The PFF College Dream Team is back, this week with an overall look at the best possible lineup we can create from the best players in the nation. The last two weeks we’ve focused on the run and pass games, but this week we tie it all together in our traditional format. There are some familiar names on the list and while I’ve generally steered toward the best passing quarterbacks to lead the team, we’ve made a philosophical change as we roll with the times here in 2016.
Your Dream Team as we enter Week 8 in college football.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
It’s an interesting year for quarterbacks as there have not been a lot of great passing performances but the run-first quarterbacks have stolen the show. Jackson has been the best of the bunch as he has been dominant in the designed run game with 623 yards on 82 attempts (7.6 yards/attempt) and all 15 of his rushing touchdowns. Jackson continues to improve as a passer (adjusted completion percentage up to 68.8 percent, was at 63.8 percent last year), so we’re rolling with him as our Dream Team quarterback.
Dalvin Cook, Florida State
It hasn’t been the same plethora of long runs for Cook this season but he’s been a high-volume workhorse in recent weeks. He’s now leading the nation with 46 forced missed tackles and he’s averaging 4.0 yards after contact per rush. Last year, 65 percent of Cook’s yards came on breakaway (15-plus yard) runs, but this year that number is down to 35 percent, but he’s shown well in more of a grind-it-out style. Cook still has that big-play ability, and he’s having an excellent season even without some of the fireworks.
Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Samuel takes over as our movable chess piece on offense as he’s been equally proficient working out of the slot as he has from the backfield. He has 403 yards as a receiver and 456 on the ground as Ohio State has found creative ways to get him the ball and we’ll do the same on our team.
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Davis doesn’t have the volume of some of the other receivers around the country, but it doesn’t change how good he is as a route runner. He leads the nation with 10 receiving touchdowns, using his nifty route running to separate or mixing in the spectacular catch when necessary. Davis is one of the best all-around receivers in the country for the third-straight year.
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
We’re riding the hot hand at the other receiver spot as Westbrook has been uncoverable in recent weeks. In his last three games, Westbrook has caught 26 of his 29 targets for 574 yards (22.1 yards/reception) and eight touchdowns. He’s created downfield separation and turned short passes into big gains as Westbrook has become the much-needed go-to guy for QB Baker Mayfield.
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Our slot receiver this week, Taylor has averaged 3.32 yards per route in the slot, good for second in the nation, and his 548 yards after the catch lead the FBS. He’s been extremely efficient working out of the slot for Louisiana Tech’s offense, and we’ll take his nation-leading 70 receptions on the Dream Team.
Evan Engram, Ole Miss
We’re going with the best receiving tight end in the country this week as Engram leads all tight ends with 37 receptions and 590 yards (15.9 yards/reception). He can play all over the formation and his three-year sample as a run blocker is enough to trust him in more of an H-back role where he can block on the move and run routes off the same looks in the play action game.
Connor Williams, Texas
With only one pressure surrendered on 206 pass blocking attempts, Williams has continued his ascent into one of the nation’s top tackles. Only a true sophomore, he’s also taking his run-blocking to the next level as he’s done a fine job in Texas’ new scheme and his Week 3 pancake of a Cal linebacker may nor may not be shown on a loop in my office.
Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
One of the nation’s top breakout performers, Ramczyk has stepped right in at left tackle for Wisconsin and played well in both the run and pass game. He moves extremely well, and that’s translated to an efficient start in pass protection where he’s only allowed five pressures on 189 attempts this season. Ramczyk has also brought power to Wisconsin’s man-blocking scheme, and his all-around game caught our eye early in the season, earning him a spot on this week’s Dream Team.
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
One of the most powerful run blocking guards in the nation, Nelson is in the conversation as perhaps the best all-around guard in the nation. He’s progressed after a strong showing last season as a redshirt freshman (“sophomore” if you’re at Notre Dame), and his 85.7 run blocking grade ranks sixth in the country while he’s improved his pass protection to grade at 84.1 so far this season.
