College Football 2023: Highest-graded players at every position through Week 6

2RXMRGG Seattle, United States. 23rd Sep, 2023. September 23, 2023: Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) turns to hand off during the NCAA football game between the Cal Bears and Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. The Husky rushing attack accounted for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. Washington defeated Cal 59-32. Steve Faber/CSM/Sipa USA (Credit Image: © Steve Faber/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

• Michael Penix Jr. is the highest-graded quarterback: Washington’s sixth-year senior has put up the advanced metrics of a Heisman front-runner through Week 6.

• Joe Alt is the highest-graded offensive tackle: After leading all FBS tackles in overall grade last season, the Notre Dame junior is picking up right where he left off.

Malaki Starks is the highest-graded safety: After a stellar true freshman campaign, the Georgia sophomore has blossomed into the best safety in the country.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We’re already at the midway point of the 2023 college football season, and the top teams and players are separating themselves from the pack. With PFF's midseason All-American team now unveiled, here are the highest-graded Power Five and Group of Five players at every position through Week 6.

Quarterback

Power Five: Michael Penix Jr., Washington Huskies – 93.7

Penix has been the best quarterback in college football this season. He leads all players at the position in overall grade (93.7) and passing grade (93.4) and is second in passing yards. The player ahead of him, Colorado's Shedeur Sanders, has just 15 more passing yards on 121 more dropbacks.

Group of Five: Darren Grainger, Georgia State Panthers – 88.9

Grainger’s 88.9 passing grade ranks second among all Group of Five quarterbacks, while his 79.8% adjusted completion rate ranks fifth among that same group of players. 

Running Back

Power Five: Audric Estime, Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 89.0

Estime is a 227-pound bruiser but is still second in the Power Five with 19 runs of 10-plus yards. His 38 forced missed tackles rank first among all Power Five running backs.

Group of Five: Ismail Mahdi, Texas State Bobcats – 84.0

Mahdi's 676 rushing yards put him second among all Group of Five backs, while his 4.8 yards after contact per attempt ranks second. 

Wide Receiver

Power Five: Xavier Restrepo, Miami (FL) Hurricanes – 91.9

Restrepo has been Tyler Van Dyke’s favorite target this season. He’s been targeted on 37.1% of his routes, the third-highest rate in the country. Because of that, the fourth-year junior is also tied for third in the nation in yards per route run (4.21).

Group of Five: Tory Horton, Colorado State Rams – 89.3

Horton announced himself to the college football world with 16 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown against then-No. 18 Colorado. On the season, the senior is tied for second among FBS receivers with 30 catches that have gone for a first down or touchdown. 

Tight End

Power Five: AJ Barner, Michigan Wolverines – 90.3

Barner is almost like a third offensive tackle for the Wolverines when he’s on the field. The Indiana transfer’s 82.1 run-blocking grade leads all tight ends in the country this season.

Group of Five: Colin Weber, Charlotte 49ers – 79.3

Weber’s 2.09 yards per route run this year is the second-best mark among Group of Five tight ends.

Offensive Tackle

Power Five: Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 87.2

Last season, Joe Alt's 91.4 grade led all tackles in the country. He’s followed that up with a position-leading 88.6 grade through Week 6. His 91.1 pass-blocking grade is third in the nation, while his 81.1 run-blocking grade is eighth. The junior is the only tackle in the country who’s top-20 in both metrics.

Group of Five: Adam Karas, Air Force Falcons – 86.3

Air Force runs the ball on 93% of its plays, the highest rate in the country. Therefore, its offensive linemen must be able to move people in the run game. Karas does just that, with his 82.1 run-blocking grade ranking sixth among all tackles in the country.

Offensive Guard

Power Five: Cooper Beebe, Kansas State Wildcats – 87.4

Beebe is demonstrating why he began the year as our top interior offensive lineman. He’s the only FBS guard who’s top-five in both pass-blocking (fourth) and run-blocking grades (second). The senior hasn’t allowed a sack since the 2020 season.

Group of Five: Christian Haynes, UConn Huskies – 88.8

Haynes was one of our top-five interior offensive linemen entering the season and is proving why. His 88.8 grade leads all guards in the country, and he is the only FBS guard with 85.0-plus grades as both a pass-blocker and run-blocker. The redshirt senior’s 89.8 run-blocking grade is five points higher than the Beebe, the next-closest guard in that aspect.

Center

Power Five: Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon Ducks – 83.3

Powers-Johnson is the only FBS center with 80.0-plus grades as both a pass-protector and run-blocker this season. His 88.4 pass-blocking grade leads all Power Five centers, as he hasn’t allowed a sack and surrendered just one pressure on 183 pass-blocking snaps.

Group of Five: Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane Green Wave – 80.3

.Haynesworth’s 82.5 run-blocking grade is second among all centers in the country this season.

Interior Defensive Lineman

Power Five: T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns – 91.1

Sweat is the country's only defensive tackle with a top-five grade as a pass-rusher and run-defender. His 19.3% pass-rush win rate is also third among all interior defensive linemen, while his six tackles for loss or no gain are tied for seventh.

Group of Five: Jacques Bristol, Central Michigan Chippewas & Evan Anderson, FAU Owls – 82.9

Bristol is tied for second among FBS interior defensive linemen with 20 pressures this season. Anderson, meanwhile, eats up blocks in the run game. The 356-pounder’s 90.8 run-defense grade is over two points higher than the next-closest defensive tackle.

Edge Defender

Power Five: Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins – 93.7

Latu has the best comeback story in college football. While at Washington, he missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons after being forced to medically retire with a neck injury. He then transferred to UCLA and posted a 91.0 pass-rushing grade, fourth among Power Five edge defenders.

His 91.3 pass-rushing grade leads all Power Five edges this season, while his 24.3% pressure rate is third among players in the FBS. His 93.7 overall grade doesn’t just lead all edge defenders in the country; it’s tied with Michael Penix Jr. for the best among all FBS players.

Group of Five: Terrance Taylor, Toledo Rockets – 90.1

Taylor is the only Group of Five edge defender with 80.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run defender this season.

Linebacker

Power Five: Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M Aggies – 84.2

Cooper is the only linebacker who ranks top-20 in the Power Five in run-defense grade, pass-rushing grade and coverage grade. 

Group of Five: Dallas Gant, Toledo Rockets – 85.9

Gant is the only linebacker in the country to place top-10 in both run-defense grade and coverage grade.

Cornerback

Power Five: Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas Razorbacks – 89.9

McGlothern has four combined interceptions and forced incompletions this season. He has allowed only six catches. 

Group of Five: Noah Tumblin, San Diego State Aztecs – 85.7

Tumblin has been a ballhawk for the Aztecs. His 10 combined interceptions and forced incompletions are tied for second among all corners in the country.

Safety

Power Five: Malaki Starks, Georgia Bulldogs – 90.6

Starks has picked up exactly where he left off from his stellar true freshman campaign. He’s the only safety in the country with a top-25 coverage grade and run-defense grade. Even more impressively, the sophomore is in the top 10 for both.

Group of Five: Ike Larsen, Utah State Aggies – 85.8

Larsen’s three interceptions are tied for the fifth-most among all FBS safeties,  while his 87.2 coverage grade is 10th at the position.

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