Best player at every position in NFL Week 12
Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season is complete, and PFF’s grades for every player to take a snap are in the books. Here are the top performances over the week at every position:
Week 12 offense
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, 92.8
Ryan Tannehill had his second excellent performance in three weeks for Miami, leading the Dolphins to their sixth-straight win. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes against the 49ers and that’s with three of his ten incompletions coming from dropped balls by his receivers. He was pressured only eight times in the game and from a clean pocket he had a passer rating of 150.3.
Running back: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, 83.9
The running back race was close this week with Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson all being separated by very little. Bell though notched 120 rushing yards against the Colts at 5.2 yards per carry, breaking three tackles and adding another 22 yards in the air by catching all four passes thrown his way. He had some impressive blocking to work with, but he did well to maximize the production that afforded him.
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 91.1
Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans retains his spot in the team of the week and did so this week despite Richard Sherman in close attendance and tracking him for much of the game against Seattle. Evans caught eight of the 11 passes thrown his way for 104 yards and two touchdowns, including one where he just beat Sherman in a physical battle down the sideline and in the end zone at the catch point.
Wide receiver: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, 87.4
Michael Thomas was a second-round draft pick by the Saints but as the weeks go by it’s becoming harder and harder to identify exactly why everybody passed on him in the first. This week Thomas caught nine of the ten passes thrown his way for 108 yards and two scores. The first touchdown was a beautiful pass from Drew Brees, dissecting zone coverage, but the second was all work after the catch by Thomas, busting through Rams defenders into the end zone.
Slot receiver: Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta Falcons, 85.0
Taylor Gabriel channelled his inner human joystick against the Cardinals. While Julio Jones was being limited to just 35 receiving yards, Gabriel caught two quick passes and juked his way into the end zone for touchdowns. Gabriel ended the day with four catches for 75 yards and two scores, and with very little work on his end Matt Ryan had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when throwing his way.
Tight End: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, 93.4
You won’t see many better receiving performances from a TE than Jordan Reed managed against Washington on Thanksgiving. Reed caught ten passes (from 12 targets) for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Reed beat six different Dallas defenders for catches and hauled in one spectacular one down the sideline despite being held at the time.
Left tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers, 87.7
Another player to retain his place on team of the week, David Bakhtiari continues to look like a bargain on a weekly basis given the contract the Packers signed him to, when at the time, it looked like he was getting the better end of the deal. He was again perfect in pass protection this week, allowing no pressure on 44 pass blocking snaps, but also run blocked well against a strong Eagles front.
Left guard: Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders, 83.9
Kelechi Osemele allowed only one pressure over 43 snaps of pass protection against the Panthers, but it was run blocking where he really did the damage. It wasn’t reflected in the Raiders rushing stats, but Osemele crushed everybody he went up against, either at the line or the second level and deserved more production on the ground from his efforts.
Center: Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders, 88.0
Another of the Oakland line to have an excellent game against the Panthers, Rodney Hudson was perfect in pass protection across his 43 passing downs, but was also excellent in the run game. Like Osemele beside him, Hudson just didn’t lose in the run game, and whether it was against defensive tackles at the line or linebackers at the second level he was consistently generating movement at the point of attack.
Right guard: Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins, 82.2
Thanksgiving had its fair share of standout performances and Washington’s Brandon Scherff had an excellent game against the Cowboys. Scherff allowed a hit, but it was the only pressure he surrendered across 56 snaps of pass blocking, and in the run game he was by far the best performer on the Redskins line.
Right tackle: Ricky Wagner, Baltimore Ravens, 86.4
Going up against Carlos Dunlap is no easy task and yet Ricky Wagner came out of the game having surrendered just two hurries on 41 pass blocking snaps. His run blocking though was what really earned him his place on this team with a series of excellent blocks against DT Geno Atkins in particular in Baltimore’s zone runs.
Week 12 defense
Edge defender: Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs, 95.3
Justin Houston just reminded everybody quite how awesome he can be when he is 100 percent healthy and at his best. He took the revolving right tackle door of the Denver Broncos to pieces on Sunday night and racked up three sacks, nine total pressures, a batted pass and a ludicrous ten defensive stops. In one game of action he almost drew level with Tamba Hali’s defensive stop total for the season (11) that has taken him 444 snaps to amass.
