With just five weeks until the start of the 2016 college football season, CBS Sports takes a look at the top players in the game -- the names you should know who will impact the outcome on the field and be featured on highlight packages all year long.
In conjunction with Beckett Sports, the top 50 players below are broken down in greater detail inside in our 2016 CBS Sports season preview magazine "2016 College Football 50 Impact Players" -- on newsstands now.
The top 50 was compiled through a voting average including ballots from CBS Sports senior writer Dennis Dodd; writers Tom Fornelli, Robby Kalland, Ben Kercheval and Chip Patterson; analyst Matthew Coca; and 247Sports.com's Chance Linton.
With that, let's take a look at the best players in college football.
50. Will Likely, CB/KR, Maryland: Heart over height. The 5-foot-7 cornerback is one of the most electrifying players in college football. Likely is a special talent when it comes to returning the football. As a junior, he totaled 1,197 kick return yards and led the Big Ten with an average of 17.7 yards per punt return. In his sophomore season, he broke Maryland's record for most interception return yards in a season (170) and interception returns for a touchdown (2). In his junior season, he had 11 pass breakups in his 11 games. -- Matthew Coca
49. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA: After playing in only game his junior season before tearing his ACL, Vanderdoes is back to make a statement. The 305-pound defensive tackle will be a difference maker for the Bruins, which lost linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Kenny Clark to the NFL. More of a run-stuffer than a pass-rusher, Vanderdoes should showcase his power. As a sophomore, he recorded 50 tackles -- including 5.5 for loss -- and was ready to make waves as a junior. He will be a leader for the defensive unit and should return and dominate opposing offenses once again. -- MC
48. Arden Key, DE, LSU: A fast, long edge rusher at 6-foot-6, 231 pounds, Key uses that length and a devastating first step to dominate. Like many tall defensive ends, he will play a bit too high at times and get stood up, but he's at his best when he gets good bend to get leverage and turn the corner on the tackle. His long strides and closing speed make him a threat on long, looping stunts to the inside while chasing down run plays as well. Paired with Lewis Neal, the two will cause serious problems for opposing offensive lines. -- Robby Kalland
47. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State: Walker is one of the most experienced players on FSU's defense its most producitve pass rusher with 10.5 sacks in 2015. His decision to come back for his senior season not only boosts the Seminoles' defense, but it provides an opportunity for him to improve on his draft stock. This past draft was heavy on defensive ends at the top. Another year in school can cement Walker as one of the best pass rushers in college football and in the 2017 draft. -- Ben Kercheval
46. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Despite running behind a poor offensive line as a freshman, Barkley rushed for 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. That was basically the best season any freshman running back has had in Penn State history, as Barkley broke or matched D.J. Dozier's marks from 1983. Oh, and he accomplished this while missing two games to injury. The expectations are raised for Barkley headed into 2016. Penn State's offense will basically revolve around Barkley this year, and he'll be the player that defenses key in on. -- Tom Fornelli
45. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pitt: One of the highest-rated recruits in program history, he lived up to all the hype and then some in 2015. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder opened the year as the backup strong safety before earning the starting job in Pitt's second game. An excellent athlete with a nose for the football, his playmaking ability shows up all over the field as he excels both against the run and the pass. He broke the school record for tackles by a true freshman, made plays behind the line of scrimmage and even saw some touches at running back. He'll spearhead the Panthers' defense. -- Chance Linton
44. Rueben Foster, LB, Alabama: The senior from Auburn, Alabama -- that's right, Auburn -- didn't solidify himself as a starter until his junior season in 2015. Foster didn't let go of the job, finishing No. 2 in tackles (73) and proving himself especially effective against dual-threat quarterbacks, like Clemson's Deshaun Watson in the national title game. Foster is the latest big name to emerge from Alabama's linebacker machine, and you can bet Nick Saban has some plans for him. -- Dennis Dodd
43. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee: Dobbs exemplifies "class act." Not only does he illustrate what it means to be a leader on the field, it's who he is off the field that makes him so special. The dual-threat signal caller had 11 rushing touchdowns to go along with his 15 scores through the air last season. The Volunteers will go as far as Dobbs leads them. Head coach Butch Jones has his best team to date in Knoxville, one packed with talent all over the field due to 18 returning starters, including Dobbs and two solid running backs. That trio is back again this season, which should scare almost every defensive coordinator on the schedule. -- MC
42. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: Clemson is coming off of one of the best seasons in school history, accomplishing that without their best wideout. Williams led the Tigers in receiving during his sophomore season, recording 57 receptions for 1,030 and six touchdowns. He was primed for an even bigger year but suffered a scary neck fracture after being pushed into a goalpost trying to secure a pass in the end zone in Clemson's opener. Williams, thankfully, is back for the Tigers in 2016, and his return makes this offseason that much better. -- MC
41. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: As good as Howard was toward the end of 2015 -- 44 percent of his season total receiving yards came against Michigan State and Clemson in the College Football Playoff -- he still has work to do to get to the next level. Being the best tight end in the 2017 draft could get him taken in the top 15 next year. For now, he'll have to get used to a new quarterback and tailback as Saban faces possibly his toughest rebuild at Alabama. -- DD
40. Budda Baker, S, Washington: Baker isn't big at 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, but he's tremendously productive and plays bigger than his measurables indicate. He's been starting since his freshman year when the Huskies had one of the most talented defenses from front to back in all of college football. Now a junior, Baker is a veteran defender on what could again be one of the better defenses in the country. He is versatile and simply does a lot of things right. Since Washington is an early preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 North, more eyes will be on Baker this season than ever before. -- BK
39. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson: Hyatt enrolled at Clemson last January expecting to serve as the backup to left tackle Isaiah Battle. But when Battle left the program, Hyatt was forced into the starting lineup. There were growing pains along the way, but the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder started all 15 games for the Tigers en route to a national championship appearance. He anchored an offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks all season and helped pave the way for a rushing attack that amassed over 3,300 yards on the ground, garnering consensus Freshman All-American honors and earning a spot on the All-ACC third team. -- CL
38. Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee: Hurd doesn't have to be the best in the country; he just has to be better. Going into his third season, the junior needs only 891 yards to become Tennessee's all-time leading rusher. Considering he's never rushed for fewer than 899 yards in a season (1,288 in 2015), that's a fairly safe bet. Look for offensive coordinator Mike Debord to feature him in Tennessee's run heavy offense. Quarterback Josh Dobbs is a dual talent threat, but Hurd can break your ankles at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. He was one of only 19 backs to average at least 20 carries last season. -- DD
37. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State: Last season, Falk led the nation with 380.1 yards per game. That was more than Jared Goff, who went No. 1 overall to the Rams, more than TCU's Trevone Boykin and more than Clemson's Deshaun Watson. Of course, Washington State throws the ball ... a lot. Because Pac-12 teams often play late at night (that won't be the case as much in 2016), it can be difficult for guys like Falk to get a lot of national publicity. In that way, he's perhaps the best quarterback in college football that nobody watches. -- BK
36. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State: After playing every game as a freshman in 2014, McDowell became a starter on the Spartans defense last year and caused plenty of havoc doing so. He finished with 41 tackles, including 13 for a loss, and had 4.5 sacks with eight quarterback hurries. His coaches say McDowell will be "everywhere" on the defensive line this season, and he'll have to be as the Spartans lost guys like Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath. McDowell is going to be the face of the Michigan State defenss, and he certainly has the talent and ability to become a household name in the college football world. -- TF
35. Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson: The oft-overlooked Gallman has been a core part of Clemson's offensive success since he took over the top spot in the backfield during the second half of 2014. Gallman took that momentum into 2015 and set the school's single-season rushing record with 1,527 yards, providing the perfect complement to Deshaun Watson in the backfield. Gallman's 283 carries in 2015 are a tribute to his workman-like mentality and durability, but Clemson is healthier and a little bit deeper at the running back position heading into the season, meaning he can tote it less and stay fresher ... which is dangerous. -- Chip Patterson
34. Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida: The big, physical corner is ready to step into the spotlight as Florida's top defensive back, which many believe he was already in 2015 despite receiving less attention than Vernon Hargreaves III. At 6-feet, 191 pounds, Tabor is a large corner and was a chameleon for the Gators in 2015, playing wherever they needed his impact on the field. Tabor is excellent at reading a play and reacting to it, breaking hard on underneath throws and screens to either make a play or disrupt the pass. He also has the top end speed to carry receivers down the field on deep routes and has the ball skills to make a play on a wayward pass. -- RK
33. Tim Williams, LB, Alabama: The best Crimson Tide defensive player no one has ever heard of. In the limited snaps he received at the outside linebacker position a year ago, he was arguably the best pass-rusher in the country. Buried in the depth of the scariest defensive line in college football in 2015, Williams finished second on the team and tied for ninth in the nation with 10.5 sacks. This season, he will take over full time and his production should be off the charts. A formidable force as a pass rusher, he is solid in stuffing the run as well. -- MC
