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Ranking the SEC's Top 40 Players for 2016

Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette

Another season, another loaded year for returning talent in the SEC. While the league is short on proven quarterbacks, there’s plenty of depth at defensive end, receiver and linebacker. LSU running back Leonard Fournette leads the way for Athlon’s projected top 40 SEC players for 2016, followed by Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. Defending champion Alabama has three players inside of the top 10, while Georgia running back Nick Chubb checks in at No. 9 after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2015.

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With the season approaching, Athlon Sports is taking a look at some of the best players in the nation within each conference. How did we come up with these rankings? Many factors were considered. Overall talent, production, level of competition, position importance and projected output in 2016 all factored into the rankings. These rankings reflect projection for 2016, not solely what players accomplished in 2015. Here’s a look at the top 40 players in the SEC for 2016:

Ranking the SEC's Top 40 Players for 2016

40. Dan Skipper, OL, Arkansas

Arkansas has three new starters on the offensive line, but coach Bret Bielema always seems to find the right mix up front. Skipper is the new leader in the trenches for the Razorbacks and enters 2016 with 34 career starts.

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39. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis was a standout performer as a true freshman in 2015 and is poised to rank as one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks this fall. The Miami native played in all 13 games last year (nine starts) and recorded 56 tackles, 11 passes defended and three interceptions.

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38. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

Michel is recovering from an arm injury suffered this offseason, but the junior is on track to return in 2016. When Nick Chubb’s 2015 season ended after the sixth game due to a knee injury, Michel took over the top spot in Georgia’s backfield and ensured there was no drop-off. Michel finished with 1,161 yards and eight scores.

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37. Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas

Hunter Henry left for the NFL, but Arkansas is still in great shape at tight end. Sprinkle caught 27 passes for 389 yards and six scores last year and is poised to emerge as the next standout tight end for the Razorbacks. Look for Sprinkle to double his receptions as the full-time starter.

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Related: College Football's Top 25 Head Coaches on the Rise for 2016

36. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Can Howard build off his performance (five catches for 208 yards and two scores) in the national championship win over Clemson?

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35. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

Engram has caught 38 passes in back-to-back seasons. He should see even more targets in his direction after the departure of Laquon Treadwell to the NFL.

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34. Fred Ross, WR, Mississippi State

Ross had a breakout 2015 season, catching 88 passes (second-most in the SEC) for 1,007 yards and five scores. He will be the top target in the Bulldogs’ passing attack once again.