I’m gonna give you a little spoiler.

In August, I’ll rank my top SEC players, regardless of position. We do offensive rankings, defensive rankings and then overall rankings.

No. 1 for the offensive rankings and overall rankings will be Brock Bowers.

Bold? Eh, not really. The Georgia tight end will be on every preseason All-America team in existence, and if he’s not, there’s grounds to message the author and ask if they either forgot Bowers or if they’re mentally stable for making such a glaring omission.

Let’s take it a step further.

Outside of returning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, I’d take Bowers over any returning player in America.

Bold? Well, let’s just say I’ve never banged the drum that a tight end was the best returning non-quarterback in the country. Then again, Bowers could opt out of the 2023 season — I’m absolutely not saying this and am merely presenting it is a hypothetical — and he’d still be in the discussion for the best tight end we’ve ever seen at the college level.

Before you say “well, he’s really just a receiver playing tight end,” let me ask you this: Have you watched how much pride Bowers takes in blocking? This was the guy that Georgia coaches were comparing to George Kittle before he ever played a college game. It shows. Of the 10 FBS tight ends who played at least 810 snaps in 2022, Bowers was the only tight end with a PFF run blocking grade north of 70.0 (it was 73.8). Bowers actually had the No. 10 run-blocking grade among Power 5 tight ends, which is an insane thing to comprehend with how well he does everything else.

It’s Bowers’ versatility that helped take Georgia’s offense to the next level under Todd Monken. Yes, Monken’s offense utilized tight ends in a highly effective way that helped Bowers to emerge. It’s fair to question if he’ll be set up for success in the same way under Mike Bobo, at least from a schematic standpoint. That’s not as much a knock on Bobo as it is a hat tip to Monken, who got so diverse with Bowers that he had him running end-arounds:

Ah, yes. You’re standard “75-yard touchdown run by the tight end.” Welcome to the world of Bowers, where that sort of thing can happen on a given Saturday.

Think that was just some well-blocked play? Fine. How about this catch over the middle, wherein Bowers had 2 defenders in front of him without really a lead blocker — Dillon Bell thought the pass was still in the air — and he still made the right moves to make both miss so that he could scamper for the remaining 50 yards:

That play came immediately after South Carolina lost its starting safety, and naturally, Georgia attacked that weakness with the best player on the field. Defending Bowers has proven to be a disaster. It’s the cliché thing you see thrown around too often about elite tight ends. That is, he’s too fast for linebackers and he’s too big and strong for defensive backs.

If you don’t believe the latter, perhaps you missed his final touchdown of 2022:

Bowers had a step on the defensive back, yet he made the right adjustment coming back to the ball and high-pointed it for 6. Not surprisingly, Bowers was No. 2 among FBS tight ends in contested catches. According to PFF, he also led all tight ends in receiving yards (942), yards after catch (472) and yards after contact (274).

To say that Bowers is already doing NFL things as a 19-year-old tight end would be an understatement.

Whoops. Did I say 19-year-old? He actually just turned 20 right after the SEC Championship … wherein he was Georgia’s leading receiver in a 50-point effort.

That’s the other part of this that needs to be discussed. In big games, Bowers has been at his best. In 2 seasons of SEC Championships and Playoff games, look at his game log:

  • 2021 vs. Alabama: 10 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD
  • 2021 vs. Michigan: 5 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD
  • 2021 vs. Alabama: 4 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD
  • 2022 vs. LSU: 6 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD
  • 2022 vs. Ohio State: 4 catches, 64 yards
  • 2022 vs. TCU: 7 catches, 152 yards, 1 TD
  • Total: 36 catches, 527 yards, 5 TDs

If you just averaged that out over a 13-game season, Bowers would have 1,142 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. And again, those are the biggest games of Georgia’s season.

Why did the Dawgs average 46.6 points against teams who finished in the AP Top 25? Like, besides the fact that Stetson Bennett IV was phenomenal? It was because when the bright lights were on, Bowers flipped that switch into overdrive.

That’s not to say Bowers only shows up in the big games. He’s been as durable and as reliable as they come. After 3 blowout wins to start the 2022 season, Bowers never played fewer than 49 snaps in a game. Why?

Because. He. Blocks.

That’s why Bowers doesn’t just kick out wide and line up in the slot. Of his 851 offensive snaps, 40% of them were inline. Whether that’s the case with Bobo calling plays remains to be seen.

All we know for now is that Bowers is as accomplished of a player as there is in the sport. I suppose you could argue that Williams winning the Heisman automatically gives him the title of “top returning player in the sport,” though I’d argue what Bowers did for a pair of national championship teams at least puts him in that discussion.

If I got to pick a team for the 2023 season, Bowers would the first non-quarterback off my board. Yes, even ahead of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Blake Corum.

Bowers impacts the game in more ways and those aforementioned big-game performances tip the scales (he led the country in receiving yards vs. AP Top 25 finishers). I say that as someone who believed Harrison was incredible before leaving the Peach Bowl with a concussion, but because he hasn’t played in a conference championship yet, his big-game experience is still lacking.

You’d think Corum has plenty of big-game experience given Michigan’s consecutive Big Ten titles and Playoff berths, but he was either hurt or second fiddle like he was in Michigan’s 2021 backfield (Hassan Haskins had nearly twice as many carries that year). You can’t tell me a non-pass catching back has a greater impact than Bowers. As outstanding as Corum is as the nation’s top returning back, he got to operate behind the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line the last 2 years.

I’d expect all 4 — Corum, Harrison, Williams and Bowers — to be unanimous preseason All-Americans. I wouldn’t be surprised if underclassmen like Joe Alt and Harold Perkins were also unanimous, as well.

But Bowers is already a generational player at the position. His career could end today and he’d already be a College Football Hall of Fame selection. He’s not even draft-eligible and he already has more career receiving touchdowns than Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow Sr. combined. Bowers has more career receiving yards than the great Keith Jackson and he’s 97 scrimmage yard from passing Ozzie Newsome.

There’s no doubt that he’ll be remembered as one of the best to ever play the position at the FBS level. Whether Bowers finishes his college career as the tight end G.O.A.T. remains to be seen.

For now, he’ll have to settle for my ever-elusive “best returning player not named Caleb Williams” title.