Top 10 players in college football
Several of the players in this ranking of the 10 best in college football are locked up in matchups of key playoff importance this weekend. Here are the top 10 players in the country, with the help of our PFF grades:
1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
There hasn’t been a better player in college football this season, and he’s going to play a critical role Saturday when the Buckeyes host Michigan State. The Spartans’ offensive line is one of the better units in the country, but between Bosa (No. 1 pass-rush grade among edge defenders) and Adolphus Washington (No. 2 pass-rush grade among interior defenders) they will have their hands full. Bosa also owns the No. 1 run-defense grade among edge defenders, so he’s a force in that regard, as well.
2. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
It’s going to be hard to jump Bosa to earn the top spot, but Buckner is making a case to be named the nation’s best defender this season. He is by far the top-ranked interior defender in our PFF grades, dominating as both a pass-rusher and against the run, and he was the clear winner in his head-to-head matchup last Saturday with Stanford’s Joshua Garnett, one of the best offensive guards in the country. Buckner beat him for a sack and three more hits after Garnett came into the game having only allowed seven total pressures.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield took over the top spot in our quarterback grades this week after his outstanding performance in the Sooners’ win over Baylor, completing 24 of 34 aimed passes and posting a very impressive 110 passer rating against pressure. He has been having a great season overall, ranking fifth in accuracy rate against Power 5 competition at 76 percent.
4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Boykin injured his ankle in the Horned Frogs’ win over Kansas last week, and he is questionable for the team’s huge matchup with Oklahoma this week. He has put together a fantastic season, as our No. 2-graded quarterback (No. 1 if limited to games against Power 5 competition, up from No. 16 last season). He has shown huge improvement as a thrower this year, relying less on his running ability than in 2014, and he’s been particularly effective at driving the ball downfield. 21 percent of his passes travel 20-plus yards, and his accuracy percentage of 50.8 on those throws ranks fourth in the country.
5. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Tigers dropped a second consecutive game last week, losing to Arkansas 31-14, and the offense again struggled. But once again, it wasn’t Fournette’s fault, so we’ll keep him here as the No. 1 running back on this list. He broke an impressive seven tackles against the Razorbacks, gaining 77 of his 90 yards after contact. On the season, he is still PFF’s top-ranked back in rushing grade, he ranks fourth in yards after contact per attempt and is tied for the nation’s lead with 63 forced missed tackles as a runner.
6. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Lewis has been the best player in coverage in college football this season. He is PFF’s top-ranked cornerback, and put together another impressive performance in the Wolverines’ shootout win against Indiana last week. Opposing quarterbacks have achieved a passer rating of just 43.7 against him, the seventh-lowest number in the nation.
7. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
McCaffrey had a good game even in the Cardinal’s loss to Oregon last week, and he has taken over the top spot in our overall running back grades. He isn’t quite on the same level as Fournette as a runner, which is why we have him ranked lower, but his all-around game continues to impress. He is one of the top return men in our PFF grades, and continues to be our top-graded pass-catcher out of the backfield.
8. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Identifying the best wide receiver in college football right now isn’t easy, and there are several other deserving candidates in TCU’s Josh Doctson (No. 1 in PFF’s WR grades), Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge (No. 1 in deep-ball catch rate) and Baylor’s Corey Coleman (No. 1 in yards per route run). But we’ll go with Shepard this week, as he ranks No. 1 in wide receiver rating, having caught 59 of 74 targets for 940 yards and 9 touchdowns, with only one pass being intercepted when his QB has thrown his way. He is coming off an outstanding game in the win over Baylor.
9. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Ogbah didn’t have a great game in the Cowboys’ close win over Iowa State, but he still ranks as one of the best pass-rushers in the entire country, ranking third in PFF grades among edge defenders. His 62 total pressures (10 sacks, 10 hits, 42 hurries) is the highest total in college football. Two other edge rushers who merit recognition here are Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun (No. 2 in pass-rush grade among edge defenders) and Missouri’s Charles Harris (No. 2 in edge defender grades).
10. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (for his all-around running, receiving and pass-blocking ability) and Alabama’s Derrick Henry (for his recent hot streak – 14 broken tackles the last two weeks) both pushed Cook for this spot, but the FSU running back’s numbers have been too good to ignore. He leads the nation in elusive rating, which measures how good a back is at generating yards on his own. He leads in yards after contact per attempt. He leads in breakaway percentage. All of it adds up to his being one of the most explosive backs in college football.
Jeremy Cash, S, Duke
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor