Chad Kelly, Derrius Guice lead PFF’s 2016 All-SEC team
Gordon McGuinness unveils first- and second-team selections for the top players in the SEC.
Chad Kelly, Derrius Guice lead PFF’s 2016 All-SEC team
With only one game remaining before the bowl games and College Football Playoff, it’s time to roll out our 2016 PFF All-conference teams. After our All-American team yesterday, we’re now naming the top players in the conference that produced the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in Alabama.
See who received the top honors — along with second-team selections — right here:
Quarterback: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Truthfully, it wasn’t a standout year for quarterback play in the SEC, with none ranking in the top 15 in terms of their PFF passing grade. Kelly was the best of the group, despite his up and down play, completing 56 of the 88 passes he attempted between 10 and 19 yards downfield. He added a bit of an athletic threat too, rushing for 431 yards and forcing 11 missed tackles on 64 rushing attempts.
Second team: Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Running Back: Derrius Guice, LSU
It wouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone at the beginning of the year that an LSU running back would be our first-team pick at running back, but the back it wound up being is much more of a surprise. Guice took over when Leonard Fournette was limited due to injury, and dominated with several late-season performances. He finished the year having forced 37 missed tackles on 155 carries, and averaging 4.1 yards after contact per carry. He’s poised to the the difference-maker for Ed Orgeron’s LSU.
Second team: Benjamin Snell Jr., Kentucky
Full Back: Christian Payne, Georgia
Full Back isn’t a position that gets a lot of attention these days, but Payne was a solid contributor for the Bulldogs this year, and the best at his position in the conference. A solid lead blocker with a dominant performance to open the year against North Carolina, he paved the way for the Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Second team: J.D. Moore, LSU
Wide Receiver: Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M; ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
Reynolds was the top receiving option for Texas A&M this year, averaging 2.19 yards per route run over the course of the year. Where he really succeeded was downfield, picking up 385 yards and three touchdowns on nine passes travelling 20 yards or further downfield, leading the conference in deep receiving yards. Stewart emerged as Alabama’s best receiver this year, leading the conference with an average of 2.87 yards per route run.
Second team: Keon Hatcher, Arkansas; Drew Morgan, Arkansas
Slot Receiver: Jared Cornelius, Arkansas
Second in the conference with 2.54 yards per route run, Cornelius was incredibly productive as a slot receiver this year. Giving quarterback Austin Allen a safe pair of hands, he didn’t drop a single pass in 2016, and has now dropped just one pass over the past three seasons.
Second team: Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
Tight End: O.J. Howard, Alabama
With 37 receptions for 445 yards, and a yards per route run average of 1.54, along with providing a safe pair of hands for true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, Howard was a solid receiver at tight end this year. Where he truly separates himself from his peers though, is as a run blocker. There wasn’t a better run blocking tight end in college football this year, and he impressed in arguably the toughest conference defensively.
Second team: Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Offensive Tackle: Robert Leff, Auburn; Justin Senior, Mississippi State
Leff was utterly dominant as a run blocker for Auburn this year, with the Tigers averaging 6.1 and 6.2 yards per carry on runs directly either side of him. He was solid in pass protection too, allowing just three sacks, no hits and seven hurries. Senior allowed just 14 total pressures over the course of the year, and was more than solid as a run blocker.
Second team: Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State; Jonah Williams, Alabama
Guard: Braden Smith, Auburn; Josh Boutte, LSU
Smith was the other key player in the dominance of the right side of the Auburn offensive line, helping pave the way for running backs like Kamryn Pettway, and allowed just three sacks and one hurry in pass protection. Boutte allowed just five total pressures in pass protection, and impressed as a run blocker too. The LSU offensive line was one of the best in the nation, and he was key to that.
Second team: Nick Haynes, Kentucky; Will Clapp, LSU
Center: Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
If you watched any of Arkansas this year, it won’t come as a surprise to see Ragnow named as our first-team All-American center. Utterly dominant for much of the year after moving from guard to center in 2016, Ragnow looked at his best in space, either at the second level or on pull blocks. He played a huge role in their success running the ball, with Arkansas averaging 6.4 yards per carry on runs between center and left guard this year.
Second team: Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
Edge: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M; Derek Barnett, Tennessee
The same two players who were our pre-season All-Americans on the edge remain there at the conclusion of the year after dominant performances for the second year in a row. It’s incredibly tough to split them in terms of performance, though Barnett was the more productive pass-rusher this year, with a pass-rushing productivity rating of 14.9 to Garrett’s 13.7. Both were solid against the run too, and the discussion can now shift to which one is likely to be drafted ahead of the other in this spring’s NFL draft, provided both declare. With PFF grades of 92.1 and 91.6 respectively, you really would be happy with either.
