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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

25 best playmakers in college football

Saquon Barkley

Who are the best skill position players in college football? We’re talking about the guys who have the ability to make big plays every time they’re on the field, whether they’re dual-threat quarterbacks, explosive running backs, speedy wide receivers, dominant defensive backs, or pass-rushers with the ability to blow up any play in the backfield.

Here’s a look at 25 of the best playmakers in all of college football.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The consensus best running back in college football, Barkley is poised for a big year. He already had one in 2016 after racking up nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns en route to a Rose Bowl appearance. An incredible athlete, Barkley possesses great size as well as the agility, speed, and vision to make himself an elite running back at the pro level. He already is one in college.

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

To be a quarterback on a list of playmakers, you have to have a great arm and be able to make plays on the move as well. Allen is capable of both. He threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns, all while adding 512 rushing yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground. He has a great arm, the ability to throw on the run, and he is exciting NFL scouts already.

Marcus Allen, S, Penn State

Penn State’s energetic safety is the heart and soul of the Nittany Lion defense. A tough tackler, he was responsible for six tackles for loss, three pass breakups, and arguably the biggest play of Penn State’s season in 2016. He blocked the field goal that was returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the Nittany Lions’ upset victory over Ohio State.

Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida

Callaway has been limited by off-field issues. He’s already suspended for the season opener and needs to shape up if he wants to remain on the team. If he can do that, he’ll be one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receivers. Over his two years at Florida, he’s averaged 15.7 yards per catch and totaled 12 touchdowns scored in five different ways.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

A versatile monster, Edmunds can fit in a variety of defensive roles, and his stats bear that out. His 16.5 tackles for loss in particular jump off the page, and he had four sacks and an interception in 2017 as well. Edmunds hasn’t even fulfilled his potential yet, but with the skills and athleticism he has, it shouldn’t be long before he does.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The preseason Heisman favorite is known for his big arm, but there’s so much to Darnold’s game that sets him apart. While not an elite dual-threat quarterback in the mold of Quinton Flowers or Lamar Jackson, Darnold is still fairly mobile and added two rushing touchdowns to his 31 through the air in 2016. He’ll have another huge season in 2017.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

Alabama’s star defensive back is well on his way to becoming a household name. He picked off six passes last season and returned two of them for touchdowns. While that’s the most notable aspect of his big play ability, it’s not the only part. With seven passes defended and 5.5 tackles for a loss, he’s a force to be reckoned with and an anchor of the Crimson Tide defense.

Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida

In terms of pure dual-threat quarterbacks, Flowers is second only to Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. He threw for 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2016, adding another 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. One of the Group of Five’s most talented players, Flowers has the ability to put USF in the national conversation in 2017.

Chase Hansen, S, Utah

Hansen was a quarterback once, but now he’s a nightmare for opponents as a big, physical safety. He spent his sophomore season making big plays in the secondary, with 7.5 tackles for loss and a sack to his name. He was just as dangerous in coverage, too, intercepting three passes, forcing three fumbles, and defending nine passes.

Derrius Guice, RB LSU

One big reason LSU will have a smoother transition from the Leonard Fournette era than one might expect is the presence of Guice. Even with Fournette on the roster, the running back racked up 15 touchdowns as a sophomore, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Now that he’s alone in the spotlight, Guice should put up even better numbers in 2017 and terrorize SEC defenses.

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

A former top recruit, Jefferson is still slightly more potential than production at this point. The linebacker’s sophomore season showed what he can do, though, as he had 6.5 sacks and nine total tackles for a loss. A new coaching staff could definitely help him reach the elite potential he remains very capable of living up to.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Heisman Trophy winner remains one of the most breathtaking athletes college football has seen in some time — just ask Michael Vick. Forget passing yardage — in eight of his 13 games, he rushed for over 100 yards. When you add in the passing yardage, you had some truly gaudy totals. That includes a performance against Syracuse in which he accumulated 610 yards from scrimmage, plus one performance against Charlotte that saw him score eight total touchdowns. Jackson may well be college football’s ultimate playmaker.

Derwin James, S, Florida State

James didn’t have much of a 2016, appearing in just two games before succumbing to a knee injury. That doesn’t diminish his talent. The safety was an impact player as a freshman, with 91 total tackles, 9.5 of them for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. He’s so athletic that coach Jimbo Fisher is toying with the idea of putting him on kick returns and even some offensive plays. Now fully healthy, James should pick up right where he left off in 2017.

See the rest on Page 2

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