PFF College 50: The 50 best players in college football right now

2K1DR42 September 17, 2022: Mississippi Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of a NCAA college football game against the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Austin McAfee/CSM/Sipa USA(Credit Image: © Austin Mcafee/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA)

Last week, PFF lead NFL analyst Sam Monson revealed the top 50 players in the NFL heading into the 2023 season. Now, it’s time to unveil the top 50 players in college football. 

PFF is in a unique position to evaluate every player in the nation, with hundreds of data points at our disposal that can’t be found anywhere else. No single data point dictates this list, but our grades and wins above average metric have been used as a foundation.

1. QB Caleb Williams, USC Trojans

Williams is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner for a reason: He's the best player in college football. As a sophomore, he was the highest-graded Power Five quarterback, earning a 91.8 mark. His 93.0 grade over the past two years trails only Bryce Young among all quarterbacks in college football.

If his junior year is anything like the past two, Williams will have NFL teams tripping over themselves to select him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

2. TE Brock Bowers, Georgia Bulldogs

Bowers is on track to go down as one of the greatest tight ends in college football history. While that may sound hyperbolic, it’s the only way to describe how ridiculous his first two seasons have been.

He was the most valuable tight end in college football during both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He has dominated every receiving category for tight ends in that span while still earning the eighth-best run-blocking grade among Power Five tight ends (76.8).

Brock Bowers’ Receiving Stats since 2021
Statistic Brock Bowers Next-closest FBS tight end
Receiving yards 1,824 1,649
Receiving touchdowns 20 16
Yards after the catch 1,001 673
Receiving yards after contact 440 382

3. WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes

As the son of one of the 10 greatest receivers in NFL history, Harrison had big shoes to fill. If his sophomore year was any indication, Marvin Harrison III is going to have impossible hype to live up to.

Harrison was both the highest-graded (90.2) and most valuable wide receiver in the country last season, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. Against single coverage, Harrison’s 878 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns were the most among all FBS receivers. By the time the 2024 draft rolls around, Harrison could go down as one of the best receiver prospects in recent memory.

4. RB Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines

Corum made history last season. His 96.2 grade didn’t just lead all players in the country, it was the highest by a Power Five player since PFF began charting college football in 2014.

Highest-Graded Seasons by a Power Five Player in PFF College Era (since 2014)
Name School Position Season Grade
Blake Corum Michigan RB 2022 96.2
Kyle Pitts Florida TE 2020 96.0
Chase Young Ohio State EDGE 2019 96.0
Quinnen Williams Alabama DI 2018 96.0

Each of the three players behind him was a top-five draft pick. Corum likely won’t join them since he plays running back, but it’s a sign of the elite company that he’s in, regardless.

5. OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The top five players on this list were all the best players in the country at their respective positions in 2022, showing how elite the returning talent is in college football. 

As a sophomore in 2022, Alt led all tackles with a 91.4 grade and a 91.0 run-blocking grade. He also tied for fifth among FBS tackles with a 99.0 pass-block efficiency score. He also has elite bloodlines as the son of Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer John Alt. 

6. QB Drake Maye, North Carolina Tar Heels

Caleb Williams may have won the Heisman Trophy in 2022, but he wasn’t the most valuable quarterback in PFF’s wins above average metric. That distinction went to Drake Maye.

Maye’s 45 big-time throws were 10 more than the next-closest signal-caller in the country last season. He also has more than just an elite arm. The redshirt freshman’s 899 rushing yards in 2022 ranked third among FBS quarterbacks.

7. CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide

McKinstry boasts both the best nickname in college football and the best coverage skills.

The sophomore forced 18 incompletions last year, tied for second among all cornerbacks in college football. He doubled as an elite special teamer, leading the Power Five with 332 punt return yards. For his efforts, McKinstry was a first-team All-American for PFF in 2022.

8. DI Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois Fighting Illini

Newton in an exclusive interview with PFF said the main reason he returned to Illinois for his redshirt junior season was to become a first-round pick. If he puts up another year like 2022, that won’t be an issue.

Newton was the most valuable Power Five interior defensive lineman last year, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. His 13 tackles for loss or no gain tied for the most among FBS defensive tackles, and his 59 pressures led the Power Five.

