We ranked the SEC's Top 50 players in August. The final grades are in
Back in the preseason, we at Saturday Down South put our heads together to come up with Player Value Rankings in the SEC.
Instead of simply listing the Top 50 players in the conference, which is unimaginative — not to mention ubiquitous among media outlets — we wanted to take this annual argument to the next level. “Value” is such a nebulous term, of course.
There were many factors beyond actual talent that needed to be taken into consideration. To state the obvious, quarterbacks are more valuable than, say, linebackers. But digging deeper, all things being equal, is a junior pass rusher more valuable than a sophomore pass catcher? Or vice versa? It’s a deep rabbit hole.
Needless to say, our Top 50 ended up being chock full of home runs, strikeouts and every baseball analogy in between. College football is a lot of things. Predictable, however, isn’t one of them. That’s why we love it.
Let’s review and grade SDS’s Player Value Rankings, all in their original positions from 50-1. Additionally, one hindsight-is-20-20 omission is listed for all 14 teams in the league.
50. Arkansas TE Jeremy Sprinkle (Sr.) — He definitely had a good season for the Razorbacks with 33 catches for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns, but there were better tight ends in the SEC this year. Grade: B
49. Georgia DE Lorenzo Carter (Jr.) — He led the Bulldogs with 4.0 sacks, but it’s safe to say that he hasn’t lived up to his billing as a five-star recruit and certain first-round draft pick. Grade: C-
48. Kentucky C Jon Toth (Jr.) — He’s not the best center in the conference. That’s Ethan Pocic of LSU. Still, Toth was a week-to-week standout and helped pave the way for a fantastic ground game. Grade: A-
47. Auburn DE Byron Cowart (So.) — The No. 1 high school player in America two years ago, he’s totaled 12 tackles in two seasons for the Tigers. Like with Carter, the recruitniks got it wrong. Grade: D+
46. Vanderbilt S Oren Burks (Jr.) — Moving from safety to more of a hybrid linebacker position for the Commodores, Burks was once again a good player. Not great, but a pretty good one. Grade: B
45. Missouri P Corey Fatony (So.) — He raised his average from 42.9 yards per attempt a year ago to 43.9 this season, but he only finished fifth in the league and 22nd nationally. Grade: B
44. Florida G Martez Ivey (So.) — While the Gators have been brutal more often than not along the offensive line since coach Jim McElwain arrived, Ivey is worthy of All-SEC consideration. Grade: A-
43. Auburn DT Derrick Brown (Fr.) — Among his 11 total tackles were 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Unlike Cowart, the 330-pounder appears to have a very bright future on The Plains. Grade: B
42. Texas A&M S Donovan Wilson (Jr.) — After picking off 6 passes a season ago, he only got his hands on 1 this year. His tackles and tackles for loss took a dip, too. Grade: B-
41. Auburn G Braden Smith (Jr.) — He’s a fine player and helped the Tigers run the rock awfully well most of 2016, but teammate Alex Kozan turned out to be the better blocker at guard. Grade: B
40. Florida K Eddy Pineiro (So.) — Living up to his YouTube hype, he made 18-of-22 attempts on field goals and was a perfect 27-of-27 on extra points. The Gators have themselves a kicker. Grade: B+
39. Alabama TE O.J. Howard (Sr.) — He still isn’t featured in the offense as much as he should be, but he’s a force of nature in the open field when he does get his hands on the pigskin. Grade: B
38. Missouri DE Walter Brady (So.) — Right before the start of fall camp, he was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Mizzou wasn’t nearly as nasty off the edge as a result. Grade: F
37. LSU S Jamal Adams (Jr.) — With the exception of interceptions, his numbers were pretty much the same across the board from 2015. He only had 1 INT, though. Last year, he recorded 4. Grade: B+
36. Missouri DT Terry Beckner Jr. (So.) — A season ago, he registered 8.0 TFLs as a true freshman. This year, that figure fell to 2.0. He might not be all the way back from 2015’s knee injury. Grade: C
35. Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight (Sr.) — A graduate transfer from Oklahoma, he led the Aggies to a fast start and a No. 4 ranking. However, inaccuracy and injuries caught up to him in the end. Grade: B-
34. LSU RB Derrius Guice (So.) — With Leonard Fournette hobbled here and there, Guice finished second in the conference with 1,249 yards rushing. He’s primed for a monster 2017 as the starter. Grade: A+
33. Georgia S Dominick Sanders (Jr.) — Compared to last year, his tackles took a nosedive from 48 to 31. His interceptions were also cut in half from 6 to 3. The ball just didn’t find him. Grade: B-
