Top 10 players in college football
Here is our updated list of the top 10 players in college football, with the help of PFF grades, heading into this week’s conference championship matchups:
1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
That didn’t take long. After a one-week drop to No. 2 on this list, Bosa is back up top after a dominating performance in the Buckeyes’ blowout win over Michigan. He earned his second-highest pass-rush grade of the year, recording nine total pressures including two sacks. He has PFF’s top run-defense grade among edge defenders and is by far the highest-graded pass-rusher at the position.
2. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
He drops one spot here only because he had a mere good game in the Ducks’ win over Oregon State, whereas Bosa was outstanding versus Michigan. But it’s still a legitimate debate as to whether Buckner or Bosa is the best defensive player in college football. He is far and away the No. 1 interior defender in our grades.
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
We’ve praised McCaffrey all season long for his all-around game, as he excels not just as a runner but also as a receiver and a kick returner. But what’s amazing is that in addition to being PFF’s top-ranked pass-catcher out of the backfield and second-ranked return man against the Power 5, he’s also No. 1 in rushing grade – ahead of the likes of Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry.
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
He has been the driving force behind the Sooners’ run to playoff contention, and he ranks as the No. 1 quarterback in PFF grades versus Power-5 competition, as the No. 1 passer and No. 9 runner. There are lots of stats to point to with Mayfield, but this might be the most impressive one: If you only took plays during which he was under pressure, his passer rating would STILL be No. 1 in the country (among Power-5 QBs). That’s pretty remarkable.
5. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Tigers didn’t make a strong run at the SEC title the way it looked like they might early in the year, but that isn’t Fournette’s fault. He rebounded from his only negative grade of the season with a strong performance in a win over Texas A&M, during which he forced a ridiculous 11 missed tackles. He still owns our No. 1 rushing grade overall (McCaffrey edges him slightly in Power-5 play), and his 88 broken tackles on the season is easily the most in the country.
6. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Henry is the SEC running back now getting the Heisman hype, instead of Fournette, as he has been on a tear in recent weeks. Versus Power-5 competition, he ranks third in rushing grade, fourth in broken tackles and fourth in yards after contact per attempt. He plays a huge role for an Alabama team that looks poised to make the College Football Playoff (so long as they can get past Florida in the SEC title game), but colleague Gordon McGuinness made a very compelling case Tuesday for why he shouldn’t win the Heisman Trophy over some other more worthy candidates.
7. Jared Goff, QB, California
Goff is back on this list after a few-week hiatus during the season. He currently ranks No. 2 in PFF’s QB grades in Power-5 play, and outside of a pair of rough outings versus Utah and Oregon, he has been excellent all season long. He might be the best deep passer in all of college football, completing over 50 percent of his passes 20 yards or more down the middle of the field, for 885 yards, 6 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.
8. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Ogbah earned a negative game in the Cowboys’ loss to Oklahoma last weekend, but he remains one of the best pass-rushers in the entire country when taking into account the entire season. There are strong cases to be made for Tennessee’s Derek Barnett or Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun replacing him here, but Ogbah still leads both in total pressures and sacks, and unlike Calhoun, Ogbah has also earned a good grade versus the run.
9. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
Day held his own against an excellent Stanford offensive line in the Fighting Irish’s close loss on Saturday, earning a positive grade on the day. He has been the nation’s second-best interior defender this season, behind only Buckner, and its best defensive tackle. His 44 total pressures is tied for the third-most at his position, and he’s a force against the run, too.
10. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
This might be a little bit of a reach over some worthy defensive candidates, but Watson deserves recognition for what has been an excellent season. He is currently the No. 1 QB in rushing grade versus Power-5 competition, and ranks second in accuracy percentage – a sign of his true dual-threat ability. He hasn’t yet had a signature performance this season, struggling in a rainy win over Notre Dame, which was Clemson’s toughest opponent so far this year, but that could come this week in the ACC title game against an underrated UNC defense.
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Steven Daniels, LB, Boston College