9. QB Jordan Travis, Florida State Seminoles

Travis is my pick to win the Heisman Trophy this season, which would make him the first Seminole in a decade to take home the coveted stiff-arm trophy (Jameis Winston, 2013).

Travis has mastered taking deep shots without putting the ball in harm’s way. He was the only quarterback in the country last year to place in the top 15 both in big-time throw rate (7.1%) and turnover-worthy play rate (1.9%). His 91.7 grade also trailed only Caleb Williams among Power Five signal-callers.

10. EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State Seminoles

Verse, one of the biggest surprise returners to college football for 2023, likely would’ve been a top-20 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft if he had declared.

After transferring from Albany, he dominated in his first season at the FBS level. Verse’s 22.4% pass-rush win rate placed second among Power Five edge defenders, while his 10 tackles for loss or no gain tied for sixth.

11. CB Kalen King, Penn State Nittany Lions

In a recent interview with PFF, Kalen King said he gets offended when a quarterback throws his way. If the signal-callers Penn State faces this season are smart, King shouldn’t get offended too often this season.

He led all cornerbacks in college football last season with a 93.7 grade in single coverage, and his 16 forced incompletions tied for fourth among Power Five cornerbacks.

12. LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson Tigers

Jeremiah Trotter Sr. was an All-Pro linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that his son is the best linebacker in college football.

The younger Trotter was the only Power Five linebacker last year to earn 80.0-plus grades both in coverage and as a pass rusher. His 42.9 passer rating allowed ranked second among that group.

13. LB Harold Perkins, LSU Tigers

While it’s far too early to begin constructing a 2025 NFL Draft big board, or even the 2024 PFF College 50 list, there’s one thing fairly certain: Harold Perkins will place highly on it.

As just a true freshman in 2022, the former top-10 recruit led all Power Five linebackers with a 90.9 pass-rushing grade while ranking also first with 18 quarterback knockdowns (sacks/hits). With an already elite pass-rushing skill set, a full-time move to edge defender could be in the cards, a lot like what the Dallas Cowboys eventually did with Micah Parsons.

14. OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State Nittany Lions

Fashanu isn’t the highest-ranked tackle on this list, but there’s a strong argument to be made that he’s the top tackle in the 2024 NFL Draft. PFF NFL Stock Exchange hosts Trevor Sikkema and Connor Rogers have him as OT1 in next year’s draft, and they both said he would have been OT1 in 2023 if he declared.

Luckily for Penn State fans, Fashanu is back in State College doing what he does best: protecting the blindside. His 84.7 pass-blocking grade in 2022 ranked seventh among Power Five tackles and he didn’t allow a sack on 281 pass-blocking snaps.

15. EDGE Bralen Trice, Washington Huskies

The dominant Will Anderson Jr. didn’t lead the nation in pressures last season, the first time that’s happened since 2019, Anderson’s senior year of high school.

Trice held that distinction in 2022, leading the country with 70 pressures. His 25.4% pass-rush win rate paced FBS edge defenders, while his 22.4% pressure rate ranked second.

16. OG Cooper Beebe, Kansas State Wildcats

No matter where Cooper Beebe lines up, he produces elite play. At right tackle in 2020, he was a PFF honorable mention All-Big 12 honoree. As a left tackle in 2021, he was named first-team All-Big 12. In 2022 at left guard, Beebe was a second-team All-American.

Beebe's 94.0 pass-blocking grade over the past two seasons led all offensive linemen in college football. During that span, he didn’t allow a sack on 770 pass-blocking snaps. 

17. WR Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State Buckeyes

While Egbuka is the secondary option on his own team, don’t let that fool you: He’d be the top receiver for any other school in the country.

Among returning Power Five receivers, only teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. tallied more receiving yards and touchdowns than Egbuka last season. The junior is also the second-most valuable returning receiver, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

18. QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington Huskies

Penix was the Power Five’s leading passer last year with 4,641 yards. Despite constantly airing it out, he still took incredible care of the football, ranking fourth in turnover-worthy play rate (1.3%) among Power Five signal-callers.

