PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position

Steve Palazzolo selects the top performers at every position heading into conference championship week.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position

With rivalry week in the books, championship week is upon us as the season comes to a close. Many Dream Teamers will be sitting at home on Saturday, their résumé already being stamped for approval, but there are still a few spots that remain undecided, and a number of players that have one last chance to shine before we hit bowl season.

Next week, we’ll wrap up the Dream Team roster with our final version.

For now, here’s a look at how the rest of the team shakes out after 13 weeks of action.



Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma +52.9

Mayfield has yet to post a negative grade in 2015, and with his season over, he should be packing his bags for New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Key stat: Ranks fifth in the nation in accuracy percentage, at 78.3 percent.


Running backs

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford +39.1

Our top-graded overall running back, McCaffrey leads the ranks as a receiver at +11.5, while his +28.0 run grade ranks second.

Key stat: McCaffrey’s 2.36 yards/route ranks fourth among running backs.

Leonard Fournette, LSU +32.3

Still boasting the top run grade at +29.8, Fournette’s slow finish to the season should not tarnish his excellent body of work.

Key stat: Fournette leads the nation with 78 missed tackles forced as a runner.

Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State +33.7

One of the few running backs to grade positively as a runner, receiver, and blocker, Elliott’s overall grade ranks second only to McCaffrey.

Key stat: Elliot has yet to give up a pressure on 101 pass blocking attempts.


Wide receivers

Josh Doctson, TCU, +26.3 receiving

Out for the season, Doctson was still one of the nation’s most productive receivers in 2015. His +26.3 receiving grade ranks second in the nation, as he was able to make plays down the field in contested situations.

Key stat: Despite the injury, Doctson’s 553 yards on deep passes rank fourth in the nation, and his nine touchdowns are tied for third.

Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma +26.5 receiving

A late-season surge has put Shepard atop the receiving grades at +26.5, as he’s helped key Mayfield’s Heisman campaign.

Key stat: Shepard has caught 75.0 percent of his targets, best among all Power-5 receivers with at least 100 targets.


Tight end

David Morgan, UTSA +36.6

An all-around tight end, Morgan is one of the nation’s best receivers, while bringing an old-school inline feel to run blocking and screen blocking on the perimeter.

Key grade: Morgan is the nation’s highest-graded run blocking tight end, at +32.9.


Offensive tackles

Joe Thuney, NC State, +29.7

With only one negative grade on his résumé this season, Thuney has the nation’s fifth-highest run blocking grade at +19.1, while also ranking fifth as a pass blocker, at +10.4.

Key stat: Thuney has surrendered only six total pressures on 444 attempts.

Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky +34.7 overall

Lamp boasts the top overall grade among offensive tackles, including the number eight run blocking grade at +17.6, and the third-best pass blocking grade at +13.9.

Key stat: Has surrendered only five hits and five hurries on 489 attempts.



Joshua Garnett, Stanford +39.6

Garnett’s only two negatively-graded games have come against our two Dream Teamers, DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day, but he’s been excellent otherwise. His +33.3 run blocking grade leads the nation by a wide margin.

Key stat: Has surrendered more than one pressure in a game only four times all season.

Chase Roullier, Wyoming +37.0

Ranking right behind Garnett in our guard rankings, Roullier makes a lot of “move” blocks in Wyoming’s offense, and his +25.8 run blocking grade comes in at fourth in the country.

Key stat: Has surrendered only four pressures on 362 attempts.



Matt Skura, Duke +38.6

Even with his first “red” grade (below -1.0) of the season against Wake Forest, Skura has been the nation’s best center, particularly in the run game, where his +31.8 grade leads all Power-5 pivot men.

Key stat: Skura has surrendered only 10 pressures on 495 attempts.


Edge rushers

Joey Bosa, Ohio State +66.6

Bosa capped a great season with a dominant effort against Michigan that saw him pick up two sacks, two hits, and five hurries on only 36 rushes. He has the nation’s top pass rush (+45.2) and run stop (+26.0) grade.

Key stat: Bosa’s pass rush productivity of 16.3 ranks third among the nation’s 4-3 defensive ends.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee +45.6

New to the list, Barnett has had an outstanding sophomore season, capped off by a monster effort in Week 12 against Missouri. His +35.1 pass rush grade ranks third, and he’s yet to post a grade in the red all season.

Key stat: Barnett has nine sacks, nine hits, and 34 hurries on 349 pass rush attempts.


Defensive interior

DeForest Buckner, Oregon, +67.7

Challenging Bosa for top defensive lineman honors, Buckner brings similar dominance whether rushing the passer (+38.6) or playing the run (+29.2).

Key stat: Buckner leads all interior defensive linemen with 11 sacks and 14 QB hits.

Sheldon Day, Notre Dame +49.7

Day has held off the challenge of about 10 other worthy candidates, as his +27.4 pass rush grade ranks fourth to go with a +23.5 grade against the run that ranks 15th in the nation.

Key stat: Day’s pass rush productivity of 10.7 ranks fifth among defensive tackles.



Steven Daniels, Boston College, +47.6

A hammer against the run, Daniels boasts the top run-stopping grade in the country at +32.3, while his +9.8 grade as a pass rusher ranks ninth.

Key stat: Daniels has notched seven sacks, six hits, and eight hurries on only 93 rushes.

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, +36.6

Brothers is right behind Daniels in the run game, at +29.1, as he’s made plays all over the field for Missouri’s defense. He’s also graded positively in coverage and as a rusher.

Key stat: Brothers leads the nation with 78 total stops.

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, +30.5

One of the most dynamic players in the country, Smith ranked fourth against the run at +20.0 while using his athleticism to grade positively in both coverage and as a pass rusher.

Key stat: After missing 18 tackles a year ago, Smith has cut his misses in half this year, with only nine.



Jourdan Lewis, Michigan +21.2

Lewis boasts the nation’s top coverage grade, despite facing the sixth-most targets. His 15 passes defensed also lead the nation.

Key stat: Opposing quarterbacks are completing 36.5 percent of their passes thrown Lewis’ way, second-best in the country among corners with at least 60 targets.

Nick VanHoose, Northwestern +16.6

VanHoose has the second-best coverage grade, at +16.6, as his 11 passes defensed are tied for seventh.

Key stat: He surrendered only 44.3 percent of targets for completions, and has yet to surrender more than five catches in a game this season.



Jeremy Cash, Duke, +34.7

A rough finish to the season for Cash, as he posted back-to-back negative grades, but his season-long dominance still trumps the last two outings. He has the top grade among safeties against the run (+22.6) and as a pass rusher (+13.9).

Key stat: Cash leads all safeties with 48 total stops.

Marcus Maye, Florida +22.4

A versatile defender for the Florida defense, Maye moves around the formation and boasts the top coverage grade, at +13.4, to go with a +9.1 grade against the run that ranks 15th.

Key stat: Maye ranks third among safeties with eight passes defensed.

| Senior Analyst

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

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