by Eric Fulton
With college football’s 2016 season kicking off this weekend, this is shaping up to be a fantastic year all around. Although last year’s Heisman winner Derrick Henry has moved on the to the National Football League, there is still plenty of star power in the college game.
Here are my 10 best players in college football, including the finalist who I believe will be invited to New York City in December.
1. Leonard Fournette (Running Back, LSU)
Through the first two years at LSU, he has been everything advertised. Early last year, he was the frontrunner until he ran into Nick Saban and Alabama’s Defense. This year he is ready to make a loud roar. In doing so, he will lead the Tigers to not only the SEC, but a berth in the College Football Playoff. That would cement his place as one of the greatest running backs of all-time in college football history.
2. Christian McCaffrey (Running Back, Stanford)
The Cardinal running back had an outstanding 2015 that compared him to another Stanford running back who was also a finalist for the Heisman, Toby Gerhart in 2009. McCaffrey is poised to make 2016 an even better season with him leading the charge for not only a Pac-12 title, but a national title as well.
3. DeShaun Watson (Quarterback, Clemson)
Watson and the Tigers had a magical season in 2015 until they lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Watson will have to be even more spectacular than the year before in order to lead Clemson back to the playoff. If he does that, he will make a return trip to New York.
Players who have a shot of going to New York- These are the players whose teams are in contention to not only win their conference, but also have the opportunity to lead their team to a College Football Playoff berth. That would make their case for an invite to New York City.
Baker Mayfield (Quarterback, Oklahoma)
Mayfield left after one season at Texas Tech and he probably does not regret making that choice. Mayfield helped the Sooners win the Big XII last year with high expectations of a repeat. Can Mayfield deliver once again in big games? If so, he and Oklahoma could have a date with destiny.
Chad Kelly (Quarterback, Ole Miss)
Kelly will likely be the first quarterback to be taken in next year’s NFL Draft. He came off an amazing season leading the Rebels to a Sugar Bowl victory. Now can he do something at Ole Miss that has not been done in a long time, win the SEC? I’d say he and the team have a chance. One major concern for Kelly is who will be his new best target with LaQuan Treadwell going to the NFL?
Dalvin Cook (Running Back, Florida State)
The Seminoles will open the season starting a freshman quarterback in Deondre Francois. Cook is one of the best running backs in college football. If he can take pressure off the young quarterback, he and Florida State will once again have a special year to remember.
Jabrill Peppers (Linebacker, Michigan)
Peppers is the only defensive player on my list. It also does not hurt to be versatile as he plays not only linebacker, but also defensive back and wide receiver. I believe there once was a guy who did the same thing for Michigan in the mid-to-late 1990s and ended up winning a Heisman. Does Charles Woodson ring a bell to anyone?
Players who probably won’t be invited to New York, but could make things very interesting with great individual and team seasons.
Joshua Dobbs (Quarterback, Tennessee)
Dobbs is one of the better athletic quarterbacks in all of college football. He has the size and speed to make a great quarterback on Sundays. Can he lead the Volunteers into the promise land of the SEC for the first time in a long time?
J.T. Barrett (Quarterback, Ohio State)
Last year, Barrett was a part of the three headed quarterback competition in Columbus. Now that Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller have both moved on, Barrett will be handling the starter duties in Urban Meyer’s offense for the Buckeyes, who are once again favorites in the Big Ten.
Nick Chubb (Running Back, Georgia)
Chubb was lost for the season after a devastating leg injury in last season’s loss at Tennessee. If he can be the explosive running back he once was prior to the injury, Kirby Smart’s first year as head coach could be a memorable one.