- USC quarterback Caleb Williams: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the easy choice at quarterback on this list.
- Michigan running back Blake Corum: The senior returns after being the highest-graded player in college football.
- Florida State edge defender Jared Verse: He could’ve been a top-20 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft but elected to return for his redshirt junior season.
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
It’s time to turn the page from the 2022 season to 2023.
Now that we know who’s staying in school and who’s declaring for the draft, we released our top-10 returning players at every position. Going off of that, here’s PFF’s way-too-early All-American team for the 2023 season.
Quarterback: Caleb Williams, USC Trojans
Williams became head coach Lincoln Riley’s third quarterback in the last six years to win the Heisman Trophy, joining Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. The sophomore excels outside of the original play design. Outside of structure, Williams led the nation in passing yards (707), passing touchdowns (seven) and big-time throws (10).
He’s the early favorite to be the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and will try to join former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time winner of the coveted stiff-arm trophy.
Utah cannot stop Caleb Williams pic.twitter.com/sNNtJrwhGP
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) December 3, 2022
Running Back: Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines
Corum’s 96.2 grade didn’t just lead all players in the country this past season, it was the best PFF has ever seen from a Power Five player.
Highest-graded seasons by a Power Five player in PFF College era (since 2014)
|Chase Young||Ohio State||EDGE||2019||96.0|
Corum’s 96 rushing first downs/touchdowns were second-most in the country behind only Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim, who received 72 more carries. The junior should be on the shortlist of favorites for the Heisman Trophy next season.
BLAKE. CORUM. ????
Down at the 1 for @UMichFootball ???? pic.twitter.com/W12fLhN6us
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 8, 2022
Running Back: Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss Rebels
Judkins was arguably the best newcomer in college football last season,as his 88.2 grade was tied with Michigan cornerback Will Johnson for first among Power Five true freshmen.
The former three-star recruit was a true workhorse for the Rebels this season. He ranked top 10 in the FBS in attempts, rushing yards, yards after contact and forced missed tackles. Judkins also had 91 rushing first downs/touchdowns, which was the fourth-most in the country.
The only player with more forced missed tackles than Quinshon Judkins is Bijan Robinson.
Judkins is a true freshman.pic.twitter.com/Ipx09mraHw
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) November 1, 2022
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes
He may not have won the Biletnikoff Award, but Harrison was the best receiver in college football this past season.
Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison’s son was both the highest-graded and most valuable wide receiver in the country this season according to PFF’s wins above average metric. Against single-coverage, the sophomore’s 878 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns led all FBS wide receivers.
I tore my ACL watching Marvin Harrison Jr. do this pic.twitter.com/4DHelh7VxZ
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) November 13, 2022
Wide Receiver: Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State Buckeyes
It remains to be seen who will be Ohio State’s next quarterback after C.J. Stroud, but whoever it is will be throwing to the two best receivers in the nation.
Outside of Harrison Jr., Egbuka was the most valuable Power Five wide receiver last year according to PFF’s wins above average metric, as only Harrison had more receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last year than Egbuka among returning Power-Five receivers. Egbuka’s 2.98 yards per route run were third in that same group as well.
This is an @emeka_egbuka appreciation post. ????#WinningWednesday x @OhioStateFB pic.twitter.com/FIeiDR9QAD
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) January 18, 2023
Wide Receiver: Rome Odunze, Washington Huskies
Outside of the Ohio State duo, Odunze is the most productive Power-Five receiver that’s returning to school.
The junior’s 605 yards against single coverage trailed only Harrison Jr. among returning Power Five receivers. He’s also the third-most valuable returning Power Five receiver according to PFF’s wins above average metric.
FILTHY work by Rome Odunze ???? pic.twitter.com/7cmRoYdgAV
— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) November 27, 2022
Tight End: Brock Bowers, Georgia Bulldogs
There are some positions where you can debate who’s the best returning player in college football, but tight end is absolutely not one of them. Bowers is easily the best because he’s arguably been the best tight end in each of his first two seasons.