Between Penix, an elite receiver duo in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan and one of the top offensive coaching staffs in the country, Washington’s passing attack should terrify opposing defenses in 2023. 

19. EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State Nittany Lions

Robinson was quietly a superstar in 2022, leading all Power Five edge defenders with a 90.6 grade and a 92.4 pass-rushing grade. His 22.1% pass-rush win rate in 2022 trailed only Bralen Trice and Jared Verse in the Power Five, the only two edge defenders above him on this list.

Most impressively, Robinson accomplished that as just a true sophomore, meaning his best work could still be yet to come.

20. LB Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State Buckeyes

No linebacker in the country defends the run better than Tommy Eichenberg. Last season, his 49 run-defense stops tied for the lead among Power Five linebackers and his 20 tackles for loss or no gain tied for second. He was named a PFF first-team All-American for his efforts in 2022 and was the third-most valuable linebacker in the country, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

21. CB Will Johnson, Michigan Wolverines

Johnson entered Ann Arbor as a top-20 recruit in the 2022 class, and even that was selling him short. The true freshman’s 91.1 grade in man coverage led all Power Five cornerbacks last season. His 88.2 overall grade also tied for the highest mark by a Power Five true freshman, with the player one spot behind him on this list. 

22. RB Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss Rebels

Judkins came to Ole Miss as just a three-star recruit but, like Will Johnson at No. 21, dominated in Year 1. 

He ranked in the top 10 in college football in rushing yards (1,567), rushing touchdowns (16), yards after contact (929) and forced missed tackles (76). Judkins also moved the chains on 91 of his attempts last year, placing fourth among FBS running backs.

23. CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa Hawkeyes

DeJean is the most versatile defensive back in the country, lining up at outside cornerback, slot corner, linebacker and even edge defender for the Hawkeyes. 

Not only is he a jack of all trades in terms of how he lines up, but he’s also an incredibly well-rounded cornerback. He was the only cornerback in the nation this past season to earn 85.0-plus grades both in coverage and as a run defender. His 15 run-defense stops were tied for the most among FBS cornerbacks, while his four interceptions tied for fourth among Power Five cornerbacks.

24. S Calen Bullock, USC Trojans

Bullock’s seven interceptions over the past two years are tied for the most among returning Power Five safeties. Last season, Bullock was the third-most valuable safety in the country, according to PFF’s wins above average metric, and was named a PFF first-team All-American. He’s the best safety in college football, barely edging out the player one spot behind him on this list.

25. S Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Kinchens was a second-team All-American and is the center fielder of Miami’s defense. His six interceptions last year were tied for the most among Power Five defenders. The sophomore also led all safeties with a 90.0 overall grade and a 90.7 coverage grade. 

26. EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide

It’s hard to shine as an edge defender when your counterpart is Will Anderson Jr. However, that’s exactly what Turner has done these past two seasons. His 14 sacks since 2021 are tied for the second most among returning Power Five edge defenders. With Anderson now in the NFL, the spotlight will fully be on Turner in 2023.

27. C Beaux Limmer, Arkansas Razorbacks

Limmer is the second-most valuable returning interior lineman in the FBS, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The only player ahead of him ranks inside the top 20 of this list.

Limmer was one of only three Power Five guards who earned 80.0-plus pass-blocking and run-blocking grades in 2022. After spending the past two seasons as Arkansas’ starting right guard, he’s moving to center this year.

28. OT JC Latham, Alabama Crimson Tide

The fact that Latham is high on this list shouldn’t be much of a surprise. According to On3’s industry rating, he was the highest-rated offensive tackle recruit since Martez Ivey in 2015.

Latham showed why he deserved that hype this past season. The sophomore earned an 84.5 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets, the fourth-best mark among college football tackles. On 486 pass-blocking snaps, Latham didn’t let up a sack and surrendered only one hit.

29. OT Graham Barton, Duke Blue Devils

Barton was the only Power Five tackle last season who posted 85.0-plus grades both in pass protection and run blocking. He finished the season with 17 big-time blocks (PFF’s highest-graded blocks), five more than any other tackle in the country. While he’ll likely play on the interior once he gets to the NFL, Barton will spend this season as one of the best all-around offensive tackles in college football. 

