Top 10 SEC players in the NFL in 2015
He’s the quarterback of the NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten team and a legitimate MVP candidate.
But the impact of Cam Newton’s special season with the Carolina Panthers runs considerably deeper. The fun-loving, former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Auburn has put “The Dap” squarely into American lexicon with lively touchdown celebrations that have become his calling card.
Newton, who enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons in college history while leading the Tigers to the 2010 national championship during his one season on The Plains, has guided Carolina to 17 consecutive regular season wins, dating to last season. The Panthers play at the New York Giants on Sunday.
Newton is hardly the only former SEC player playing big on Sundays. Here’s a look at the league’s 10 best former standouts in the NFL in 2015.
1. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton: The former Auburn star has completed nearly 60 percent (233 of 394) of his passes for 3,062 yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Newton also ranks second on the team in rushing with an additional 480 yards and seven scores.
2. Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones: It didn’t take long for the former Alabama star to blossom into the league’s best receiver. Jones has been a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for the Falcons. His 109 receptions and 1,426 receiving yards are both NFL-highs.
3. NY Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr.: The human highlight reel from LSU has become a SportsCenter regular with the amazing grabs he routinely turns in and a one-man, one-handed wrecking crew for opposing defenses. Beckham boasts 85 catches, but his 12 touchdowns are tops in the league and his 1,320 yards rank third.
4. Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green: The former Georgia star has established himself as one of the game’s best in recent years and has nothing to disprove that this season. Green is tied for ninth in the NFL with his 76 receptions for 1,169 yards and has played a big role in the strong start by the Bengals.
5. St. Louis Rams RB Todd Gurley: Gurley, a former Georgia standout, is fully healthy again and has proven himself to be the steal of the 2015 NFL Draft. His 975 yards rushing are good for fourth in the league, despite missing the first two games as he finished mending from the severe knee injury he suffered while playing for the Dawgs last year. Gurley already lists five games of at least 100 yards rushing and is getting better each week. He’s a contender for NFL Rookie of the Year.
6. Cincinnati Bengals FS Reggie Nelson: The former Florida star leads the NFL with eight interceptions and has played a key role in strengthening the Cincinnati defense.
7. NY Giants QB Eli Manning: The two-time Super Bowl champion and former No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft has had an erratic season, but has thrown 28 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions. The former Ole Miss star’s ability to consistently find Beckham is why Manning boasts 12 pass completions of at least 40 yards this year and 44 that covered at least 20 yards.
8. Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford: The former Georgia star and No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft has completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,409 yards to go with 24 touchdowns and 13 picks. Stafford needs to become more consistent, but the two-time Pro Bowler has nine touchdown passes to his credit with just one interception over the past three weeks.
9. Oakland Raiders WR Amari Cooper: There was never a doubt the former Alabama star would shine in the NFL, and Cooper has yet to disappoint in his rookie season. The three-time Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year candidate is second on the Raiders with 62 catches, while leading the team and ranking 12th in the league with 920 receiving yards. Cooper is on pace to become the first Raiders receiver to record a 1,000-yard season since Randy Moss in 2005.
10. Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap: The former Florida star already has a career-best 10.5 sacks this season to tie him for sixth in the league in that category. He was recently recognized as the Bengals winner for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award that recognizes a player’s off-field community service and playing excellence combined.