Stock Report: AFC, Season Opener
Welcome to the first installment of the Stock Report. This is a new feature on Pro Football Focus that will shine a light on how players’ form fluctuates and highlight players who are gaining form as the season progresses or falling away from fast starts. We’ll be taking a look at this on a monthly basis, allowing players a series of weeks before we look back in on them so that we have a good group of performance data to examine for those trending both up and down.
One of the big things we have discovered at PFF is the ability to quantify just how much form and performance fluctuates through the course of an NFL season. It has always been assumed, and sometimes under played, but by looking at a player’s grade progression through the season it quantifies that performance rather than qualifying that and seeing a graph such as that for Justin Houston from last year’s regular season you see just how performance can fluctuate across the season as players hit veins of good and bad form.
By way of introducing this feature we’re going to take a look primarily at how players finished the 2012 season by looking at those who were hitting their best form as the season was drawing to a close as well as those who finished slowly and will be looking to rebound as the 2013 season gets underway. We’ll also give a nod some players who shone in preseason and have teased of promising things to come.
Clearly we can’t mention every player who is trending up and down, so we’re going to go by conference shining a spotlight on one player per team whose stock is on the rise (hitting good form or improving on prior performances) and one player per team whose stock is on the slide. If you want to check in on how every player in the league is playing game-by-game and month-by-month, you’ll have to come aboard and get yourself a PFF Premium subscription.
We’re starting with the AFC but you can read the NFC article here.
Stock Up: Arthur Jones (+7.3 – Week 10-17)
Illness meant we didn’t get to see Jones in the season opener but he built on his strong finish to the 2012 season and continued through the playoffs, with a strong preseason. In the second half of last season Jones showed well as a run defender and flashed an ability to chip in as a pass rusher. He will be looking for an expanded role this season.
Stock Down: Kelechi Osemele (-7.5 – Pre-season)
After his performance in the Super Bowl this could have been very different for Osemele but his poor preseason was followed up with a poor display in the season opener against the Broncos. Outside of his performance in the Super Bowl (+5.4), where he manhandled Justin Smith, Osemele’s grade as a left guard is -7.2 along with his -7.5 grade in preseason. The Super Bowl showed promise but he is taking time to find consistency.
Stock Up: Nigel Bradham (+4.2 – Week 14-17)
The Bills defense had a number of players round into better form in the last half of last season and rookie linebacker Bradham in particular found form in the last month of the season. The former Florida State Seminole registered 9 of his 24 defensive stops in the last month of the season and only missed one tackle.
Stock Down: Eric Wood (-3.7 – Week 10-17)
Already on somewhat of a rebound from his lowest point, Wood had a rough midseason stretch last season. As a run blocker the Bills’ center earned a -1.0 grade or worse in six out of eight games from Week 5 last season. The recipient of a four year contract extension in the last week — Wood will look to reproduce his first month of last season, a +6.4 overall grade after Week 4 2012.
Stock Up: Geno Atkins (+52.1 – Week 10-17)
It might be hard to believe but only Vince Wilfork improved more in grading terms than Atkins from the first half of the season to the second. In the first half of the season his +9.7 grade against the Jaguars was an outlier, in the second half of the season that was closer to the norm. His overall grade for the third (+26.7) and fourth (+25.4) months of the season would have been good enough on their own to put him in the league’s top five defensive tackles for the season.
Stock Down: Clint Boling (-8.5 – Week 14-17)
Only Mike McGlynn had a lower overall grade among guards in the last month of the season. He only had one positive grade as a run blocker (+0.2 at Philadelphia) in those four games and let up 10 of his 20 pressures that he allowed in the regular season in those four games. Prior to that Boling was one of the league’s better pass protecting guards, he’ll look to rediscover that form to start this season.
Stock Up: Paul Kruger (+20.6 – Week 10 to Super Bowl)
Questions have been asked about how long it took Kruger to make his mark with the Ravens and whether he will just be a contract year wonder. However, you can’t deny that Kruger earned himself that deal and is coming into Cleveland on the crest of a wave. Kruger was the most improved 3-4 outside linebacker in the second half of the regular season (-4.4 compared to +16.4) and looked to carry that momentum into his first pre-season in Cleveland (+5.9).
Stock Down: D’Qwell Jackson (-8.6 – 2012 season)
This is more a season long thing for Jackson, he had a consistent pulse rate of performance last season but it was consistently not up to what we saw from him in 2011. He only recorded a positive single game run defense grade three times all season and didn’t get any production as a blitzer — outside of three sacks in one game against the Bengals. He’ll be hoping for a rebound season in 2013.