30. CB Benjamin Morrison, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Morrison was a ballhawk for the Fighting Irish in 2022, as his six interceptions were tied for the most among Power Five cornerbacks. The true freshman’s 29.2 passer rating allowed ranked third among that same group.

31. TE Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Spann-Ford looks like a third offensive tackle for Minnesota at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds. And he plays like one, too. His 82.5 run-blocking grade last year led all Power Five tight ends, while his 14 big-time blocks were four more than any other tight end in the country. Spann-Ford is also one of the best receivers at the position, recording 2.22 yards per route run in 2022 — the fifth-best mark among FBS tight ends. 

32. WR Rome Odunze, Washington Huskies

Odunze is the best receiver outside of Columbus, Ohio. His 605 yards against single coverage last year trailed only Marvin Harrison Jr. among returning Power Five wide receivers. He’s also the third-most valuable returning Power Five receiver, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

33. LB Barrett Carter, Clemson Tigers

Carter is one of college football's most well-rounded linebackers. The sophomore was one of only three in the Power Five who earned 75.0-plus grades in run defense, pass rush and coverage. His seven combined interceptions and forced incompletions tied for the most among FBS linebackers, as well. 

34. QB Bo Nix, Oregon Ducks

Nix enjoyed a career resurgence in 2022. His 69.7% adjusted completion rate across his first three seasons at Auburn ranked just 108th among FBS quarterbacks. But this past season, Nix’s 82.3% mark led the Power Five and ranked second in the nation. He also led all quarterbacks in college football with 14 rushing touchdowns last season.

35. RB Raheim Sanders, Arkansas Razorbacks

Sanders is a massive running back at 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds, but they don’t call him “Rocket” for nothing. He tied for second among Power Five backs last season with 16 carries that went for at least 20 yards. Overall, his 1,466 rushing yards in 2022 placed second among returning Power Five running backs.

36. TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas Longhorns

Outside of Brock Bowers, Sanders is the best receiving threat at tight end in college football. His 32 combined first downs and touchdowns in 2022 trailed only Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer and Bowers among FBS tight ends. His 613 receiving yards also trailed only Bowers among returning Power Five tight ends.

37. RB Bucky Irving, Oregon Ducks

Irving was one of the most electric backs in the country this past year. The sophomore forced a missed tackle on 43% of his attempts, which ranked second in the country. It was also the fifth-best single-season mark since PFF began charting college football in 2014.

38. EDGE Mykel Williams, Georgia Bulldogs

Williams joined Georgia with a ton of hype as a former top-10 recruit. He quickly showed why as a true freshman, as his 75.9 run-defense grade ranked fourth among SEC edge defenders. Williams’ six sacks tied for the most among true freshmen, while his 33 pressures tied for the second most. He’s one of the biggest breakout candidates for the back-to-back champions in 2023.

39. LB Cedric Gray, North Carolina Tar Heels

Gray flew around North Carolina’s defense last year on his way to becoming a PFF second-team All-American.

The junior made first contact on a ball carrier 122 times, which was 15 more than the next-closest defender in college football. It was also the best single-season mark by a Power Five player in the PFF College era.

Most plays with first contact among FBS players in PFF College era (since 2014)
Name Position  School Season Plays with first contact
Rodney Butler LB New Mexico State 2016 133
Cedric Gray LB North Carolina 2022 122
Leighton Vander Esch LB Boise State 2017 121

40. EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State Buckeyes

If you want to see what Tuimoloau is capable of, turn on his tape against Penn State from 2022.

In that contest, the sophomore earned a career-high 93.5 grade while recording two sacks, two interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss, a batted pass and three pressures. If he gets more consistent as a junior, he could be a top-10 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

41. DI Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati Bearcats

As a redshirt freshman this season, Corleone led all FBS defenders with a 93.8 grade. His 94.7 run-defense grade was also the best mark by a front-seven defender since Micah Parsons in 2019. 