As a true freshman in 2021, Bowers was the highest-graded Power Five tight end and was the most valuable one in the country according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He was, once again, the most valuable tight end in the nation this season, leading them all in receiving yards (942), yards after the catch (479) and receiving yards after contact (274). He’s the reigning John Mackey Award winner, which is given to the best tight end in college football.
Not only is Bowers the best tight end in the country, but he’s also on pace to be the best in the PFF College era.
Brock Bowers has a very good chance at surpassing Kyle Pitts as a prospect.
Was the best tight end in the country as a true freshman and looks the same as a sophomore.
In a generational TE room at Georgia, he’s clearly the generational talent.pic.twitter.com/Fq1pnLIDrw
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) September 18, 2022
Left Tackle: Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
As was the case for quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end, you can make the argument that the best offensive tackle in college football in 2022 is returning to school.
Alt was both the highest-graded and most valuable tackle in the country according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The sophomore’s 91.0 run-blocking grade led all FBS tackles while his 99.0 pass-blocking efficiency score was fifth. Alt looks like a potential top-five pick in 2024 and the best offensive tackle prospect since Penei Sewell.
The best offensive lineman in college football can’t even be drafted until 2024.
Say hello to Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, the best offensive tackle prospect since Penei Sewell. pic.twitter.com/NEz3Zu0df1
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) November 10, 2022
Left Guard: Cooper Beebe, Kansas State Wildcats
Beebe spent the last two seasons at offensive tackle before moving inside to left guard in 2022.
Over the last two seasons, the junior’s 94.0 pass-blocking grade leads all offensive linemen in the country. Beebe hasn’t allowed a sack over the course of his 770 pass-blocking snaps since 2021. He’s also the most valuable returning interior offensive lineman in the country over those two years according to PFF’s wins above average metric. No matter where Beebe lines up, he produces elite play.
ok Cooper Beebe (LG #50) ok pic.twitter.com/vxmyhrIJGp
— cristian (@Cristianspfc_) January 27, 2023
Center: Drake Nugent, Michigan Wolverines
Despite losing Outland Trophy winner Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan should still have elite play in the middle of its offensive line.
Nugent is the highest-ranked center on this list and is the most valuable returning player at the position in the Power Five according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The Stanford transfer’s 84.1 run-blocking grade ranked third among all centers in the country this past season. Between Nugent creating holes in the middle and two top-10 running backs in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, the Wolverines’ ground game should once again be deadly next season.
Haven't watched much of Drake Nugent (Stanford IOL 60) this year but he did transfer to Michigan a few weeks ago. He certainly caught my eye with this rep! pic.twitter.com/6xG6wcH35Y
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) January 13, 2023
Right Guard: Beaux Limmer, Arkansas Razorbacks
Limmer is an all-around stud at right guard. The redshirt junior was one of only three Power Five guards with 80-plus grades as both a pass- and run-blocker this season.
Among returning FBS interior offensive linemen over the last two seasons, only Beebe has been more valuable than Limmer according to PFF’s wins above average metric.
Arkansas’ Beaux Limmer was one of only three P5 guards with 80+ pass- and run-blocking grades this season per @PFF.
Here he (RG, #55) does an excellent job of getting to the second level and taking out the LB.
My #2 IOL in CFB heading into 2023.pic.twitter.com/01juN519q1
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) February 4, 2023
Right Tackle: JC Latham, Alabama Crimson Tide
The fact that Latham is playing at an elite level shouldn’t be a surprise. Coming out of high school in 2021, he was the No. 2 overall recruit in the country according to the On3 consensus ratings. In fact, Latham was the highest-rated offensive tackle recruit since Florida’s Martez Ivey in 2015.
He was an elite pass protector as a sophomore at right tackle this season. His 84.5 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets ranked fourth among all tackles in the country. On 486 pass-blocking snaps, Latham didn’t allow a sack and only gave up one hit. He only earned a 70.9 run-blocking grade, but his pass-protection chops could challenge Alt for OT1 in the 2024 NFL Draft.
