Ranking the top true freshmen in the country

Steve Palazzolo brings you PFF's 11 best true freshmen through ten weeks of play.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Ranking the top true freshmen in the country

As expected, the race for the top true freshman in the country is heating up and a few late-risers are starting to emerge at the bottom end of the list. This week saw a change at the top as well as a couple of new names that have turned heads in recent weeks.

Here’s a look at the top true freshmen in the nation after 10 weeks.

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State +18.8

A fine game from Barkley against Northwestern vaults him up to the top of the list as he gained 120 yards on 25 carries for a +2.9 rush grade while adding six catches for 50 yards and a +1.6 grade in the passing game. He sits atop our freshman running back rankings for the season, now adding some distance between himself and Washington running back Myles Gaskin.

2. Derwin James, S, Florida State +17.8

Another solid outing for James as he graded at +0.8 in Florida State’s loss to Clemson, including a +1.0 mark in coverage. He’s only missed one tackle on 25 attempts while grading at +7.2 against the run this season, placing him at 14th among all safeties in the nation.

3. Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri +17.3

Another strong game for Beckner Jr. against the run as he added to his nation-leading +17.2 run grade among freshmen interior defensive linemen. He tacked on three hurries against Mississippi State and now has nine on the season to go with three sacks on his 167 rushes. Beckner Jr’s 51 snaps last week represented a career-high.

4. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State +14.3

Playing a career-high 63 snaps, Sweat didn’t do much as a pass rusher against Clemson, but he added his usual fine work in the run game. His +11.0 run defense grade still leads the nation’s freshmen edge players, and he’s tied for the lead with 17 stops.

5. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State +19.1

After threatening the top ten all season, Rypien put together a monster game against UNLV that saw him grade at +9.6. He’s now graded positively in all but two games, and even those weren’t terrible efforts. Rypien leads all true freshmen in accuracy percentage at 79.2 percent as well as deep pass accuracy percentage at 55.9 percent.

6. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington +13.7

A solid outing against a stout Utah defense keeps Gaskin in the top ten as he’s emerged as Washington’s top back this season. He ranks second behind Barkley in elusive rating at 90.6, forcing 29 missed tackles on his 125 carries. His 3.86 yards after contact per rush also ranks second to Barkley among true freshmen running backs.

7. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA +12.5

Rosen had one of his best games of the season against Oregon State, finishing at +3.8. He’s done his best work against Power-5 teams as his +17.6 grade ranks sixth among all quarterbacks in the nation. Rosen has performed well against the blitz, grading at +10.5 with six touchdowns and only two interceptions on 101 attempts.

8. Jake Browning, QB, Washington +11.7

Staying right on par with Rosen, Browning had a strong effort against a good Utah defense, finishing at +2.9. It was his third straight game with a positive rating after a tough outing against USC, perhaps a sign that November will be a strong finish to the season for Browning and the Huskies. His accuracy percentage of 73.5 percent ranks third among true freshmen quarterbacks.

9. Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia +13.6

A sprained ankle limited Thompson to only 10 snaps against Kentucky, though he still played well in his limited time. He ranks second among freshmen interior defensive linemen at +13.6 overall while leading in run stop percentage at 13.1 percent.

10. Connor Williams, OT, Texas +7.8

The best pass protecting true freshman offensive lineman maintains his spot on the team, though he did post his first negative game as a pass blocker in five weeks. He’s still only surrendered one QB hit and nine hurries on 258 attempts while he continues to improve as a run blocker at +2.3 on the year.

11. Colton Miller, OT, UCLA +11.1

A newcomer to the list, Miller has come on strong in recent weeks since seeing a significant jump in playing time in Week 7 against Stanford. He’s been outstanding in the run game, grading at +9.0 overall, by far the top grade among the true freshmen. He’s done a nice job getting to second-level blocks while showing well in pass protection with a +2.7 grade.

| 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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