We’re using our new advanced metrics, 1-on-1 pass protection ELO rating and 1-on-1 pass rush ELO rating, to rank the top prospects in the NFL Draft.

What makes a good pass rusher or pass protector?

We’ve taken a big step toward answering that question by taking the “ELO” rating concept, which calculates the relative skill levels of players in zero-sum games (originally created for chess), and applying it to line play in the passing game in football.

Our newest advanced metrics are 1-on-1 pass protection ELO rating (for offensive linemen) and 1-on-1 pass rush ELO rating (for defensive linemen) and Joe Alt and Jaylen Harrell, respectively, are the top draftable players come Thursday.

Our data only comes from 1-on-1 matchups in true passing sets, meaning there can’t be blocking help from another player like a running back or tight end, nor can the drop back occur in situations like a screen, run-pass option, or designed rollout.

But how does this become relevant? With the first round of the NFL Draft just around the corner, that’s an easy question to take on. Below we’re ranked the top five draft-eligible players on each side of the ball, based on their 2023 1-on-1 pass pro and pass rush ELO ratings (PROPER, for short). 

To be clear, this is NOT a list of the top NFL Draft prospects at each position – much more goes into being a successful lineman than 1-on-1 performance in pass sets. However, this can retroactively evaluate which players were the most efficient in those situations in their final collegiate seasons, relative to the competition of individual players they faced.

1. Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame (1-on-1 PROPER: 1637)

Alt is the highest-ranked offensive lineman in NFL.com’s most recent 2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings, so it’s not too surprising to see him lead the pack in our ratings. Notre Dame faced a bevy of strong defensive competition throughout the season, including the likes of Ohio State, Duke, Louisville and Clemson, but Alt was consistently successful the whole way, winning on 93.2% of his 1-on-1 matchups. Much thanks to Alt’s performance, Notre Dame finished the season ranked fifth nationally with a 46.1% offensive success rate, trailing only LSU, Oregon, Georgia and Liberty (“Success” is defined as getting 50% of the needed yardage on first down, 70% on second down, or all of it on third or fourth down.) And the fact that Alt only turned 21 at the end of February suggests that he still has much room to grow.

2. Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State (1-on-1 PROPER: 1549)

Fashanu also ranks extremely high in most draft projections, often being second behind Alt among offensive linemen, which makes sense given that both of these players were the tackles on the 2023 AP All-American First Team. Like Alt, Fashanu faced some very strong defenses, such as Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. And while he wasn’t quite as successful as Alt (90.7% 1-on-1 win rate for Fashanu), his quality of competition faced was enough for him to take the second spot in our rankings. He had a notably rapid improvement arc, only starting one combined game from 2020-21 before finishing college as one of the nation’s top players at his position, meaning that the 21-year-old tackle’s pro potential should be sky high.

(NOTE: Only the top draft-eligible offensive linemen are included in the chart.)

3. Walter Rouse, OT, Oklahoma (1-on-1 PROPER: 1547)

A five-year college player who began his career with four years at Stanford before finishing at Oklahoma in 2023, Rouse is not creating a particularly high amount of draft buzz. But the 2023 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection played a significant role in how efficient the Dillon Gabriel-led offense was in Norman. On drop backs, the Sooners ranked in the top five nationally in both success rate (47.3%) and yards per play (8.74), as the squad ended up ranking fourth in the FBS with 41.7 points per game, only behind LSU, Oregon, and USC.

T-4. Patrick Paul, OT, Houston (1-on-1 PROPER: 1542)

Sticking to Big 12 offensive tackles who just completed their fifth collegiate season, Paul takes up the next spot in our rankings. While Houston’s overall transition to the Big 12 was rough (the Cougars’ eight losses tied their most in a season in the past 20 years), Paul certainly held his own throughout the year, bringing home First Team All-Big 12 honors. Though his strength of competition wasn’t quite as high as those listed above him, Paul had a stellar 94.1% 1-on-1 win rate during tracked pass sets, second among draft-eligible offensive linemen behind Kansas State’s KT Leveston (95.7%).

