Estimated Reading Time: 12 mins
Somehow, we’re already at the halfway point of the college football season. The top teams are separating themselves from the pack, as are the best players.
Let’s focus on the latter here. Here are the top performers at every position midway through the 2022 season.
Quarterback: Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide
Despite losing to Tennessee, Bryce Young is still the best quarterback in college football.
This isn’t a knock on Hendon Hooker or C.J. Stroud. They’ve both been outstanding this season. However, they are getting substantially more help than Young in terms of receiving talent and scheme. No quarterback in college football has done more with the hand they’ve been dealt than Young.
Bryce Young Has Done More With Less
|Name||PFF grade (Rank*)||Team receiving grade (Rank**)||% of throws to receiver with step or more of separation||% of throws to first read|
|Bryce Young||92.8 (1st)||71.7 (50th)||57.5%||44.1%|
|Hendon Hooker||89.7 (T-13th)||76.1 (T-27th)||70.8%||60.8%|
|C.J. Stroud||86.3 (19th)||90.1 (1st)||87.4%||73%|
*Among 145 FBS QBs; **Among 131 FBS teams
Running Back: Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines
Blake Corum has emerged as a legitimate Heisman candidate this season. He leads all FBS running backs in PFF grade (92.6), rushing touchdowns (13) and rushing first downs (57). Corum is also not afraid to stick his nose in pass protection. His 86.5 pass-blocking grade is the second-highest in the country at the position.
Running Back: Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns
Bijan Robinson is a tackle-breaking machine, the likes of which hasn't been seen since PFF began charting college football in 2014. He has 56 forced missed tackles so far this season, the most in the country. Robinson’s career forced missed tackle rate sits at 0.39 per attempt, tied for the best in the PFF College era.
Most Career Forced Missed Tackles Per Attempt In PFF College Era (since 2014, min. 250 attempts)
|Name||School||Forced missed tackles per attempt|
|Javonte Williams||North Carolina||0.39|
Wide Receiver: Trey Palmer, Nebraska Cornhuskers
After a lackluster three years at LSU, Trey Palmer transferred to Nebraska and has been an absolute superstar.
His 89.5 grade leads the nation among receivers, as does his 781 receiving yards. He’s averaged 4.09 yards per route run, third-most in the country.
Wide Receiver: Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is missing its three best receivers from a year ago. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were taken in the top 15 of the 2022 NFL Draft, while Jaxon Smith-Njigba has played in just two games due to a hamstring injury.
Despite this, the Buckeyes still have the best receiving corps in the country thanks to a couple of sophomores in Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. Egbuka's 4.37 yards per route run leads all Power Five receivers.
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes
Marvin Harrison Jr. is the other superstar in Ohio State’s receiver room.
The son of Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, junior is picking up where his father left off. Harrison has an 86.5 grade so far this season, second among Power Five receivers. His nine receiving touchdowns are tied for second in the country.
Tight End: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Michael Mayer has dominated in South Bend since his 2020 true freshman season. He has an 87.4 receiving grade in that span, ranking third among active FBS tight ends.
Mayer is the ultimate security blanket. His 24 receiving first downs are the third-most in the country for tight ends. He’s also been targeted on 30.6% of his routes, the second-highest rate at the position.
Left Tackle: Peter Skoronski, Northwestern Wildcats
There isn’t a better pass-protector in the country than Peter Skoronski. His 93.0 pass-blocking grade leads all offensive linemen in college football.
On 278 pass-blocking snaps, he’s allowed just two pressures. That 0.7% pressure rate is tied for the best in the country among tackles. Not to mention, his 80.3 run-blocking grade ranks eighth-best by a Power Five tackle. If he keeps this up, he could be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Right Tackle: JC Latham, Alabama Crimson Tide
While Skoronski may be the top offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft, JC Latham is making his case to be OT1 in 2024.
The former top-three overall recruit is living up to that billing as a sophomore. His 89.9 pass-blocking grade trails only Skoronski among all tackles in the country. He’s allowed a pressure on 0.8% of his pass sets, which again trails only Skoronski among Power Five tackles.
Left Guard: Andrew Vorhees, USC Trojans
Andrew Vorhees was the best guard in the country in 2021, coming in as the only one with 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-protector and run-blocker.
He hasn’t been quite as dominant this season, but that doesn't take away from his excellence. His negatively graded run-blocking rate is the fourth-lowest among Power Five guards.
