Colorectal cancer (CRC) accounts for about 8% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in the US. We used whole exome sequence data from triplet samples (colon carcinoma, colon adenoma, and normal tissue) from 18 individuals to assess gene mutation rates. Of the 2 204 genes that were mutated, APC, TTN, TP53, KRAS, OBSCN, SOX9, PCDH17, SIGLEC10, MYH6, and BRD9 were consistent with genes being an early driver of carcinogenesis, in that they were mutated in multiple adenomas and multiple carcinomas. Fifty‐two genes were mutated in ≥12.5% of microsatellite stable (MSS) carcinomas but not in any of the adenomas, in line with the profile of a late driver event involved in tumor progression. Thirty‐eight genes were sequenced in a larger independent set of 148 carcinoma/normal tissue pairs to obtain more precise mutation frequencies. Eight of the genes, APC, TP53, ATM, CSMD3, LRP1B, RYR2, BIRC6, and MUC17, contained mutations in >20% of the carcinomas. Interestingly, mutations in four genes in addition to APC that are associated with dysregulation of Wnt signaling, were all classified as early driver events. Most of the genes that are commonly associated with colon cancer, including APC, TP53, and KRAS, were all classified as being early driver genes being mutated in both adenomas and carcinomas. Classifying genes as potential early and late driver events points to candidate genes that may help dissect pathways involved in both tumor initiation and progression.