PFF Dream Team: Palazzolo’s ultimate CFB roster
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
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 perhaps 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.
Here’s your Week 2 Dream Team:
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
It will take a lot to unseat Watson from his perch as the Dream Team’s starting quarterback as he’s capable of winning games with his arm or his legs. He hasn’t hit his stride yet this season, as evidenced by an adjusted completion percentage that has dropped from 77.1 percent (seventh in nation) to 65.1 percent this season (83rd in nation). Still, he’s too talented for that trend to continue and he’ll be spreading the ball around to Clemson’s multitude of playmakers sooner rather than later.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
The beauty of the Dream Team is that I’m also the offensive coordinator and I’ll properly tap into McCaffrey’s skillset. He’d likely make the team if he was just a slot receiver, but he’s one of the nation’s top running backs as his patience and explosiveness are good fits for both man or zone schemes. Kansas State bottled him up for much of the game-opening weekend, but McCaffrey broke free for two long rushing touchdowns and had an outstanding punt return that was negated – that’s the kind of big-play ability we’re looking for.
Leonard Fournette, LSU
The thunder to McCaffrey’s lightning, Fournette is still one of the nation’s most dangerous runners. He had a similar Week 1 to McCaffrey as he was held in check for much of the game, but he used his vision and speed to create a couple of big runs. Fournette’s Heisman campaign may have taken a hit the first two weeks, but he’s still capable of carrying LSU, and given their passing game woes, he may have to if LSU is going to bounce back from Week 1’s loss to Wisconsin.
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Davis is one of the best route runners in the nation and that will make him a frequent Dream Team target on third down. He can also create after the catch as he’s averaged 8.9, 8.2, and now 8.3 yards after the catch per reception each of the last three years — an incredible number for an outside wide receiver.
Mike Williams, Clemson
The big-play threat on the team, Williams has the body control to win down the field on “go” routes while working off that with back-shoulder fades. After missing all but 12 snaps last season, Williams looks healthy and ready to be noticed as an All-American candidate.
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
The slot receiver for the Dream Team, Kirk has been a YAC machine in his two years at Texas A&M. He’s already forced five missed tackles on only 13 catches so he’ll complement our outside threats nicely with his ability to work the short area of the field while excelling in the screen game.
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Until further notice, Fumagalli will be on Palazzolo’s Dream Team. I’m more than just a sucker for a good Italian name, tight ends capable of working the intermediate level have a place on the squad and Fumagalli was Wisconsin’s go-to receiver in their Week 1 upset of LSU. We’ve seen improvement as a run blocker this year as well, a trend that could lock Fumagalli’s spot on the team.
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Lamp has three years of outstanding grades behind him with the caveat that he did so with most of his games coming in Conference USA. He faced the biggest challenge of his career last weekend against Alabama’s elite edge rushers and he came out of it with only one QB hit surrendered on 40 snaps in pass protection. He won the battle in numerous one-on-one battles against Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson, all fellow PFF College Top 101 players and future NFL players.
Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Even with the flip to the left side, McGlinchey is still creating good movement in the running game while losing only a couple of times on his 64 snaps in pass protection. His development has been impressive to watch as he came in as a long, skinny offensive tackle and is now one of the nation’s best.
Chris Borrayo, Cal
Cal’s offensive line has been subpar the last three years but Borrayo has stood out among his peers. He’s always played well despite those around him and for that, we want him on our team. Borrayo is off to a good start here in 2016, allowing only two pressures on 126 attempts and creating good movement in the run game.
Dan Feeney, Indiana
We have our run blocker in the other side and Feeney makes the team as the pass block specialist. He’s only surrendered 14 total pressures on 944 attempts since 2014, by far the best mark in the nation during the time. Feeney has to movement skills to zone block in the running game and that’s a part of his game that continues to improve.
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia
Orlosky is so stout in the running game, rarely moved back or whiffing on blocks, and that ability to be in proper position more often than not gives his running backs a chance to succeed. He’s only allowed two pressures on 82 attempts to this point, but there’s fierce competition at center and Orlosky will be challenged to make the team on a weekly basis.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
The nation’s best pass rusher gets the nod after two-plus years of incredible production. Garrett has the nation’s top pass rushing grade on the back of a dominating Week 1 performance against UCLA. He continues to improve against the run, so expect to see him show up on the team on a weekly basis.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Despite a slow start in relative terms, Barnett gets the nod as his two-year production has been right up there with Garrett. He’s fierce against the run and disruptive as a pass rusher, so he’ll play an important 3-down role for the team. As much as I love Barnett, there’s fierce competition on the edge and this will be a difficult spot to lock down with edge rusher such a deep position.
