PFF Dream Team: Palazzolo’s ultimate CFB roster for Week 4
If you could build your ultimate college football team, who'd make the cut? Steve Palazzolo shares his picks for each position.
PFF Dream Team: Palazzolo’s ultimate CFB roster for Week 4
The PFF College Dream Team is my attempt to create the best team of players in college football. Based on past and current performance, this is the team I want to bring to the field on any given Saturday.
We may throw a few different themes out there — perhaps the all-downhill running dream team or the all-big-play dream team — but this week we’re looking at the best (or just my favorite) players at each position in the country.
There will be some movement on the team as the season progresses, especially as players earn my trust if they can carry strong early-season performances into conference play. For now, there’s a good combination of comfort level and new faces with this week’s team.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Even though it was South Carolina State, it was a nice bounce-back game for Watson who now gears up for ACC play against Georgia Tech. He’s my quarterback for the foreseeable future, but there’s still room to improve after he got off to a slow start. Still, the Clemson offense is loaded with talent and Watson can distribute the ball with a strong, accurate arm. His 77.1 percent adjusted completion percentage ranked seventh in the nation last year and he’s down to 66.7 percent this season. Expect that improve as he finds his groove.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Still the best all-around player in the country, Stanford is riding McCaffrey’s versatile skillset this season. He carried the ball 31 times for 166 yards and added another 66 yards on four catches against USC. On the Dream Team, we will use him all over the formation and feature his receiving skills where he topped all running backs last season and ranks in the top 10 through three weeks.
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Expectations haven’t been met in the early going by Fournette as he’s missed a game, fumbled twice and simply not put up the same video game numbers as last September. He’s still my complement to McCaffrey’s slashing style, though competition is hot at the running back position and there are a few names knocking on the door. It’s time for Fournette to put LSU on his back and make everyone forget about their quarterback woes.
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Davis hasn’t had many targets this season, only 22 through three games of which he’s caught seven. His nifty route running helps him create separation at the intermediate level and he complements it with downfield ball skills and after-the-catch ability.
Noah Brown, Ohio State
At least for one week, Brown has a slot on the team after making the catch of the year against Oklahoma for one of his four touchdowns. It was a breakout party for Brown whose statement game was put on hold by an injury that kept him out in 2015. Expect to hear even more from Brown going forward, as he has the big-play ability to build on last week’s monster game.
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
McKenzie pushes Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk out of the slot role for the week after he put together a Team of the Week effort against Missouri. He made plays in a variety of ways, finishing with 10 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns to go with his 19 yards and a touchdown on the ground. McKenzie is establishing himself as one of the best slot receivers in the nation.
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
It was a sad day last Saturday as Fumagalli went down to injury after only eight snaps. In honor of his strong start, I’ll keep him here for one more week, though it looks like there are other deserving tight ends ready to get a shot on the team. Fumagalli has been a good short and intermediate threat for Wisconsin while blocking well at the point of attack. Keep an eye on Ole Miss’ Evan Engram and Iowa’s George Kittle as potential replacements if we have to put Fumagalli on injured reserve.
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Lamp continues to impress as he followed up his strong outing against Alabama with a perfect day in pass protection against Miami (OH). He’s graded as one of the best offensive tackles over the last three years, and with Alabama behind him, it will be difficult to unseat him on the team.
Connor Williams, Texas
This was a difficult call for the second tackle spot as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey made the team last week and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is stealing the hearts of many PFF analysts. However, Connor Williams has been outstanding through his two games, building on his Freshman All-American campaign form a year ago. He’s yet to surrender a pressure on 90 attempts while posting the top run blocking grade among power-5 tackles. It’s Williams’ job for now, but McGlinchey and Ramczyk are on the watch list.
Chris Borrayo, Cal
Borrayo had another fine game against Texas, continuing his strong work in pass protection and in the run game. Perhaps most impressive about Borrayo is his productive play despite being surrounded by a Cal offensive line that has not graded well the last two years. Since 2014, Borrayo has surrendered only one sack, six QB hits, and 23 hurries on 1,343 pass blocking snaps.
Dan Feeney, Indiana
On a bye last week, Feeney maintains his spot on the team as he may be the best pass blocking guard in the nation. Just as Borrayo has allowed minimal pressure over the last three years, Feeney has surrendered only 14 total pressures on 944 attempts since 2014, by far the best mark in the nation. Keep an eye on his work in the run game which continues to improve and may make him a top guard prospect come draft time.
