Around this time next year, EA Sports plans to re-release its popular NCAA Football game so there is no better time than heading into the season to grade the top 10 most valuable players in each conference, according to Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney, with a Madden-like score. This is not judging the overall 10 best players but those who would score best on the video game.
We start with the SEC.
99 – Will Anderson, Alabama
If the Heisman Trophy was given to the best player in college football instead of almost always the best offensive player then Anderson would have won it last season. The former five-star had 102 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss. The Alabama linebacker/edge is basically unstoppable.
99 – Bryce Young, Alabama
Young’s stats were astronomically good last season and now the former five-star is ever more focused after losing to Georgia in the national title game last season. His receiving corps might not be as polished this season but the Crimson Tide will still be great and have revenge on their minds.
Kayshon Boutte, LSU
A healthy Boutte is an unstoppable Boutte. The former high four-star led LSU in receiving yards (509) and touchdowns (nine) even though he played in only six games as the Tigers finished 6-7.
If Boutte played the entire season at the same pace, he would have been well over 1,000 receiving yards with close to 20 touchdowns. That would have put him among the elite SEC receivers and LSU was a mess last season.
95 – Brock Bowers, Georgia
Along with leading Georgia in most receiving categories last season, Bowers also set school records for the position in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. The former four-star might get schemed better by some defenses this season but he’s still going to be a top target for Stetson Bennett as the Bulldogs look to repeat as national champions. Arguably the top tight end in college football, Bowers is loading up for another huge season.
95 – Jalen Carter, Georgia
Eight Georgia defenders were taken in the NFL Draft including No. 1 pick Travon Walker and other first-rounders Jordan Davis, Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt and Lewis Cine. But there was talk that Carter was the best Georgia defensive player last season.
It’s incredible to think what the former high four-star will do now that he’s freed up. Maybe more double teams will be coming his way but Carter, who had 37 tackles including 8.5 for loss with three sacks and an insane 30 quarterback hurries, is prepped for a massive season.
92 – Will Rogers, Mississippi State
Rogers is not one of the top 10 players in the SEC when it comes to talent or NFL potential but these ratings are for who would be rated high on the college football video game – and Mississippi State throws the ball a whole lot.
Last season, Rogers threw the ball 683 times; the Bulldogs ran it just 270 times all season. The former high three-star completed nearly 74 percent of his passes for 4,739 yards with 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Another year in coach Mike Leach’s offense could make Rogers even more comfortable.
90 – Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Tillman was a complete miss in the Rivals rankings as a high two-star but to be fair no Pac-12 programs or any other Power Five programs were all that interested in the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman receiver. But the Volunteers took a swing and hit a home run.
Year 2 of Josh Heupel’s offense with QB Hendon Hooker back should be huge for Tillman, who already led the team last season with 64 catches for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns.
89 – Eli Ricks, Alabama
The former five-star and No. 1 cornerback in the 2020 class is arguably the top player at his position nationally and now with the Crimson Tide he could show it more than ever. Ricks has length, playmaking ability and he was a pick-six machine in high school. A huge year could be coming as Alabama looks to return to the national title game.
88 – Nolan Smith, Georgia
The former five-star really started to reach his potential with impressive performances in College Football Playoff wins over Michigan and Alabama and now Smith should carry that over as one of the main leaders of Georgia’s defense this season.
Playing his linebacker role or coming off the edge, Smith is someone much like his former first-round teammates that could have a tremendous season and shoot up draft boards. The motivation is definitely there.
87 – Jeremy Banks, Tennessee
Again, Banks might not be one of the top 10 players in the SEC but he’s a tackling machine and was the first Tennessee player since 2015 to register 100-plus tackles. The former four-star had 44 more tackles than any other player on the Vols’ roster and he tied for the team lead in sacks.
If Tennessee is going to make a serious run toward the top of the SEC East, Banks will have a major say in the Vols’ success.