Defensive interior: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, 88.1
It’s probably time we gave this spot an embossed plaque with Aaron Donald’s name on it. The Saints lit up the Rams defense, but turn on the tape and watch Donald repeatedly destroying plays front and back side. He recorded a sack, hit and hurry as a pass-rusher and four defensive stops overall.
Defensive interior: Damon Harrison, New York Giants, 86.4
There is no better run defender in the NFL than Damon Harrison, and this week against the Browns he set about proving that once more. The Browns are best when they can run the ball, but across just 19 run defending snaps, Harrison effectively sealed up the middle of that defense, and the team could average just 2.8 yards per carry.
Edge defender: Von Miller, Denver Broncos, 93.5
While Justin Houston was busy having a breakout performance after he worked his way back to full health, Von Miller was going toe-to-toe with him for the Broncos on Sunday night. The two players were trading beastly pass-rushing displays all game in what was a week for ridiculous displays from edge rushers. Miller ended the game with three sacks, ten total pressures, a batted pass and nine defensive stops, narrowly edging Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa and Jason Pierre-Paul to this spot.
Linebacker: Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans, 91.9
Wesley Woodyard played 62 snaps this week for the Titans, the second-most on the defense behind only Derrick Morgan, and racked up six tackles and three defensive stops. In coverage, though was where he really shone, catching and intercepting as many passes himself (one) as he allowed opposing receivers to bring in. Woodyard also broke up two of the incompletions and his total yardage surrendered on five targets was just five.
Linebacker: Telvin Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars, 90.8
Telvin Smith’s biggest asset is speed. His ability to tear after things and arrive quicker than most linebackers can result in some big plays, but also be his undoing when he gets it wrong. This week he led the team in tackles (nine) and defensive stops (six) while blowing up multiple run plays with that speed to the hole, beating the blocks of linemen before they could get to him.
Cornerback: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Cleveland Browns, 89.8
Brien Boddy-Calhoun was thrown at seven times by the Giants, be allowed just two catches for 37 yards over the course of the game, even if one of those was a touchdown catch. He broke up two of the incompletions and had another deep pass where he was in lock step with Victor Cruz forcing an incompletion.
Cornerback: Darius Slay, Detroit Lions, 89.6
The Minnesota Vikings made life pretty easy for the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving with an average depth of target in the game of just 3.5, by far the lowest in the league over the week. Slay was only the primary coverage defender three times in the game, and though he gave up two catches, they went for a total of just 12 yards and he made the game-winning play by baiting Sam Bradford into a bad throw in a trap coverage late in the game, notching an interception and sealing the win.
Slot cornerback: William Gay, Pittsburgh Steelers, 91.2
William Gay notched a sack against the Colts back on Thanksgiving, but as a cornerback obviously his job is in coverage. Over the course of 35 snaps and 23 in coverage he allowed just 22 yards while breaking up one pass and intercepting another. He gave up a passer rating of just 27.1 when targeted.
Safety: Dwight Lowery, San Diego Chargers, 86.5
Dwight Lowery had a fine game for the Chargers this week against the Houston Texans, grading well in both the run game and in coverage. Lowery’s biggest play was a forced fumble on RB Lamar Miller, but he also broke up a deep pass from QB Brock Osweiler and made an impact on the game.
Safety: Michael Mitchell, Pittsburgh Steelers, 85.8
Michael Mitchell notched himself an interception on a deep ball that was underthrown from QB Scott Tolzien, but also made a nice stop in the run game and broke up another pass intended for Chester Rogers on a slant pattern over the course of the game.
Punter: Jordan Berry, Pittsburgh Steelers
Only four punts for Jordan Berry for the Steelers back on Thanksgiving, but his excellent combination of distance, hang time and direction meant he had by far the best grade of the week among punters. Three of the four were fair caught.
Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Four kicks made from four is impressive enough this season but three of Justin Tucker’s four kicks were made from 50+ yards, tying the rest of the league combined this week for kicks made from that distance.
Special teamer: D.J. Alexander, Kansas City Chiefs
A pair of special teams tackles on the punt team gives D.J. Alexander his second team of the week spot for the Chiefs this season.
Return specialist: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill returned a kick 86 yards against the Broncos, and almost made it to the house before a touchdown saving tackle came in from the last man. He also had a 17-yard punt return during the game for a nice return day.