College Football 2023: Highest-graded players at every position through Week 5

2T084GD TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30: Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. #9 during a football game between the Washington Huskies and the University of Arizona Wildcats on September 30, 2023 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, AZ. (Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

  • Michael Penix Jr. is the highest-graded quarterback: The Washington signal-caller’s 93.7 grade ranks first among all quarterbacks in the country.
  • Brock Bowers is the highest-graded tight end: Once again, the Georgia tight end ranks first among his peers.
  • Laiatu Latu is the highest-graded defender: The UCLA edge defender’s 92.4 grade leads all defensive players in the country.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We’re already nearing the midway point of the 2023 college football season, and the top teams and players are separating themselves from the pack. Here are the highest-graded Power Five and Group of Five players at every position.

Quarterback

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

If the Heisman Trophy were awarded today, it’d likely go to Penix or Caleb Williams. Penix currently leads the country in passing grade (93.4) and passing yards (2,004) this season.

 

Group of Five: Jaylen Raynor, Arkansas State Red Wolves – 89.7

Raynor does an excellent job of taking shots downfield while limiting mistakes. His 16.4% big-time throw rate leads all quarterbacks in the country, while he’s recorded just one turnover-worthy play. 

Running Back

Power Five: Audric Estime, Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 90.3

Estime is the nation’s highest-graded running back and the nation’s leading rusher, as he has 672 yards through six games this season. The junior’s 429 rushing yards after contact also lead all FBS running backs.

Group of Five: Jacory Croskey-Merritt, New Mexico Lobos – 91.7

Croskey-Merritt is an all-around back for the Lobos. He is top-10 in both rushing grade (second) and receiving grade (ninth), making him one of just two backs with a top-10 grade in both facets. 

Wide Receiver

Power Five: Luther Burden III, Missouri Tigers – 92.1

If you’re looking for the next Deebo Samuel, look no further. The true sophomore's 400 yards after the catch, 172 receiving yards after contact and 15 forced missed tackles lead all Power Five receivers. He’s the early favorite to be WR1 in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Group of Five: Tory Horton, Colorado State Rams – 90.0

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's 180 receiving yards after contact is second among FBS receivers.

Tight End

Power Five: Brock Bowers, Georgia Bulldogs – 89.2

This should be the least surprising name on this list. Bowers has been the best tight end in college football since the day he graduated from high school. The junior’s 301 yards after the catch are more than any Power Five tight end’s yardage total. Bowers could go down as the greatest tight end in college football history when his career is done.

Group of Five: John Michael Gyllenborg, Wyoming Cowboys – 80.2

Despite being Wyoming's backup tight end, Gyllenborg barely met the snap minimum to be included here. And with how he’s moved the chains so far this season, it might be worth it for the Cowboys to start the redshirt sophomore. Of Gyllenborg’s nine catches this year, eight have gone for a first down or a touchdown.

Offensive Tackle

Power Five: Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State Beavers – 88.0

Fuaga was a top-10 offensive tackle entering the season because he was an absolute road grader in 2022. That’s continued this season. The junior’s 90.1 run-blocking grade is nearly four points higher than the next closest FBS tackle. His eight big-time blocks (PFF’s highest-graded blocks) are also the most among tackles in the country.

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 fifth among all tackles.

Offensive Guard

Power Five: Michael Jurgens, Wake Forest Demon Deacons – 83.7

Jurgens is one of two guards in the Power Five with 80.0-plus pass-blocking and run-blocking grades this season.

Group of Five: Christian Haynes, UConn Huskies – 85.8

Haynes was one of our top-10 interior offensive linemen entering the season and is the only guard in the country with 85.0-plus pass-blocking and run-blocking grades.

Center

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

Powers-Johnson has excelled in pass protection this season. He’s allowed only one pressure on 183 pass-blocking snaps so far. 

Group of Five: Jacob Gideon, Western Michigan Broncos & Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane Green Wave – 80.3

Gideon has only given up one pressure on 183 pass-blocking snaps, while his 77.6 run-blocking grade is second among Group of Five centers.

Interior Defensive Lineman

Power Five: T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns – 91.0

Sweat is one of two interior defensive linemen in the country with a top-10 pass-rushing and run-defense grade. His 21.3% pass-rush win rate is third among all defensive tackles, while his six tackles for loss or no gain are tied for fifth.

Group of Five: Jacques Bristol, Central Michigan Chippewas – 85.0

Bristol's 17 pressures are tied for fifth among FBS interior defensive linemen this season.

Edge Defender

Power Five: Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins – 92.4

Latu enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2022 after not playing in either of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to a neck injury. That dominance also seems to have extended to this season, showing why PFF’s lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema projected him inside the top five of his latest mock draft. He leads all FBS defenders in overall grade and paces all Power Five edge defenders with a 27.3% pressure rate.

Group of Five: Ben Bell, Texas State Bobcats – 90.8

Bell’s brother, Levi, was also a star defensive lineman for the Bobcats and is now in his rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks. If Ben continues this level of play, he’ll join his brother in the league. His 36.1% pass-rush win rate is over eight percentage points higher than the next closest edge defender in the country.

Linebacker

Power Five: Power Echols, North Carolina Tar Heels – 84.5

Echols leads all linebackers in the country with an 87.7 coverage grade. His 32.4 passer rating allowed is ninth among FBS linebackers as well.

Group of Five: Alec Mock, Air Force Falcons – 85.3

Mock is one of five linebackers in the country with 80-plus grades both in run defense and as a pass-rusher.

Cornerback

Power Five: Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas Razorbacks – 89.9

McGlothern has four combined interceptions and forced incompletions this season, and he's 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 second among all corners in the country.

Safety

Power Five: Malaki Starks, Georgia Bulldogs – 91.9

Starks has picked up exactly where he left off from his stellar true freshman campaign. He’s the only safety in the country in the top 25 for both coverage and run-defense grades. And here’s the thing —  the sophomore is in the top five for both.

Group of Five: Jarron Morris, FAU Owls – 85.2

Morris has only surrendered seven catches while also posting an interception and three forced incompletions.

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