PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position
Steve Palazzolo selects the top performers at every position heading into Week 10 of the season.
PFF’s Dream Team: Best players at every position
Two months down, one crazy month to go.
November is shaping up to be one of the best months in recent college football history, as the College Football Playoff picture, as well as the PFF Dream Team, picture will get sorted out. There are a number of familiar names that have apparently locked up their spots on the team, but this final month should see some shakeup. Defensive line is hotly contested, particularly on the interior, while the secondary could have an entirely new set of names every week, save for Jeremy Cash’s inevitable inclusion.
Here’s a look at the PFF Dream Team as we head into Week 10 and the all-important month of November.
Trevone Boykin, TCU, +40.0
No quarterback is playing better than Boykin, especially in recent weeks as he’s dominated to the tune of +31.6 grade over his last five games alone. He put together another huge outing against West Virginia, throwing for 388 yards and three scores while adding 91 yards on 10 carries. His connection with fellow dream-teamer, WR Josh Doctson, is yielding an NFL passer rating of 151.5, tops among Power-5 teams.
Leonard Fournette, LSU, +30.2
With a collision course with Alabama on the horizon, Fournette was on a bye this week, but easily maintains his spot on the team. Our notes from last week: Fournette’s 28.3 run grade dwarfs the next closest competitor (+22.1), leading the nation with 762 yards after contact (4.35 yards after contact per carry) while posting an elusive rating of 138.8 that ranks sixth. He remains the Heisman front-runner after carrying LSU through their first seven games.
Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State, +28.2
Also on a bye, here’s what we said about Elliott: the best all-around running back in the country this season, Elliott has excelled as a runner (+15.6), receiver (+4.2), and as a blocker (+8.9). He’s averaging 3.96 yards after contact per rush, and he’s yet to allow a pressure in pass protection all season.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford +25.0
Last week’s third running back, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, missed the game against Syracuse and unfortunately, he’s getting Wally Pipp-ed right off the team. We warned about McCaffrey showing up in this space, and he continues to play as well as any player in the nation. His +15.8 run grade ranks sixth in the country, while he leads the way with a +9.3 grade as a receiver. Such a dynamic playmaker, McCaffrey is firmly entrenched in the Heisman race.
Josh Doctson, TCU, +19.3 receiving
Doctson’s role has coincided with Boykin’s, and he boasts the nation’s top receiving grade at +25.7. TCU’s offense does a nice job of isolating him, and he responds by making big plays down the field, often over defenders. He’s second in the nation in both catch rate on deep passes (58.6 percent) and total yards on deep passes (553).
Corey Coleman, Baylor, +16.2 receiving
Baylor was also on a bye, but touchdown-machine Coleman maintains his spot. He’s putting up mind-bending numbers as he’s averaging 20.5 yards per reception and 18 touchdowns on the year. He’s averaging 4.99 yards per route to lead the nation.
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, +21.0 receiving
A different non-Power 5 “Taylor” takes over this week, as Trent replaces Western Kentucky’s Taywan. He’s second in the nation with a +21.0 receiving grade while ranking second with 19 forced missed tackles. He’s caught 82.8 percent of his targets (second among receivers with at least 40 receptions) and his 549 yards after the catch rank third in the nation.
David Morgan, UTSA, +20.2
Even with only three receptions for 32 yards last week against North Texas, Morgan had a huge game as a blocker, in both the run and screen games. He has and old-school feel to his game, whether lining up as a traditional tight end and moving defenders out of the point of attack, or lining up wide and driving cornerbacks into stands on screen plays. For the season, he has the nation’s highest run blocking grade at+22.1, to go with a receiving grade of +4.4 that ranks sixth.
Joe Dahl, Washington State +15.7 pass blocker
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—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 +29.4 overall
Lamp returns to the team, as he’s graded positively in every game this season. His +29.4 overall grade leads the nation, surrendering only four hits and four hurries on 388 pass block attempts, good for a pass blocking grade of +11.5 that ranks right behind Dahl. He’s also added a +14.9 run blocking grade that ranks fifth.
Joshua Garnett, Stanford +29.0
Garnett’s Power-5-high +22.7 run blocking grade has paved the way for Stanford’s running game, and helped vault them back into the playoff picture. Whether at the point of attack or on the move in Stanford’s power scheme, Garnett locks onto his block and opens holes. In pass protection, he’s only given up two sacks, two hits, and three hurries on 224 attempts.
Chase Roullier, Wyoming +34.9
Few guards pull as often as Roullier, as Wyoming follows him both left and right, and Roullier picks up a majority of his positive plays on those pulls. It was on display again last week against Utah State, as Roullier posted a +5.3 grade in the run game to bring his season total to a nation-high +28.6. In pass protection, he hasn’t given up a pressure since Week 5, and he’s surrendered only a hit and two hurries on his 310 attempts this year.
