Matt Connolly

25 best players in the SEC

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7)
LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) USA TODAY Sports

1. Leonard Fournette

Jr., RB, LSU

The Heisman hopeful put up incredible numbers his first two seasons at LSU, rushing for 2,987 yards despite the Tigers not having much of a passing game.

2. Nick Chubb

Jr., RB, UGA

He is coming off an ACL tear but if fully healthy will be one of the top backs in the country. Chubb played in 19 games as a freshman and sophomore and topped the 100-yard mark in 13 of them.

3. Myles Garrett, Jr.

Jr., DE, A&M

Perhaps the top pass-rusher in the nation, Garrett recorded 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles as a sophomore.

4. Chad Kelly

Sr., QB, Ole Miss

In his first season starting for the Rebels, the former Clemson QB passed for more than 4,000 yards, rushed for 500 yards and finished with 41 total touchdowns. Kelly led Ole Miss to a 48-20 win over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.

5. Calvin Ridley

So., WR, Ala.

The Florida native appears to be following in the footsteps of Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, receivers who flourished at Alabama before being top draft picks in the NFL. Ridley set the Alabama single-season freshman receiving record last year with 1,045 yards.

6. Jonathan Allen

Sr., DE, Alabama

Part of a dominant defensive front for Alabama, Allen led the Crimson Tide in tackles for loss with 14.5 and sacks with 12 as a junior.

7. Jalen Hurd

Jr., RB, Tenn.

The physical rusher has already accumulated 2,187 rushing yards in two seasons at Tennessee and is a big reason why the Vols enter the 2016 season with lofty expectations.

8. Cam Sutton

Sr., CB, Tenn.

Sutton, who has started all 38 games in his career, surprised many by returning for his senior season. In addition to being a shut-down corner he also led the nation in punt return average at 18.7.

9. Jalen Tabor

Jr., CB, UF

As a sophomore he did not get the attention of his teammate Vernon Hargreaves but had a better year statistically with 14 pass breakups, four interceptions, four tackles for loss and a sack.

10. Minkah Fitzpatrick

So., CB, Ala.

The Freshman All-American is a playmaker at cornerback and on special teams and was a big part of an Alabama defense that helped the Crimson Tide win a national title last year.

11. Derek Barnett

Jr., DE, Tenn.

He recorded 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons and had 20.5 tackles for loss in 2014 as a freshman.

12. Cam Robinson

Jr., OT, Ala.

As a sophomore the All-SEC selection helped lead the way for Derrick Henry to win the Heisman and helped the Crimson Tide to a national title.

13. Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Sr., LB, Tenn.

Started every game as a sophomore and junior and is a tackling machine, finishing with more than 100 each of the past two seasons.

14. Christian Kirk

So., WR, A&M

Made an immediate impact as a freshman, leading the Aggies in receptions with 80, receiving yards with 1,009 and touchdowns with seven. He should continue to put up big numbers.

15. Antonio Callaway

So., WR, UF

The Miami native led the Gators in receiving as a freshman with 678 yards and returned punts for a touchdown against LSU and Alabama.

16. Zach Cunningham

Jr., LB, Vandy

The best player on a Commodores defense that is underrated, Cunningham was among the SEC leaders with 103 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2015.

17. Marquis Haynes

Jr. DE, Ole Miss

A bit undersized at 6-3, 222 pounds, Haynes makes up for it with his speed that he uses to beat tackles around the edge. He led the Rebels with 16.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a sophomore.

18. Fred Ross

Sr., WR, MSU

Was named All-SEC last season after breaking the school record for receptions with 88, 100-yard games with five and consecutive 100-yards games with four.

19. Charles Harris

Jr., DE, Mizzou

The latest stellar defensive end from a program that continues to produce talent at the position, Harris led the SEC in tackles for loss with 18.5 as a sophomore.

20. Arden Key

So., DE, LSU

The former South Carolina commit appears poised for a breakout year after finishing with 6.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in eight starts as a freshman. Key improved as a freshman and was playing his best at the end of the season.

21. Jamal Adams

Jr., S, LSU

A fierce hitter who always seems to be around the football, Adams recorded 133 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four interceptions his first two seasons.

22. Carl Lawson

Jr., DE, Auburn

Has not lived up to expectations due partly to injury after arriving at Auburn as one of the top recruits in the country, but if he stays healthy he has the talent to be dominant.

23. Josh Dobbs

Sr., QB, Tenn.

A threat with his arm and legs, the Vols are averaging more than 34 points per game in his past 19 starts. Dobbs is a big reason most are picking Tennessee to win the SEC East.

24. Tre’Davious White

Sr., CB, LSU

A key piece of a secondary that should be one of the best in the nation, White led LSU in pass breakups with seven last year despite quarterbacks being afraid to throw to his side of the field .

25. Dan Skipper

Sr., OT, Ark.

Skipper is massive at 6-10 and was part of a Razorbacks unit that allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC last season. He also helped pave the way for Alex Collins to run for more than 1,500 yards.