Stock Up: Manuel Ramirez (+5.6 – Week 14-17)
The Broncos lived to regret their decision to bench Ramirez allowing Chris Kuper to return in the playoffs at right guard. It might not have cost them the game on its own but Kuper’s display (-7.4) was a big downgrade from the form Ramirez showed to close the season. Ramirez built on that with a strong preseason to win the starting center job and opened the season well as a pass protector against the Ravens.
Stock Down: No-one
They might be benefitting a little from that opening day defeat but anyone who had a slight downer to end last season (Louis Vasquez and Terrance Knighton) have rebounded quickly to start preseason and against the Ravens on Thursday night.
Stock Up: Antonio Smith (+19.9 – Week 10-17)
Only teammate J.J. Watt and Muhammad Wilkerson graded higher than Smith over the second half the regular season among the league’s 3-4 defensive ends. After a mediocre start to the season Smith’s second half was (with the exception of a big letdown in New England) consistently good. He may have got less sacks in the second half of the season but got 32 total pressures in that spell compared to 13 in his first eight games.
Stock Down: Matt Schaub (-1.5 – Week 10-17)
The second half of the season saw a drift for the Texans and it was most evident in the play of their quarterback. At +17.0 overall at the halfway point of the season, Schaub struggled badly from then on raising questions about whether he can ever elevate the Texans into being anything more than a regular season contender. Only isolated games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis brought back memories of how he started the season.
Stock Up: Dwayne Allen (+10.6 – Week 14-17)
In spite of being drafted after him, playing more snaps and outperforming him as a rookie you will still see more talk about Coby Fleener than Allen. While Fleener might have the more eye catching potential as a pass catching tight end, the all round game that Allen showed as a rookie was a sight to behold in its own right. A reliable pass protector, a strong run blocker on the edge and a safe pair of hands in the passing game — Allen has a bright future ahead of him and got better as his rookie season went on.
Stock Down: Antoine Bethea (-7.9 – Week 14-17)
A strong midseason for Bethea fell away with a weak final month of the season, especially as a run defender. His poor coverage grade for the final month was almost entirely on a -3.4 grade against the Titans in Week 14, but his four missed tackles in the final month was a consistently poor way to finish having missed only four tackles in his prior eight games last season.
Stock Up: Eugene Monroe (+12.1 – Week 14-17)
The Jags have stated their belief in needing quality at both tackle spots and when you have a tackle playing as well as Monroe you would question the logic of getting rid of him just for “potential” and a cheaper contract. No tackle recorded a higher grade in the final month of the season than Monroe with a dominant run blocking game against the Jets and letting only nine pressures (1 Sk, 3 Ht, 5 Hu) in 199 pass blocks in that final month of the season.
Stock Down: Jeremy Mincey (-9.9 – Period)
Our own Neil Hornsby projects Mincey to not be in the starting lineup on opening day and on form that has to be an upgrade for the Jags. After some strong games in the first half of the season in run defense, Mincey fell away in the second half and rarely flashed the sort of productivity as a pass rusher that had raised expectations from 2011.
Click over to Page 2 for the rest of the AFC teams…
Kansas City Chiefs
Stock Up: Jamaal Charles (+7.8 – Week 10-17)
With fewer of those games where Charles was mystifyingly under-utilized by the Chiefs, he built an impressive performance grade in the second half of the season. Only four backs had a higher grade than Charles in the second half of the season, forcing a missed tackle in every game. Charles registered a +1.0 or higher rushing grade in five of those eight games to close the season.
Stock Down: Justin Houston (-1.5 – Week 14-17)
You saw his season grade chart above and the lack of big games in the second half of the season is clear to see. If you combine Houston’s second half to his rookie year with the first half of his sophomore season you get a +31.7 overall grade. Combine the other two halves of those season and you get a -5.4 grade. If Houston can put a full season together, and get utilized in the right way to do so, there’s no doubt he’ll vault into being one of the league’s elite 3-4 outside linebackers.
Stock Up: Jonathan Martin (+2.5 – Preseason)
After a rough rookie season at right tackle, before struggling at left tackle in the final month, Martin has raised expectations in Miami with signs of improvement in preseason. Yielding only one hit and one hurry (both against the Bucs) in four preseason games, Martin gave hope that he’ll make big strides on Ryan Tannehill’s blind side. That optimism must be tempered by the fact that it is preseason and he didn’t face a top pass rusher in any of those games. Martin must carry this momentum into the regular season.
Stock Down: Randy Starks (-11.0 – Week 10-17)
At the midseason turn Starks was our second highest graded defensive tackle behind Geno Atkins. Over the second half of the season he was our lowest graded defensive tackle. That is the dictionary definition of a season of two halves. His biggest struggles came as a run defender and he couldn’t make the consistent impact as a pass rusher to balance his contribution.