Second team: Tim Williams, Alabama; Carl Lawson, Auburn
Defensive Interior: Jonathan Allen, Alabama; Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama
If there is one player who can feel slighted about not getting an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy award ceremony, it’s Alabama’s talented defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Dominant and versatile, he has as good a case as anyone to claim to be the best player in the nation. Allen ranks second on the year among 3-4 defensive ends with a run stop percentage of 12.0 percent, and third with a pass-rushing productivity rating of 12.1, racking up 56 total pressures from 367 pass-rushing snaps. His partner in crime on the defensive interior in Tomlinson wasn’t quite as dominant, but was still far too much for most interior offensive linemen to deal with, finishing the year with a run stop percentage of 9.0 percent.
Second team: Caleb Brantley, Florida; Trenton Thompson, Georgia
Linebackers: Reuben Foster, Alabama; Shaun Dion-Hamilton, Alabama; Roquan Smith, Georgia
On an Alabama defense that boasts superstars at every level, Foster has been one of the top players. 55 of his 69 tackles have resulted in a defensive stop, and he has graded very well against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer too. That Dion-Hamilton is also in the first-team is an indication of what Alabama are losing with him out for rest of the season through injury. 30 of his 46 tackles this year have resulted in a defensive stop and he has graded well in coverage and against the run. Smith rounds out the top three, after a season where he impressed against the run and in coverage, and finished the year as our 11th-highest-graded linebacker.
Second team: Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; Kendell Beckwith, LSU; Claude George, Texas A&M
Cornerback: Tre’Davious White, LSU; Aarion Penton, Missouri
White was our second-team All-American as a slot cornerback, but with him splitting his time both outside and inside, he deserved his place as a starter here. Over the course of the 2016 season he allowed just 24 receptions, and came away with two interceptions and 11 pass breakups. Penton improved once again after a solid sophomore season, and as a junior he allowed just 28 receptions while coming away with five interceptions and six pass breakups.
Second team: Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; Teez Tabor, Florida
Slot Cornerback: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Another of Alabama’s defensive stand outs, Fitzpatrick has been outstanding when lined up in the slot, and impressed when he’s had to cover at safety too. On the 37 passes thrown into his coverage when lined up in the slot, Fitzpatrick has allowed 17 receptions for 212 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions. That was good for an NFL passer rating of just 30.5. For context, the NFL passer rating of dropping back to pass and just throwing the ball away is 39.6. That means it’s smarter for opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball away than try to go after Fitzpatrick in coverage.
Second team: Duke Dawson, Florida
Safety: Jamal Adams, LSU; Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Adams took his game to a new level in 2016, stepping up as a complete defensive back and one of the best all-around players in the nation. Outstanding against the run and coming up to tackle receivers on short passes, Adams has seen 33 of his 55 tackles result in a defensive stop. He has improved in coverage in general too, and played a key part in LSU all but shutting out Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram when the two teams met this year. Harrison has been outstanding all year for Alabama, but really stood out in the SEC Championship Game against Florida, where he had two pass breakups.
Second team: Marcus Maye, Florida; Justin Evans, Texas A&M
Kicker: Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Carlson’s booming leg was on display all year, with 54 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs. On field goals he missed just one kick inside 50 yards, and went four-for-seven on kicks of 50 yards and above.
Second team: Eddie Piniero, Florida
Punter: J.K. Scott, Alabama
Scott was consistent throughout the year, and finished the year among the five highest graded punters in the nation. Of his 46 punts, 11 resulted in fair catches, while 17 landed inside the opposing 20-yard line.
Second team: Toby Baker, Arkansas
Kick Returner: Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt
Sims averaged 28.7 yards per kick return this year, with a long of 95 yards. Consistently giving the Commodores decent field position, he earned his spot as the conference’s top kick returner.
Second team: Carlos Davis, Ole Miss
Punt Returner: Eddie Jackson, Alabama
Jackson might have been lost for the season to injury, but he was still the conference’s best punt returner over the course of the year. Jackson scored twice from 11 punt returns. Jackson’s ability to create extra yards and points for Alabama on special teams is a big loss with him missing the College Football Playoff through injury.
Second team: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Special Teamer: Donnie Alexander, LSU
Alexander made 11 solo tackles, and one assist on special teams, leading the SEC in special teams tackles. More impressive than that, he didn’t miss any tackles in that role across the season.
Second team: J.D. Harmon, Kentucky
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.