101 best college football players from 2019

[Editor's note: This story was originally published on PFF.com on January 23, 2020]

As with any list put together by PFF, the goal of the PFF College 101 is to identify the best players from the past season. It's generally understood that not all positions are created equal at the college level, so while the list of top 101 players from 2019 is mostly backed by our PFF play-by-play grades, some leeway is granted to individual players based on factors such as positional value, workload as a percentage of their respective team's snaps and level of competition on a game-by-game basis.

The adjustment for competition is a tough ask, and as such, some players with higher PFF grades will find themselves lower than other players at their position, and vice versa. For example, players with above-average grades against elite teams will receive a boost, while players who put forth elite grades against below-average teams may not see themselves as high as it seems they should be. For that reason, the representatives from the Group of 5 conferences who made the list did so on the strength of truly excellent grades over the course of multiple games.

Keep in mind that this list is all about college football and the past 2019 season. We are not projecting for the NFL or any future drafts.


The season Burrow put forth in 2019-20 is unlike we’ve ever seen. And that's not just in the PFF College era, and it's not just in the PFF era — it is the most accurate, most decorated, most celebrated and most unseen in college football history. He’s rocketed from mid-tier SEC quarterback to sure-fire first overall pick and national stardom. Burrow’s emergence started as early as Week 2 against Texas and saw no let down along the way. He set all sorts of SEC records, all sorts of PFF records, and he never had a game grade lower than 69.3 while he fielded no passing game grade lower than 68.2. His lows would have ranked among the top 30 overall in each of those weeks, proving just how good he was this year. He finished the season with an incredible 10 elite-graded games, including elite grades in his final four outings. He uncorked more big-time throws than any quarterback this season and did so with accurately placed balls the likes of which we haven’t seen. In fact, his 22.0% “accurate plus” pass rate is not only the best of 2019 but the best we’ve seen in a single season. He led the country with a 70.9% accuracy rating overall and threw an inaccurate, uncatchable pass at the third-lowest rate, all doing so while still sporting an average depth of target of 10.0 yards downfield.

No matter which way you slice it, Burrow was the nation’s best player at the sport’s most important position. His 2019 season will go down in history as the best quarterback season ever.


No one defensive player impacted the opposing offense quite like Young did in 2019. He recorded a pass-rush win rate of 27.2% despite being consistently double- or even triple-teamed. Young affected the game plan of his opponents before he even stepped foot on the field, and he finished with the highest grade we’ve ever given to an edge defender in a single season. Young finished the year with 56 total pressures, including 18 sacks, seven hits and 31 hurries, but his impact went as far as seeing him record 33 additional pass-rushes that beat the defender, but the offense either unleashed a quick pass, QB draw or simply threw it away before Young could register a pressure. He was a true game-wrecker, the likes of which even bested the efforts of both Bosa Brothers before him.

Take, for instance, the Northwestern game. After a successful run play, the Wildcats attempted a straight-dropback pass. Young sacked the quarterback so fast that their game plan changed to avoid Young’s impact over the course of the next 16 plays:

His impact reached far beyond the box score in 2019; it was a season for the ages. Young finished his season with an incredible 133 positively graded plays to just 17 negatively graded plays. That’s a ratio that we’ve never seen before.


There are few players who could influence a game like Sewell did in 2019. He finished the season as the highest-graded offensive player, regardless of position, and his incredible rise to the top of the charts is among the very best in PFF history. After finishing his true freshman season as the highest-graded true freshman tackle of the PFF College era, Sewell set the bar for a Power-5 tackle with his 95.5 overall grade that saw him reach an elite game grade in six outings and saw him grade lower than 73.3 just twice. He’s an elite pass protector and the best run-blocking offensive lineman we’ve seen, and given his rise from elite freshman to best sophomore to ever do it, his junior year could well be something even more special. Sewell gets our vote to head to New York for the 2020 Heisman Trophy ceremony if he can improve on what already seems like the single greatest season from an offensive lineman at the college level. 

Sewell possesses strength, hand speed, elite sense of balance, bend, quickness and athleticism. Think of a word to describe an offensive lineman, and you can pencil Sewell’s name next to it as the definition. Think of a word to describe a defensive lineman, and he’s probably got that too. He’s a rare breed at left tackle, who gave up just seven total pressures on 491 pass-blocking snaps and should be more than just a name to know entering 2020 — he is the name to know.


