2016 ESPN college football preseason All-American team

Deshaun Watson looking for national title, Heisman Trophy (1:32)

Paul Finebaum breaks down Deshaun Watson's chances of winning the National Championship and Heisman Trophy this season. (1:32)

Take a look across the college football landscape this preseason, and then think about whom you'd zero in on for a preseason All-American team. Tough gig, right?

Don't sweat it. We took care of the hard work and the difficult non-Fournette, non-McCaffrey, non-Watson decisions.

Here's your ESPN 2016 preseason All-American team.


QB: Deshaun Watson, Clemson

In his first full season as the starter at Clemson, Watson led the Tigers to an ACC title and an Orange Bowl win and nearly pulled the upset over Alabama in the national championship game. In the process, he threw for 4,109 yards, ran for 1,105 more and totaled 47 touchdowns. The performance set a high bar, but as NFL scouts drool over his potential to star at the next level, his sights are clearly set on finishing the run to a national championship first. -- David M. Hale

RB: Leonard Fournette, LSU

As a sophomore, Leonard Fournette strung together one of the best seasons in SEC history, with 1,953 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns and an FBS-high 162.8 rushing ypg. The only way for him to top that would be with a Heisman Trophy as a junior -- and that will be within his reach if LSU remains in the playoff conversation deep into November. -- David Ching

RB: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

The NCAA's record holder for all-purpose yards in a season (3,864), McCaffrey was the only FBS player to lead his team in rushing and receiving in 2015. He finished second in the Heisman voting and set a school record for rushing yards in a season (2,019). -- Kevin Gemmell

WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

The Trojans' primary target hauled in 89 catches for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He was the only Pac-12 player to average more than 100 receiving yards per game (103.9). -- K.G.

WR: Mike Williams, Clemson

In the first quarter of the first game of the 2015 season, Williams hauled in a touchdown pass, took a shove from behind and collided with the goal post. That was the end of his season, as a neck injury sidelined him for the next seven months. Watching his team win an ACC title without him took its toll, but it also is driving Williams to have a huge season in his return to action. Given his 1,030 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014, that could mean big problems for opposing DBs. -- D.H.

TE: Jake Butt, Michigan

Teammates say the 2015 All-American is deceptively fast and uses his body to get open as well as anyone in the country. Equipped with a coaching staff that makes good use of its tight ends, it's a safe bet that Butt is on his way to a second-straight season of 50-plus catches. -- Dan Murphy

OT: Cam Robinson, Alabama

The talented left tackle could go wire-to-wire, from the No. 1 prospect at his position coming out of high school to a Freshman All-American to a likely first-round draft pick in next year's draft. -- Alex Scarborough

OG: Dan Feeney, Indiana

An ESPN.com first team All-American in 2015, Feeney has allowed only one sack in his career and has helped pave the way for a 2,000-yard rusher in 2014 (Tevin Coleman) and one of the nation's top all-around offenses in 2015. -- Brian Bennett

C: Pat Elflein, Ohio State

The senior thought about joining the flood of Buckeyes who left early for the NFL, but his decision to return could prove invaluable both personally and for his team's chances of returning to the College Football Playoff. Elflein gets a chance to showcase his skills at center after previously starring as a guard, and Ohio State gets a veteran back to anchor the offensive line. -- Austin Ward

OG: Dorian Johnson, Pitt

Johnson has been a stalwart on the Pitt offensive line since his freshman year, with 27 straight starts entering the season. He is a big reason many believe Pitt has the best offensive line in the ACC. -- Andrea Adelson

OT: Conor McDermott, UCLA

A second-team all-conference performer last season, the 6-foot-8, 260-pounder helped the Bruins post their second-lowest sack total in school history (14). He also helped pave the way for former running back Paul Perkins to a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. -- K.G.


DE: Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Leading his team and finishing second in the SEC in sacks wasn't enough. Allen bypassed the NFL draft to return to Alabama and anchor a defensive line that promises once again to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. -- A.S.

DT: Carlos Watkins, Clemson

His first few years at Clemson were relatively quiet, but a light came on for Watkins in 2015, as defensive coordinator Brent Venables said, and he blossomed into one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the country. Watkins racked up 69 tackles -- eight for a loss -- and 3.5 sacks while helping Clemson's line stuff opposing run games. He even recorded an interception against Appalachian State and returned it for a touchdown. His strength and athleticism have NFL scouts talking him up as a potential first-round draft pick. -- D.H.

DT: Malik McDowell, Michigan State

A strong showing in the College Football Playoff launched McDowell's national profile to a new level. The Spartans' defensive line is now his to control, and the massive athlete will be playing in several spots to wreak as much havoc as possible in opposing backfields. -- D.M.

DE: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

The 2015 Lombardi Award finalist should be in for a huge junior season after compiling 24 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons. Get a glimpse of him while you can because he'll likely be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. -- Sam Khan

LB: Reuben Foster, Alabama

Simply put, he's a heat-seeking missile at middle linebacker who has taken out Leonard Fournette and many more in the SEC in his three years at Alabama. -- A.S.

LB: Devonte Fields, Louisville

The former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year came on strong at the end of his first season with Louisville and finished with 22.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Now in top shape, coaches expect Fields to have an even bigger impact. -- A.A.

LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

Counting the variety of ways the prototypical middle linebacker contributes is a challenge, but McMillan simplifies it with his own evaluation: tallying the number of tackles he misses. That number was in single digits a year ago, and the junior is likely to be even better after another offseason of development. -- A.W.

SS: Derwin James, Florida State

The sophomore could probably be an All-American at safety, linebacker and even defensive end. Florida State will move its gifted defensive back all over the field to take advantage of his unique athleticism and strength. -- Jared Shanker

FS: Budda Baker, Washington

He's the anchor of a Washington defense that yielded a Pac-12 best 18.8 points per game last season. His 49 tackles and two interceptions, along with nine passes defended, earned him first-team all-conference honors. -- K.G.

CB: Desmond King, Iowa

King tied a school record with eight interceptions last year on his way to winning the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. Then he thrilled Hawkeyes fans by deciding to return for his senior season. -- J.S.

CB: Jalen Tabor, Florida

Despite the notoriety All-American Vernon Hargreaves III received last season, there are some around Florida's program who thought Tabor was better and much more consistent all season. Tabor snatched four interceptions in 2015, with two going back for touchdowns, and tied for first in the SEC with 18 passes defended. -- Edward Aschoff


K: Andy Phillips, Utah

He completed 85.2 percent of his kicks last season (23 of 27), including a long of 53 yards. He was a perfect 12-for-12 last season between 30 and 39 yards and added 20 touchbacks. -- K.G.

P: JK Scott, Alabama

You think that pendulum swing of his created some booming punts as a freshman and sophomore? Wait for what comes next, after Scott grew an inch and a half this offseason. -- A.S.

AP: Adoree' Jackson, USC

USC's first three-way player in nearly 20 years, Jackson is a mainstay at cornerback, but he also returns kicks and punts while moonlighting as a receiver. Last year, he posted 35 tackles and an interception but also caught a pair of touchdowns and returned two punts for scores. -- K.G.