32. Tennessee S Evan Berry (Jr.) — For the second season in a row, he led the league in kickoff returns with an average of 32.9 yards per attempt. He also scored his fourth kickoff-return TD. Grade: B+
31. LSU DE Arden Key (So.) — One of the premier pass rushers in the SEC, he finished second in the conference in sacks with 10.0 and tied for seventh in tackles for loss with 12.5. Grade: A
30. Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson (Fr.) — Pulling off his redshirt with three games left on the schedule, he showed enough promise to suggest that he can be even better than Chad Kelly one day. Grade: B
29. Georgia WR Terry Godwin (So.) — One of the disappointments in a Bulldogs receiving corps that’s full of them, he only reeled in 37 passes for 394 yards and didn’t get into the end zone. Grade: C
28. Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (So.) — He tied for second in the league with 4 INTs, although 3 happened to come in the same game. Nevertheless, he returned one of them 100 yards for a TD. Grade: A-
27. Florida DE Cece Jefferson (So.) — As a true freshman in 2015, he was responsible for 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Injured here and there, his numbers fell to 1.0 and 3.5, respectively. Grade: C+
26. Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Sr.) — The Vols really started to go into the tank defensively once he was lost due to injury. His senior campaign was cut short after four games. Grade: Incomplete
25. Georgia RB Sony Michel (Jr.) — While he had 100-yard games against South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt held him to 28 yards. Then he only got 2 facing Florida. Grade: B-
24. Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes (Jr.) — His total tackles went up in 2016, but his sacks and TFLs both went down significantly for what turned out to be a lousy Rebels defense. Grade: C+
23. Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb (Jr.) — Now the leading rusher in Commodores history after only three seasons, his yards, yards per carry and touchdowns are all up from 2015. On fewer carries, too. Grade: A+
22. Missouri DE Charles Harris (Jr.) — Brady got kicked off the team. Beckner didn’t blossom in Year 2. Still, Harris found a way to finish tied for third in the league with 9.0 sacks. Grade: A-
21. Kentucky CB Chris Westry (So.) — Following an impressive freshman campaign, he didn’t really make the leap as a sophomore. He was solid in 2016 but not a standout by any means. Grade: C+
20. Ole Miss OT Gregory Little (Fr.) — Pegged as the next Laremy Tunsil in Oxford, Little wasn’t nearly as effective directly out of high school. It took him awhile to crack the starting lineup. Grade: B-
19. Arkansas OT Dan Skipper (Sr.) — He was the most dependable blocker for a Razorbacks outfit that saw Austin Allen take too much punishment. The two blocked kicks were a nice bonus, too. Grade: A-
18. Alabama S Eddie Jackson (Sr.) — If not for a broken leg toward the end of the regular season, he’d be a no-brainer selection for All-SEC. He’s special with the ball in his hands. Grade: A-
17. LSU CB Tre’Davious White (Sr.) — After not picking off a single pass as a junior, he got his paws on a pair of throws as a senior and took one to the house. He also scored on a punt return. Grade: A
16. Tennessee DE Derek Barnett (Jr.) — A contender for Defensive Player of the Year, he led the conference in sacks (12.0) and TFLs (18.0). Even on an awful Vols D, he was incredible. Grade: A+
15. Kentucky RB Stanley “Boom” Williams (Jr.) — He matched his sterling yards-per-carry average of 7.1 from a year ago, but it’s possible that teammate Benny Snell was actually the better back. Grade: A-
14. Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham (Jr.) — A sideline-to-sideline enforcer who’s equally effective defending the run and the pass, he led the league in tackles by a healthy margin. Grade: A+
13. Florida WR Antonio Callaway (So.) — When the Gators actually get his mitts on the ball, he’s a threat to score every time. It doesn’t happen enough, though. He struggled returning punts, too. Grade: B-
12. Georgia DT Trenton Thompson (So.) — Not a nationally known name yet, he’s a handful along the defensive interior and saw his tackle, TFL and sack numbers all rise significantly from a year ago. Grade: A-
11. Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd (Jr.) — Arguably the biggest individual disappointment in the SEC, he stumbled his way to 3.7 yards per carry and then quit on his team midseason. Grade: F
10. Georgia QB Jacob Eason (Fr.) — While he flashed potential here and there, he finished last in passer efficiency rating among the 12 QBs in the conference who qualified. Still, the skills are there. Grade: C+
9. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk (So.) — He caught fewer passes for fewer yards than he did as a freshman, although he’s the only player in the country to score 3 touchdowns on punt returns. Grade: B+
