1. Montravius Adams
Why he’s here: His position doesn’t always lend itself to the stats needed to be the No. 1 player on a countdown like this. But Montravius Adams was the most consistent force for Auburn defense that went from punchline to power in 2016.
Adams, the former 5-star recruit from Dooly County, Ga., showed flashes of excellence in his first three seasons at Auburn. He turned those flashes into one steady, bright light at defensive tackle.
If opponents blocked him with one lineman, he would often make a big play in the backfield. If they double-teamed him, that was fine, too — that just meant he created opportunities for playmakers such as Carl Lawson and Marlon Davidson.
“He’s decided ‘OK, I’ve got all this talent. I’m going to be the best I can be,'” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said in October. “He’s applying the trade and improving his trade. So he’s pretty productive right now. The thing that goes unnoticed about Mon right now … they have to double him. And that’s huge because when you’ve got guys that you have to double it makes run fits a whole lot easier.”
Adams created highlights, too. He ranked second on the team behind Lawson in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. He caught an incredible interception against Alabama A&M and had a scoop-and-score against Mississippi State. Adams also blocked a pair of kicks, showing he could give 100 percent effort on special teams as well.
“I just felt like my game was a lot more consistent than the past years,” Adams said last week. “Some games it will be just the up and down, but this year I just felt like it was more consistent throughout the season.”
Without Adams swallowing double teams and creating havoc down the middle, Auburn doesn’t have nearly the same amount of success in run-stopping and pass-rushing in 2016. He picked up several All-American honors and made a lot of money in terms of NFL Draft stock this fall.
Montravius Adams is playing his best football right now, Gus Malzahn said this week. Um, yep. pic.twitter.com/QLoVwvaWKZ
— Lauren Shute (@LShute13) October 8, 2016
Montravius Adams gets an excellent jump here and simply manhandles Ethan Pocic into a big TFL on Leonard Fournette. pic.twitter.com/3uhSIWyDOI
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 25, 2016
Montravius Adams rips through a double team on special teams and swats down a field goal. He's an equal opportunity destroyer of lines. pic.twitter.com/E5dSgjp5nn
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) October 2, 2016
Season stats: 39 tackles (8.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery for TD, 15 QB hurries, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 2 blocked kicks
Adams will be off to the NFL next season, where he’ll be able to fulfill a promise he made to his mother and older sisters when he was a kid. He has the ability to play inside in a 4-3 system or even as a 3-4 defensive end, depending on who drafts him next spring.
Adams is considered a borderline first or second-round draft prospect at this point, but his stock could soar with good work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft Combine. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has Adams as a top 20 prospect in one of his latest draft boards.
Top 10 Auburn football players
No. 10: Marlon Davidson
No. 9: Kerryon Johnson
No. 8: Sean White
No. 7: Deshaun Davis
No. 6: Alex Kozan
No. 5: Josh Holsey
No. 4: Daniel Carlson
No. 3: Carl Lawson
No. 2: Kamryn Pettway
No. 1: Montravius Adams