PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position

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

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)

(AP Photo/Tony Ding)

PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position

Rivalry week presents one last chance for many players across the country to make a last impression, with only a handful of games slated for next week’s championship weekend followed by a solo game between Army and Navy to finish off the season. A number of players have been here since early in the season while a number of players have vaulted forward on the strength of impressive second halves.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the team shakes out after 12 weeks of action.


Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma +47.1

Even while playing only 54 of 97 snaps due to a concussion, Mayfield remains the top quarterback for the second week in a row and he’s poised to make his Heisman case this weekend against Oklahoma State. His +47.1 grade leads the nation and his game against Baylor was one of the season’s best when the lights were brightest. Even before the injury, Mayfield made his mark as both a passer and as a runner against TCU, just as he’s done all season.

Running Backs

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford +38.4

The new front-runner for the Heisman? McCaffrey deserves serious consideration, and he has the platform available to state his case with Notre Dame and the PAC-12 championship still on the horizon. He had another huge game against Cal, grading at +6.0, and now tops our running back rankings. He’s +26.7 run grade comes in second while his +11.8 receiving grade leads the nation. McCaffrey is the best all-purpose player in the country.

Leonard Fournette, LSU +30.5

The November slide continues for Fournette as he’s coming off his first negative grade of the season, a -1.7 against Ole Miss. The last three game stretch was going to be difficult to overcome in the eyes of Heisman voters, but throw in fumbles and miscommunications as he had last week, and things are looking bleak for Fournette achieving college football’s highest prize. Still, it doesn’t take away from a strong season, one in which Fournette was the nation’s most dominant player for two months and he still leads all running backs with a +27.5 grade as a runner.

Ezekial Elliott, Ohio State +30.9

Similar to Fournette, Heisman hopes took a major hit for Elliott after a -0.5 effort that saw him carry the ball only 12 times. It was supposed to be a week to showcase Elliott’s skills, but it wasn’t the case. Still, Elliott has the second-highest overall grade at +30.9 and the number ten run grade at +18.0. He leads the nation with a +10.1 blocking grade that sees him leads the way on a number of runs and he’s yet to surrender a pressure in pass protection.

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson, TCU, +26.3 receiving

Out for the season due to injury, Doctson’s body of work keeps him on the team. Our notes from last week: Playing only 43 of 95 snaps against Kansas, Doctson added one catch to his resume, but it looks like his season is over due to injury. He’s currently the top receiver at +26.3 and he ranks third in the nation with 553 yards coming from deep passes. Doctson’s 3.94 yards per route come in third in the country as he’s able to make plays at all levels of the field and even when the ball is not thrown accurately. TCU will miss his playmaking.

Corey Coleman, Baylor +21.4 receiving

From an efficiency standpoint, few receivers have matched Coleman, though some of the luster has come off in recent weeks. He keeps his spot for one more week, however his pending matchup with TCU will go a long way toward holding it as there are a number of receivers making a late charge. For the season, Coleman’s 4.40 yards/route lead the nation by a healthy margin.

Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma +26.0 receiving

Another huge game for Shepard continues to move him up the receiving list and he now boasts the top overall grade in the nation. His +26.0 receiving grade comes in right behind Doctson as he’s now picked up over 100 yards in three of his last four games. Shepard’s quarterbacks have an NFL passer rating of 145.2 when throwing his way, also second only to Doctson, and his 2.86 yards/route rank 10th in the nation.

Tight End

David Morgan, UTSA +35.9

Morgan is now furthering from the pack as the nation’s top tight end as he posted a +4.7 game against Rice and he’s all but locked up his spot on the Dream Team. He’s an old school run blocker as his +31.8 mark crushes the rest of the nation’s tight ends and UTSA throws him out wide to take our defensive backs in the screen game as well. His +6.5 receiving grade ranks sixth as Morgan brings an all-around game to the table.

Offensive Tackles

Joe Dahl, Washington State +15.7 pass blocker

Missing another game due to injury, Dahl still makes the team, though his status is up in the air for future Dream Team iterations. Notes from last week: A smooth-moving pass protector, Dahl maintains his lead with a +15.7 pass blocking grade that is tops in the nation among offensive tackles. He did give up a sack and three hurries against Stanford, putting him at three sacks, two hits, and 12 hurries for the season, but it’s the 509 attempts in pass protection that make those numbers impressive. He’s now at a solid +5.0 as a run blocker as well.

Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky +31.7 overall

Lamp is no longer a lock moving forward as he had another average effort last week, and a number of power-5 players are hot on his trail. He still boasts the nation’s top overall grade at +31.7, including a +11.4 pass blocking mark that ranks third and a +17.3 grade in the run game that ranks fifth. Keep an eye on NC State’s Joe Thuney who has had a strong season and stated his case in recent weeks.