Playing well above his age in 2019, Stingley looked every bit like the top-rated high school recruit that he was entering his first year of play in Baton Rouge. Stingley was tasked with covering top-notch receivers from Day 1 and didn’t waste any time in showcasing his elite coverage abilities. In their greatly anticipated showdown with Texas in Week 2, Stingley spent 64 snaps in coverage, saw four passes come his way and allowed just two catches for 20 yards with two pass breakups, registering both pass breakups against All-Big 12 WR Collin Johnson. That wasn’t even the highest of the highs for Stingley, though, who routinely made the kind of plays on the ball that even the most experienced cornerbacks couldn’t make in their first season for the Tigers. He led the country with 22 forced incompletions and fielded a forced incompletion percentage of 22.9% on all his targets, finishing the year with six interceptions and 15 pass breakups. The mark of a great player also came through in Stingley’s debut year, as he was beaten for two long plays against Alabama’s DeVonta Smith but came back the next week and didn’t allow a catch and actually finished the year without allowing a catch longer than 19 yards after the Alabama game. He put his few lapses behind him quickly and put forth the highest-graded debut season from a cornerback that we’ve ever seen. Stingley is a special player by all accounts, and he will certainly be avoided by opposing offenses next season (and the next season).


Simmons had our vote for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player in 2019. He put forth elite grades across the board and just couldn’t be contained. Despite logging snaps at nearly every position on defense, Simmons graded below 62.3 in only one game and even went as far as finishing 12 games with well-above-average game grades. He was dominant against the run, with his tackling and when he rushed the passer, but he was at his best in coverage. He rushed the passer just 72 times and came away with 30 total pressures, including eight sacks, four hits and 18 hurries. He saw 359 snaps against the run and made a run stop on 22 plays (14th-most among all FBS players lined up at safety). He attempted a whopping 94 tackles and missed just nine of those solo tackle attempts. In coverage, however, where he shined, Simmons saw 42 targets as the primary coverage defender and allowed no reception longer than 30 yards. He broke up five passes, intercepted three and forced eight incompletions. He flew to the ball with great skill and was a dominant player in all facets of play. No one in college football is more prepared for the NFL of today at the linebacker position than Isaiah Simmons, and that translated to the most versatile and best season from a linebacker/safety hybrid.


The second half of the season’s highest-graded quarterback didn’t get the final result he or the Clemson faithful had hoped for when they lost to LSU in the National Championship, but Lawrence has his Tigers rolling into 2020 as the nation’s No. 1 team — and for good reason. Lawrence recorded his second straight season with an overall grade of at least 90.7 to go along with his second consecutive elite passing grade. His highs are the highest we’ve seen for a quarterback his age, and he was able to shake off some lows that plagued the beginning of his season. He’s a resilient quarterback — just ask Ohio State — and a tough kid with an incredible heart. But when you do break down what he’s been able to do on the football field, the picture of him being the best returning quarterback to college football becomes even clearer. His two-year grade is the highest among any returning quarterback, and his pocket play is among the very best we've ever seen from a freshman and now sophomore. Lawrence has already taken Clemson to new heights, and if his season baseline is a 90.0 overall grade, the sky is truly the limit for the talented signal-caller.


To shake any misconception of him being a “dual-threat quarterback,” Fields is a downfield passer first and foremost, but he is an incredible athlete when he decides to tuck the ball and run. Fields ran the ball 72 times for 366 yards on designed rush attempts and added 322 yards on scrambles with 10 touchdowns and 35 first-down carries, but all that pales in comparison to his downfield and overall throwing ability. He finished the year with an elite passing grade of 92.5 after completing 238 of his 356 attempts for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns against just three interceptions, two of which came against Clemson in the playoff. Overall, Fields was the nation’s highest-graded quarterback on straight-dropback pass attempts, completing 193 of 270 attempts for 2,556 yards and 33 touchdowns. He kept his offense on pace and on schedule while possessing a downfield throwing ability the likes of which Ohio State has not seen in some time. After the way his first season in Columbus went, it’s no surprise to see him atop the charts next to Trevor Lawrence as one of the favorites to win the Heisman in 2020.


