We released our list of the top 50 players in college football Monday, and, obviously, not everyone agrees with every decision. Here's a look at the players ESPN reporters felt were ranked too high, ranked too low and mistakenly left off the list completely.
Who's ranked too high?
Andrea Adelson: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Before Alabama fans start cranking out the hate mail, let me say this has nothing to do with his potential or his incredible talent. Both are exceptionally high. But there are two problems I have with listing Tagovailoa so high in the preseason. First, we have a limited body of work to go on. Yes, it is true that body of work includes an exceptional performance off the bench against Georgia in the national championship game, along with his beautiful, game-winning touchdown throw. His performance in that game fueled buzz throughout the offseason that he would be winning the starting-quarterback job and Jalen Hurts would transfer. That leads me to point No. 2. Nobody has actually won the starting-quarterback job. That is why I find it so difficult to evaluate Tagovailoa and where he should be ranked. We saw glimpses of what he could be, but I'd love to see how he plays game after game before declaring him a top-11 player.
Kyle Bonagura: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
It's fair to have high expectations for Murray in Lincoln Riley's offense this year, but there's nothing about his actual body of work that indicates he's one of the best 50 players in college football. Not yet. He has started and completed just one game against an FBS opponent in his career (a 35-28 Texas A&M win against South Carolina in 2015 before he transferred), while several other much more established players -- including several quarterbacks -- didn't make this list at all. Murray has had some intriguing moments, but that hardly makes his place more deserving than, say, NC State's Ryan Finley, who has thrown for more than 7,000 yards in his career and established himself as a real NFL prospect. Murray's inclusion feels like it has more to do with him being a recognizable name, playing the premier position at one of the most high-profile places in the country.
Chris Low: Tagovailoa
In the words of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, one moment doesn't make a season. Or one unforgettable touchdown pass, for that matter. Yes, Tagovailoa was the spark for Alabama in the second half of the national championship game last season and has elite arm talent. But he still has to win the starting job and prove he can be the guy over the course of the entire season, and it's not like Jalen Hurts is just going to go quietly into the night. So having Tagovailoa at No. 11 is a bit high, at least without more of a body of work, especially when you look at the long list of proven players behind him. There's no denying his vast potential, though.
Adam Rittenberg: QB Shea Patterson, Michigan
Some of this is projection, and Patterson certainly could turn out to be one of the nation's better quarterbacks this season for Michigan, which desperately needs an upgrade there. But slotting Patterson ahead of proven college quarterbacks such as Washington's Jake Browning and even guys such as Missouri's Drew Lock and Georgia's Jake Fromm doesn't sit well. Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is very high, too, but at least he made the biggest play of the college football season. Patterson had a nice freshman season at Ole Miss and clearly has talent, but he also struggled with interceptions and accuracy last fall before a season-ending knee injury. Ole Miss moved on with Jordan Ta'amu and seems very happy with its situation. So I need to see more from Patterson.
Jake Trotter: Murray and QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Both Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray are tremendous quarterback talents who could ultimately lead their teams into playoff contention and even factor into the Heisman conversation. At the moment, however, both are completely unproven. Haskins has 57 career passing attempts; Murray, 142 attempts, but only 21 at Oklahoma. Both opened too high in the top-50 player ranking. Even though it's possible -- if not probable -- that Haskins and Murray wind up there in the end.
Who's ranked too low?
Adelson: QB McKenzie Milton, UCF
Given his remarkable performance in 2017, Milton should have been ranked in the top 15 going into this season. For those who might have forgotten, Milton ranked No. 7 in the nation with a school-record 4,037 yards passing and set a new school record with 37 passing touchdowns. While it's true Scott Frost is gone, there's no indication new coach Josh Heupel is going to change the offensive philosophy. In fact, both Heupel and Milton have said they want to try to get the downfield-passing game going even more this season. With talent across the board at receiver and running back, Milton should have another prolific season.
Bonagura: OT Trey Adams, Washington
Any conversation about the best offensive tackles in college football must include Adams, who, after missing the last half of the 2017 season due to injury, is set to begin his fourth year as a starter for the Huskies. On ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s initial 2019 NFL draft-position rankings, Adams came in as the top-ranked senior offensive tackle and has the potential to be a first-round pick. Perhaps his exclusion altogether is a result of his position -- offensive linemen were undervalued vs. skill positions across the board -- but, regardless, it should be known that Adams is a major reason why the Washington will begin the year as the heavy favorite in the Pac-12 and a threat to reach the playoff for the second time in three years.