Pass rush specialist
Tim Williams, Alabama
We’ve added a new position to the Dream Team, and once he graduates, this will likely be called the Tim Williams position. Other teams have the “buck” position that signifies the designated edge rusher, but well will have the “Tim Williams.” Williams has simply created pressure on about 30 percent of his rushes over the last three seasons, all while other pass rushers have settled in around 10 percent. He’s worth watching every week just to see how often he can disrupt the passer and we’ll put him in position to succeed on the Dream Team as he’ll get after the quarterback 15-20 times every game.
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Early in Vanderdoes’ career, he was more run stuffer than pass rusher, but he’s starting to show that he can consistently get after the quarterback as well. He’s looks fully recovered from last year’s injury, and his quick hands have allowed him to dominate in both the run and pass game so far this season.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama
A movable chess piece along the defensive line, Allen can rush the passer from the interior and on the edge, creating mismatches along the way. He’s getting more opportunities to show what he can do in the run game this season, and he’s responded with a strong grade as he’s rarely moved off the ball.
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
Cunningham brings athleticism and toughness to the Dream Team as he has the range to make plays in coverage but also the striking ability to blow up blocks in the running game. He’s already gotten in on 12 stops through two games to tie for eighth in the nation.
Reuben Foster, Alabama
While Cunningham uses his hands to attack blockers, Foster throws his entire body in there as he takes on lead blockers and pullers with aggression. He’s off to a fine start this season after breaking out as the next great Alabama linebacker last year. Foster can get off blocks with his agility or power, making him strong in the run game while he proved to be a playmaker in coverage with his seven passes defensed last season that led the nation.
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Cunningham brings some flash, Foster the power, and McMillan brings one of the surest tacklers in all of college football. He was all over the field last week against Tulsa and that’s in line with his career that has seen him play solid in coverage and stout in the run game. He’s missed only 14 tackles on 180 attempts in three seasons, and that’s the kind of dependability we need in the middle of the Dream Team defense.
Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
Poor Jourdan Lewis of Michigan is getting Wally Pipp’d right off the team as there is a deep group of cornerbacks vying for a spot on the Dream Team on a weekly basis. Humphrey has earned it after a hot start that has seen him allow only two receptions on seven targets for 15 yards to go with an interception and a pass defensed.
Teez Tabor, Florida
After missing Week 1 due to a suspension, Tabor was back to his old self with a strong game against Kentucky. He has the size and speed to play tight man coverage on the outside, but also the quickness and instincts to break on the ball on the outside. His playmaking ability will always put him in Dream Team contention on a weekly basis.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Our slot cornerback, Fitzpatrick is solid at the three necessary dimensions to play the slot: coverage, run defense, pass rush. He’s knocked away two of the 11 passes thrown his way so far this season, and last year he proved that he can cover the slot, play strong in the run game and create havoc off the edge as a blitzer. The true sophomore looks even better this season and he should be a superstar by the end of the year.
Derwin James, Florida State
OK, James is injured and he will miss some time, but we’re giving him one last spot on the Dream Team until he gets back. We were thinking about canceling the team in honor of James as few players exemplify what we’re looking for quite like Derwin. He can play just about any position on the defense while providing the best combination of run support, coverage versatility and pure pass rushing in the nation. We’ll miss his presence on the Florida State and Dream Team defense during this time, but looking forward to having him back soon.
Malik Hooker, Ohio State
Two games does not a career make, but Hooker has been so impressive in his two games that he earned his spot for this week. The sophomore already has three interceptions and they’ve all been fantastic plays as he’s shown the range and ball skills we’re looking for on the back end.
Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
4-for-4 on field goals this year, including one from 50+ and has a booming leg, with 17 of his 20 kickoffs resulting in a touchback. — Gordon McGuinness
Michael Dickson, Texas
Dickson went 4 of 11 punts inside the 20 yards line, just 27.3 percent of his punts returned (2 TBs, 2 OBs, 1 downed, 3 FC). Averaging 52.9 yards per punt and a net averaged of 44.6 yards. — Gordon McGuinness