Donning a new uniform for his final collegiate season, Hurts was every bit the Heisman contender early in the season. Turnover woes haunted him for a few games down the backstretch, but he revitalized his team more often than not. Hurts was the second-highest overall graded quarterback and had the country’s fourth-best passer rating from a clean pocket. He was also one of the better downfield throwers this year, something that he did not showcase during his time at Alabama. On all deep shots targeted at least 20 yards downfield, Hurts finished 33 of 66 for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns, fielding a passer rating of 116.5.

His downfield passing ability and penchant for big-time throws overshadowed how important his rushing ability was to the Sooners' offense, though, as he was just a phenomenal asset with his legs, an asset that head coach Lincoln Riley exploited. Hurts led all non-option quarterbacks (and was third overall) with a whopping 1,422 rushing yards this season, with 918 of those coming on designed carries. He chipped in another 504 yards on 59 scrambles and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground in total. His 61 runs for a first down were the most among non-option quarterbacks, and his 47 broken tackles ranked second among that group. He was a terrific all-around athlete, and he presented troubles for defenses this season like no other quarterback.


It didn’t end the way he (or the rest of the country) had planned, but Tagovailoa’s 2019 season was something to behold and something that we should have seen coming. Tagovailoa had the country’s seventh-highest percentage of “accurate plus passes,” meaning he threw a perfect pass on 16.4% of his attempts, which was also the second-best mark in the SEC. He was tremendous from a clean pocket, and for the second straight season, had the nation’s top passer rating when kept clean. He completed 156 of his 205 attempts for 2,470 yards, 29 touchdowns and just one interception, and his 153.3 passer rating was both better than anyone else in the country and was an improvement from a season ago in which he finished with a 141.6 passer rating.

Even when he was pressured, Tagovailoa didn’t let it affect him much, as he completed nearly 50% of those passes and threw just two interceptions. He completed passes to every level of the field with ease, and when given a chance, he was the only quarterback to beat sensational true freshman Derek Stingley on the outside. What he was able to accomplish before his hip injury is unparalleled — he’ll go down as perhaps the best Crimson Tide quarterback of all time.


The Biletnikoff Award winner’s record-setting season did not go overlooked at all in the PFF grades, as Chase finished the 2019 season with both an elite overall grade and an elite receiving grade. He hauled in 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns while 58 other receptions moved the chains for first downs. He dominated outside and averaged 21.2 yards per reception, 8.1 of which came after the catch. Chase led the nation with 431 of his receiving yards coming after the catch and after contact with a defender, as he was incredibly difficult to bring down. He forced 22 missed tackles and also came down with 16 contested catches, which was something that he was rarely given the opportunity to do with Burrow’s accuracy. His 21.2 yards per catch was by far the highest among receivers with at least 100 targets, and his 141.3 passer rating when targeted was second to only his teammate among that same group.


Thomas looked every bit the seasoned, veteran left tackle for the Bulldogs in 2019. In his final season for Georgia, Thomas logged 816 total snaps at left tackle and finished every game with an overall grade at 65.3 or above. He did not see a game or facet grade finish below average and finished the season with the third-highest overall grade among tackles. His pass-blocking was simply elite, and he surrendered all of nine pressures on 410 pass-blocking snaps to give him a grand total of 37 total pressures on 1,075 career pass-blocking snaps over the past three seasons combined. He increased his pass-blocking grade each season at Athens and even saw his pressures total decrease in each season going from 17 allowed in 2017 to just 11 in 2018 to his career-low nine pressures given up this season. What sets him apart from most other elite pass-blocking tackles was his elite run-blocking grade. He finished third overall in that facet as Georgia running backs averaged a whopping 5.83 yards before contact when rushing to his side. Thomas’ speed, strength and athleticism were put on display anytime the ‘Dawgs ran his direction, and after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, he will find himself a new home earlier rather than later this April.


An absolute monster at the catch point, Johnson actually finished the year with the highest overall grade among all receivers in 2019. He was unstoppable on a bevy of routes, but he particularly excelled on go-route concepts where he hauled in 17 catches for 445 yards and nine touchdowns. Each of his go-route receptions converted a touchdown or first down, and he finished with the 12th-most contested catches (16) on only the 34th-most contested catch opportunities. Johnson was a hard man to bring down, and he even racked up 240 yards after contact with a defender, not just total yards after the catch, proving how tough he was to bring down last season.

His spectacular plays are at the forefront of the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ 2019 highlight reel, and his career year likely paves the way for a high draft pick after two consecutive seasons with at least 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns.


No running back in the PFF College era has done the kind of things that Etienne did in 2019. He shattered the previous record for most missed tackles forced per carry, setting the new benchmark at 44% (previously set at 33% by David Montgomery). He also became the first running back in the PFF College era to break 80 tackles before reaching 200 carries, and he subsequently became the first running back to reach 90 forced missed tackles without totaling 250 total carries. Put simply, the fact that Etienne ran for 1,606 yards, 1,044 yards after contact, 19 touchdowns, 53 first downs and 90 missed tackles forced all without reaching more than 16 carries in a single game this year is astounding. Etienne led the country in yards per carry (7.8), yards after contact per carry (5.1), total missed tackles forced (102) while possessing multiple other top-10 marks. Etienne’s impact in the run game may have outshined his impact in the passing game, as well, as he also chipped in with 38 catches for 441 yards, 484 yards after the catch, four scores, 16 first downs and another 12 missed tackles, generating a 144.0 passer rating when targeted. He was the most dynamic back we have ever seen in our years of grading college football.


Had it not been for the man above him here, Moss’ 37% missed-tackle forced percentage would have set the new PFF College record. Moss finished the season with a whopping 87 missed tackles forced on his 234 carries, generating 1,412 yards and 1,042 yards after contact. It was all too often that the opposing defense knew Moss was going to get the ball, yet it didn’t matter, as he ripped off 4.5 yards after contact per attempt in 2019, second among running backs with at least 200 carries. Moss’ terrific year on the ground saw him reach 1,000 yards for the third straight season, and he set career-high marks in every major rushing category in the process. Moss also chipped in with another two touchdowns, 387 yards, 15 more missed tackles forced and seven more first downs through the air as he was a true dual-threat for the Utes offense.


Heading to Miami this offseason, Roche will get to put his incredible pass-rushing skills to the test against ACC tackles in 2020. He finished second in pass-rush grade this year behind only Chase Young, finishing with 68 total pressures on his 392 pass-rushes. His 68 pressures were second-most in the nation, and they consisted of the pass-rush triple-double of 13 sacks, 13 hits and 42 hurries. He batted down four more passes at the line of scrimmage and even made 18 defensive stops in the run game. What separates Roche from other Group of 5 edge defenders this season was his utter dominance as clearly the best player on the field. He dominated the AAC schedule and even went as far as putting forth elite pass-rushing grades against Maryland and Georgia Tech. In total against Power-5 opponents this season, Roche recorded nine pressures against the Terps, seven pressures against the Yellow Jackets and three more pressures against North Carolina. 

He didn’t just beat up on the inferior opponents, either. He also did it against top-notch talent. When he was on, he was unstoppable — Roche won 20.4% of his pass-rushes and got home with pressure on 18.6% of his total pass-rush attempts in 2019.


Crushing the competition from the slot, Jefferson led the nation with 109 receptions, 1,518 yards and 18 touchdowns from an inside alignment. He ran 98.6% of his snaps from the slot, so the majority of his damage was bound to come inside, but the kind of figures he put up in the LSU offense were almost unheard of before 2019. Jefferson’s slot receiving yards would rank third nationally (like his 1,540 yards already do), and his 23 missed tackles forced led all slot-primary receivers. He took advantage of linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks alike from inside and saw the nation’s highest passer rating when targeted (147.9) among all receivers with 100 targets thrown their way. His shift inside to the slot clearly paid dividends for him and for the Tigers' offense. They set new heights of what a college offense can do this past season, and Jefferson was an integral part of that success.


The highest-graded receiver over the second half of the season, Higgins looked more and more like potentially the best player at the position for the 2020 draft as the season wore on. He benefitted greatly from Lawrence’s improvement down the backstretch, but he was also a huge reason why Lawrence was able to improve. For a man his size, Higgins possesses an incredible sense of balance and hands as well as a monster catch radius and terrific body control. He routinely made sideline catches look easy and took the next play to the house with his speed and route-running ability that saw him run himself wide open more times than not. He finished the season with 59 catches for 1,167 yards, 13 touchdowns, 35 first downs and 12 missed tackles forced en route to 341 yards after the catch. His high-end production is among the best we’ve seen from a college football receiver in some time, and Higgins used the ACC Championship game to put the rest of the nation on notice.