Cody O’Connell, Washington State
The Washington State scheme is generally easier on offensive linemen, but O’Connell has exceeded even the highest expectations with the highest grade among the nation’s guards at 90.1. He’s allowed only four pressures on 351 attempts while providing better run blocking than Mike Leach is used to having at guard in his Air Raid system.
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
SEC analyst Gordon McGuinness raves about Ragnow’s work in the run game every week, and his 87.1 run blocking grade is the nation’s best. He gets to the second level well and he’s been a key cog in the Razorbacks’ running game.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
The nation’s top-graded edge rusher maintains his spot on the team as Garrett has showed no signs of slowing down here in his third year. He’s been outstanding since stepping onto campus and it will take a lot to knock him off the Dream Team as he ranks second among all Power-5 edge rushers with an 89.6 pass rush grade and he’s improved in the run game to an 82.8 mark.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Barnett has been right there with Garrett from a production standpoint and he’s just edging him with an 89.8 pass rush grade that leads the nation. He may not have the same classic edge rusher look as Garrett, but he gets to the quarterback and has complemented it with his usual strong work against the run.
Ed Oliver, Houston
The first true freshman interior defensive lineman to make the Dream Team, Oliver boasts the top run-stopping grade in the nation at 89.7. He’s been disruptive and he’s finished plays as he ranks second in the nation in run stop percentage at 15.2 percent. In three years of grading, we’ve yet to have a true freshman interior defensive lineman rank among the top 30 in the nation and Oliver is currently sitting at No. 7 overall at 87.2.
Our No. 2 player on the recently –released 2017 PFF Draft Board, Allen has the No. 2 grade among interior defensive linemen at 89.2 and his 90.3 pass rush grade leads the way. He’s been unblockable on the interior and on the edge and his two-year production has been off the charts (732 snaps, 20 sacks, 12 QB hits, 40 hurries).
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
Few linebackers attack second-level run blockers quite like Cunningham who has translated that striking ability into the nation’s most stops with 49. He has the athleticism to cover and the aggressiveness to play the run, if only we can cut down on his 12 missed tackles to make him a complete player.
Reuben Foster, Alabama
The top-graded linebacker in the country at 91.1, Foster has been outstanding in all phases where he uses his agility to attack in the run game and he’s been one of the best coverage linebackers in the nation that last two years. He’s missed only two of his 44 tackle attempts all season.
Jarrad Davis, Florida
Davis throws his body around in the run game and he’s been solid in coverage, including a three-pass defensed game against Vanderbilt. He’s also an explosive pass-rusher where he’s notched two sacks, four QB hits, and nine hurries, but like Cunningham, we’d like to see him finish plays better as he’s missed eight tackles on the year.
Desmond King, Iowa
The model of consistency the last three years, King has ranked among the top corners since 2014 and he ranks third overall so far in 2016. He’s the best tackling cornerback in the nation with only six misses on 167 attempts the last three years and he ranks among the best run-stopping cornerbacks in the country. King is an outstanding zone corner who can hold his own in man coverage as well.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
A feisty man corner, no cornerback can match Lewis’ production in coverage the last two years as he had the top coverage grade coming into the season and this year he’s only allowed three catches on 10 targets for seven yards. Lewis can mirror receivers an man coverage and he combines that with strong tackling and fine work against the run.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
A classic all-around slot cornerback, Fitzpatrick can cover, play the run, and rush the passer, bringing great versatility to a defense. He’s intercepted three passes and knocked away four more this year, leading to a strong 86.0 grade for the season.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
We’re calling Peppers a safety on our Dream Team and we’ll tap into his versatility and move him all around the defense. He can play the run as his 86.5 grade ranks second in the nation and he’s equally adept at attacking as a blitzer. Peppers covers tight ends well and we’ll use him in that capacity, while also letting him dabble as a runner and on special teams where he’s showed off his athleticism this season.
Nate Gerry, Nebraska
With the top coverage grade among the nation’s safeties at 92.1, Gerry has two interceptions and three passes defensed while improving his tackling issues with only two misses on 40 attempts. He was outstanding in coverage in 2014 and he’s gotten back to those ways this season.