JC Latham (65) has been manhandling people upfront at RT pic.twitter.com/XFbIO4AZwg
— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) October 3, 2022
Interior Defensive Lineman: Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois Fighting Illini
Newton broke out in a major way as a redshirt sophomore this season.
He finished as the most valuable Power Five interior defensive lineman according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He led that same group with 59 pressures while his 13 tackles for loss/no-gain were tied for the most among all FBS interior defensive linemen. He recently told PFF that his goal is to not only be the best defensive player in college football but also one of the top prospects in the 2024 Draft.
Best returner on offense is Marvin obvs, but the best returner on defense?????
Johnny MF Newton and it’s not particularly close. pic.twitter.com/3nb2FG6Ka0 https://t.co/bwI933v8ZM
— The Kingfisher (@TheKingfisher18) January 30, 2023
Interior Defensive Lineman: 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 defensive player since Micah Parsons in 2019. Despite ranking just 256th among interior defensive linemen in run-defense snaps (172), “The Godfather” recorded the sixth-most run-stops (27).
Highest single-season run-defense grades in PFF College era (Since 2014 among DI, EDGE and LB)
|Micah Parsons||Penn State||LB||2019||94.8|
For justice, we must go to Don Corleone pic.twitter.com/nrphb0a9Eh
— Dontay Corleone (@dontaycorleone) January 5, 2023
Edge Defender: Jared Verse, Florida State Seminoles
Arguably the most surprising returner in college football, Verse was a projected top-20 pick in the 2023 draft before announcing that he’d stay in Tallahassee for another season.
The former Albany edge dominated in his first season at the FBS level. The redshirt sophomore’s 24.4% pass-rush win rate was fourth among Power Five edge defenders while his 10 tackles for loss/no gain were tied for sixth.
#FloridaState Edge Jared Verse #5 terrorized the LSU backfield all night. Officially had 2.0 sacks but his impact was greater than that.
The Albany transfer is quickly establishing himself as one of the most disruptive pass rushers in CFB. pic.twitter.com/L1kRBmkZwm
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 5, 2022
Edge Defender: Bralen Trice, Washington Huskies
For the first time since 2019, Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. didn’t lead the nation in pressures.
Trice set the pace this year with 70 pressures and was the most productive pass-rusher in college football. The redshirt sophomore also led all FBS edge defenders in pass-rush win rate (29.5%) and was second in pressure rate (22.4%).
Top 10 EDGE Rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft I A Thread
Honorable Mention: Bralen Trice (1/11)
Pros: Tons of production, a disruptive pass rusher with very good measurables at 6’4″, 270 pounds.
Cons: Doesn't have great bend#NFLDraft #NFLDraft2023 #WillAnderson #MylesMurphy pic.twitter.com/X7ar46DE6I
— MRCROCKPOT TPL (@mrcrockpot) November 26, 2022
Linebacker: Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson Tigers
The son of former All-Pro linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Sr., junior has lived up to his father’s name and then some.
The younger Trotter excels on passing plays. The sophomore was the only Power Five linebacker with 80-plus grades both as a pass-rusher and in coverage. Trotter was second in that same group in both passer rating allowed (42.9) and open target rate allowed (47.6%).
Jeremiah Trotter Jr with a pick6 off Spencer Rattler???? pic.twitter.com/NqMgvUjtWD
— RanDynasty (@ran_dynasty) November 26, 2022
Linebacker: Harold Perkins Jr., LSU Tigers
Perkins was rated a top-10 recruit in the 2022 class, and even that may have been too low.
As a true freshman, he led all linebackers in the Power Five with a 91.0 pass-rushing grade. He was second among all linebackers in the country with 18 quarterback knockdowns (sacks/hits) and was tied for second in the country with four forced fumbles. Perkins is Micah Parsons-esque in that he can play either linebacker or edge at a very high level.
