Best player at every position in NFL Week 16
One more week left in the 2016 season, which means one more chance for a player to get his name on this list. Here are the players that dominated everyone else at their position in this year’s 16th edition of the team of the week:
Week 16 offense
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 93.1
Don’t look now, but since the start of Week 10, Rodgers’ numbers have been MVP-caliber, with this past week being his opus. He passed for 347 yards and four touchdowns yet still had a ridiculous 51 yards through the air dropped. All against a Vikings team that had a top-five scoring defense entering the week.
Running back: Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins, 94.8
Is there any question Ajayi is one of the league’s top backs anymore? This was his third 200-yard game on the season. This time he averaged a whopping 4.5 yards after contact per attempt. Those are cartoon numbers that he continues to put up.
Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers, 86.1
Much was made of the Vikings eschewing their coach’s game plan against Jordy Nelson Saturday as the Packers receiver made them pay big time. He had nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns to bring him to a league leading 14 touchdowns for the season. The crazy part is, Nelson’s day could have been even better, as he had a drop.
Wide receiver: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, 85.2
As has been the case for much of the season, Bryant wasn’t featured heavily this week, but when he was he made the most of it. His five targets resulted in 70 yards and two touchdowns – both in very impressive fashion.
Slot receiver: Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings, 84.0
Thielen isn’t really a slot receiver, playing only 17 of his 77 snaps there this week, but we had to find someone to fill the position and he was on fire against the Packers. He had 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns (albeit with some in garbage time). And he did it all without a drop.
Tight end: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs, 88.2
Kelce’s 160 yards were 66 more than any other tight end produced in Week 16. He hauled in 11 of his 12 targets including an 80-yard screen pass he took to the house. His 651 yards since the start of Week 11 are 276 more than the next tight end.
Left tackle: Cyrus Kouandjio, Buffalo Bills, 87.9
Kouandjio has looked excellent the past two weeks in relief of Cordy Glenn and didn’t give up a single pressure to the Dolphins on Saturday in 46 pass-blocking snaps. The former second-round pick has been somewhat of a forgotten man on the line, but he may well be playing himself into a starting role for 2017.
Left guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens, 84.1
Is it too early to call Yanda a future Hall of Famer? I don’t think so. In the biggest game of the year, Yanda was lights out. He didn’t allow a single pressure and opened up multiple running lanes upfront.
Center: Ryan Groy, Buffalo Bills, 84.6
The Bills shredded the Dolphins on the ground Saturday and Groy played a key role in that. Bills backs had nine carries through the A-gaps, gaining 62 yards at 6.9 yards per attempt.
Right guard: Andrew Donnal, Los Angeles Rams, 82.9
An encouraging sign for an offensive line in desperate need of some hope. The fourth-round pick from a year ago is making the most of his late-season opportunity. He didn’t give up a single pressure or penalty against the 49ers.
Right tackle: Marcus Cannon, New England Patriots, 86.7
The Patriots rewarded Cannon’s turnaround with a new contract and Cannon has rewarded that faith with a dominant second half of the season. Saturday was his second outing on the season without allowing a pressure and he’s been the highest graded tackle in football since Week 6.
Week 16 defense
Edge defender: Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles, 93.5
Graham is the king of the zero-sack dominant performance and that was once again the case Thursday. He still put Eli Manning on the ground four times though and affected five other plays in a stupendous outing.
Interior defender: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, 89.4
Yawn. What more is there to say? Donald dominated again. A sack, a hit, four hurries. He’s the best defensive lineman in football, period.
Interior defender: Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals, 87.2
Campbell feasted on his Christmas dinner, a.k.a. the Seahawks offensive line, a day early this year. He posted a sack, two hits and four hurries in an unblockable tour de force.
Edge defender: Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers, 88.5
Turn back the clock! Matthews hasn’t finished a game with this high a grade since 2012. Going up against T.J. Clemmings will do that to people though. He had a sack, two hits, three hurries and a forced fumble for good measure.
Linebacker: Chris Kirksey, Cleveland Browns, 90.4
It was the Browns run defense that played an enormous role in their first victory of the season and it was Kirksey keying that charge. He made three run stops and added another stop in coverage all without missing a tackle.
Linebacker: Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers, 88.4
Thompson was utilized in an every-down role for only the second time all season and performed admirably. His eight total stops were the most of any linebacker this week and still graded very well despite missing two tackles.
Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars, 99.6
If we gave a “player of the week” award, it would be Ramsey’s this week. He earned the highest grade we can possibly give a cornerback after Titans quarterbacks had a 0.0 passer rating throwing Ramsey’s way. The rookie corner was targeted eight times yielding two catches for 16 yards and nabbing himself a pick-six in the process.
Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants, 91.3
Janoris Jenkins has grabbed the headlines in New York, but DRC has been steady as ever on the outside for the Giants. He was targeted four times and managed to catch more balls (1) than the receivers he was guarding (0). Hard to do much better than that.
Slot corner: Brian Poole, Atlanta Falcons, 86.4
Throwing at our cornerback trio this week yielded atrocious results, as Poole also allowed a 0.0 passer rating when he was targeted. He was thrown at only once and on that pass it was Poole that hauled it in instead of the targeted receiver Ed Dickson.
Safety: Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles, 81.3
It’s been an up-and-down season for PFF’s highest-graded safety from a season ago, but Week 16 was certainly an up. He intercepted Eli Manning twice and only allowed 20 yards on eight targets.
Safety: Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints, 90.1
No surprise that the only other safety in the NFL this week with two interceptions makes the list. Byrd was targeted only three times on the day and the one time he allowed the opposition to catch the ball, the play went for only two yards.
Week 16 special teams
Punter: Shane Lechler, Houston Texans
It’s usually not a good thing for a team to have a punter make this list because of the volume of punts it takes to accumulate a high grade, but Lechler played a critical role in the Texans division clinching win. His eight punts averaged a net of 44.5 yards and four were downed inside the 20.
Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
He doesn’t miss. Tucker went 4-4 on Sunday with two coming from 40-plus yards. No one else is even close to Tucker’s overall grade this season.
Kick returner: Fozzy Whittaker, Carolina Panthers
Only two returns for Whittaker, but he made the most of each. A 47-yard kick return and a 37-yard kick return cement his spot in a week without a single return touchdown league-wide.