32. Devonte Fields, LB, Louisville: Fields burst onto the scene at TCU and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman in 2012. His sophomore campaign was limited by injuries and then an assault charge led to his dismissal. When he resurfaced with the Cardinals after a year at Trinity Valley Community College, he lined up at linebacker as an edge rusher -- instead of at defensive end -- and got right back to being a frequent resident in the backfield of the opposition. At the end of the regular season, nobody had more tackles for loss in the country than Fields (22.5), who finished with the ninth-best single season sack total (11.0) in school history. -- CP
31. Pat Elflein, C/G, Ohio State: Guards have a tough job. They're basically fighting a man in a phone booth, and they can't move much to their right or left because they're surrounded by their own teammates. So they don't get a whole lot of credit overall, but believe me, while Ohio State had a very good offensive line last year, Pat Elflein was the best player on it. He will be again this year, too. -- TF
30. Jamal Adams, S, LSU: At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, Adams is a big, physical safety with the tenacity to disrupt opposing offenses up near the line of scrimmage in the run game, but he also possesses the speed and instincts required to shine as a ball-hawking defender in coverage. Following a tremendous freshman campaign, Adams was even better last season. He recorded a team-leading four interceptions and six pass breakups, finished third on the team with 67 tackles and added five tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He's arguably the best player on an LSU defense that may be the most talented in all of college football. -- CL
29. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State: While McMillan wasn't the Ohio State defender that got the most attention -- he wasn't Method Man, RZA or GZA -- he was a very important member of the unit, and he outshined his teammates at times, often dominating the track ... I mean play. He led Ohio State in tackles last season with 119 and was a Butkus Award (country's best linebacker) finalist. With many of OSU's top defensive players now gone, McMillan will take on an even larger role. It's one he's more than ready for as he's already been named a captain. It's time for Raekwon to put out his solo album. -- TF
28. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Mahomes is a walking, talking highlight reel. The junior has all the physical tools -- good size, big arm and mobility (to name a few) -- but he's just starting to touch the surface of what he can become. This is a player who had more than 5,100 total yards of offense in 2015 and was responsible for 46 touchdowns. Quarterback depth in the Big 12 has held Mahomes back from receiving great accolades, but he is quickly becoming a household name around Big 12 country. Thanks to several high-profile games in the second-half of the season, Mahomes can make some Heisman noise as well this season. -- BK
27. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: As a freshman, Rosen lived up to the hype of his five-star pedigree, throwing for 3,688 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also went 245 passes without an interception. He's so good, in fact, that the Bruins may very well be a Pac-12 dark horse because of him. Rosen has added 15 pounds to his 205-pound frame and wants to be at 230 when the season kicks. New coordinator Kennedy Polamalu is installing a more traditional attack, which may wind up benefitting Rosen in the long run. You'll be hearing his name plenty more. -- DD
26. Seth Russell, QB, Baylor: Before his season-ending neck injury, Russell was a touchdown machine. In seven games, he accounted for 35 touchdowns -- that's five per game -- and just north of 2,500 total yards. Granted, he had one of the better offensive lines in college football and a Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver in Corey Coleman, but Russell further showed that Baylor was indeed a plug-and-play quarterback factory. Russell is back and healthy. Baylor has plenty of problems, but quarterback is not one of them. -- BK
25. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: There isn't a place on the field where Kirk can't dominate. As a true freshman for the Aggies, he did about everything except throw the football. He hauled in 80 receptions for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns, averaged 4.9 per carry, and was unstoppable as a return man -- 24.4 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and 19.3 yards per kick returns. Kirk was electrifying every time the ball was in his hands, and he's now had a full offseason to get even stronger and faster. -- MC
24. Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State: Beginning college as a raw prospect, he started every game at left tackle in 2015. Johnson was then honored at the end of the year with the 2015 ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy, an award given to the league's top blocker as voted on by coaches and defensive coordinators. Johnson's presence should be enough for the offensive line to help Florida State reach its goals of ACC and national title contention. -- CP
23. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma: Perine is as tough as they come. A power back in the truest sense of the word, Perine -- all 234 pounds of him -- will run all over defenders with his thick build and low center of gravity. However, he has just enough wiggle and speed to make him a dangerous home-run threat. Perine made an instant impact as a freshman in 2014, leading the Big 12 with 1,713 yards. He battled through nagging injuries last season but still finished third in the conference with 1,349 yards on the ground and a Big 12-best 16 touchdowns. In the year of the running back in college football, Perine is one of the best. -- BK
22. Brad Kayaa, QB, Miami (FL): Kaaya looks to take another step in what has already been an impressive and productive college career. He's thrown for 6,436 yards and 42 touchdowns over the last two seasons and led the ACC in both passing efficiency and yards per attempt in 2015. There's a new regime in town now with Mark Richt taking over, and it looks like the 6-foot-4 Kaaya, now bulked up to 215 pounds, is on the verge of putting together his best season yet. Richt has promised to work more directly with the offense and quarterbacks than he did at Georgia, which is only good news for Kayaa. -- CP
21. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Ridley has already proven to be just as good as some of the top Bama wideouts he's followed. In his freshman campaign, Ridley pulled in 89 receptions (11 more than Julio Jones ever had in a season) for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. Now with a year of experience under his belt, Ridley should be an elite performer at his position. The one problem? The Crimson Tide's revolving door at quarterback. -- MC
20. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss: Kelly is the top returning quarterback in the SEC for 2016 after completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 4,042 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his first season with the Rebels. Kelly lost his top receiver as Laquon Treadwell departed for the NFL, but Ole Miss returns plenty of talented targets. His best attribute as a passer is his arm strength, which Hugh Freeze takes advantage of by stretching the field. Kelly was 13th in the nation in yards per attempt (8.8) in 2015, pushing the ball with regularity. He's not often thought of as a dual threat quarterback, but he's a more than capable runner (500 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2015). Kelly's athleticism and arm strength can work together as he's able to extend plays and drive the ball down field when coverages break down. -- RK
19. Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston: No one is more responsible for Houston's recent success than Ward, the converted wideout who took over at quarterback in 2014. In his first full season at QB under new coach Tom Herman, Ward engineered one of the nation's most potent offenses. A more capable passer than one might expect -- he is still improving -- Ward was still among the nation's most efficient quarterbacks in 2015, completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,828 yards, 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The run game is where the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder thrives as he rushed for 1,108 yards and a school-record 21 touchdowns. His big-play ability was consistently on display as he carried the Cougars to a conference title and a Peach Bowl win over Florida State. Houston's only loss? The game Ward didn't start due to injury. -- CL
18. Derwin James, S, Florida State: James is the kind of program-changing talent that most Power Five schools dream about, but in Tallahassee, he's just the next in a line of extraordinary defensive backs. James has the "it" factor. He was comfortable and successful in the team's defensive scheme immediately last year, flying around the field and using a combination of instincts and God-given athleticism to put themselves in the right place at the right time to make a play. James led FSU in tackles five different times as a freshman, and his ability to explode from the backfield and make plays behind the line of scrimmage (9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) makes him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. -- CP
17. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC: The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is one of the most physical receivers in recent memory as he seems to take pleasure in punishing defenders after the catch. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Dez Bryant, and they are especially similar once the ball is in their hands -- strong enough to power through tackles while possessing the speed and elusiveness to avoid them altogether. To say that Smith-Schuster was the key to USC's passing offense last season doesn't really do him justice; he was USC's passing offense, accounting for more than one-third of both the team's total receiving yards (1,454) and touchdown receptions (10) despite playing the final five games of the season with a fractured hand that required offseason surgery. Another huge season is on the horizon. -- CL
16. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: In 2016, Barrett is the Buckeyes' best player after seeing his starting job taken away (due to injury) and handed back (due to performance) over the last two seasons. Ohio State will be centered around a redshirt junior who himself is ready to go out as one of the Buckeyes' best players in the modern era and that should be comforting for Urban Meyer who has plenty of other holes to fill on his roster. Barrett was fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting as a redshirt freshman and could get right back to that level this season. -- DD
15. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: As a sophomore, Barnett emerged as one of the nation's premier pass rushers, leading Tennessee with 10 sacks -- 19th most in the nation -- plus 69 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Barnett is solidly built at 6-foot-3, 257 pounds and has some strength, but he's at his best working as a speed rusher. He's got a terrific first step and bends very well turning the corner to get leverage while getting to the quarterback around the outside of the tackle. Unlike some speed rushers, Barnett is very solid against the run and a true three-down player at defensive end. He's strong enough at the point of attack to set the edge when on the play side and his speed allows him to crash down the line to cut off cutback lanes and get tackles in pursuit when on the weak side. -- RK
14. Adoree Jackson, CB/WR/RS, USC: Jackson is a rare three-way player whose athleticism allows him to excel in every single phase of the game. The nation's most dynamic athlete, Jackson is a two-year starter at cornerback for the Trojans who moonlights at wide receiver and also serves as the team's primary return man. A cornerback first and foremost, Jackson's exceptional speed allows him to almost always be in position to make a play on the ball (84 tackles, 18 pass deflections in two seasons). One could argue that Jackson is an even better receiver because he is flat-out deadly with the ball in his hands (414 yards, two touchdowns on 27 receptions on just 157 snaps). It's more of the same on special teams as Jackson has combined for four return touchdowns over the past two years. -- CL
13. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan: There's a real chance that Lewis is the best cornerback in the country. He operated in relative anonymity in 2015 because he wasn't Jabrill Peppers, the five-star prospect who was a household name before arriving on campus. Lewis was phenomenal in 2015, earning All-American honors while breaking up 20 passes (five more than any Michigan player in a single season) with two interceptions (one pick six). Lewis has the ability to basically take away one-third of the field from the opposing offense. When you have a player who can do that, it makes everybody else's job so much easier. -- TF
12. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury in the sixth game of the 2015 season, ending a Heisman run. When he will return in 2016 is unknown, but should he make a full recovery, he'll be back to being among the elite running backs in college football. Chubb has all the tools you could possibly want in a back. He's got tremendous speed as a former track star in high school but is also built like a tank with powerful legs and a strong upper body. He packs all of that skill into a compact frame with a low center of gravity that makes him exceedingly difficult to bring down. Simply put, he was incredible prior to his injury and has every opportunity to get right back to his dominant form. -- RK
11. Desmond King, CB, Iowa: King was not a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but he became, in 2013, the first true freshman to start in Iowa's secondary since 2002 and has only continued to improve, taking things to the next level in 2015. King tied a school record with eight interceptions and broke up 13 other passes en route to winning the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football. He didn't limit himself to defense, either, as he served as Iowa's primary kick and punt returner as well. Still, even after accomplishing all of that, the highlight of King's season -- as far as Iowa fans are concerned -- may have been the day he announced he was returning for his senior year. -- TF
10. Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan: Peppers is not Michigan legend Charles Woodson. Jabrill Peppers is Jabrill Peppers, and trust me, being Jabrill Peppers is not a bad thing to be. Peppers arrived at Michigan with plenty of hype, ranked as one of the top high school players in the country in the 2014 class. His ascension to the throne of "Michigan Great" got off to a rocky start due to various leg injuries that forced a redshirt in 2014. Healthy in 2015, he proved the hype was not misguided.
Peppers spent time throughout the secondary, returning kicks and punts, catching passes, running the ball and even throwing it (once). He finished the year with 45 tackles (5.5 for loss), 10 passes defenses, 417 return yards, eight catches for 79 yards, 72 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. So, you know, he was somewhat versatile.
In 2016, he's going to take on a new role, which is impressive when you consider he's already played basically every position on the field already. He'll move to linebacker, which while he did not play it last season, won't be a difficult adjustment after playing up in the box so much last year. There aren't many players in college football who can go from sideline to sideline stuffing the run and then on the next play stay step-for-step with a receiver running a post up the seam, but that's what Peppers can and will do for the Wolverines in 2016. -- TF
9. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama: Robinson assumes the moniker of the nation's top left tackle, and it looks like he'll be playing from day one after seemingly avoiding a suspension for an offseason arrest in which charges were dropped. He's started every game over the last two years at left tackle and has all the size and skills one could possibly want at the position. Robinson is 6-foot-6, 327 pounds with tremendous strength and foot speed. Despite being a left tackle -- considered the pass side -- Robinson's biggest strength is as a run blocker. He is simply a force. Robinson is at his best when he's moving forward as he has excellent balance creates leverage in the run game. He's not simply a mauler, though; he's a dancing bear with the way he moves his feet and is able to chip and engage at the second level.
