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Ranking Penn State's best 25 players ahead of '21 by PFF rating: Nos. 1-5

With the 2021 Penn State football season coming into view, Blue White Illustrated is using Pro Football Focus ratings to rank the 25 best players on Penn State's roster. The rankings are based on last season's PFF ratings, and the rankings only include players who played at least 100 snaps least season on offense or defense — with the exception of specialists. In case you missed it, catch up with Nos. 6-25 in the rankings, here:

Ranking Penn State's best 25 players ahead of '21 by PFF rating: Nos. 21-25

Ranking Penn State's best 25 players ahead of '21 by PFF rating: Nos. 16-20

Ranking Penn State's best 25 players ahead of '21 by PFF rating: Nos. 11-15

Ranking Penn State's best 25 players ahead of '21 by PFF rating: Nos. 6-10

5. Keyvone Lee 

Penn State running back Keyvone Lee had a breakout performance in Ann Arbor last season.
Penn State running back Keyvone Lee had a breakout performance in Ann Arbor last season. (Penn State Athletics)

PFF Offense Grade: 75.9

A true freshman running back who could not have expected to play very much last season, it's truly impressive that Keyvone Lee did enough to crack the top-five of this list. Initially part of a true time-share scenario with Devyn Ford and Caziah Holmes, Lee was Penn State's talisman by season's end. He finished with 442 yards and four touchdowns on the season, and PFF also graded him well as a receiver, where he earned a 79.9 grade, catching 12 of the 13 passes sent his way. The hierarchy in Penn State's running back room will need some sorting out with Noah Cain back and John Lovett in the fold, but Lee looks like a solid contributor for years to come.


4. Juice Scruggs 

Penn State offensive lineman Juice Scruggs played well for Penn State last season in a reserve role.
Penn State offensive lineman Juice Scruggs played well for Penn State last season in a reserve role.

PFF Offense Grade: 76.0

Juice Scruggs narrowly met the 150-snap threshold required to earn a place on this list, but he was an extremely effective force on Penn State's offensive line when he did play last season. The majority of his snaps came at left guard, but he filled in well at right guard, too. His best asset was his run blocking ability. Scruggs earned a 76.8 run-blocking grade from PFF, and the Nittany Lions used him primarily in a run-blocking role last season. He was slightly less efficient as a pass blocker, coming away with a 67.3 grade last season.


3. Jahan Dotson 

Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson led the Big Ten in receiving yards in 2020.
Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson led the Big Ten in receiving yards in 2020.

PFF Offense Grade: 78.0

The highest-ranked offensive player on our list is — predictably — Jahan Dotson. The wideout was by far the biggest shining light within a difficult 2020 season for the Penn State offense. He finished the campaign with a Big Ten-best 884 receiving yards and also found the end zone eight times. His passer rating when targeted was 114.4. He caught 52 of the 84 passes sent his way by Penn State quarterbacks, and averaged 17 yards per reception — a true big-play threat on an offense that didn't have much else in the way of a downfield presence. His decision to come back is massive for Penn State's outlook.

2. Jaquan Brisker 

Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker has been touted among the best returning players at his position.
Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker has been touted among the best returning players at his position.

PFF Defense Grade: 82.8

Like Dotson, Jaquan Brisker's decision to give it another season in Happy Valley was a considerable boost to James Franklin and his staff. Brisker was one of the best safeties in the Big Ten last season, and, in his third year at Penn State, many expect him to take the leap and become one of the best safeties in the country this season. His PFF ratings certainly bear that out, as his 82.8 overall mark puts him as the highest-ranked returner from Penn State's roster a year ago. He was elite against the run, good in coverage, and truly special as a tackler, where he achieved a 91.8 grade from PFF last season.

1. Arnold Ebiketie 

Temple transfer defensive end Arnold Ebiketie could be a transformative presence on the defensive line for the Nittany Lions.
Temple transfer defensive end Arnold Ebiketie could be a transformative presence on the defensive line for the Nittany Lions. (AP Images)

PFF Defense Grade: 85.0

The top-ranked player on our countdown is a newcomer in defensive end Arnold Ebiketie. The Temple transfer will play his final season of college football in Happy Valley this fall after spending four seasons with the Owls. His 85.0 overall grade achieved over the course of six games and 340 snaps indicates that he'll be an exciting addition for Nittany Lions fans. Predictably for a player who came away with four sacks in six games, Ebiketie was best graded as a pass rusher, where he claimed an 88.3 mark. He was solid against the run, too, coming away with a 78.5 run defense grade.

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