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Determining a player’s value is a critical part of all team sports. This problem was (somewhat) solved in sports like basketball and baseball with the Wins Above Replacement stat, since there are certain figures applicable to all players that WAR can be based on. In football, though, a value stat is very complicated since there isn’t much correlation between different positions in terms of responsibilities on certain plays.
Fortunately, PFF has developed a metric to determine a player’s value called Wins Above Average (WAA) for college football. With PFF grades as their base, this metric is the best way to determine a player’s value. Here are the most valuable players in college football at every position so far this season according to PFF’s WAA.
Quarterback: Drake Maye, North Carolina Tar Heels
Drake Maye was tasked this season with following in the footsteps of Sam Howell, arguably the best quarterback in North Carolina history.
Now, Maye is the highest-graded quarterback in the Power Five (92.5) and the most valuable player in college football. His 32 big-time throws are four more than any other quarterback. Maye’s also an incredible dual-threat signal-caller, as his 417 rushing yards after contact are the second-most among FBS quarterbacks. The redshirt freshman currently has the third-best odds to win the Heisman (+500), per BetMGM Sportsbook.
Running Back: Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines
If the Heisman Trophy is truly for “the most outstanding player in college football,” then Blake Corum has as good a case as anyone. He’s the nation’s most valuable non-quarterback, and his 94.8 grade is the highest among all players in college football. In fact, the gap between him and the second-highest-graded running back, Bijan Robinson, is larger than at any other position.
Biggest Grading Gaps in College Football | 2022
|Name||Position||School||Grade||Gap to 2nd|
|Blake Corum||Running Back||Michigan||94.8||3 points|
|John Michael Schmitz||Center||Minnesota||92.1||2 points|
|O’Cyrus Torrence||Offensive Guard||Florida||88.6||1.7 points|
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes
The son of Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, junior is currently the best receiver in college football. His 90.6 grade is the highest among at the position, and he has the most receiving yards (679) and touchdowns (11) against single-coverage in the country. He also might not be human.
I tore my ACL watching Marvin Harrison Jr. do this pic.twitter.com/4DHelh7VxZ
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) November 13, 2022
Between Harrison and Emeka Egbuka, the Buckeyes have the two most valuable Power Five wide receivers. What's scary is that both are sophomores, meaning they must play at least one more year.
Tight End: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Michael Mayer is PFF’s No. 13 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft because of his all-around game. The junior has the third-best overall grade (90.7), third-best receiving grade (89.9) and seventh-best run-blocking grade (79.1) among tight ends in 2022. His 13 contested catches are four more than any other tight end in the country right now.
Offensive Tackle: Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Joe Alt looks like the best offensive tackle prospect since Penei Sewell, and he can’t even be drafted until 2024.
The son of Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer John Alt, Joe is picking up right where his dad left off. The true sophomore’s 91.4 grade is the highest among all Power Five tackles, while his 90.6 run-blocking grade is the second-highest among FBS offensive tackles. He also has allowed only a 1.4% pressure rate this season, the third-lowest mark at the position.
Offensive Guard: Isaac Cochran, Air Force Falcons
What makes Isaac Cochran the most valuable guard in the country is how dominant he is in the run game — and how often the Falcons run the football. In Air Force’s triple-option offense, Cochran has 515 run-blocking snaps under his belt — the second-most in the country among guards. The senior has an 85.7 run-blocking grade this season, which ranks first among Group of Five guards.
With a 92.1 grade, John Michael Schmitz is the highest-graded offensive lineman in college football so far this season. The sixth-year senior’s 92.0 run-blocking grade leads all offensive linemen, and his eight big-time blocks are tied for the most among centers. He’s more than just a dominant run-blocker, though, as his 80.5 pass-blocking grade is the eighth-highest among Power Five centers.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Levi Bell, Texas State Bobcats
Levi Bell is the only interior defensive lineman in college football with 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender. In particular, the Louisiana Tech transfer’s 92.0 pass-rushing grade is the highest in the country for interior defensive linemen.
Edge Defender: Yasir Abdullah, Louisville Cardinals
Yasir Abdullah is the most valuable edge defender in the country, mainly for what he provides as a pass-rusher. His 91.0 pass-rushing grade is the fourth-highest mark among Power Five edge defenders, while his 43 pressures are also tied for fourth. Also boosting his value is the fact that he has two interceptions, more than any other edge defender in the country.
Linebacker: Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati Bearcats
After dominating at Miami (OH), Ivan Pace Jr. transferred to Cincinnati and has continued his elite play. The senior has 10 sacks this season, tied for the fourth most in the country among defenders. His 38 pressures are five more than any other linebacker in the country. Pace’s pass-rush win rate (33.3%) and pressure rate (30.2%) are the highest among all defenders in college football with at least 125 pass-rushing snaps.
He also has 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender, one of only two linebackers in the country to accomplish that feat.
Cornerback: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide
Kool-Aid McKinstry not only has the best name in college football, he’s also been the nation’s most valuable defender.
The sophomore has been a lockdown cornerback for the Crimson Tide. His 14 forced incompletions are tied for the most in the country. He’s also allowed an open target on just 15% of his coverage snaps, the lowest rate in the Power Five at the position.
McKinstry's 319 punt return yards also beat out all of his competition. He should be the favorite to win the Paul Hornung Award right now as the most versatile player in the country.
Safety: Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa Hawkeyes
Merriweather has been a monster in coverage for the Hawkeyes this season. His 15.8 passer rating when targeted is over seven points better than any other safety in the country. For comparison, spiking the ball every play nets a 39.6 passer rating. The senior’s 12 coverage stops are also the second-most in the FBS at the position.