Highest single-season run-defense grades in PFF College era (Since 2014 among DI, EDGE and LB)
Name School Position Season Run-Defense Grade
Quinnen Williams Alabama DI 2018 96.5
Maurice Hurst Michigan DI 2017 95.0
ReubenFoster Alabama LB 2016 94.9
Micah Parsons Penn State LB 2019 94.8
Dontay Corleone Cincinnati DI 2022 94.7
Vita Vea Washington DI 2017 94.7

Despite ranking just 256th among FBS interior defensive linemen in run-defense snaps (172), “The Godfather” registered the sixth-most run-stops (27). He was no slouch as a pass-rusher either, placing eighth among all defensive tackles in the country with a 15.6% pass-rush win rate.

42. EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins

If there was a Comeback Player of the Year award in college football, Latu would have been a top candidate.

The redshirt junior missed the last two seasons at Washington after he was forced to medically retire due to a neck injury. He resumed his career this past season at UCLA and was one of the most productive edge defenders in the country. Among Power Five edge defenders, Latu finished tied for second in pressures (64), third in pressure rate (21.7%) and tied for third in sacks (12).

43. RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin Badgers

Allen is a true workhorse for the Badgers. His 415 carries and 2,500 rushing yards over the past two seasons lead all returning Power Five running backs. Those were also his first two seasons of college football. Not to mention, he’ll be only 19 years old all of his junior season.

44. RB Trey Benson, Florida State Seminoles

Benson was historically dominant as a tackle-breaker in 2022. The redshirt sophomore’s 51% forced missed tackle rate didn’t just lead the country, it set the PFF College record.

Highest single-season forced missed tackle rate by an FBS RB in PFF College era (Since 2014, min. 100 attempts)
Name School Season Forced Missed Tackle Rate
Trey Benson Florida State 2022 51%
Javonte Williams North Carolina 2020 48%
Travis Etienne Clemson 2019 44%

He forced 79 missed tackles on the year, which trailed only Bijan Robinson and Chase Brown among Power Five running backs. Both of those players had over 100 more carries than Benson. The redshirt junior is currently the top running back prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, according to PFF’s lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema.

45. DI Kris Jenkins, Michigan Wolverines

Jenkins is a dominant run-stuffer in the middle of Michigan’s defensive line. 

The junior’s 31 run-defense stops were tied for the most in the nation among interior defensive linemen, and his positively-graded run-defense rate was third among Power Five interior defensive linemen.

46. LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Georgia Bulldogs

Dumas-Johnson is the next great Georgia linebacker, following past Bulldog greats, such as Roquan Smith and Nakobe Dean.

In fact, over the past two seasons, the only SEC linebacker with a higher grade than Dumas-Johnson is Dean. The sophomore led the SEC this season with a 79.9 run-defense grade. 

47. CB Josh Newton, TCU Horned Frogs

Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson won the Jim Thorpe Award last year as college football's best defensive back. However, he wasn’t even the highest-graded corner on his own team.

Newton led all TCU corners with an 82.0 grade in 2022, and he was fourth among Power Five ones with a 35.3% completion rate allowed.

48. WR Xavier Worthy, Texas Longhorns

It was a relatively down year for Worthy, whose 70.1 receiving grade in 2022 was more than 10 points lower than what he posted in 2021 as a true freshman. Despite seeing 10 more targets this past season, the sophomore recorded 224 fewer receiving yards and four fewer touchdowns than his dominant 2021 year.

Worthy was playing half of 2022 with a broken hand, which could explain some of his head-scratching drops. If he returns to his true freshman form, this ranking could be laughably low.

49. WR Malik Nabers, LSU Tigers

Entering the 2022 season, many expected Kayshon Boutte to be one of the best receivers in the country, let alone LSU’s top pass catcher. Yet, it was Nabers who took hold of the Tigers’ WR1 role and never looked back.

He was a monster after the catch this past year. Nabers’ 21 forced missed tackles on receptions were the fifth most among Power Five receivers while his 204 receiving yards after contact placed eighth. He’s currently the No. 2 wide receiver prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, according to Trevor Sikkema.

50. S Malaki Starks, Georgia Bulldogs

Starks was the ironman of Georgia’s defense, leading all Bulldog defenders with 847 snaps in 2022 as just a true freshman. The former top-10 recruit registered a combined eight interceptions and forced incompletions, tied for fifth among SEC safeties. Starks is the early favorite to be the top safety on this list next year.

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