8. Georgia RB Nick Chubb (Jr.) — With 222 yards in Week 1, he seemed to be all the way back from 2015’s knee injury. But he only had three more 100-yard games and didn’t always look like himself. Grade: B
7. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley (So.) — Similar to Kirk, Ridley’s receiving numbers as a sophomore didn’t match what he did in Year 1. Don’t question his explosiveness, though. He remains dangerous. Grade: B+
6. Florida CB Jalen Tabor (Jr.) — No Vernon Hargreaves, no problem for the Gators. Tabor tied for second in the league with 4 interceptions and shut down some pretty productive wideouts. Grade: A
5. Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs (Sr.) — It was a bumpy ride, but he finished as the top-rated passer in the SEC. Nevertheless, the Volunteers failed to win the East with a frustrating 8-4 record. Grade: B+
4. Alabama OT Cam Robinson (Jr.) — A finalist for the Outland Trophy, a closer examination of his game film suggests that he coasted on reputation. The week-to-week dominance hasn’t been there. Grade: B
3. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett (Jr.) — When he’s healthy, he’s the single most terrifying defensive force in the conference. A nagging ankle injury prevented him from being all he can be. Grade: B
2. LSU RB Leonard Fournette (Jr.) — A generational talent in the backfield, he too was forced to deal with a bum ankle most of the year. He still ran over Ole Miss to the tune of 284 yards. Grade: B
1. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly (Sr.) — A torn ACL cut his senior season short. Even when he was playing, he ping-ponged back and forth between high-octane and turnover-prone. Grade: B-
most egregious omissions
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts — The Crimson Tide are more multiple than ever in the running game, with the added dimension being his dual-threat abilities. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate as a true freshman.
Arkansas QB Austin Allen — Nobody was quite sure what to expect with him taking over for his older brother, but he can make all the throws and proved to be as tough as any quarterback in the SEC.
Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway — Originally buried on the depth chart, he eventually became the lead back for the Tigers and ran for 1,123 yards in just nine games before injuries caught up to him.
Florida CB Quincy Wilson — Tabor got most of the press in Gainesville at corner. However, Wilson came up with 3 interceptions and gave the Gators a pair of shutdown cover men in the secondary.
Georgia WR Isaiah McKenzie — Despite his 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame working against him at times, he caught 7 touchdown passes, had 2 more TDs as a rusher and even returned a punt 82 yards for a score.
Kentucky RB Benny Snell — Alongside the aforementioned Williams, UK is the only program in the conference to boast two 1,000-yard rushers. Snell was sensational less than a year removed from high school.
LSU C Ethan Pocic — The best center in the league, he was voted SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week on multiple occasions in 2016. The Bayou Bengals had room to run between the tackles thanks to him.
Ole Miss TE Evan Engram — He finished the regular season third in the league in catches (65), second in yards receiving (926) and tied for fifth in touchdowns through the air (8). What a weapon.
Mississippi State DT A.J. Jefferson — No defensive tackle in the SEC had more tackles for loss than Jefferson’s 10.5, and he did so for a Bulldogs defense that couldn’t supply him with an abundance of help.
Missouri WR J’Mon Moore — The only player in the conference to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier as a receiver during the regular season, he battled drops here and there but was still wildly productive.
South Carolina DE Darius English — The Gamecocks lost their best defensive player, Skai Moore, prior to Week 1. English still managed to record 9.0 sacks off the edge, which tied for third in the league.
Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara — While Hurd might not have been an ideal fit for UT’s scheme, Kamara is. The Vols ran the ball so much better once Hurd’s carries were given to Kamara and John Kelly.
Texas A&M S Justin Evans — Even if the Aggies fell apart defensively toward the latter part of the schedule, he was all over the field with 85 tackles, 4 INTs and 6 additional passes defensed.
Vanderbilt DT Adam Butler — He’s a big reason why Cunningham doesn’t have to fight off too many blocks from snap to snap. Butler also got into the act with 4.0 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.