Low: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
There's no way there are 40 better players in college football than the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Brown. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm always going to be partial to defensive lineman because, after all, that's where you win in football. But Brown is a monster who can disrupt everything an offense is trying to do. He's a force against the run, but also plenty athletic enough to get after the quarterback. It also helps that he's surrounded by a talented cast on Auburn's defensive line. Brown had 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks as a sophomore; go back and watch his tape against some of Auburn's toughest opponents (Alabama, Clemson and Georgia). He also blocked a field goal against UCF in the bowl game. He will easily be one of college football's best defensive linemen in 2018.
Rittenberg: RB A.J. Dillon, Boston College
At the end of the season, we'll look back and shake our heads that Dillon didn't appear among the nation's top 25 players. He dazzled as a freshman for the Eagles, rushing for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns on a whopping 300 carries. Dillon is big and durable but also can break off runs of 50 yards or longer. He got stronger as last season went along, and he should take on an even bigger role this fall for the Eagles. BC coach Steve Addazio expects Dillon to be more involved in the passing game, saying the sophomore will be in the mix for the Heisman Trophy when all is said and done.
Trotter: QB Khalil Tate, Arizona
Despite losing Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, the Pac-12 is quietly loaded at quarterback again. Yet the headliner of that group -- Arizona's Khalil Tate -- is ranked behind seven other quarterbacks on the top 50, including Oregon's Justin Herbert and Washington's Jake Browning. Tate, who rushed for more than 300 yards in a game last year and passed for more than 300 in another, should be on everyone's preseason Heisman short list, which automatically should have him ranked higher.
Which unranked player should be on the list?
Adelson: S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
You could make the argument that Miami would not have had a 10-win season a year ago without Johnson. That is how valuable he was to a Miami defense that thrived on turnovers -- and, in turn, the Turnover Chain -- to create momentum throughout the year. Johnson had four interceptions on the season and forced three fumbles, and many of those plays either rallied the Hurricanes or helped change the outcome of games. He also led the team with 96 total tackles (54 solo) and made his presence known on just about every down. He's one of the best safeties in college football, and that alone should have gotten him a spot on this list.
Bonagura: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
Harry arrived at Arizona State as the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the Class of 2016 and has lived up to that lofty billing in two seasons for the Sun Devils, catching 140 passes for 1,801 yards and 13 touchdowns. If Harry played for a more high-profile program, he might have landed somewhere in the top 15. He's that type of talent.
Low: DE Ben Banogu, TCU
TCU lost the Big 12's leader in sacks, Mat Boesen, off last season's team, but Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs aren't fretting because the 6-4, 249-pound Banogu returns in 2018 as one of the most feared pass-rushers in the college game. He led TCU with 16.5 tackles for loss a year ago and was second in the Big 12 in sacks to Boesen with 8.5. The Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Banogu had yet to play in a game at TCU this time a year ago after transferring from Louisiana-Monroe. He didn't take long to make his presence felt and had at least one tackle for loss in 13 of the 14 games in which he played. Patterson has coached some dynamic defenders in his career, and Banogu has a chance to be right up there with any of them.
Rittenberg: RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
We're about to find out just how valuable Hill is to Oklahoma State's offense. The Pokes lose record-setting quarterback Mason Rudolph and Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver James Washington, creating significant production voids in the passing game. It puts a greater burden on Hill, who is more than capable after rushing for 2,609 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in each of those seasons but nearly tripled his touchdowns total from six in 2016 to 15 last year, while logging 62 more carries. While Rodney Anderson is a worthy inclusion, there's a good debate about the best running back in the state of Oklahoma. Hill absolutely deserves to be here.
Trotter: RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, the reigning Big 12 rushing champ, was a notable omission. Despite operating out of an offense tilted toward the deep ball last year with Mason Rudolph and James Washington, Hill still finished with 1,467 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. With both Rudolph and Washington now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hill has become the new engine in coach Mike Gundy's offense. And he could be in for a monster campaign.
Top Group of 5 player not on the list
Adelson: KR/WR/RB Tony Pollard, Memphis
Last season, Pollard tied for the national lead with four kickoff returns for touchdown and led the nation in kick return average (44). He needs two more kickoff returns for touchdowns to set the NCAA career record. But beyond being the best kickoff returner in the nation, Pollard has been Mr. Versatile on offense, playing both receiver and running back, and he finished 2017 with 1,649 all-purpose yards. It will be interesting to see how teams handle kicking off to him, especially with the new kickoff rules, but there is little doubt he will be utilized even more in the up-tempo Memphis offense. Another big year should be in store.
