News & Analysis

PFF Grades: Highest-graded players in the Pac-12

The 2019 season begins this weekend and with that, the full set of 2018 data officially becomes history. We look ahead towards the top-graded players returning in each conference, keeping things going with the Pac-12.

PFF grades every player on every play of every game and has done so since the 2014 season. The play-by-play grading creates a subset of advanced statistics that help depict the college game at a level deeper than ever. The grades below are from 2018 and not a projection towards this coming season.

Offense

Quarterback

K.J. Costello, Stanford – 82.8
Tyler Huntley, Utah – 78.0
Justin Herbert, Oregon – 76.6

Costello returns with the highest grade among signal-callers as he was dominant in the intermediate and deep passing game. Herbert has the highest two-year grade of the returners while Huntley was on pace for a record-setting year in the PFF grade books before an injury.

Running Back

Eno Benjamin, Arizona State – 87.4
Zack Moss, Utah – 84.9
Joshua Kelley, UCLA – 83.8
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State – 80.9
Vavae Malepeai, USC – 77.3

Benjamin forced more missed tackles than any returning running back in the nation as his 84 missed tackles forced are 31 more than any back in the Pac-12. Moss rocked off 634 yards after contact while Jefferson recorded the second-most rushing conversions in the conference.

Wide Receiver

Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado – 88.2
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State – 84.6
Trevon Bradford, Oregon State – 79.2
Dezmon Patmon, Washington State – 77.2
Jaylen Dixon, Utah – 75.4*

Shenault is the top of the class in the Pac-12, returning as the Buffaloes' top returning player overall. He forced 29 missed tackles after the catch and holds the conference's top receiving and overall grade at the position. Hodgins and Bradford give the Beavers the top 1-2 combination at receiver in the conference, contrary to prior belief.

Tight End

Cole Fotheringham, Utah – 80.8
Hunter Bryant, Washington – 80.1
Brant Kuithe, Utah – 72.4

The Utes have two of the top returning players at the position in terms of grade but Bryant is perhaps the nation's best tight end if he can stay on the field. He's a receiver in a tight end's body and has all the skills to translate to the NFL.

Offensive Tackle

Penei Sewell, Oregon – 84.0
Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon – 84.0
Steven Jones, Oregon – 79.2*
Abraham Lucas, Washington State – 75.3
Jared Hilbers, Washington – 73.0

The Oregon Ducks return the nation's best offensive line with perhaps the best bookend-tackle situation with added depth at the valuable position. Sewell has the highest grade we've ever given to a true freshman tackle and Throckmorton was dominant across four different positions on the line. Jones played just 107 snaps of high-level play in relief of Sewell last season.

Offensive Guard

Shane Lemieux, Oregon – 83.9
Gus Lavaka, Oregon State – 71.0
Michael Saffell, Cal – 70.6
Liam Ryan, Washington State – 69.2
Valentino Daltoso, Cal – 68.7

Lemieux is another shining example of the Ducks' top offensive line as he returns as the nation's highest-graded guard. His teammate, Dallas Warmack, was the highest-graded guard over the past three weeks of the season while Lavaka has the conference's second-highest run-blocking grade.

Center

Nick Harris, Washington – 76.5
Jake Hanson, Oregon – 70.7
Frederick Mauigoa, Washington State – 67.7

With the highest run-blocking grade among returning centers, Harris was no slouch in pass protection either. Hanson has logged more snaps than any returning Pac-12 center as he and the rest of the interior of the Ducks line combine for well over 5,000 career snaps.

Defense

Edge Defender

Bradlee Anae, Utah – 83.2
Christian Rector, USC – 76.6
Willie Taylor III, Washington State – 76.0
Tevin Paul, Cal – 75.0
Ryan Bowman, Washington – 73.7

The conference's leader in total pressures from a season ago returns as Anae recorded 55 total QB pressures including 11 sacks. He's the conference's top returning edge defender in run-defense grade with his 41 total defensive stops leading the group as well.

Interior Defender

Levi Onwuzurike, Washington – 90.8
Mustafa Johnson, Colorado – 84.2
John Penisini, Utah – 84.0
Jay Tufele, USC – 81.0
Austin Faoliu, Oregon – 80.1

Rocketing up draft boards and preseason lists before any games have been played, Onwuzurike returns as the conference's top-graded interior defender on his 391 snaps a year ago. Another solid outing and he'll climb all the lists even more so than he already has.

Linebacker

Evan Weaver, Cal – 91.5
Nate Landman, Colorado – 85.7
Troy Dye, Oregon – 80.7
Jahad Woods, Washington State – 79.3
Colin Schooler, Arizona – 78.4

The Power-5's highest-graded linebacker returns to the Pac-12 as Weaver has top figures in run-defense grade, tackling grade, pass-rush and coverage grades. He recorded 18 pressures on just 85 blitzes and made 74 defensive stops.

Cornerback

Paulson Adebo, Stanford – 89.2
Camryn Bynum, Cal – 84.4
Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon – 82.3
Myles Bryant, Washington – 81.8
Darnay Holmes, UCLA – 80.7

Adebo led all college football last year with 19 pass breakups from a season ago as he also recorded four interceptions on his 78 targeted passes. Bynum and Graham each recorded top-notch coverage grades and Bryant is slated to be next in line from the DB Factory that is Washington.

Safety

Ashtyn Davis, Cal – 88.6
Jevon Holland, Oregon – 83.2
Deion Singleton, Washington State – 82.1*
Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal – 77.2
Quentin Lake, UCLA – 73.2

Davis and Hawkins return and mark what is set to be an improved secondary for Cal. Davis was targeted 22 times as the primary coverage defender and came away with four interceptions and five pass breakups, stamping an awesome year for him.

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