Joshua Garnett, Stanford +42.2

Bouncing back nicely from his rough outing against Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, Garnett posed a monster +7.2 grade against Cal to move his nation-leading grade to +42.2. His +36.2 grade in the run game is by far the top mark among all guards as Stanford’s run game starts with his ability to move blockers at the point of attack or when on the move as a puller.

Chase Roullier, Wyoming +37.0

On a bye this week, here’s what we said about Roullier last week: Also coming off one of his worst games of the season, Roullier still leads all guards with a +37.0 overall grade while ranking third in the run game at +25.8. He’s given up just a sack, hit, and two hurries all season, good for +8.9 pass blocking grade that ranks eighth in the country.


Matt Skura, Duke +41.3

No center has really challenged Skura for the top spot this season as Skura’s +32.9 grade as a run blocker leads the nation while his +5.4 mark as a pass blocker ranks seventh. He’s able to create holes both at the line of scrimmage and at the second level, and he’s allowed only four hits and five hurries on 475 attempts this season.

Edge Rushers

Joey Bosa, Ohio State +58.2

Even with his first negative grade of the season, Bosa is still the top edge player in the country as he leads the way as both a pass rusher (+37.5) and as a run defender (+25.5). He’s picked up five sacks, 19 hits, and 36 hurries on only 310 rushes this season.

Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State +34.8

It’s tight at the top as Ogbah replaces Missouri’s Charles Harris this week, but Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Georgia’s Leonard Floyd are also very much in the mix. Ogbah has the second-best pass rush grade behind Bosa as he’s picked up 11 sacks, 13 hits, and 42 hurries on 359 rushes. He’s also been reasonable against the run at +6.7 and he’ll need another huge game against Oklahoma to keep his spot for another week.

Defensive Interior

DeForest Buckner, Oregon, +62.7

Perhaps the nation’s best defensive player, Buckner has yet to post a negative grade and his +64.5 mark dwarfs the next-closest interior defensive lineman. He leads the way as a pass rusher with 10 sacks, 12 hits, and 38 hurries, good for a +36.7 grade, while his +28.0 grade in the run game ranks fifth.

Sheldon Day, Notre Dame +47.9

It took another strong effort from Day to keep him on the team as his +5.4 grade against Boston College featured a sack, hit, and six hurries. He’s brought a well-rounded game to the Notre Dame defense as his +25.8 grade as a pass rusher ranks third in the nation while hi s+23.4 mark against the run ranks 13th. Just as Buckner made his case against fellow Dream Teamer, Joshua Garnett, Day has a chance to the same this weekend against Stanford.


Steven Daniels, Boston College +50.3

Perhaps the nation’s most underrated player came through again with a +4.7 effort against Notre Dame. He leads the nation with a +34.9 grade against the run while adding seven sacks, six hits, and eight hurries as a pass rusher to grade at +9.6. Even as a downhill thumper, Daniels has also showed well in coverage at +6.1 and he deserves consideration as the best linebacker in the country.

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, +38.4

Right behind Daniels as a run stopper, Brothers still leads the nation with 72 stops, even if his once-record breaking pace has slowed up. He’s added two sacks, three hits, and eight hurries as a pass rusher, as well as two interceptions in coverage as Brothers has graded positively in all three phases.

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame +26.2

Smith keeps his spot for another week, though last year’s tackling issues crept up with three in the Boston College game. He’s graded at +14.8 in the run game and +5.2 in coverage, all while being held back in perhaps his best trait: rushing the passer. Smith has posted a +6.3 mark as a rusher, with five hit and eight hurries on only 43 rushes.


Jourdan Lewis, Michigan +21.1

The coverage numbers continue to jump off the page for Lewis who has surrendered only 29-of-80 passes to be completed into his coverage (36.3 percent) while leading the nation with 14 passes defensed. His +18.9 coverage grade leads the country and his 46 yards surrendered against Penn State last weekend represents his second-highest total of the season.

Nick VanHoose, Northwestern +17.3

Coming off his worst game of the season, VanHoose is barely holding onto his spot on the Dream Team, but he’s still had a strong season. He’s surrendered catches on only 44.1 percent of his targets (30-for-68) for 394 yards to go with two interceptions and 10 passes defensed. A number of cornerbacks are primed to challenge him, however, so his last game will go a long way toward locking up Dream Team status.


Jeremy Cash, Duke, +36.2

Coming off his first negative grade of the season, Cash is still our top-graded safety by a wide margin. He plays a linebacker/slot hybrid for Duke, bringing a nation-high +22.7 grade against the run and +13.4 pass rushing grade to their defense. Cash has now picked up three sacks, 11 hits, and 15 hurries on his 67 rushes and he leads all safeties with 48 stops.

Marcus Maye, Florida +21.3

Maye moves around for Florida’s defense, posting a +11.8 coverage grade that ranks second in the nation to go with a +8.6 grade against the run that ranks 12th. His ability to attack downhill in the running game while keeping up with slot receivers and tight ends in the passing game has been a huge part of Florida’s strong defensive effort and 10-1 record.

| 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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