The owner of the nation’s highest pass-rush win rate, the Blue Devils did an incredible job of pitting their pass-rush to Rumph’s strengths in 2019. He certainly found his way into the backfield more often than not and did so from a variety of alignments in 2019. He reached the quarterback 49 times by way of seven sacks, 11 hits and 31 hurries, and he utilized his speed and an incredible swim move to combat the hands of tackles, guards or centers on his way to winning 30.8% of his pass-rush attempts this year.

Combine that with the fact that he made 18 run stops — a run stop for every 9.3 snaps he played the run — and you have yourself a true three-down threat to stop anything the opposing offense can muster. Rumph deserves all the praise for the way he played in 2019 and the way he ended the season — with the highest-graded game from an edge defender all year, with 14 pressures, including four sacks, against Miami in Week 14.


A man among boys at times this season, Lamb routinely broke free from not just a single tackler but multiple tacklers. He finished second in the nation with 26 missed tackles forced on just 62 receptions while he also gained 683 yards after the catch and averaged 11.0 YAC/reception. Lamb dominated at the catch point and finished the year with 1,325 yards, 14 touchdowns and 29 more first downs through the air. He dropped just three catchable targets all season long and took over games seemingly at will.

He was unstoppable when Oklahoma needed him against Texas, he took over against Iowa State in crunch time and then even sparked the Oklahoma offense when Baylor was closing in during the Big 12 Title Game. He’s perhaps the best all-around receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft and in all of college football.


The cream of the crop at the tight end position this year, no player even came close to the production Bryant saw in 2019. He finished the year with 65 catches (1st) for 1,004 yards (1st) and 45 first-down receptions, which are more than any other tight end had combined touchdowns and first downs. Bryant could find the hole in zone coverage just the same as he could run by a linebacker or safety in coverage, and he even went as far as forcing 12 missed tackles and 395 yards after the catch. Rounding out his incredible Mackey Award-winning season, Bryant also finished with the eighth-highest pass-blocking grade among qualified tight ends, keeping a clean sheet on his 36 pass-blocking snaps. His run-blocking was also among the nation’s best and ranked seventh in run-blocking grade among the same group of qualified tight ends. He was the most well-rounded tight end in all of college football, and it wasn’t even close.


The only interior defensive lineman with elite grades in run defense, tackling and pass-rushing, Brown was in a class of his own during the 2019 season. He ripped through for 35 total pressures that included five sacks, 10 hits and 20 hurries despite seeing multiple double-teams in the middle. He secured 36 total defensive stops, forced two fumbles and batted two more passes at the line of scrimmage. In run defense alone, he secured 25 stops and brought home a stop on 9.7% of his snaps against the run. All of these are great, but what separated Brown from the top was his safe, sure tackling at the point of attack. Brown was the nation’s best tackler from the interior of the defensive line and secured 46 total tackles that included 35 solo tackles and another 11 assists, all without missing a single tackle. 


The best receiver from the slot in 2019, Atwell blew the doors off the season for Louisville, recording 70 receptions for 1,270 yards, 12 touchdowns and another 38 first downs. He led the country in yards after the catch with 752 yards and was one just one of two receivers who saw over 100 targets and averaged at least 10.0 yards after the catch per reception. Atwell dominated mainly from the slot, where he secured 4.37 yards for every route he ran, with the next closest receiver being Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson at 3.49. The Louisville speedster scored 12 touchdowns from the slot and hauled in 65.1% of his targets this year, finishing as by far the nation’s highest-graded receiver inside.


