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College football’s best players — Trevor and Tua lead the way

There isn’t much debate on which two teams project as the best in college football for the 2019 season — they’re the same two teams that have dominated the sport for the past four seasons — Alabama and Clemson. So, not surprisingly, our ranking of the best players in college football for the 2019 season also has a very distinct Alabama and Clemson flavor to it.

In fact, seven of the top 11 players on our list played for either the Crimson Tide or Tigers a year ago, and that’s including Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma and will replace Kyler Murray as the Sooners’ quarterback this season.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence checks in as the top overall player just ahead of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Lawrence led the Tigers to the national championship a year ago as a true freshman and outdueled Tagovailoa in the title game. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is fifth overall on the list.

Keep in mind that this is a projection of what players will do in 2019 and not necessarily a career achievement award of what they’ve done to this point. In other words, everybody will surely agree with our selections, and there won’t be any cries of favoritism for this conference or cries of bias against that conference. That said, 11 of the top 25 players are from the SEC, and only one player from a Group of 5 conference made the cut — Houston quarterback D’Eriq King.

To get the final ranking, we had our panel of CFB writers vote on pairs of players. Jonathan Taylor vs. Derrick Brown. Justin Herbert vs. Chase Young. We asked, “Which player will be better in 2019?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games. Then, we had them debate the list.

Here are the final rankings:

QB, Clemson Sophomore Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 30-4 TD-INT ratio

Lawrence didn’t win the starting job until Week 5, but once he was atop the Clemson depth chart, the only remaining question was — what took so long? Lawrence finished with 30 touchdown passes, just four picks and 3,280 yards passing to go with a national championship trophy. Not bad for a true freshman. Now the biggest question is how he can possibly top such an impressive debut campaign.

QB, Alabama Junior Last year’s ranking: 11 Key 2018 stat: No. 2 in Heisman Trophy voting

The lefty from Hawaii played quarterback like no one at Alabama ever had last season, throwing for 43 touchdowns and 3,966 yards and finishing No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting. Now he’s back, healthy and motivated, having lost 15 pounds over the summer.

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WR, Alabama Junior Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: Biletnikoff Award winner

He’s No. 1 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board for a reason. Last season, despite competing with a crowded receiver room at Alabama, he hauled in 68 catches for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns, and won the Biletnikoff Award for the top receiver in the country.

S, LSU Junior Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: Led SEC with five interceptions

It is hard to believe Delpit was just a sophomore last season when he emerged as one of the best defensive players in the country, earning unanimous All-America honors while becoming a finalist for the Nagurski Award. His versatility allows him to do so many things so well, and that shows on his stat line. Last season, he had 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, led the SEC with five interceptions, and added nine pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

QB, Georgia Junior Last year’s ranking: 30 Key 2018 stat: 171.2 passer rating

Fromm has already played in 29 games, starting in 28 of those, including two SEC championship games and a College Football Playoff national championship game. So he’s obviously used to the big stage and ranks second only to Tagovailoa nationally among returning quarterbacks in passer rating. Fromm finished with a 171.2 rating last season while throwing 30 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

RB, Wisconsin Junior Last year’s ranking: 7 Key 2018 stat: Second straight year with 1,950 yards or more

No FBS player has ever had more rushing yards in two years than Taylor’s 4,171. He’s only the third rusher (LaDainian Tomlinson, Troy Davis) to record consecutive seasons of 1,950 yards or more. Fumbles have been an issue, but Taylor is durable, consistent and explosive (6.9 YPC career average).

QB, Oregon Senior Last year’s ranking: 14 Key 2018 stat: 3,151 yards passing

The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Herbert might have been one of the first QBs drafted this year if he had opted to leave school early. He’s back after his first full season as Oregon’s starter in which he threw for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns to eight interceptions.

RB, Clemson Junior Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 8.1 yards per rush

There may not be a better big-play threat in college football than Etienne, who averaged 8.1 yards per rush last season, including 23 carries that went for 20 yards or more. Overall, Etienne finished with 1,658 yards on the ground, a number made even more impressive considering he had more than 16 carries in a game just twice last year.

DL, Ohio State Junior Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 10 sacks

He already has a pro body (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) and led Ohio State in both sacks (10) and tackles for loss (15.5) as a true sophomore. A potential top-five draft pick next spring, Young aims to become just the second Buckeye (Mike Vrabel) to record 10 or more sacks in multiple seasons.

WR, Clemson Sophomore Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 1,000 receiving yards

Entering October, Ross had just nine catches on the year, which seemed about right for a true freshman in a crowded receiving corps. After that though? He did a little better. Ross finished the year with 1,000 receiving yards on the nose, including 12 catches for 301 yards and three touchdowns in the College Football Playoff. The only thing holding him back this season is that there’s only one football to go around on Clemson’s offense.

QB, Oklahoma Senior Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 72.9 CMP%

After amassing 7,602 yards of total offense and accounting for 71 total touchdowns, Hurts has traded Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for Norman, Oklahoma. With Lincoln Riley in charge, Hurts will be running an offense that has produced the past two Heisman winners and is better suited for his uber-athletic skill set.

WR, Purdue Sophomore Last year’s ranking: NR Key 2018 stat: 114 receptions, 2,215 all-purpose yards

The Big Ten’s first-ever freshman to earn consensus All-America honors broke Purdue’s all-purpose yards record (313) in his Boilermakers debut. He set the team single-season all-purpose yards mark (2,215), while tying the record for most 100-yard receiving performances (7). Moore’s 114 recepti