Matt Skura, Duke +32.9
Whether blocking nose tackles or getting linebackers at the second level, Skura has been the best run blocking center among Power-5 teams, and he didn’t disappoint with a huge +7.9 run grade against Miami last weekend. He’s now at +26.3 for the season (second overall), while his three hits and three hurries surrendered on 320 attempts have earned him a +4.4 pass blocking grade that ranks 12th in the nation.
Joey Bosa, Ohio State +40.8
Bosa and Ohio State were on a bye, here are last week’s notes: playing only 35 of 58 snaps against Rutgers, Bosa posted a +2.5 grade to keep his spot atop the edge rusher rankings. He’s picked up four sacks, 14 hits, and 20 hurries on 206 rushes, good for a +21.6 pass rush grade that ranks fifth among edge rushers, while he sits alone at the top against the run at +19.9
Charles Harris, Missouri +37.6
A bye for Harris as well, he remains on the team, though Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah is hot on his trail. From last week: Coming off a strong game against Vanderbilt, Harris rejoins the team, as his +37.6 overall grade ranks second among the nation’s edge rushers. He has six sacks, nine hits, and 16 hurries on 229 rushes, good for a +22.3 pass rush grade that ranks fifth; he’s complemented it with a +13.6 grade against the run that also ranks fifth.
DeForest Buckner, Oregon, +49.0
By far the nation’s best pass rushing interior defensive lineman at +30.3, Buckner as accumulated seven sacks, six hits, 28 hurries and four batted passes on his 336 rushes. He played an amazing 100 of 114 snaps against Arizona State last weekend, and still notched a +4.9 grade for the game. Buckner has been almost as good as a run defender, as his +19.5 mark ranks 10th in the nation, while his run stop percentage of 11.5 percent leads all interior defensive linemen.
Sheldon Day, Notre Dame, +38.0
Perhaps the most hotly-contested spot on the team, Day barely edges out Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins after posting a huge +9.3 grade in Notre Dame’s win over Temple. He now has the second-best pass rushing grade behind Buckner at +16.6 (three sacks, six hits, 18 hurries on 229 rushes), while his +22.2 grade against the run ranks sixth in the nation.
Steven Daniels, Boston College +43.4
The Butkus Award snub is now running away with the title of nation’s best linebacker after his +9.8 performance against Virginia Tech last weekend. He has nine stops in each of his last two games, and his 49 on the season ranks second among linebackers. Daniels is crushing the competition with a +30.7 grade against the run, while adding seven sacks, three hits, and seven hurries on his 67 rushes.
Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, +24.0
Another Butkus Award snub, Brothers leads the nation with 59 stops, a healthy lead over Daniels’ 49. His +20.4 run grade is second in the country, while posting a strong +2.9 grade in coverage. Brothers makes plays all over the field for Missouri’s stout defense.
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame +21.1
Returning to the team after a +2.1 effort against Temple, Smith boasts a +6.0 coverage grade that ranks 10th in the nation, while his +12.0 grade against the run ranks 12th. His speed and athleticism are huge assets as a blitzer, though he’s only been used 27 times in that capacity this season. Regardless, he’s managed to pick up four hits and three hurries on those rushes, good for a +3.4 pass rushing grade.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan +14.9
Taking a step back in recent weeks, Lewis has still been the nation’s best cornerback in coverage, as his +13.9 grade and nation-high 12 passes defensed attest. He’s allowed only 38 percent of his targets to be completed (22-for-58) while giving up 216 yards and an NFL passer rating of 40.6 on the season.
Nick VanHoose, Northwestern +13.2
A PFF Dream Team watch-lister in recent weeks, VanHoose had a huge game against Nebraska last weekend that saw him grade at +4.7 overall with an interception and two passes defensed. He now has eight passes defensed on the year, tied for sixth in the nation while allowing only 17-of-44 targets to be completed into his coverage (38.6 percent).
Jeremy Cash, Duke, +36.5
Maybe we’re cheating, as Cash is a glorified linebacker in Duke’s system; regardless of classification, he’s a playmaker. He is excellent at taking on and shaking blockers, a big reason for his +19.8 grade against the run that leads all defensive backs. Those same skills help him as a pass rusher, as he’s gotten pressure on a ridiculous 55 percent of his rushes (three sacks, nine hits, 15 hurries on 49 attempts).
Marcus Maye, Florida +15.7
Maye seems to be rotating in this spot with Clemson’s Jayron Kearse, and Maye gets the nod this week after an excellent game against Georgia (+3.4). For the season, Maye’s +10.7 coverage grade leads all safeties, as he’s deflected five passes and intercepted two more on his 25 targets. He plays all over in Florida’s defense, and is also a force against the run, as his +4.4 grade attests.