Ranking the 10 best true freshmen in college football

Steve Palazzolo brings you PFF's best true freshmen following the conclusion of the regular season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Ranking the 10 best true freshmen in college football

There’s a lot of shakeup in this week’s list, as we moved a few players around due to late-seasons injuries and allowed the spotlight to shine on others who have performed well in recent weeks.

We’re one week away from finalizing our true freshmen All-American team, and while a most of these players are done for the season, a few still have one last chance to impress during championship week.

Here’s a look at the top 10:

  1. Derwin James, S, Florida State: +25.3

The future star did it again Saturday with a monster game against Florida that saw him pick up a sack and six hurries on only 13 rushes. Part safety, part edge rusher, James continues to excel as one of the nation’s most unique talents.

  1. Myles Gaskin, RB. Washington: +24.3

Gaskin leapfrogs Saquon Barkley this week after a huge game against Washington State. He leads all true freshmen running backs with 53 forced missed tackles and ranks second behind Barkley with 3.65 yards after contact per rush.

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: +21.5

No slight on Barkley to fall behind Gaskin, as he had a fine effort on the ground against a tough Michigan State defense. He leads all true freshman runners in elusive rating at 125.2 while also leading with 3.89 yards after contact per rush.

  1. Jake Browning, QB, Washington: +18.0

Quite a duo is developing at Washington as Browning leads all true freshmen signal callers in both overall grade at +18.0 and deep passing accuracy at 49.0 percent.

  1. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State: +13.3

More of a run-stopping specialist for FSU this season. Sweat’s +13.4 grade in the run game leads all true freshmen edge defenders.

  1. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: +13.5

Kirk has the top receiving grade among the true freshmen, emerging as one of the Aggies’ top weapons from early in the season. His 569 yards after the catch rank 10th in the nation.

  1. Brett Rypien, RB, Boise State: +15.5

Back in the top ten as we re-shuffle due to injuries, Rypien’s body of work has been impressive despite a step back in recent weeks. He leads all true freshmen QBs in accuracy percentage at 75.4 percent and his game against UNLV was one of the better efforts we’ve seen from any QB this season.

  1. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh: +9.6

A season-long starter for the Panthers, Whitehead ranks behind only James as a run stopper and he leads all power-5 true freshmen safeties with 30 stops.

  1. Connor Williams, OT, Texas +8.5

A top ten staple, no other true freshmen offensive tackle has shown the week to week consistency as Williams as a pass blocker. He’s given up only 14 total pressures on 318 attempts.

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama: +7.3

After a rough debut in week one, Fitzpatrick has taken to Alabama’s “star” (slot) role. He has two interceptions and five pass defensed on the year, good for a +5.8 coverage grade while adding two sacks, two hits, and two hurries as a pass rusher on 13 attempts.

Top-ten talents, but injured:

DT Terry Beckner, Jr; Missouri +16.8

DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia +13.7

QB Jarrett Stidham +17.8

Late Slide, but future is bright:

QB Josh Rosen, UCLA +8.1

CB Kevin Toliver, LSU +7.5

DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M +11.8

Late start, but good first impression:

OT Kolton Miller, UCLA




| Senior Analyst

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

  • techvet

    I wonder where Josh Adams would fall on this list.