Top 10 players spring update: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Over the next two weeks, we'll be unveiling the 10 best players on every SEC roster at the moment.

These lists are sure to change as junior college and freshman signees drive on campus this summer, but this is our best assessment for the moment.

We continue this series with Mississippi State:

T-1. LB Richie Brown: It hurts to have only one returning starter at linebacker, but it’s a more manageable situation when that player is Brown, who led the team in tackles last year. The senior ranked fifth in the SEC with 109 tackles.

T-1. WR Fred Ross: He doesn’t get the publicity he deserves, but Ross is one of the best receivers in the league. As a junior, he led the conference in receptions per game and broke a school record for catches with 88.

3. S Brandon Bryant: Jamal Peters may have the better upside, but don’t sleep on Bryant, who was fifth on the team in tackles last year. With a bigger role to play this season, he’s gotten his junior year started right with three interceptions in a single scrimmage this spring.

4. DE A.J. Jefferson: Chris Jones got everyone’s attention as a top draft prospect, but it was Jefferson who had a tremendous year as a junior, posting a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss.

5. RB Brandon Holloway: If he were a few inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, we’d talk about Holloway in much different terms. But despite his relative lack of size, the speedy upperclassman has found a way to be one of the Bulldogs’ most dynamic playmakers, whether it’s running out of the backfield or catching passes at receiver.

6. WR Donald Gray: With De’Runnya Wilson off to the NFL, there could be more targets on the horizon for Gray, a talented junior college transfer who played in the slot last year.

7. DT Nick James: He’s not going to fill up a stat sheet, but James will plug up the gaps. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound senior is key to Mississippi State’s run defense.

8. S Jamal Peters: The former No. 2-ranked safety in the 2015 class played often during his freshman year, appearing in all 12 games and registering 25 tackles. With three starters gone in the secondary, he could rise up the depth chart as a sophomore. If not, there’s the outside chance he contributes on offense as a two-way player at receiver.

9. WR Malik Dear: Like Holloway, Dear doesn’t have a prototypical build. At 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, you’d think he was a running back rather than a receiver. But regardless of preconceptions, Dear is as talented as any offensive skill player in Starkville not named Fred Ross.

10. LB Leo Lewis: State fans are pinning a lot of expectations on the former No. 2-ranked inside linebacker in the 2015 class. But with several starting spots open, Lewis could be in for a breakout season after redshirting last year.