The back-to-back Doak Walker Award winner exits Wisconsin after one of the most illustrious careers for a running back in the history of college football. He ran for 2,002 yards on 320 carries in 2019, generating 1,257 yards after contact on the ground. Both of those figures were good enough to rank second in the country, but his effectiveness on a down-to-down basis is what truly separated him from the pack. No running back secured more first-down or touchdown runs than Taylor’s 108, as he scored 21 touchdowns and ran for 86 first downs. His 86 first-down runs alone would rank fifth among all running backs in combined first-down and touchdown carries this season, and his 108 in total were two more than Jaret Patterson and nine more than his Big Ten counterpart J.K. Dobbins. Taylor also added a receiving component to his all-around game in 2019 and hauled in 26 catches for 243 yards and five touchdowns as he broke five more scores and secured another six first downs through the air. It was yet another dominant season from the Wisconsin running back, who finishes his career with 6,159 rushing yards, 3,921 yards after contact, 219 missed tackles forced and 292 total rushing conversions.


Leading the nation in yards this season, Hubbard was one of three backs to reach the 2,000-yard plateau as he capped out at 2,090 total rushing yards on his 328 carries. He toted the rock for 21 touchdowns, tying for third-most, and he secured another 76 first-down carries while breaking 77 tackles on his attempts. Hubbard forced a missed tackle on 23% of his carries and secured a touchdown or first down on 29.6% of his attempts in 2019. Perhaps the most important aspect of Hubbard’s success on the ground this season was the fact that he didn’t lose a single fumble despite leading the nation in carries. His safe set of hands also saw him secure 23 catches out of the backfield and force another eight tackles after the catch. Hubbard enters the 2020 season as one of the odds-on favorites to win the Doak Walker Award.


As the nation’s highest-graded guard by a long shot, no other guard came close to the production Dotson had in 2019. He finished the year with a 92.1 overall grade, with the next highest-graded guard finishing at 85.4 overall. Dotson allowed all of three total pressures on his 411 pass-blocking snaps; he was called for just three penalties, and he also had the nation’s highest run-blocking grade by a wide margin. Dotson was his best in the run game, for sure, and routinely paved wide-open lanes for the Ragin’ Cajuns’ rushing attack. When rushing behind Dotson, Louisiana running backs averaged a whopping 8.7 yards per carry and 4.1 yards before contact — he was that good.

He’s as strong as he is fast, and that get-off coupled with his strength was unparalleled at the position this season.


Perhaps the best route runner to come out of college football in some time, Jeudy dominated the early action for Alabama in 2019. He finished the year with 77 receptions for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns while 43 other receptions moved the chains. Jeudy also had 33 receptions go for at least 15 yards, the eighth-most explosive plays from a receiver this season, and he finished the year with top receiving grades on almost every bucketed route concept, as well.

Jeudy not only dominated across the college football landscape; he dominated in his own receiving corps, and that was a unit that featured four viable WR1s. That’s a feat in and of itself.


The owner of eight of the highest game grades for the Cougars this season, Jones was the highest-graded player in all but one of the games he played in 2019. He was so dominant over the span of nine games that he finished with just four pressures allowed on 325 pass-blocking snaps and the country’s second-highest run-blocking grade at the position. Few left tackles moved as well as he did this season, and he routinely made blocks at the second level look easy. Jones didn’t just do his damage against lesser competition either, as he had an elite single-game pass-blocking grade against Oklahoma and an elite single-game run-blocking grade against Washington State. For a man his size, his hand speed, strength, mobility and athleticism only bode well for him to make a ton of waves at the next level.


The nation’s highest-graded interior defender, Elliott was pegged as a breakout candidate before the season, and break out he did. He racked up 34 total pressures on just 290 pass-rushes, including four sacks, nine hits and 21 more hurries. He even batted two passes at the line of scrimmage despite being routinely double-teamed up the middle, as he was a true game-wrecker for the Tigers. He also chipped in with a whopping 24 stops in run defense and finished the season with the nation’s second-highest run-defense grade in the process.


Increasing his overall game grades as the season went along, Wirfs finished the year with four of his five highest-graded games coming in the Hawkeyes' final five outings. He had six games with an elite pass-blocking grade and another handful with an elite run-blocking grade as he was one of only six tackles to finish the 2019 season with elite grades in each facet. He allowed a total of seven pressures on 461 reps in pass protection and even had eight games without a single pressure given up, while in the run game, Iowa running backs averaged over 3.0 yards before contact when running outside Wirfs. Limiting penalties was also an area in which he shined, as he was called for just three penalties all season long. All in all, his improvement as the year went along not only put him in place to be the fourth-highest graded tackle overall but also firmly in the conversation as possibly the first tackle drafted in April.