T-4. Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington (1-on-1 PROPER: 1542)

The third-highest ranked offensive lineman on NFL.com’s list, Fautanu had no shortage of individual or team accolades during his final college season. The fifth-year senior won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman, in addition to earning AP Third Team All-America honors. He started all 15 games at left tackle for a Washington team that set a school record with 14 wins, in addition to becoming the first Pac-12 team to reach the national championship game since Oregon did so nine years prior. Fautanu was perhaps the most prominent example of how our ratings reward difficult competition faced. He “only” had a 1-on-1 win rate of 81.5%, but with the likes of Utah, Texas, Michigan, and Oregon (twice) on the schedule, Fautanu faced a surplus of elite defensive linemen. 

NOTE: The highest-ranking Draft-eligible interior offensive lineman in our ratings was guard Jarrett Kingston out of USC (1499).

1. Jaylen Harrell, Edge, Michigan (1-on-1 PROPER: 1481)

Note that our defensive ratings tend to be significantly lower than offensive ones, since most 1-on-1 pass rush reps are won by the offensive player. But with that being said, our list is led by a player whose final game came against Fautanu’s Washington squad. The Huskies were just one example of the strong opposition that Harrell faced late in the season, as the Wolverines also took down Penn State, Ohio State, and Alabama en route to their championship. The Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection led his team in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (9.0), and he was at his best when the games counted most, with at least one TFL in four of Michigan’s last six games. Much thanks to Harrell, Michigan led the FBS by allowing a meager 10.4 points per game.

ELO Defensive Rating

2. Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA (1-on-1 PROPER: 1473)

The ultimate technician with his hands, Latu used his array of pass rush moves to end up as the national leader in tackles for loss with 21.5. As a result, he was not only an AP First Team All-American, but he also won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end. His 63.6% 1-on-1 win rate led all edge rushers with at least 15 chances last season, and he ranked tied for fourth in the FBS with 13.0 sacks. Latu, who began his college career at Washington, was a major catalyst in UCLA jumping from ranking 92nd nationally in scoring defense in 2022 all the way to 14th in 2023. He’s the third-highest ranked edge rusher by NFL.com, trailing only Alabama’s Dallas Turner and Florida State’s Jared Verse. 

3. Byron Murphy II, IDL, Texas (1-on-1 PROPER: 1439)

Murphy was the highest ranking interior defensive lineman in our ratings, as he and fellow draft-eligible prospect T’Vondre Sweat formed a dominant defensive tackle duo that pushed Texas into its first College Football Playoff appearance. Murphy’s 67.6% 1-on-1 win rate led all draft-eligible players, and ranked second overall. The reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and AP Second Team All-American selection is still only 21 years old, and he’s the highest-ranked interior defensive lineman in NFL.com’s rankings.

(NOTE: Only the top draft-eligible defensive linemen are included in the chart.)

4. Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington (1-on-1 PROPER: 1398)

Trice’s “Magnum Opus” was the CFP semifinal win over Murphy’s Texas team, when he finished with 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. But Trice was productive throughout the year for the Huskies, ultimately finishing as a First Team All-Pac-12 and AP Third Team All-America selection. Similar to his teammate Fautanu on the other side of the ball, Trice exemplified how strength of schedule thoroughly mattered in our ratings. Trice’s 1-on-1 win rate was 41.9%, significantly lower than the other four players on this list, but he was credited for the high-quality competition he faced. Even with that, he still finished with 11.5 TFLs and 7.0 sacks. 

5. Chris Braswell, Edge, Alabama (1-on-1 PROPER: 1388)

The College Football Playoff cycle is now complete, as all four CFP participants had one defensive player featured in these rankings (and for what it’s worth, Latu also began his career at Washington). But while Turner is the Alabama edge rusher who’s generating the most attention, it’s actually Braswell who ranked slightly ahead of him in our ELO rankings. Though Turner had more TFLs (14.5 to 10.5) and sacks (10.0 to 8.0) than Braswell, Braswell did create pressure more efficiently, as Braswell had a 51.4% 1-on-1 win rate compared to Turner’s 38.5%. As such, Braswell was a Second Team All-SEC selection, and he consequently may be a sleeper come draft time.

Enjoy this? Check out our MLBNBA and NFL coverage, and follow along on X and Instagram for more.