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia
Orlosky was also on a bye last week so he remains the Dream Team center for at least another week. There are number of strong centers emerging across the nation, so this could be a good weekly competition for team. Orlosky is here because of his ability to rarely lose blocks while bringing a consistency to the run game that gives his running backs room to run in the A gaps.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
There’s no sign of Garrett slowing down as he added another two sacks and three QB hits against Auburn last weekend. In addition to the pass rushing, it was an important game to watch Garrett against Auburn’s run-heavy attack and he did a fine job, locking in his spot on the Dream Team as our explosive, three-down edge rusher.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee
We put Barnett on notice last week, highlighting his slow start and perhaps lighting a fire under him by implying that his spot on the Dream Team may be in jeopardy. He responded with one of the best pass rushing games of his career, picking up three QB hits and nine hurries on only
Pass rush specialist (“Tim Williams Position”)
Tim Williams, Alabama
We hinted at re-naming this the “Tim Williams Position” at some point in the future and we’ve gone ahead and made the move this week. Tim Williams makes the team at the Tim Williams position as our designated pass rusher. He has three QB hits and 10 hurries on his 70 pass rushers this season, actually a step back from his incredible pace that he set the last two seasons. One of those hits led directly to a pick-6 against Ole Miss, so even without the sacks, Williams is making an impact as a pass rusher for Alabama.
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Continuing his hot start, Vanderdoes posted another strong grade against BYU and he’s the nation’s top-graded interior defensive lineman through three weeks. We knew he was excellent against the run coming into the year, but he’s been outstanding as a pass rusher with two QB hits and a nation-high 12 hurries. He’s been just as disruptive in the run game, using his quick hands to shed blocks.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Playing all over the line for Alabama, Allen has been one of the most efficient pass rushers in the nation with his three sacks, four QB hits, and nine hurries on only 96 rushes. He’s played 66.0 percent of Alabama’s defensive snaps this season, up from 40 percent last year, so he’s shown that he can handle the early-down run game and he’s a three-down player on the Dream Team.
Reuben Foster, Alabama
Foster continues to carry the mantle for Alabama’s linebacker lineage as he’s played well against both the run and in coverage this season. He’s yet to miss a tackle on his 23 attempts and he has the aggressiveness to take on blocks and athleticism to shed them on his way to the ball carrier.
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Another sure tackler for the Dream Team, McMillan missed two last week against Oklahoma but his three-year tackle production remains one of his finest traits (only 16 missed tackles on 186 attempts since 2014). He’s been the anchor in the middle of the young Ohio State defense which has already exceeded expectations, and that leadership and production fits perfectly on our team.
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
We don’t want to overreact to one performance, but it was rough game for Cunningham last week against Georgia Tech. Still, his athleticism and block shedding make Cunningham an asset and he ranks third in the nation with his 20 stops. His six missed tackles are a concern, as they were coming into the year.
Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
Despite his ups and downs against Ole Miss, we’re sticking with Humphrey who does have to a do a better job of avoiding the big plays. Overall, he’s off to a good start with three passes defensed and an interception on only 15 targets, but just as we suggested coming into the year, the big plays can be an issue.
Tre’Davious White, LSU
With a rough week from Florida’s Teez Tabor, White steps in at Dream Team cornerback after an outstanding start to the season. He’s bounced back from a subpar 2015 as he’s been targeted 12 times, allowing only five receptions for 36 yards (3.0 yards per attempt) while deflecting one pass and intercepting another. Tabor is sure to be back in the competition, but White’s strong start was difficult to ignore.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Maintaining his spot at slot corner, Fitzpatrick’s run and coverage ability are a perfect fit for our slot role and Alabama’s “star” position. He hasn’t missed a tackle on his 14 attempts and he’s allowed only 4.4 yards per target on his 14 targets. Just a true sophomore, Fitzpatrick continues to improve and his versatility is a must-watch every week on Alabama’s defense.
Marcus Williams, Utah
It’s a sad day that we have to push Derwin James off the team due to his injury, but we knew this day was coming. Williams steps into his safety role after an outstanding start that has seen him pick up two interceptions, pass defensed, forced fumble, and a fumble recovery all within the first three weeks. He’s quietly graded well the last three years, but he’s taken his playmaking to a whole new level in the early going.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
We may have made an oversight last week by omitting Peppers from the team, but he reminded us with an outstanding all-around game against Colorado in which he led the team in stops and returned a punt for a touchdown. We’re calling him a safety, but he’s a part linebacker, part slot cornerback, part special teamer, and that kind of versatility will always have a home on the Dream Team. In a year that doesn’t have many clear offensive Heisman-like performances, other than Louisville’s Lamar Jackson of course, Peppers has the skillset and opportunity to make a run at the award.
“Jeremy Cash undersized productive pass-rusher from Duke” position
DeVon Edwards, Duke
Another proprietary position for the Dream Team, we’re honoring Carolina Panthers linebacker/safety Jeremy Cash after he was a fixture on the team last year. The Duke product was an outstanding mix of run stopper and havoc-wreaker off the edge as a blitzer, picking up pressure at a ridiculous rate for a safety/linebacker/slot hybrid. So while we thought it’d be difficult for Duke to replace his production, here comes Edwards who has picked up three sacks and six hurries on just 15 (!) rushes this season. That’s pressure on 60 percent of his rushes. The best part is Edwards being listed at 5-9 175 pounds, and seeing that small frame line up directly with offensive tackles at times.