SEC's Top 25 returning players for 2017

Now that college football's underclassmen have made their decisions about whether to enter the NFL draft, we have a better idea about who the most important players will be in 2017.

Even after players like Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Jamal Adams, Florida's Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson and Tennessee's Derek Barnett jumped to the pros, the SEC will have no shortage of star power this fall. Here is our ESPN.com SEC writers' list of the top 25 players returning to the conference this season.

Also be sure the check out Adam Rittenberg's list of the top 50 players returning nationallyInsider.

1. Arden Key, LSU: After averaging an SEC-high 1.09 sacks per game as a sophomore (he had 12 in 11 games), Key is easily the conference's top returning pass-rusher. -- David Ching

2. Derrius Guice, LSU: Among the nation's top 31 rushers, nobody carried the ball fewer times than Guice (183 carries for an SEC-high 1,387 yards). Imagine what he'll do as a full-time starter. -- D.C.

3. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: The league's best returning receiver is also it's most versatile player as Kirk has lined up inside, outside, returned kicks and punts, rushed, and even attempted passes. His 1,418 all-purpose yards was fourth in the SEC in 2016 and No. 1 among non-running backs. -- Sam Khan Jr.

4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Is there a better ball-hawk in college football? Fitzpatrick, who showed he could play cornerback or safety, led the SEC with six interceptions this past season and returned two back for touchdowns. -- Greg Ostendorf

5. Jalen Hurts, Alabama: What he accomplished as a true freshman -- the talent, the poise, the leadership -- it was nothing short of amazing. But his struggles as a passer were exposed in the College Football Playoff. -- G.O.

6. Calvin Ridley, Alabama: The uber-talented Ridley regressed from his freshman year to his sophomore year. But so did Amari Cooper, and we all remember what Cooper did in his junior year at Alabama. -- G.O.

7. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn: In seven SEC games last year, Pettway averaged 138.7 yards per game with seven touchdowns. Imagine what he can do if he stays healthy for 12 games. -- G.O.

8. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas: He's back after a dominant junior season where he allowed zero sacks and only 12 QB pressures. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the nation's best offensive lineman in 2016. -- S.K.

9. Braden Smith, Auburn: The NFL was an option, but Smith chose to return to Auburn for his senior year. He'll now be the anchor for one of the best offensive lines in the SEC. -- G.O.

10. Rawleigh Williams, Arkansas: Williams' breakout sophomore season put him second among SEC running backs in rushing yards (1,360) and he's likely to have an encore in 2017. -- S.K.

11. Nick Chubb, Georgia: Maybe he wasn't all the way back from the nasty knee injury that cost him the second half of the 2015 season, but Chubb still rushed for 1,130 yards as a junior. -- D.C.

12. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State: He won the Mississippi State quarterback derby and promptly turned in one of the best statistical season in school history, rushing for 1,375 yards and 16 TDs. -- D.C.

13. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama: Like most interior defensive linemen, Payne never gets enough credit. But he's the reason guys like Reuben Foster can make so many plays behind him. -- G.O.

14. Trenton Thompson, Georgia: Thompson is turning into the dominant inside force that many expected after leading the Bulldogs with 9.5 tackles for loss and tying for the team lead with five sacks. -- D.C.

15. Jonah Williams, Alabama: With Cam Robinson leaving early, look for Williams to move over and take his spot at left tackle. The true freshman more than held his own as the starting right tackle this past season. -- G.O.

16. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama: Over his last four games, Scarbrough rushed for 454 yards on just 63 carries and scored six touchdowns. Maybe the new offensive coordinator will finally get him the ball. -- G.O.

17. Austin Allen, Arkansas: The league's toughest QB was also its most productive passer (league-high 3,430 yards) and if the Hogs can protect him better, he's likely to have an even better senior season. -- S.K.

18. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: He's already Vandy's career record holder with 3,347 rushing yards. Now Webb is returning for another season after going off for 1,283 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior. -- D.C.

19. Jordan Jones, Kentucky: The Wildcats linebacker developed into a star as a sophomore, posting 109 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and four sacks while helping Kentucky return to postseason play. -- D.C.

20. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama: Would the title game have turned out different if Hamilton were playing? Maybe. Before his injury in the SEC championship, he had 64 tackles and nine tackles for loss. -- G.O.

21. Armani Watts, Texas A&M: A safety who can both cover and provide run support, Watts is also a ball hawk (two interceptions, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries in nine games) who should have a strong 2017 once healthy from his late-season injury. -- S.K.

22. Skai Moore, South Carolina: Although neck surgery prevented him from playing in 2016, Moore is returning to a defense that he led in tackles each season between 2013 and 2015. -- D.C.

23. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M: One of the surprises of 2016 was only a true freshman; Williams looks to build on his 1,057-yard, eight touchdown season in 2017 where he could be an even bigger part of the A&M offense as a sophomore. -- S.K.

24. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: He could have jumped to the NFL, but Haynes and his seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2016 are returning to a rebuilt Ole Miss defense in 2017. -- D.C.

25. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: If you're looking for the next breakout star, look no further. Some would argue that Harrison has already broken out, but this physical safety is just getting started. -- G.O.