Top 25 SEC players in the NFL
The NFL season kicked off Thursday night with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Houston Texans, but Sunday marks the first full day of NFL action.
No matter where you look this fall, there will be plenty of former SEC stars making big plays for their teams on Sundays. The SEC continues to dominate the NFL Draft on a yearly basis, and it shows when it comes to ranking the NFL’s best players.
Who are the best former SEC stars in the NFL? Let’s take a look at some guys who have stood out above the rest, starting with a few honorable mentions.
Honorable mentions: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Baltimore Ravens (Alabama); Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Alabama); DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Ole Miss); Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens (Alabama)
25. Todd Gurley II, RB, Atlanta Falcons (Georgia)
In years past, Gurley would have been much higher on this list. However, after nagging injuries limited his effectiveness last year, it will be interesting to see if he can bounce back in 2020.
24. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders (Alabama)
Jacobs is a rising star on this list after only 1 season in the NFL. If I had to guess, I’d say he climbs into the top 20 by this time next year.
23. Fletcher Cox, DL, Philadelphia Eagles (Mississippi State)
Cox recorded 10.5 sacks in 2018, but only 3.5 in 2019. He would be a bit higher on this list if he were a bit more consistent. Still, there’s no denying he can change a game when he’s at his best.
22. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns (LSU)
It was actually Landry, not his former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr., who led the Browns in targets (138), receptions (83), yards (1,174) and touchdowns (6) in 2019. He should be ready for another big year in 2020.
21. Darius Slay, CB, Philadelphia Eagles (Mississippi State)
Slay is with a new team this fall after spending the first 7 years of his career with the Detroit Lions. He has made the Pro Bowl the past 3 seasons, so we’ll see if he can keep that streak going in Philly this year.
20. Preston Smith, Edge, Green Bay Packers (Mississippi State)
19. Za’Darius Smith, Edge, Green Bay Packers (Kentucky)
The Smiths (no relation) teamed up to turn the Packers’ defense into a formidable unit last season. I give Za’Darius the slight edge because he had 13.5 sacks last year, compared to a measly (just kidding) 12 sacks from Preston. Preston had a 56-55 advantage in tackles, but Za’Darius had more tackles for a loss (17-11) and more QB hits (37-23).
18. Chris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs (Mississippi State)
Not only is Jones one of the NFL’s best run-stuffers, he also provides plenty of pass rush up the middle. He recorded 9 sacks in 13 games last season after recording 15.5 sacks in 2018.
17. Danielle Hunter, DL, Minnesota Vikings (LSU)
Hunter is one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL. He hasn’t missed a game in the past 4 seasons and has started every contest for the Vikings for the past 3 years. He’ll start this year on IR, but that will possibly only keep him out of the first 3 games. In 2018 and 2019, he recorded 14.5 sacks each season. His consistent pass rush is a big reason why the Vikings’ defense has been so stout. Even if he only plays in 13 games this year, he’ll still produce at a high level.
16. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Alabama)
The Cowboys’ offense is expected to be one of the NFL’s best in 2020, thanks in large part to Cooper. He had 1,189 yards and 8 touchdowns last year and could be even better in 2020.
15. Jadeveon Clowney, DL, Tennessee Titans (South Carolina)
Clowney now has a new team after spending last year with the Seattle Seahawks. It wasn’t his best year, but he still has an immense amount of talent. We’ll see if playing on a Super Bowl contender with a strong defense like the Titans gets him back to his full potential.
14. Myles Garrett, DL, Cleveland Browns (Texas A&M)
Garrett only played in 10 games last year due to suspension, but he was super productive in those games, recording 10 sacks and 18 QB hits. He’s a force of nature when he’s healthy and will continue to rack up the sacks when he plays.
13. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns (LSU)
In OBJ’s 6 seasons in the NFL (5 with the New York Giants, 1 with the Browns), he’s eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark 5 times. The only time he didn’t was 2017, when he only appeared in 4 games. He’s a game-changing talent who frequently makes highlight-reel catches. Baker Mayfield and the Browns are going to need him to play like a superstar this fall.