New England Patriots
Stock Up: Vince Wilfork (+10.5 – Week 14-17)
While his quality has never been doubted his form has fluctuated and Wilfork was on a definitive up tick over the second half of last season. Our own Steve Palazzolo asked what was wrong with Wilfork in an article last November. The Patriots’ defensive tackle responded with some stellar run defense and added much more of an inside presence on passing downs in the second half of the year.
Stock Down: Chandler Jones (-4.0 – Week 10-17)
Form goes up and down for various reasons and it will often relate to health. That was clearly the case for Jones in the second half of last season. After a strong start to his rookie season (+14.3 after Week 9) he struggled to generate much presence as a pass rusher or run defender off the edge. New England fans will be eager to see Jones healthy for his entire sophomore season to rediscover that first half form from 2012.
New York Jets
Stock Up: Austin Howard (+13.9 – Week 10-17)
One of the league’s most improved tackles in the second half of 2012 Howard made big strides after some poor games early in the season. Howard built his improvement around a +8.3 run block grade in the second half of the season. His poor pass protection against the Titans (-1.3) and Chargers (-2.6) show that he still has work to do but Jets fans should be pleased with the strides shown over the course of the season.
Stock Down: Mark Sanchez (-12.0 – Week 14-17)
Is this piling on? Could Sanchez’s stock really get much lower? If it could then his close to the season certainly will have deflated it further with some truly abysmal displays. The most notable of those came in front of a national TV audience against the Titans in Week 15. Way back in the rear view mirror was Sanchez’s 3 TD season opening display (+3.3 passing) against the Bills.
Stock Up: Lamarr Houston (+13.9 – Week 14-17)
Many are predicting (hoping?) that Houston will have a big season for Oakland and he’s certainly riding good form from the end of last season. Only Julius Peppers graded higher among 4-3 defensive ends in the final month of 2012. Houston racked up 16 of his 40 stops in the final four games to go with 19 of his 54 pressures. Is Houston the most important defender for Oakland this season?
Stock Down: Kevin Burnett (-3.4 – Week 14-17)
The Raiders and Dolphins had a de facto exchange at outside linebacker with Phillip Wheeler heading to Miami. Neither player ended the season the way they started it. Burnett struggled in run defense against the 49ers (-1.6) and the Patriots (-1.7) while also struggles to stop the pass against the Patriots too. The Raiders will hope Burnett rediscovers the form that saw him rack up a +14.2 grade in the first half of the season.
Stock Up: Ziggy Hood (+5.3 – Week 14-17)
We’re always keen to give credit where it’s due and though Hood has often been on the receiving end of our criticism he finished the season strong for the Steelers, making a big impact as a run defender. Hood only registered 18 stops all season long but he picked up eight of those in the final four games of the season, as many as he recorded in the first half of the season.
Stock Down: Lamarr Woodley (-2.1 – Week 10-17)
The Steelers pass rush disappeared last season and with James Harrison gone, the pressure will be on Woodley to rediscover his best form and lead a resurgent Steeler edge rush in 2013. Even though he missed two games in the second half of the season his return of only four pressures (-5.4 pass rush grade) was poor in a season built around, realistically, two games (+3.4 against the Jets and Giants each).
San Diego Chargers
Stock Up: Dwight Freeney (+7.0 – Week 10-17)
It took some time for Freeney to settle in at outside linebacker for the Colts last season but he had some strong games in the second half. Games against Buffalo (+4.0, six pressures), Detroit (+3.2, six pressures) and Kansas City (+3.8, eight pressures) show that the top line pass rusher is still in there. The Chargers need that Dwight Freeney to hit the ground running in 2013.
Stock Down: Philip Rivers (-6.9 – Week 10-17)
This is as much a long term thing as a short term thing for Rivers. He had some truly dire performances in the second half of last season but his careeroverall took a big downturn with an extremely up and down season. It almost seemed to be a weekly rotation for Rivers between solid games and dreadful games, never hitting the heights of a few years ago.
Stock Up: Michael Roos (+11.8 – Week 14-17)
Perhaps one of the most underrated tackles in the league, Roos was consistent all through last season but especially in the final month. Over the second half of the season Roos only let up seven pressures (1 Sk, 3 Ht, 3 Hu) in seven games and had some of his better run blocking games (+2.6 vs Jacksonville) in the final month.
Stock Down: Kamerion Wimbley (-14.1 – Week 10-17)
There was a sole bright spot for Wimbley in the second half of last season; a two sack, two hurry performance in Jacksonville. Aside from that, Wimbley registered a –12.5 pass rushing grade with only nine pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 7 Hu) in those other seven games in the second half of the season. Wimbley is turning into a feast or famine pass rusher and the final eight games of 2012 were far more famine than feast.
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