Power Ranking the Top 10 players in the SEC after Week 1
A week of football season instead of talking season means big changes to the top 10 players in the SEC list. Of course, some of the changes are as predictable as death, taxes and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. What did we get right during the talking season? It’s too early to tell for sure, but a small sampling suggests that Alabama has a quarterback, Kirby Smart’s front seven isn’t of this world, Wan’Dale Robinson is, in fact, going to make Kentucky fun offensively for the first time since the Andre Woodson era, and whether it was Bo Pelini or Daronte Jones is the coordinator, LSU is going to find a way to make all that talent look underachieving on defense.
This and other week 1 action — I think Tyler Badie just gained another 20 yards — make for a fun top 10 players list.
If you are new here: This isn’t a list of the top 10 NFL Draft prospects. Those lists are all over the internet and if you need that, Google dot com has you covered. This list rewards productivity and playmaking and will continue to do so until the end of the season.
Also, if your favorite player or your team’s best player isn’t on this week’s list, it is almost certainly because I don’t respect your program or its coaching staff or because your favorite team somehow wronged me when I was a small child and I haven’t forgiven them for doing that. It is personal, and that’s why every other great player from every other team in the best conference in college football managed to make my list of 10 players. Mindful of the fact that everyone on earth who is good at SEC football should make the top 10, SDS accumulates a list of “Honorable Mentions” beginning in Week 3. If your favorite player isn’t on that list, he’s obviously not that good. Sorry, I’m not sorry.
Expect more changes in Week 2, as our sample size grows larger. Here’s the preseason list, should you care about such things.
10. Blaze Alldredge, LB, Missouri
The graduate transfer from Rice was a 2-time first-team All-Conference-USA selection and the only real question when he committed to Missouri was whether he’d handle the step up in competition to the SEC.
The jury is still out on that, but he was certainly ready for Central Michigan. Alldredge tallied 3.5 sacks and added 10 tackles as the Tigers staved off a Chippewas upset bid, 34-24.
We find out just how well Alldredge will adjust to outstanding SEC competition against Kentucky this weekend, but you can’t leave the SEC sacks leader out of the top 10 list after Week 1.
9. Dontario Drummond, WR, Ole Miss
Drummond was a touchdown machine last season, collecting 7 touchdowns despite only 25 receptions. With the departure of All-American Elijah Moore, the door was open for a new leading man in Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s offense. Drummond seized the moment Monday night, catching 9 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown and showing off some tremendous athleticism making catches like this one:
One of two wide receivers on this week’s list (no argument if you think LSU stud Kayshon Boutte should be here, too), Drummond should continue to feast this week when the Rebels open at home against Austin Peay.
8. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Elam was targeted only 3 times Saturday night, surrendering 1 catch. On that play, Todd Grantham mysteriously elected to play his All-American corner 10 yards off the ball.
Result of the play. 13 yard gain and first down on a simple out because the best corner in the SEC playing 10 yards off. Saw this all last year too. Imagine Bama playing this far off on 3rd down. pic.twitter.com/JBnvMPwIk6
— Derek (@_DTyson) September 6, 2021
On a weekend when Derek Stingley played so poorly that Pro Football Focus rated 356 corners ahead of him and he put this woeful blown coverage and missed tackle on film, Elam is the lone corner still on this list. He’d go higher if he were put in a position to show just how dominant he is a bit more often.
7. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
A quarterback finds his way to the list for the first time in 2021 and you’ll be stunned to know he plays for Alabama.
Paul Finebaum declared Young the “Heisman favorite” after Week 1, which strikes me as Pawwwl being Pawwwl but honestly, at this point would another Alabama Heisman winner surprise you?
Young’s 344 yards and 4 touchdowns came in career start No. 1 against one of the better defenses in the country a season ago. Obviously, the Canes missed the NFL-bound defensive ends who helped make that 2020 group so dominant, but Manny Diaz has recruited well defensively and The U was still a stern test for a quarterback in his first collegiate start.
Young didn’t just ace the test, he made you think that this version of Alabama, the one hit by colossal personnel losses offensively, might still be as scary as the one that steamrolled most everyone in their path on their way to the national title in 2020.
6. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The consensus preseason All-American fought off double teams all afternoon and still collected 5 tackles and a sack in the Aggies’ 41-10 season opening win over Kent State. Colorado, a team with 8 returning starters on offense, and an elite running back in Jarek Broussard, will be a stiffer test, but like the Golden Flashes, the Buffs don’t have anyone who can block Leal.
Then again, who does?
5. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean was instrumental in a turn back the clock Junkyard Dawgs type performance by Georgia in the 10-3 win over Clemson. Dean had 5 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 QB pressures and was by far the best-dressed man entering the stadium.
When Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean walked into the stadium tonight, I knew he was either going to record the finest free jazz album of all time or 12 sacks against Clemson. pic.twitter.com/7A58bCYu5v
— Jerad Walker (@jeradwalker) September 5, 2021
Nolan Smith got the bulk of the preseason press, but Dean is Georgia’s best playmaker at the position.
4. Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
Catalon frequented this list as a freshman and returns after Week 1 in 2021. Catalon had 11 tackles and 2 interceptions as Arkansas pulled away from a competitive Rice team late. Catalon was a huge recruit for the Hogs and has paid dividends for Sam Pittman since the moment he stepped on campus. A natural ball hawk, Catalon has become a leader as well. Saturday’s game, which saw All-American Grant Morgan and team captain Bumper Pool dismissed on targeting calls, was the latest sign of Catalon’s growth. The sophomore put the Hogs’ defense on his back, rallying the team with 2 interceptions after Arkansas fell behind by 10 points.
“You need your good players to play well and be leaders on the sideline and that’s what Cat did,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “He’s a ballplayer, man.”
Actually, he’s one of the SEC’s 10 best ballplayers.
3. Wan’dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
The hype is real.
The former Mr. Football from Kentucky was always going to be the Wildcats’ X-factor on offense when he transferred back to the Bluegrass State from Nebraska last winter, but it was tough to buy too deeply into the Lynn Bowden Jr. comparisons without seeing it in the flesh.
Robinson tallied 580 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns in addition to 91 catches for 914 yards and 3 more touchdowns at Nebraska; on Saturday, he looked capable of that and more for Kentucky in 2021. The Cats didn’t even use him as a runner — that’s coming, folks — and he still accumulated 125 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Wan'dale Robinson gonna be fun to watch in this Kentucky offense in 2021! pic.twitter.com/obL8svMB5e
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 6, 2021
He plays with a nastiness that begets someone of much bigger stature too, which is always something football fans should appreciate. It’s going to be fun to watch him this season.
2. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis moves up 6 slots to second after dominating Clemson’s offensive front Saturday evening. If you want to know how the Bulldogs held the Tigers to 2 yards rushing, it begins with Davis. Clemson simply couldn’t get their power run game going with multiple defenders trying to occupy Davis. Georgia’s linebackers are just too good to not exploit the numbers advantage that creates. The junior added a sack and 2 tackles for loss in addition to being the centerpiece of Georgia’s run defense.
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) September 5, 2021
I don’t think anyone in college football can block him. And the postgame interview he gave was big-time too.
1. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
But protecting the blindside of a quarterback making his first collegiate start against one of the better front 7s in college football is, you know, important, and Neal made sure Young wasn’t bothered Saturday afternoon. Pressures on Neal’s side? Zero. Rushing success rate on Neal’s side? 75%. These are the types of numbers that give Neal a chance to be the first SEC player drafted next spring — and why he tops the list of best players in the SEC as the league enters Week 2.