch here, but Josh Rosen has one of the highest upsides in all of college football. A natural pocket passer, Rosen led UCLA to eight wins. He had a solid first year at UCLA despite being only a true freshman. Coming back, he will feel more comfortable having a year under his belt. I think he will drastically improve his efficiency this year with a decrease in interceptions. He is a potential dark horse for the Heisman this fall.
9. JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 93/147, 992 YDs, 11 TDs, 4 INTs; 115 CAR, 682 YDs, 11 TDs
While JT Barrett missed significant amount of time last fall due to a suspension and a split of time with Cardale Jones, he still was a major threat on the field. Coming back this season, Barrett will look to match his numbers from 2014, for which accounted for 47 touchdowns, playing in only 12 games. He will also be asked to take a bigger role on the offense will Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Braxton Miller, and Michael Thomas all moving on to the NFL. Ohio State will build their offense around Barrett, making him an early favorite as Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year in 2016.
8. Jabrill Peppers, CB/S, Michigan (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 45 TKLs, 5.5 TFL, 0 INTs; 18 CAR, 72 YDs, 2 TDs
While his numbers aren’t as impressive as another player on this list, Jabrill Peppers is one of the best athletes in college football. Ranked by many the second best recruit coming out of high school, Peppers has proved to be every bit of exciting as we expected. For this reason, Michigan does their best to get him on the field; whether it is his natural defensive position, a return man, or even a ball carrier on the offense. I think he will make a tremendous leap this season on the defensive side of the ball. Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in college football, and will bring the best out of him in the 2016 CFB season.
7. Desmond King, CB, Iowa (Sr.)
2015-16 Stats: 72 TKLs, 8 INTs, 1 TD
The 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner elected to return to Iowa for his senior season. King was a ball hawk all season long, wracking up 8 interceptions, good for 2nd best in the country. He was the best player for an Iowa team that finished 12-2 in 2015. King is also an effective return player, setting up his offense in good situations each time he touches the ball. It may be tough for King to match his numbers in 2016, but he is still one of the best cornerbacks in the nation.
6. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 229 CAR, 1691 YDs, 19 TDs; 24 REC, 244 YDs, 1 TD
Dalvin Cook is one of the most underrated players in college football. After becoming more of a piece in the offense in 2015 after the departure of Jameis Winston, Cook was very tough to stop. He is a tough runner with good break away speed. Although he had a poor performance in their bowl game, he had several great moments of 2015. One game to look at is the rivalry game against Florida, where Cook rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns against one of the best rushing defenses in the SEC. Ultimately, Cook will be a major factor in helping Florida State contend with Clemson for the ACC Championship.
5. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 59 TKLs, 19.5 TFL, 11.5 SKs, 1 INT
Ranked the highest defensive player on the list, Myles Garrett deserves every bit of recognition. Listed at 6’5″ and 260 pounds, he is the best edge rusher in the country. He has been dominating this position since his true freshman season at Texas A&M. Many, including myself, believe Garrett will be a top 5 pick come the 2017 NFL Draft when he is eligible. Either way, Garrett is going to enjoy his time giving quarterbacks in the SEC nightmares over the next season.
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (Sr.)
2015-16 Stats: 269/395, 3700 YDs, 36 TDs, 7 INTs; 141 CAR, 405 YDs, 7 TDs
Baker Mayfield has one of the best stories in college football. After becoming the starting quarterback of Texas Tech as a true freshman from walking-on, he had a good season even though he missed significant time. After making the move to Oklahoma and sitting out a year, Mayfield took over full duties as the Sooner play caller. He had a tremendous season, leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. After just coming up short as a Heisman Finalist, look for Mayfield to do his best to make it to New York next year. Mayfield is a well-trusted leader that will give everything he has to get Oklahoma back into the postseason.
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 300 CAR, 1953 YDs, 22 TDs; 19 REC, 253 YDs, 1 TD
While Leonard Fournette may have been overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, he was still a dominant force in the SEC. With little help on the offensive side of the ball, Fournette carried this LSU team to a very good start to the season. Watching Fournette play, it is hard to find any weaknesses. He has tremendous size and can run away from some of the fastest defensive backs. Also, he have proved to run through most linebackers in between the tackles. There has been speculation that Fournette may sit out this year in order to preserve himself for the NFL, but I don’t think it is true. He is a serious contender for the Heisman in 2016, so expect another big year from this guy.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 337 CAR, 2019 YDs, 8 TDs; 45 REC, 645 YDs, 5 TDs; 15 PR, 130 YDs, 1 TD; 37 KR, 1070 YDs, 1 TD
The numbers just keep increasing for this guy. It was hard to argue that Christian McCaffrey wasn’t the most exciting player of the season. He broke NFL legend Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards, accounting for a staggering 3864 yards. He posted 368 yards in the Rose Bowl (also a record) in a blowout win against Iowa. McCaffrey lines up all over the field and can beat you in so many ways. He is easily the best player in the Pac-12 this fall, and coming up just short on our list as number one. He is a serious threat for any team and is likely the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy winner in 2016.
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Jr.)
2015-16 Stats: 333/491, 4104 Yds, 35 TDs, 13 INT; 207 CAR, 1105 YDs, 12 TDs
After watching the National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson, it was clear that Watson may have been the best player in college football LAST year. After putting up 40 points against the best defense in the land, Alabama, Watson showed us how good of an athlete he is. After punishing opponents with his arm and legs all season long, he continued to do it on the biggest stage, despite being only a sophomore. Even though he came up short, the Heisman finalist led the Tigers to a 14-1 record. Also, Clemson is a likely favorite as the preseason number one team next season. Watson is a smart player with good leadership. Going into the 2016 CFB season, he is the best player that will be walking on the fields on Saturdays.
Agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Key: YDs = Yards, TDs = Touchdowns, CAR = Carries, REC = Receptions, TKLs = Tackles, TFL = Tackles For Loss, INTs = Interceptions, SKs = Sacks, PR = Punt Returns, KR = Kick Returns