Each year, talented players return to the SEC to try and clinch a trip to Atlanta, win bragging rights over their arch-rivals, and dreaming of bringing their school a national championship.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) has listed the top-3 returning players for each team with its grading system based on past performance, and while some of the obvious choices are on there such as Georgia running back Sony Michel and LSU defensive end Arden Key, some omissions will surprise you.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2016, but according to PFF, at least three players — cornerback/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, center Bradley Bozeman, and linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton — have higher scores than the sophomore signal caller.
Two of the players listed for Auburn are offensive linemen, which bodes well for an offense built to run the ball with Kam Pettway and Kerryon Johnson also returning along with transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham coming to improve the passing game.
The secondary once again leads the way for Florida with cornerback Duke Dawson topping the Gators list, while two Tennessee defensive players — safety Micah Abernathy and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie — are hoping to be the building blocks for a Volunteers team that has to replace a lot offensively.
Here are the top-3 listed for each school, along with their respective scores:
Alabama: CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick (88.4), C Bradley Bozeman (86.8), LB Shaun Dion Hamilton (86.6)
Arkansas: C Frank Ragnow (94.5), OG Hjalte Froholt (83.6), WR Jared Cornelius (81.8)
Auburn: OT Braden Smith (88.3), OG Marquel Harrell (82.8), CB Javaris Davis (80.1)
Florida: CB Duke Dawson (86.9), RB Jordan Scarlett (82.3), OT Jawaan Taylor (81.1)
Georgia: LB Roquan Smith (87.4), RB Sony Michel (85.1), DT Trenton Thompson (83.7)
Kentucky: OG Nick Haynes (84.9), RB Benny Snell Jr. (83.2), TE C.J. Conrad (82.9)
LSU: DE Arden Key (87.8), RB Derrius Guice (86.7), OG Will Clapp (84.3)
Mississippi State: OG Deion Calhoun (82.3), OT Elgton Jenkins (81.4), LB Traver Jung (77.9)
Missouri: OT Paul Adams (85.5), OG Adam Ploudre (80.8), RB Damarea Crockett (80.6)
Ole Miss: S Zedrick Woods (81.3), OG Daronte Bouldin (80.8), QB Shea Patterson (80.8)
South Carolina: WR Deebo Samuel (85.5), OL Zack Bailey (84.6), TE Hayden Hurst (81.7)
Tennessee: S Micah Abernathy (79.8), DT Kahlil McKenzie (79.0), RB John Kelly (78.8)
Texas A&M: C Erik McCoy (81.7), DT Kingsley Keke (81.0), DT Zaycoven Henderson (80.7)
Vanderbilt: S Ryan White (83.1), WR Caleb Scott (80.9), WR C.J. Duncan (79.9)