Bonagura: QB Brett Rypien, Boise State
I'm not willing to call him the absolute best Group of 5 player not on the list, but Rypien has the résumé to be mentioned here. In three years as the Broncos' starting quarterback, he has been named first-team all-Mountain West twice and second-team once and has thrown for 9,876 yards with 60 touchdown passes to 22 interceptions. During that span, Boise State has gone 30-10, including a conference title in 2017 and a win against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Low: LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
Al-Shaair had a career-high 147 tackles, the fifth-highest total in the country, last season as a junior. Included were 10.5 tackles for loss. In just three seasons, Al-Shaair is the program leader in tackles with 354. The 6-2, 228-pound Al-Shaair has speed and versatility and packs a punch when he hits. He thought about coming out early for the NFL draft and underwent Tommy John surgery in the offseason. It's true that FAU's offense gets a lot of love, particularly with Lane Kiffin calling the plays, but don't sleep on Al-Shaair and the Owls' defense.
Rittenberg: DE Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
My man-crush on Sutton Smith is known by now, as I already pegged him to be the nation's top pass rusher, ahead of guys such as Nick Bosa. I don't see how a player who led the nation in tackles for loss (29.5) and ranked third in sacks (1.08 per game) is left off of this list. Smith undoubtedly will get more attention this year, especially with Jawuan Johnson transferring to TCU. But he'll still get his. He's too explosive of a player and NIU's defensive front should still be strong. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine is another Group of 5 star we'll be talking about in November.
Trotter: WR Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Over his last three games last year, Buffalo wide receiver Anthony Johnson produced a stat line of 21 receptions, 468 receiving yards and a staggering eight touchdowns. No returning player in college football averaged more receiving yards in 2017 than Johnson, who put up 113 yards per game. Not only is Johnson the top Group of 5 player to not make the top-50 ranking -- he just might be the best receiver, Power 5 players included, in the country.
Newcomer who will be on the list at the end of the year
Adelson: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
It is hard to get a gauge for what true freshman quarterback Lawrence will do for the Tigers this season, but the expectation is for Clemson to find a way to use him -- at least in the early going this season. Though coach Dabo Swinney has repeatedly said Kelly Bryant is the starter, it is hard to ignore the potential Lawrence brings to the passing game, an area Clemson has identified as one that must improve this season. Coaches have spent the offseason trying to tamp down the expectations on the ESPN 300 talent, but that hasn't stopped all the speculation about whether Lawrence will eventually surpass Bryant. If he does, then chances are high he will have a spot on this list at the end of the year.
Bonagura: QB J.T. Daniels, USC
First he has the win the job, but everything about Daniels' trajectory indicates he's in line to take over sooner rather than later for USC. If that's the case, he'll be handed the keys to one of the most talented offenses in the country. The Trojans are deep at both receiver and running back, which should allow Daniels -- who went to the same high school, Mater Dei, as former USC quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley -- to ease into the role before the coaching staff puts more on his shoulders as he gains more experience.
It's always a little dicey with true freshman quarterbacks, even guys as talented as Lawrence. Plus, it's not like Kelly Bryant was ineffective last season in his first year as Clemson's starter. Stepping in for Deshaun Watson, Bryant helped to lead the Tigers back to the College Football Playoff. But in Lawrence, Clemson has the kind of difference-maker who will be hard to keep off the field. Anybody who saw him throw the football this past spring (and not just in Clemson's spring game) knows what kind of dimension he can bring to the Tigers' offense. He has the arm strength, release, mobility and presence in the pocket to be a special player. Here's betting we won't have to wait too long to see how special.
This list already is filled with Dabo Swinney's players, but there will be one more coming soon. Lawrence, ESPN's No. 2 overall recruit in the 2018 class, is simply too talented to keep off of the field as Clemson pursues its fourth consecutive CFP appearance and second national title in three years. I don't know when Lawrence will play, but he'll show why everyone in Death Valley is so excited about the future of the position. It was tempting to go with another freshman who has an easier path to the field -- such as USC quarterback J.T. Daniels -- but Lawrence will find a way to make a significant impact on Clemson's season.
If he eventually wins the starting quarterback job -- and that's still at this moment an "if" -- Clemson's Trevor Lawrence could be this year's Tua Tagovailoa. Except Lawrence could have most of an entire season instead of one game to prove he's among the best quarterbacks in the country. Lawrence certainly has that skill level -- with, already, the frame and the arm to make all the throws. Despite making the playoff last year, Clemson was missing elite play from the quarterback. That could all change with Lawrence.