Best player at every position in NFL Week 17
The 2016 NFL regular season wrapped up Sunday — actually in 2017 — with one last chance for players to make an appearance on PFF’s Team of the Week. Here are the players that dominated everyone else at their position in this season’s 17th edition of the team of the week:
Week 17 offense
Quarterback: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs, 87.7
Smith had an excellent game against the Chargers in an encounter that required him at the top of his game because the Chargers kept coming back and finding some success against the Chiefs defense. Smith ended the game with a passer rating of 112.8, but that sells his performance short as the interception came from a pass deflected at the line and returned for a touchdown. When kept clean in the pocket, Smith completed 81.8 percent of his passes and added 21 yards and a rushing score on the ground, displaying the rushing threat he showed a year ago, for one of the first times this year.
Running back: Andre Williams, San Diego Chargers, 81.5
You would struggle to believe this was the same running back that was so ineffective for much of his time with the Giants, but this week Williams was running hard for San Diego and making moves to maximize yardage. He gained 87 yards on 18 carries (4.8 per attempt), but made 51 of them after contact. He did drop the passes sent his way though which marred an otherwise excellent game.
Wide receiver: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, 88.6
Catching 10 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, Thomas set Saints records in receptions, yards and touchdowns for a rookie, and this is a team that doesn’t have to go all that far back to find some impressive rookie receiving seasons. Thomas beat five different Falcons defenders for receptions in the game and Drew Brees had a passer rating of 102.1 when throwing his way, despite throwing a pick on one of the targets.
Wide receiver: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, 84.9
Jones displayed some excellent abilities in this game, none more so than on an end-zone fade that was pretty much unstoppable between his release, the throw and his ability to high point the football, maintain control through contact and get both feet in before falling out of bounds. Jones was a dominant receiver this year, and Matt Ryan had a passer rating of 148.1 when aiming at him in this game.
Slot receiver: Bryan Walters, Jacksonville Jaguars, 81.2
Not a vintage week for slot receiver performances, but Jacksonville’s Walters caught eight of the nine passes thrown his way for 84 yards, beating five different Colts defenders for catches over the course of the game.
Tight end: Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers, 87.4
Henry looks well on his way to being the next great receiving TE for the Chargers. He only caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, and the score was a wide-open coverage bust from the Chiefs defense, but he also snagged a pass one-handed that was high and behind him and sailing right into the waiting arms of Chiefs CB Marcus Peters had Henry not been able to bring it in. That was a monster play and one of the catches of the season.
Left tackle: Nate Solder, New England Patriots, 87.4
Solder was pass blocking for 38 snaps against Miami and had a perfect outing in that regard, allowing no pressure of any kind and not being flagged during the game. His run blocking was also a solid positive with 10 of the team’s 29 carries heading immediately either side of his blocks.
Left guard: Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills, 82.2
There wasn’t much to love about Buffalo’s performance against the Jets, even on the offensive line, but one exception to that was the play from Incognito, who had a fine game while others struggled. Incognito didn’t allow any pressure or penalties on 38 snaps of pass protection and earned some positives in the run game.
Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles, 86.8
The Eagles offensive line pretty much handled the Dallas defensive front in a relatively meaningless Week 17 encounter. Kelce wasn’t the only member of the line to grade well, but he was probably the best, allowing just a single hurry across 48 pass-blocking snaps and using his quickness to execute tough blocks on the Dallas defensive front in the team’s zone plays.
Right guard: Gabe Jackson, Oakland Raiders, 79.1
This was far from a good week for right guards, and Jackson making it with a PFF grade of 79.1 shows the kind of level we are dealing with, but while Jackson didn’t have the best game of his life, he played pretty well against the Broncos while few others on the team did. He allowed just one hurry in 37 pass-blocking snaps and the team only rushed the ball 16 times, so he didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to distinguish himself either way in that regard.
Right tackle: Joe Barksdale, San Diego Chargers, 83.3
One of the more unlikely team of the week members is San Diego’s Barksdale, who dodged a bullet with avoiding an injured Justin Houston against the Chiefs and responded by entirely blanking Dee Ford from the stat sheet. The only evidence that Ford even played in the game was one penalty for jumping offside, but otherwise Barksdale erased him from the game, allowing no pressure or tackles from the Chiefs OLB.
Week 17 defense
Edge defender: Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles, 87.0
Cowboys RT Doug Free will have nightmares about dealing with Graham, who has beaten him up badly across two games this season. This week, Graham somehow failed to register a sack – again – but beat Free for a hit and four hurries while making two defensive stops in the run game. Graham’s ability to generate pressure is phenomenal, but he has a definite issue in converting that pressure to sacks, and it costs him from a reputation standpoint.
