SI.com ranks the top 100 players in college football for the 2016, beginning with Nos. 100–91.
Ranking college football players is an inherently dangerous task. With the number of different ways a player can contribute—quantitative ways like sacks, yards and interceptions or qualitative ways like sound blocking and tight coverage—it’s difficult to gage who makes the most impact. On top of that, with players limited to four-year careers, there’s a significant amount of guesswork to assess how players will develop from one season to the next.
So, with those acknowledged limitations, SI.com’s college football staff presents its top 100 players for the 2016 season. We’ll reveal 10 players per day, beginning Monday with the players ranked 100 through 91. These rankings are not just an assessment of what the players have done so far but how they’ll perform this fall. And rather than simply rank players by their expected production, we attempt to discern who is the most valuable. Essentially, if you were starting a team from scratch, who would you want the most?
Scott burst onto the scene with a first-team All-SEC season as a true freshman in 2014, leading the nation in punting with 48.0 yards per punt. That average dropped to 44.2 yards in 2015, but he remains one of the most lethal punters in the country heading into his junior season. — Zac Ellis
Jones helped anchor the back end of a Washington defense that finished second in the Pac-12 in opposing passing efficiency and ranked ninth nationally in Football Outsiders S&P + Ratings last season. Jones won’t generate as much hype this preseason as fellow Huskies defensive back and first-team All-Pac 12 member Budda Baker, but don’t sleep on the rising junior who led the Pac-12 in passes defended and recorded 10 pass breakups and four interceptions in 2015. — Chris Johnson
Scott earned Freshman All-America status in 2014 after leading Clemson in catches (76) and touchdown receptions (eight). He built on that performance in 2015 by grabbing 93 catches, second-most in Clemson history, and his 169 career receptions are the most by a Tigers player in his first two seasons. Scott will again be one of Deshaun Watson’s favorite targets in 2016. — ZE
The sky’s the limit for Sperbeck, who broke out with a huge 2015 campaign in which he caught 88 passes for 1,412 yards. But those numbers mask Sperbeck’s slow start to the season—he caught just five passes for 41 yards in the Broncos’ first two games—as Boise State’s passing game struggled under Ryan Finley. Once freshman Brett Rypien took over, Sperbeck’s numbers took off. As Rypien settles in for a full season with more experience, Sperbeck’s production should only increase. — Colin Becht
Likely projects as one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten after recording 11 pass breakups, 44 tackles and four tackles for loss last season, but his inclusion on this list owes just as much to his impact on special teams. Likely is one of the nation’s most dangerous return men, and he even contributed on offense last season. His decision to return for his senior season with the Terrapins gives new coach D.J. Durkin an elite talent to counter the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten East. — CJ
The best Oklahoma State quarterback since Brandon Weeden, Rudolph enters his junior season with a wealth of experience (16 starts) and as the school record holder for single-game passing efficiency and career passing yards per attempt. In coach Mike Gundy’s traditionally high-octane attack, Rudolph could be the best quarterback in the Big 12 this season (even with Baker Mayfield leading the state rival Sooners). — Gabriel Baumgaertner
One half of Washington’s dynamic true freshman duo, Gaskin is a key reason many are eyeing the Huskies as a rising threat in the Pac-12 North. He expertly used his slight 5’9”, 192-pound frame to evade tacklers last season for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns. Now Washington’s young offensive line isn’t so young, so Gaskin should have plenty of room to run in his sophomore season. — CB
A player who called himself “the best defensive lineman in the country” during spring practice, Brantley is one of the anchors of Florida’s usually rugged defense. Named a second-team All-America by Pro Football Focus last season, Brantley is a staunch interior defender who can get to the quarterback on occasion. After finishing with 29 tackles and three sacks last season, Brantley could finish as a first-team All-SEC player in his redshirt junior season. — GB
Anyone unfamiliar with Leggett before the College Football Playoff title game last season certainly took note of the 6’5”, 255-pounder, who hauled in five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Crimson Tide. Yet Leggett was one of the Tigers’ top passing targets all season, posting a team-high eight touchdown receptions. He elected to return as a senior even though he could have been a mid-round pick in the NFL draft. This season Leggett will serve as one of several potent receiving threats for Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Deshaun Watson. — CJ
Declared cancer-free in May following a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma last year, Conner has a shot at returning as an elite offensive threat in the ACC. He broke out as an All-America in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns to break Tony Dorsett’s Pitt single-season record for rushing scores. — ZE