12. Laremy Tunsil, OL, Houston Texans (Ole Miss)
Tunsil signed a record-breaking deal for an offensive lineman in April, and he’s certainly earned it. Now, we’ll see if he can continue keeping Deshaun Watson’s blind side clean as the Texans take the field in 2020.
11. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills (LSU)
White was just given a huge extension from the Bills, and it’s easy to see why. Per Pro Football Focus, White had 599 coverage snaps last season and didn’t allow a single touchdown:
White’s 2019 coverage stats :
🔹 599 cover snaps
🔹 0 TDs allowed pic.twitter.com/t9vE9MFomc
— PFF (@PFF) September 5, 2020
That’s elite defense. White will try to prove he’s worth every dime of that new contract starting this fall.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 7, 2020
10. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (Georgia)
Our fourth and final Cleveland Brown on the list comes to us from Georgia. Chubb is an absolute stud. In 2 seasons in Cleveland, Chubb has run for 2,490 yards and 16 touchdowns. There’s an argument to be made that Chubb is the best player on Cleveland’s loaded offense, and I certainly agree with that assessment.
9. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (Alabama)
The Miami Dolphins sent Fitzpatrick to the Steelers for a 2020 first-round pick and, based on the production Fitzpatrick had in 2020, that’s a trade the Steelers would make 10 times out of 10. He had 5 picks, a forced fumble, 2 defensive touchdowns and 57 tackles in 14 games in Pittsburgh. He’s one of the best young safeties in the game and will be a huge asset for the Steelers moving forward.
8. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City Chiefs (LSU)
If you only look at the numbers, No. 8 might seem like it’s too high for the Honey Badger on this list. However, Mathieu’s impact goes far beyond the box score. Yes, he put up 75 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks and 12 pass breakups last season, but he also helped the Chiefs defense take a step forward from awful to Super Bowl-worthy. He’s a team leader and a playmaker, and he’s worth every penny the Chiefs are paying him (and then some).
7. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (Mississippi State)
Prescott has actually gotten a bit of MVP buzz heading into the 2020 season. I don’t necessarily think he’ll win that award, but he has plenty of weapons around him in that loaded Dallas offense to put up some incredible numbers. The Cowboys are going to regret not locking him up to a long-term deal before this season.
6. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints (Tennessee)
In 3 NFL seasons, Kamara has never eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, but he has put up more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage each campaign. He’s even more dangerous as a receiver than as a runner. Since that’s the way the NFL is trending, he’s a tremendous asset to have on your team.
5. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Texas A&M)
Evans has been in the NFL for 6 years and has gone over 1,000 receiving yards each season. Last year, despite appearing in only 13 games, he amassed 1,157 yards and 8 touchdowns. Now, he gets to play with the legendary Tom Brady, so we’ll see if his numbers improve even more.
4. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots (South Carolina)
Gilmore is one of the best defenders in the NFL. In fact, he is coming off a season in which he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He snagged 6 interceptions, which tied for the league lead.
I love what Gilmore brings to the table and I’d have him even higher on this list, but he turns 30 on Saturday. If you look at the history of elite cornerbacks past the age of 30, it’s not pretty. If anyone can continue to dominate, it’s Gilmore, which is why he’s still so high on this list.
3. Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks (LSU)
Adams forced his way out of New York, and moving from the Jets to the Seahawks should help his career immensely. The former LSU star is one of the best (if not the best) safeties in the game today. He’ll look to start the next Legion of Boom in Seattle.
2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (Alabama)
Henry basically carried the Titans’ offense to the AFC Championship Game last season, running for a league-high 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns (tied with Green Bay’s Aaron Jones for the league lead). He’s just hitting his stride and should have a few more elite seasons left in him.
1. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Alabama)
Though Jones has never led the NFL in touchdown receptions, he has led the league in receptions once, receiving yards twice and yards per game 3 times. No player has ever finished with 2,000 receiving yards in a season, but if anyone was going to do it in 2020, it’d be Jones. I expect huge things from the former Alabama star.