The player who we would have given the Butkus Award to for best linebacker in the regular season gets the tick over Parsons after a lackluster bowl game performance. Still, Wilson was every bit of a dominant linebacker in every facet of play and finished as the only linebacker in the country with a 77.3 grade or higher in every grade category for a linebacker. Wilson recorded 17 total pressures on just 54 pass-rushes, 40 stops against the run and 50 total defensive stops, all while he missed just 12 of the 115 tackles he attempted this year. He didn’t allow a catch longer than 37 yards and made four interceptions and another five pass breakups on throws into his primary coverage.


Parsons put an exclamation point on his 2019 season with a dominant performance in the Cotton Bowl against Memphis, so much so that Parsons actually leaped into the lead for highest-graded linebacker overall this year. Parsons was far from a liability in coverage, as he didn’t allow a single touchdown on any of the 64 targets thrown his way, but he really shined against the run, when he blitzed and with his tackling. In fact, Parsons was the only linebacker with elite grades in all three facets this year — he recorded a national-best 94.8 run-defense grade, fourth-highest 90.0 tackling grade and 17th-best pass-rush grade of 85.0. When he did rush the passer, Parsons recorded 26 pressures on 94 attempts, including five sacks, eight hits and 13 more hurries. He tallied 38 run stops (and 50 total stops all season long) while his run-stop percentage of 12.3% ranked 23rd. Perhaps the most impressive, however, was the fact that he attempted a total of 111 tackles this year and missed just six. He was a sure tackler who also made incredible strides across the field in every facet of play.


Despite his career-year in terms of yards, touchdowns and completions, Herbert’s 2019 season totals could have been even higher had he not seen 32 of his catchable passes dropped by his receivers. In all, Herbert’s 75.3% adjusted completion percentage was the 15th-best rate in the country, and he saw nearly 390 yards dropped. Still, he completed 66.0% of his throws for 3,456 yards and 32 scores while he had the country’s 11th-best grade on all throws downfield. He limited turnover-worthy passes much more so than he did a year ago, as he reached highs he saw during his prolific 2017 season. Herbert didn’t let pressure faze him much, but when he was kept clean, he was one of the nation’s best passers, completing 71.3% of his attempts from a clean pocket for 2,884 yards and 28 of his touchdowns.


Heavily targeted and rarely beaten in coverage, Molden led the country with 26 defensive stops against the pass and 54 solo tackles in coverage. He bent but did not break and allowed just two catches longer than 29 yards this season while he allowed just two touchdowns compared to his four interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Molden earned a below-average grade in just one game this season, and he had multiple elite game grades in his bag. He wasn’t just a one-trick pony either, as he recorded another seven stops against the run and even chipped in with six quarterback pressures on blitzes. Molden finished the year as one of just three cornerbacks to finish with grades of 81.0 or higher in run defense, coverage and tackling.

His read and react ability took him to new heights in 2019, and 2020 should be no different.


Morgan’s high-end performances were among the best in the nation, and actually, the highest-graded outing from a Power-5 quarterback against a Power-5 defense was his game against Penn State in which he carved up the Nittany Lions' defense. He avoided negative plays at a high rate and piled up the ‘NFL throws’ targeted at least 10 yards downfield this season. He still finished with the country’s 25th-ranked adjusted completion percentage, and his highs — like that against Purdue and Penn State — certainly give hope for even higher highs in 2020. He didn’t field a game grade lower than 62.0 against Power-5 defenses and had three single-game grades well above the PFF elite threshold in his dominant season at the helm of the Minnesota offense.


The best defensive player when he was on the field, Martial capped his second straight year with an overall grade of 90.9 or higher and finished with the country’s second-highest overall grade at 91.3. Martial hardly lapsed at all this season for Troy, finishing multiple games with elite grades overall as he was equally elite against the run and in coverage. He made three interceptions and three pass breakups against just one touchdown allowed in coverage while he didn’t allow a single reception to go over 20 yards this season. He chipped in with 64 total defensive stops, three of which were sacks, another 13 that came in coverage and 48 that came against the run, the latter ranking as the fourth-most in the country. A true three-down threat at the Group of 5 level, Martial is set to make waves as potentially one of t