Defensive interior: Jordan Phillips, Miami Dolphins, 84.5
Miami’s defense was pretty well dominated by the Patriots this week, as the score would suggest, but Jordan Phillips made some nice plays on the D-line when he rotated in. He had a hurry, a batted pass and two defensive stops, earning positive grades against both the run and pass on his 26 snaps, and was one of just a couple of Miami defenders to come out of the game with much credit.
Defensive interior: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles, 85.7
Cox had at least a tougher assignment for much of the game than his teammate Graham did, but he still won his fair share and affected the game in a positive way for the Eagles. Cox beat Zack Martin for a hit and hurry, as well as getting the better of him in the run game a few times to either make the tackle or force a cut in the backfield.
Edge defender: Von Miller, Denver Broncos, 87.6
Right tackle has been an issue for Oakland all season long and the one thing you don’t want to see when you have problems at that position is Denver and Miller rolling into view. Miller registered a hit and four hurries against the Raiders, making four defensive stops in the run game too, showing an underrated part of his skill set in doing so.
Linebacker: Chris Kirksey, Cleveland Browns, 90.2
The Browns used Kirksey a lot on the blitz against the Steelers, shorn of their top playmakers as they looked to rest stars for a playoff run, and he had some very good success rushing the passer. On 11 rushes, he notched a sack, hit and two hurries, but also made 10 solo tackles and a team-leading seven defensive stops in the game. If all that wasn’t enough he allowed a grand total of five yards in coverage.
Linebacker: Mason Foster, Washington Redskins, 86.1
Washington may have come up short as a team against the Giants, but there were a lot of solid performances on the team, none better than Foster in the middle. Foster was credited with a league-leading 15 solo tackles by our count, and a team-leading seven defensive stops. He also broke up a pass intended for Odell Beckham Jr in coverage.
Cornerback: Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 99.9
You won’t see a better game from a cornerback than the one Grimes had against Carolina. He was all over short passes early in the game, flying up to make quick hits and jumping routes, taking one back to the house for six points. Carolina decided the answer to this was to test him deep on double moves, and he responded to that by breaking up both of the shots they took on him, almost picking the second one off but for the intervention of the wide receiver on the play.
Cornerback: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs, 95.1
Peters was thrown at five times, allowing just two catches for eight yards, six of which came on one play. He intercepted a Philip Rivers pass in which his receiver stopped his route and was unlucky to see a second one taken away from him by a ridiculous one-handed catch from Hunter Henry on a pass that seemed destined to sail into his waiting arms from an under-pressure Rivers. When targeted in the game, he gave up a passer rating of just 8.3
Slot cornerback: Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals, 91.0
Bethel was in the doghouse for his performances on defense not long ago, but playing the Rams offense will serve as a pretty good tonic for a player struggling with his play. In this game, he was thrown at seven times, and while he gave up some yardage it was deep into garbage time for the most part, and more than offset with a pick-six of backup QB Sean Mannion.
Safety: D.J. Swearinger, Arizona Cardinals, 94.2
Swearinger looks like a completely different player to the guy that was at the heart of every coverage bust in Houston. Now he looks 100 percent sure of what he is supposed to do on every play and it’s allowing him to fly around the field delivering big hits and impacting plays in both the run and pass game. Against the Rams he had a sack, hit and to hurries from just five blitzes, and notched a team-high five defensive stops.
Safety: Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks, 86.4
Chancellor had one of those games where he reminds you what a big impact he can have, especially against the run where he serves capably as an extra linebacker in run fits down at the line of scrimmage. Chancellor made six tackles and two assists and was consistently making a mess of the blocking scheme even against offensive linemen.
Week 17 special teams
Punter: Matt Bosher, Atlanta Falcons
Bosher had just four punts against the Saints as the Falcons offense seemed to be scoring at will early in the game, but he showed an excellent combination of direction and hang time, clicking in at 5.2 seconds on one of the punts. Two were fair caught and the other two were returned for a total of 10 yards.
Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona Cardinals
This wasn’t a week for big kicker performances (at least not positive ones), but Catanzaro hit on all three of his attempts with one of the three coming from north of 40 yards.
Special teamer: Marwin Evans, Green Bay Packers
With two special teams tacklesEvans from the Packers made plays on both kickoffs and punts this week against the Lions.
Return specialist: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill only returned one kick this week, and Jamison Crowder might be a little unfortunate to be left off in favor of him, but it’s tough to overlook when the one kick went back for 95 yards and a touchdown.