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Northwestern football Top 10 Most Important Players for 2016

It's no surprise who's at the top, but those below may surprise some.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we kick off our 2016 Northwestern Football Summer Guide, we first turn our attention to the most important players heading into the season. We didn't define "important," but instead chose to leave it open to interpretation — every writer could define importance in their own way, be it based on offseason improvement, play-to-play importance, or need to step up for a departed starter. Here's how our staff ranked their Top 10, as well as the overall rankings.

Zach Pereles Ben Goren Sam Brief Ian McCafferty Rob Schaefer Tristan Jung Zach Wingrove Josh Burton Martin Oppegaard Will Ragatz Overall
1 (most important) Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson Justin Jackson Clayton Thorson Clayton Thorson
2 Anthony Walker Solomon Vault Anthony Walker Anthony Walker Anthony Walker Anthony Walker Anthony Walker Justin Jackson Anthony Walker Anthony Walker Anthony Walker
3 Keith Watkins Ifeadi Odenigbo/Xavier Washington Justin Jackson Defensive ends Justin Jackson Blake Hance Keith Watkins Anthony Walker Clayton Thorson Ifeadi Odenigbo Justin Jackson
4 Solomon Vault Nate Hall Solomon Vault Garrett Dickerson Keith Watkins Justin Jackson Garrett Dickerson Garrett Dickerson Matt Harris Blake Hance Keith Watkins
5 Garrett Dickerson Both offensive guards and tackles Keith Watkins Offensive guards Ifeadi Odenigbo Solomon Vault Ifeadi Odenigbo Keith Watkins Ifeadi Odenigbo Keith Watkins Ifeadi Odenigbo
6 Ifeadi Odenigbo Justin Jackson Garrett Dickerson Austin Carr Solomon Vault Keith Watkins Austin Carr Ifeadi Odenigbo Solomon Vault Solomon Vault Solomon Vault
7 Matt Harris Keith Watkins Ifeadi Odenigbo Justin Jackson Offensive line Jordan Thompson Kyle Quiero Austin Carr Blake Hance Kyle Quiero Garrett Dickerson
8 Justin Jackson Kyle Queiro Xavier Washington Solomon Vault Garrett Dickerson Garrett Dickerson Nate Hall Jack Mitchell Jordan Thompson Nate Hall Jordan Thompson
9 Austin Carr [as yet unnamed starting true FR WR] Jordan Thompson Other wide receivers Jordan Thompson Marcus McShepard Justin Jackson Xavier Washington Godwin Igwebuike Eric Olson Austin Carr
10 Jordan Thompson Garrett Dickerson Austin Carr Kyle Queiro Jack Mitchell Backup quarterback Jack Mitchell Jordan Thompson Jack Mitchell Jack Mitchell Blake Hance

Throughout the next two weeks, we'll be having debates on whether the players belong where they ended up on the ladder, starting later today with No. 10, Blake Hance. Below — or throughout the series — feel free to join in on the discussion and let us know what your Top 10 is.