The top 50 players in college football

Steve Palazzolo uses PFF data to rank the country's 50 best returning players entering 2015. Ohio State's Joey Bosa tops the list.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The top 50 players in college football

The college football season is now less than two weeks away. Who are the best returning players in the country? We dug into our PFF college football data to pick out the top 50 heading into 2015.

Disagree with these picks? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter. (@PFF @PFF_Steve)

  1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The best player in the country dominates games as a pass-rusher (93.3) and against the run (87.4).

  1. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

In his own league among cornerbacks, Hargreaves is the best in the nation at a 96.7 overall rating after allowing an NFL passer rating of 41.6 into his coverage.

  1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

Wright can affect the game in all three phases, whether playing the run (90.6 rating), rushing the passer (85.06), or dropping into coverage (83.3).

  1. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The nation’s best coverage linebacker at 91.5, Jack is also stout against the run (79.0) — and he doubles as a running back.

  1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

One of the hardest running backs to tackle in the country, Chubb excelled both as a runner (85.9) and as a receiver (86.5) as a true freshman.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Elliott boasts the nation’s highest running grade at 91.6 and he’s coming off one of the more dominating three-game stretches in recent history with his 689 yards and 9.1 yards per carry in postseason action.

  1. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

With eight sacks, 20 hits, and 38 hurries, Calhoun was a pass-rushing force (91.0) while also being stout against the run (84.5).

  1. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The nation’s most stout interior defensive lineman against the run (93), Rankins also provided nine sacks, six hits, and 24 hurries to finish at 85.8 as a pass-rusher.

  1. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

Right behind Rankins is Billings, who created havoc as a pass-rusher with 45 total pressures and a 90.5 rating while posting a strong 83.6 grade against the run.

  1. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The most productive returning quarterback in the FBS, Kessler led the nation with an accuracy percentage of 80.3 percent and an impressive 71.0 percent mark under pressure.

  1. Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State

One of the best coverage linebackers at 91.2, Perry is no slouch against the run (82.9) and as a pass-rusher (81.2).

  1. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

An interior disrupter, Buckner outplayed last year’s first-round pick Arik Armstead with his 87.5 rating against the run and an 84.6 mark as a pass-rusher.

  1. Su’a Cravens, OLB/SS, USC

A safety playing linebacker, Cravens was a force against the run (91.3), while deflecting five passes, intercepting three more, and tacking on five sacks, a hit, and nine hurries as a pass-rusher.

  1. Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State

The best non-Power-5 talent in the country, Higgins picked up 915 yards after the catch last season, including a ridiculous 19.1 yards per reception on his 25 screen pass receptions.

  1. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The true freshman was a rare force against the run (88.0), while adding 11 sacks, nine hits, and 27 hurries to post a pass-rush rating of 83.3.

  1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Another true freshman, Garrett made small schools Lamar and UL-Monroe look silly (five sacks and 21 hurries in the two games). But he also showed well with three sacks, eight hits, and 20 hurries against Power-5 competition. He could have a huge sophomore season.

  1. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

Conklin has the second-best run blocking grade among offensive tackles heading into 2015 at 91.8, and he showed well in pass protection at 87.0 (three allowed sacks, one hit, seven hurries on 433 pass-block attempts).

  1. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

Rarely moved in the running game, Zettel finished at 84.5 against the run while adding a disruptive interior presence as a pass rusher at 89.5 (10 sacks, two hits, 20 hurries on 328 rushes).

  1. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

(AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

Conner just breaks tackles, more than anyone in the country in fact (88), and his 88.5 run rating ranks second in the nation heading into 2015.

  1. Joey Hunt, C, TCU

The most well-rounded center in the country, Hunt handled second-round pick Jordan Phillips from Oklahoma in the running game in their head-to-head matchup (finished at 86.2 as run blocker overall), while providing good pass protection all season (86.0).

  1. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

One of the ACC’s top big-play threats, Boyd averaged 16.1 yards per reception and heads into 2015 with the second-highest receiving rating at 90.6.

  1. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

A versatile defender for Florida State, Ramsey showed his ability to take over a game with an exceptional performance against Miami, while finishing at 85.0 in coverage and 79.6 against the run for the season.

  1. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

After averaging 18.1 yards per reception, Williams could be even better this year with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. He heads into 2015 with the fifth-best receiving rating in the country at 86.2.

  1. Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee

Overshadowed by Hargreaves, Sutton was one of the best cornerbacks in the nation last season. He enters 2015 with an 85.8 coverage rating.

  1. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor

Drango surrendered only two sacks, one hit, and eight hurries on 556 pass-block attempts, while showing well in the running game at 84.4.

  1. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Right behind Williams with an 86.1 receiving rating, Shepard averaged 19.0 yards per reception last year while dropping only one pass on 52 catchable targets.

  1. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

One of the best run-stoppers in the country, Clark’s 89.6 mark ranks fourth among interior defensive linemen while posting a solid 75.5 as a pass-rusher.

