Best players at every position in Week 17
There were some big box score performances on Sunday, as the yards flowed for quarterbacks and the sacks flowed for pass rushers in the final week of the regular season. But going beyond that, who would the tape determine worthy of a place on the PFF Team of the Week roster?
Let’s find out.
Quarterback: Sam Bradford, Eagles (+4.6)
Bradford saving his highest game grade of the season for the game after Chip Kelly is fired? Conspiracy! Actually, it’s more the culmination of a generally steady improvement for the QB over the second half of the year, and an accurate performance against the Giants.
Running back: Alfred Blue, Texans (+2.4)
Blue recorded less yardage than Rashad Jennings, but as many forced missed tackles and fewer mistakes in the passing game.
Fullback: Mike Tolbert, Panthers (+1.3)
This wasn’t a great week for lead blockers, with none scoring a blocking score above +1.0. Tolbert, at least, graded positively in every phase of the game.
Tight end: Zach Ertz, Eagles (+4.9)
Some good blocking for Ertz, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is anything other than the result of a monster 152-yard day.
Wide receivers: Terrance Williams, Cowboys (+3.3) and Calvin Johnson, Lions (+5.0)
No room for Julio Jones or Antonio Brown, despite big efforts, and that’s because Johnson and Williams had even bigger showings of their own. Williams stood out even more so for his big day, which might bode well for his role in 2016.
Tackles: Joe Thomas, Browns (+4.2) and Demar Dotson, Buccaneers (+3.9)
It’s been another tremendous year for Thomas, with the only shame being that he plays a position—and for a team—where that brilliance isn’t given the attention its due. Dotson has missed most of 2015, but came back late in the year, and after a slow start, really kicked it up a gear.
Guards: Jeff Allen, Chiefs (+4.8) and Marshal Yanda, Ravens (+4.6)
Allen rounds off a nice regular season with his best run blocking effort of the year to score the highest mark of any left guard. As for Yanda, he just did what he’s been doing all season long, with another virtuoso performance.
Center: Matt Paradis, Broncos (+5.1)
Jason Kelce almost stole this spot with his superior pass protection, but we like our centers to block big in the run game, and Paradis was a monster in this regard. Where did that come from?
Each week, we put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles), and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive interior – ends: Aaron Donald, Rams (+15.4) and J.J. Watt, Texans (+7.3)
Watt had the eye-catching performance, but Donald had the highest grade of the week. In truth, both played excellently, but the stats just don’t quantify the impact the excellent Donald had against the 49ers.
Defensive interior – nose: Damon Harrison, Jets (+6.3)
If this is to be Harrison’s last game as a Jet, what a way to go out. He was destructive against the run, with a crazy seven defensive stops.
Edge rushers: Khalil Mack, Raiders (+8.3) and Brandon Graham, Eagles (+7.6)
Mack made his final case for defensive player of the year with another big effort that featured six quarterback disruptions and his usual excellence against the run. As for Graham, he just worked Ereck Flowers over, making him look every bit the rookie he is.
Linebackers: Vontaze Burfict, Bengals (+4.8) and Anthony Barr, Vikings (+4.1)
Watch out playoffs, the Bengals’ Burfict looks healthy and has worked the rust off. He ended the season playing extremely well, with his all-action effort against the Ravens the best of the lot. Barr has been a revelation in his sophomore season, and had another big day against the Packers.
Cornerbacks: Xavier Rhodes, Vikings (+4.2) and Bradley Roby, Broncos (+2.9)
Rhodes had a big-time pick, one pass breakup, and allowed just 38 yards into his coverage, as he made life hard for the Packers’ receivers. As for Roby he was in close coverage all day, allowing just 21 yards into his coverage, despite being thrown at eight times.
Safeties: Da’Norris Searcy, Titans (+2.3) and Earl Thomas, Seahawks (+2.1)
It was a quiet week for safeties, but we’ve got two guys who made two big plays, with a pick apiece.
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri, Colts
Another “perfect on the day” for Vinatieri.
Punter: Tress Way, Redskins
Good distance, good location, good job.
Returner: Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
Lockett is just a nightmare to deal with on punt returns.