Right Guard: O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida Gators
O’Cyrus Torrence boasts an 89.6 overall grade this season, more than four points higher than the next-best guard in college football. The Louisiana transfer’s 91.2 run-blocking grade is 3.5 points higher.
Vorhees may have been the best guard last season, but Torrence holds that title so far this season.
Nobody in college football has dominated their position like John Michael Schmitz.
The sixth-year senior has a 92.3 overall grade so far this season. The next-best center sits at an 84.7 mark. That 7.6-point difference is more than double the next-highest positional gap.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois Fighting Illini
Since PFF began charting college football in 2014, an interior defensive lineman has never tallied the most pressures in a season.
Jer’Zhan Newton is on track to accomplish that this year with his 34 pressures thus far. He couples that with an 86.9 run-defense grade, the fifth-best figure for interior defensive linemen in the country.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Levi Bell, Texas State Bobcats
Levi Bell transferred to Texas State from Louisiana Tech and has made an immediate impact for the Bobcats. His 91.7 pass-rush grade is the highest in the nation among interior defensive linemen. Bell’s 85.8 run-defense grade is also a top-10 mark in college football.
Edge Defender: Derek Parish, Houston Cougars
Derek Parish has played very well at Houston for a few years now. He’s earned 80..0-plus grades in every season dating back to 2019.
In 2022, the sixth-year senior boasts a 91.2 pass-rush grade, tied for the best in the country among edge defenders. His 25% pass-rush win rate is the fifth-best mark at the position.
Edge Defender: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama Crimson Tide
As a true freshman in 2020, Will Anderson Jr. racked up the most pressures in the country (60). And in his sophomore 2021 season, he once again led the nation in pressures (82).
He’s *only* tied for 12th this year with 27 pressures, but his eight sacks ties for the national lead. It's his run defense that makes him truly special, though. His 85.8 run-defense grade ranks fourth-highest among Power Five edge defenders.
Anderson looks like a near-lock to be selected in the top five of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Linebacker: Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati Bearcats
Ivan is an absolute menace downhill. He has eight sacks this season, tied for the most in the country. One of those players he’s tied with is none other than Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. He also sports 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender — the only linebacker in the country to do so.
Linebacker: Jack Campbell, Iowa Hawkeyes
Jack Campbell has recorded an 84.1 grade this season, tied for first among Power Five linebackers. He’s been especially stingy in coverage, with his 86.1 coverage grade ranking fifth-best in the Power Five.
Cornerback: Clark Phillips III, Utah Utes
Clark Phillips III possesses unbelievable ball skills. His five interceptions are tied for the most in the country, and all have come within the past four weeks.
His 85.9 coverage grade proves he’s more than just the big plays, though. What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that Phillips routinely trails the opposition’s best receiver.
Cornerback: Kalen King, Penn State Nittany Lions
Joey Porter Jr. gets all the love in State College, and he has his place on this list. However, Penn State's best cornerback thus far has been Kalen King.
King’s 86.9 coverage grade is the second-best among Power Five cornerbacks. He has more forced incompletions (six) than first downs allowed (four).
Safety: Quinn Schulte, Iowa Hawkeyes
Quinn Schulte has been a leader of Iowa’s elite defense. He’s allowed just a 38.4 passer rating when targeted this season. For context, throwing the ball at the ground every play would generate a 39.6 passer rating. Schulte’s five forced incompletions are also tied for the most among Power Five safeties.
Safety: Jack Howell, Colorado State Rams
Jack Howell comes from a very athletic family. His father, John, won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a safety. His older sister, Jaelin, won the Hermann Trophy both in 2020 and 2021 while at Florida State, which is given to the nation’s best women’s soccer player. She now plays for Team USA.
Jack can do it all on passing downs. His coverage grade (87.8) is the fifth-best in the country at safety, while his pass-rush grade (89.8) ranks fourth-best. In fact, he’s the only safety in the FBS with 80.0-plus grades in both facets.
What Devon Witherspoon has done in coverage this season is absurd. His 90.0 coverage grade is the highest in the nation among corners.
He’s been targeted 42(!) times so far but has allowed just 13(!!) catches. His 30.9% completion percentage allowed is the third-lowest rate in the country among cornerbacks. He's also forced 11 incompletions, tied for the most in college football.