In the passing game, he has plenty of tape showing flashes of brilliant play, but you can't help but think he can be better with his technique on a consistent basis. Robinson has a strong punch and handles inside moves very well, but can struggle with rushers with multiple moves. If he can tighten up that technique in the passing game and become more consistent, he can live up to his lofty potential. With an inexperienced quarterback and a new running back stepping into the backfield, Alabama needs Robinson to be that dominant force in 2016. -- RK
8. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon: "Productive" is the word that best encapsulates Freeman's first two seasons at Oregon. One of the top running backs in the 2014 class, he made an immediate impact upon his arrival at Oregon, rushing for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns as a true freshman. That carried over into his second year when, over 13 games, he rushed for a school-record 1,836 yards and 17 scores on 283 carries, producing week-in and week-out while serving as a consistent weapon in an offense that had to replace a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder possesses all the traits one could possibly hope to find in a running back. He has the power to make plays between the tackles, the breakaway speed to beat teams around the edge, the elusiveness to make defenders miss, and he's a tremendous receiver out of the backfield. In 2015, nearly 60 percent of his rushing yardage came after initial contact from a defender and he forced a total of 89 missed tackles on the year, according to ProFootballFocus. He's a three-down back in a time where that's becoming especially important for running backs with hopes of being drafted in the first round.
Through the first two seasons of his career, Freeman has amassed an eye-popping 3,709 yards from scrimmage and 38 total touchdowns. No player in his class - from Leonard Fournette to Dalvin Cook to Christian McCaffrey - has topped either of those marks. Freeman may not have garnered as much attention as some of his peers up to this point, but he certainly belongs in the discussion of the nation's elite running backs. -- CL
7. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama: Allen is an absolute force on the defensive line. As a junior, he led the vaunted Tide defense in sacks (12) and tackles for loss (14.5), while totaling 36 tackles, two forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries. Allen is listed as a defensive end, but plays all over the Alabama defensive line in the Tide's many different looks and fronts. Few defensive linemen in college football -- tackles or ends -- possess his raw strength.
He creates a tremendous push up front with leverage and great hand placement; once in control, he has the tight-space quickness to slip inside a block and get to the quarterback. Allen isn't a speed rusher like many defensive ends, instead preferring to do his damage with power moves on the inside, but he possesses enough speed to close on quarterbacks and running backs quickly. He consistently shines on tape and does so against quality offensive linemen. -- RK
6. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: College football is just more fun when Mayfield is playing. He's a trash-talker and head-on-a-swivel type of player who makes you think he's goofing around while playing backyard football. Mayfield may not be the most physically gifted quarterback in the game, but he's a ferocious leader and his teammates will follow him to any depths. He has a bravado about him that cannot be taught or replaced.
His inaugural season with the Sooners was nothing short of a success as he totaled more than 4,100 yards of offense and 43 touchdowns, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. Though the Sooners were at their best when the ground game was clicking, Mayfield provided that extra spark to make the "Air Raid" offense go. His elusiveness and improvisation skills provide an element of chaos to his game that's always worthy of a highlight reel -- he is cut from the Johnny Manziel and Michael Vick cloth -- but his decision-making has improved significantly.
Now as a second-year starter, Mayfield needs to be an even better leader. He should also be even more prolific individually in an offense that finished fourth last season with 43.5 points per game. Ultimately, Mayfield will be eyeing two goals he wasn't able to achieve in 2015: a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. He came close to both, and now that he's been given an extra year of eligibility by the Big 12, he has two more opportunities to achieve them -- provided he doesn't leave for the NFL in 2017. -- BK
5. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: There are a handful of players this season that just might be too good for college football. Garrett could be considered exhibit "A." The 6-foot-5, 265-pound monster is too good. As a true freshman, he had 14 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 12 games; he duplicated that sack total with 19.5 tackles for loss in 2015. How much more does a player of Garrett's ability have to prove at this level? The answer is nothing. He might have been the top defensive player drafted had he been able to come out last year and will almost certainly be in the top five this time around.
Like Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina, teams are trying to find new ways to avoid Garrett. He completely changes an offensive philosophy because of the amount of pressure he puts on the opposing offense on every snap. Now going into his second season under defensive coordinator Jon Chavis, this could be the best defense the Aggies have seen since Von Miller was making a name for himself a few years ago. Watching him compete at this level is a thing of beauty. The way he is able to use his size and speed to get into the backfield is like watching Miller all over again. Garrett needs 10 sacks to surpass the 33 career sacks Miller posted at Texas A&M. -- MC
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: How can you top one of the best seasons in college football if you're McCaffrey, the most versatile player in the nation? Coaches don't trust their tailbacks to play entire games, much less touch the ball as much as McCaffrey did -- an average of 31 times per contest as a rusher, receiver and returner.