  1. A’Shawn Robinson, DE, Alabama

A similar player to Clark, Robinson edges him in the run game (90.4 to rank second overall), but he has to do more as a pass-rusher to move up this list (73.3).

  1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

One of the top breakout candidates in 2015, Watson may be the nation’s most talented quarterback. He heads into 2015 with a 79.9 rating after his limited (by injury) true freshman season.

  1. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Royce Freeman

An impressive true freshman season has Freeman heading into 2015 with the No. 7 rushing rating in the country at 82.6.

  1. Eric Striker, OLB, Oklahoma

Striker was a pass-rushing force at 91.8, as he picked up seven sacks, 11 hits, and 44 hurries on his 332 rushes. He’s dangerous coming off the edge.

  1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Tunsil has the fourth-best pass-blocking rating heading into 2015 after surrendering three sacks and seven hurries on 364 pass-block attempts.

  1. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper’s 87.2 receiving rating ranks fourth heading into 2015, after he averaged 16.5 yards per reception while forcing 17 missed tackles to rank sixth in the nation.

  1. Jared Goff, QB, Cal

He took a pounding behind Cal’s offensive line last season, but Goff had the fourth-most deep completions of any QB in the country with 35, while posting a 2.0 big-time throw (BTT) to turnover-worthy throw (TWP) ratio that ranked eighth in the country.

  1. Adoree Jackson, CB/WR, USC

As a true freshman, Jackson posted a 83.1 coverage rating while also playing 43 snaps on offense that saw him catch nine passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Expect even more time on offense this season.

  1. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

Solid against both the run (82.2) and as a pass-rusher (86.0), the monstrous Oakman finished with 10 sacks, seven hits, and 28 hurries on 470 rushes.

  1. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

Though raw as a passer, Boykin sprinkled in some impressive throws on his way to an 82.1 passing grade, while adding a run dimension to the offense at 83.2.

  1. D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Before his injury, Williams averaged 16.2 yards per reception while posting an 87.2 receiving rating. He’s a big target who could be very productive for the Tigers in 2015.

  1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

As a true freshman, Perine ranked second with 74 missed tackles forced as a runner, en route to a 78.9 run rating.

  1. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Treadwell was establishing himself as one of the nation’s best receivers before going down with a season-ending injury. He averaged 13.0 yards per reception and forced 14 missed tackles on his way to an 83.5 receiving rating.

  1. Deon Hollins, OLB, UCLA

Similar to Striker, Hollins creates havoc off the edge in UCLA’s loaded front seven. He finished with nine sacks, 10 hits, and 39 hurries on 330 rushes.

  1. Cody Whitehair, OT, Kansas State

Whitehair surrendered only two sacks, two hits, and three hurries last season while posting an 86.0 rating as a run-blocker.

  1. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

He averaged an impressive 17.3 yards per reception in Baylor’s offense, including 11 touchdowns and 16 missed tackles forced. He has an 86.0 receiving rating heading into 2015.

  1. Nate Gerry, FS, Nebraska

Gerry just finds his way to the football, as evidenced by his 91.7 coverage rating that led all safeties last season. He had five interceptions and two passes defensed.

  1. Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers

Hamilton has the fourth-highest pass-rush rating among interior defensive linemen at 87.9 (eight sacks, five hits, 33 hurries), while showing well against the run (82.3).

  1. Sebastian Tretola, G, Arkansas

One of the best run-blocking guards in the country at 88.7, Tretola surrendered just eight pressures (one hit, seven hurries) in all of 2014.

  1. De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State

Wilson posted our ninth-best receiving rating at 86.0 on his way to nine touchdowns on only 549 total snaps.

  1. Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Good straight-line speed allowed Carroo to average 19.7 yards per reception to go with 10 touchdowns and an 85.1 receiving rating that ranks 10th in the nation entering 2015.

  1. Jeremy Cash, CB, Duke

A versatile slot defender, Cash was strong in coverage (83.9) and against the run (84.6) for the Blue Devils last season.

  1. Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise State

Vallejo made plays all over the field as he posted an 87.2 rating in coverage, 88.1 against the run, and 86.1 as a pass-rusher.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Dalen Erickson

    is Malik Collins from Nebraska close to making this list? I would imagine he MUST be top 60

  • Alfredo Cota

    No Ronnie Stanley?

  • PaddyFett

    How is Kendall Fuller from Virginia Tech not on this list? He’s likely to be the first or second (if behind only Hargreaves) CB taken in the next NFL Draft.

  • Spyda man

    Ohio State rules the top 10!

  • chethammer

    How is Taylor Decker not on that list?

  • Josh Knepshield

    Where is Robert Nkemdiche? Kendall Fuller? Ronnie Stanley?
    It would be nice to have an honorable mention section where these prospects are at least mentioned, even if it is negative.

  • Matt E

    No Ronnie Stanley and no Leonard Fourette? wow