Ranking top 100 players in college football for 2016 season: Nos. 90–81
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 are revealing 10 players per day and began Monday with the players ranked 100 through 91. Here are our 90th through 81st ranked players.
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?
No. 90: Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU
Godchaux has started 21 games in two seasons in Baton Rouge, becoming one of the fiercest defensive linemen in the SEC. He notched four sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2015 and could evolve into a bigger force under first-year coordinator Dave Aranda. — Zac Ellis
No. 89: Iman Marshall, CB, USC
A coveted recruit even by USC’s lofty standards, Marshall enters his true sophomore season having already started 12 games and established himself as one of the premier cornerbacks in the nation. After he led the Trojans with nine pass deflections and three interceptions last season, it’s hard to believe that too many teams will be targeting Marshall. By the end of the season, he may be considered one of the standout defensive players in the nation. — Gabriel Baumgaertner
No. 88: Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
Smoot flew under the radar in 2015 due in large part to the team he played for, but there’s a reason NFL scouts have a keen eye on the Fighting Illini defensive end. The 6’3”, 265-pounder built on a solid sophomore season with 15 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles last season. Now he has his sights set on double-digit sacks in his first season under head coach Lovie Smith. — Colin Becht
No. 87: Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Pumphrey has been lighting up Mountain West defenses for three seasons, and he recorded 1,653 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns en route to winning the conference’s offensive player of the year award in 2015. Now within striking distance of NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk’s program rushing record, Pumphrey will lead a talented Aztecs squad that should begin the season as the favorite in the Mountain West’s West division. — Chris Johnson
No. 86: Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
Ford became the first Virginia Tech player to top 1,000 yards receiving with his 75-catch, 1,164-yard campaign last season, in which he also set school records in receptions and touchdown receptions. The junior shined down the stretch with 507 yards in the Hokies’ final three games, including 227 yards in their Independence Bowl victory over Tulsa. New coach Justin Fuente has yet to name a starting quarterback, but whoever it is will surely benefit from having Ford to work with. — CB
No. 85: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
With Trevone Boykin and Baker Mayfield leading College Football Playoff charges at TCU and Oklahoma, respectively, last season, Mahomes didn’t receive nearly as much attention as he deserved. That should change in 2016. The junior is a skilled playmaker who fits perfectly in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s high-powered spread offense, and he’s poised to build on the 5,109 total yards and 46 total touchdowns he tallied in 2015. However, Mahomes will have to make do without leading receiver Jakeem Grant, who was selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft. — CJ
No. 84: Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA
An offensive lineman who barely played before last season, McDermott went from an unknown with one career start (as a blocking tight end) to a second-team all-conference selection during his redshirt junior season. A strong run-blocker and one of the keys to a unit that surrendered just 14 sacks last season, McDermott will be the main player protecting arguably the nation’s most prized quarterback in Josh Rosen. — GB
No. 83: DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
Walker flirted with skipping his senior year for the NFL after an elite season in 2015, when he notched 58 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks (most by a Seminoles player since 2012). Instead, he returns to Tallahassee as a linchpin of a loaded Florida State defense. — ZE
No. 82: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Fellow Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison may have gotten more attention last year, but Davis arguably had the more productive season. The 6’2”, 230-pounder made 98 tackles with 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven QB hurries, an interception and a forced fumble. After passing on the draft, Davis will anchor Florida’s linebacker corps this season and continue to be a nightmare for opposing offenses. — CB
No. 81: Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
In a year destined to be uncertain for Baylor, Linwood will be one of the cogs needed to keep the Bears from collapsing. An All-America candidate and two-time All Big-12 running back, Linwood is on pace to set Baylor school records for all-time rushing yardage and touchdowns. The question is whether he’ll be able to similarly thrive now that Art Briles is not in charge. — GB