You can sharpie in Harold Perkins in for LB1 in 2025. pic.twitter.com/95JJMe0Tgd
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) November 12, 2022
Cornerback: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide
Among those returning to school, McKinstry is the best cornerback and has the best nickname.
Kool-Aid was a first-team All-American for PFF this past season and was tied for second among all corners in the country with 18 forced incompletions. He’s the most valuable returning Power Five corner according to PFF’s wins above average metric.
Kool-Aid McKinstry has been playing at All-American level this season. He leads the SEC with 11 pass breakups. pic.twitter.com/63KNWwOaCu
— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) October 28, 2022
Cornerback: Kalen King, Penn State Nittany Lions
Joey Porter Jr. received all of the love in Penn State’s secondary and is a projected first-round pick, but King was the true star this past season.
In single-coverage, the sophomore led all corners in the country with a 93.3 grade and 18.3 passer rating allowed. His 15 forced incompletions in single-coverage were tied for third among FBS corners as well.
Strapped UP! ✈️????
Kalen King: '22 Season Highlights ????????#WeAre | @KalenKing21__ pic.twitter.com/QFyjBjUS58
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) January 19, 2023
Safety: Calen Bullock, USC Trojans
Bullock was a first-team All-American for PFF in 2022 thanks to his dominance in coverage.
The sophomore’s five interceptions were tied for fifth among all safeties in the country. He was also the third-most valuable safety in the country according to PFF’s wins above average metric.
Calen Bullock records his fifth interception of the season while knocking over a referee. Huge turnover for #USC.
Trojans at Notre Dame's 24-yard line, leading 31-21 with 4:56 left. pic.twitter.com/Q3fK9LZM2A
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) November 27, 2022
Safety: Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Kinchens broke out as a sophomore on his way to becoming a second-team All-American for PFF.
He led all safeties in the country with a 90.0 grade and a 90.7 coverage grade. Kinchens’ six interceptions were also tied for the most in the Power Five.
Respect All American Kam Kinchens @KKinchens5 #GoCanes pic.twitter.com/54KCXUJi19
— Florida Boy Corey ????????????☀️ (@floridaboycorey) December 30, 2022
Flex-D: Will Johnson, Michigan Wolverines
Johnson entered Ann Arbor as a five-star recruit and showed immediately that he was worth the hype.
He’ll remind many of Patrick Surtain II thanks to his size (6-foot-2) and lockdown ability. As a true freshman, Johnson led all corners in the Power Five with a 91.1 grade in man coverage. His two interceptions in man were also tied for fifth in that same group.
Will Johnson 2022 season highlight reel ????
Such an impressive freshman year! Can’t wait to watch him continue to grow in his career at Michigan. Go Blue! 〽️ pic.twitter.com/aWgbCommkH
— JD 〽️ (@MGoJDBlue) December 13, 2022
Kick Returner: Lideatrick Griffin, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Griffin led all kick returners in the country with an 87.8 kickoff return grade and also led the FBS with 32.3 yards per return. After a brief stint in the transfer portal, the wide receiver decided to remain a Bulldog for his senior season.
Punt Returner: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide
Not only is McKinstry the best returning corner in the country, but he’s also the best punt returner. The sophomore led all Power Five players in 2022 with 332 punt return yards. He’s the early favorite to win the Paul Hornung Award, which if given to the most versatile player in the country.
Kicker: Joshua Karty, Stanford Cardinal
Karty was second among all kickers in the country with a 93.4 field goal/extra point grade. He was a perfect 18-for-18 on field goal attempts this season. The next-closest perfect kicker only attempted 11 field goals.
Punter: Tory Taylor, Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa’s offense was the Power Five’s least efficient in terms of expected added points per play. Because of that, Tory Taylor received a lot of work. The junior’s 75 punts were tied for the most in the Power Five. 36 of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line, the most in the FBS.