This constantly wound clock averaged a nation-leading 276 all-purpose yards per game and shattered Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose mark 3,864-3,250. In becoming the Heisman runner-up, McCaffrey established himself as perhaps the most electrifying all-purpose player since Reggie Bush. And that might be limiting him.
McCaffrey enters 2016 a neck-and-neck Heisman favorite with Clemson's Deshaun Watson. Think Bush -- the only player to have to return a Heisman -- without the baggage. By the time 2016 is over, McCaffrey may not only be the season's best player but perhaps an all-timer in the sport. Run, Christian, run. -- DD
3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: Cook was nagged by injuries for most of the 2015 season and still finished as one of the top backs in the entire country, making his junior season one of the most anticipated campaigns for a Florida State running back in recent memory. He broke Warrick Dunn's 20-year single-season record for rushing yards in the ninth game of the season and finished with 1,691 yards at a ridiculous 7.38 yard per carry. Still, it feels like Cook gets slotted below many of his contemporaries at the running back position when it comes to ranking the best backs in college football. Some of that is a credit to the incredible talent at that position right now and some of it is related to Cook's injuries and lighter workload.
I hate to lean on the "eye test" like a cranky old coot, but there's something about watching Cook navigate his way through traffic that looked different than his peers. Leonard Fournette might be the only other running back in college football with the kind of power and vision Cook displays, and yes, Fournette probably has an edge on the Miami native in physicality and durability. Cook's durability issues will be tested again after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in April following an injury in spring practice. Jimbo Fisher told reporters Cook was ahead of schedule in late spring and will be in full contact when August comes around. -- CP
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: In two seasons, the native son of New Orleans has run 13 yards short of 3,00-. For all the praise heaped on Alabama's Derrick Henry, Fournette was the nation's leading rusher a year ago at 162.75 yards per game. They're calling him a Herschel Walker-like talent. That's about the highest praise you can get in SEC land. Wait, actually, Walker telling TMZ that Fournette is "better than I was" is actually the highest praise you can get.
Having grown up in New Orleans' impoverished Seventh Ward, Fournette knows hardship. Players had to walk to practice at a nearby park where there were no goalposts. Needles were strewn in the streets. Local residents would keep an eye out for bullets yelling "down" when a police chase sped by. Fournette kept his eyes on the prize then and keeps his eyes on the prize now. That 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame is only getting stronger and faster. Coach Les Miles -- and college football -- is resigned to the fact this is Fournette's final season. No surprise. In eighth grade, he was playing against high schoolers. In college, he already looks like he should be in the NFL. Enjoy No. 7 while you can because you may not see another like him for a long time. -- DD
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson enrolled early and was highly-touted, but his meteoric rise in 2015 was unexpected. His potential was obvious, but it wasn't until he was fully healthy for the entire year that college football realized what kind of star resided in Death Valley. After becoming the first player in FBS history with 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season and finishing third in the Heisman voting, there will be no player in college football that demands your attention quite like Watson.
That attention can cut both ways. Watson is being touted as the Heisman frontrunner, a title that includes the expectation of near-perfection against a 2016 schedule that starts under the lights in Auburn and includes a trip to Tallahassee for the annual clash with Florida State. But Watson has already faced tougher tests and survived. He's battled back from multiple injuries while continuing to maintain his ability to burn defenses with his legs and make every throw on the field, including a picture-perfect deep ball that gets delivered on a rope to any of the Tigers' talented wideouts. Watson runs the Clemson offense at a break-neck pace and only had a few missteps during that incredible 14-game run that ended in the title showdown against Alabama.
Oh yeah, and what happened when Watson played against the feared Tide? He carved up the best defense in the country for 405 yards and four touchdowns and fell just one score short in a shootout that was arguably won by Alabama's efforts on special teams. Watson was the best quarterback in college football a year ago, and there's no reason to think that's changing. In fact, he might be the best prospect available when the 2017 NFL Draft rolls around in a year.
Like Miles and Fournette, coach Dabo Swinney has also hinted that 2016 is "most likely" Watson's last season, always adding that the plan has always been for the quarterback to graduate in three years. So take some time this fall to clear your schedule and enjoy No. 4. And don't forget to bring your own guts. -- CP