PFF All-Star Team: First Quarter

After careful consideration, Khaled Elsayed unveils the PFF All-Star team for the first quarter of the 2014 season.

| 3 years ago

PFF All-Star Team: First Quarter

2014-TOTM-1Q-riversAre we already four weeks through the NFL season? I had to double take but there’s no denying it, nearly a quarter of the season done. Just like that.

It’s been, as it always is, a fantastic start to the year filled with some eye-catching performances that make us wonder just how we coped before the big kickoff. And it’s those performances that I want to focus on right now as we look at the best of the first quarter of the season.


Quarterback: Philip Rivers, SD

The top-ranked pure passer in our grading system, Rivers has had to fight off fierce competition from Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. Still, the way he’s handled a line that has allowed too much pressure speaks volumes for where he’s at right now.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers (GB) and Andrew Luck (IND)

Running Back: DeMarco Murray, DAL

No running back has a higher pure rushing grade, and it isn’t even close right now. His 28 forced missed tackles are 11 more than any other back and it’s only two fumbles that keep the chasing backs in sight.

Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch (SEA) and Le’Veon Bell (PIT)

Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, BAL

No one player has really stood out, so the versatile Raven gets the nod with a big nod to being featured more prominently than his peers.

Tight End: Larry Donnell, NYG

The feel good story of the year. Donnell has come from nowhere with some slick route running, excellent ball skills and some underrated blocking to lead our tight end ranks. A real find.

Honorable Mention: Delanie Walker (TEN) and Martellus Bennett (CHI)

Wide Receivers: Jordy Nelson, GB and Antonio Brown, PIT with Andrew Hawkins, CLE in slot

Two guys who no matter how productive they are seem perpetually underrated. Why are people reluctant to view Nelson as a Top-5 receiver in this league? Brown hasn’t let his play slip a beat this year. Playing inside, Hawkins was something of an interesting free agent pickup for Cleveland and he’s immediately paying dividends.

Honorable Mention: Calvin Johnson (DET) and Steve Smith (BAL) with Emmanuel Sanders, DEN in slot

Tackles: William Beatty, NYG and Joe Barksdale, SL

A slow start combined with a hardly inspiring preseason. That was Beatty who hadn’t lived up to his contract extension at the end of the 2012 season. Since Week 2 he’s upped his game and then some, earning the highest grade of all tackles. It’s crazy to think that Barksdale was surplus to requirements in Oakland. The Rams have found themselves a tackle on the up.

Honorable Mention: Branden Albert (MIA) and Ricky Wagner (BAL)

Guards: Kelechi Osemele, BAL and Marshal Yanda, BAL

It never hurts when you have two guards that are playing as well as Osemele and Yanda. Both are generating the kind of movement that means their running backs are getting to the second level and that should never be overlooked.

Honorable Mention: Josh Sitton (GB) and Chris Chester (WAS)

Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ

Mangold has spent a couple of years looking like a player whose best may be behind him. Well, four games into 2013 that notion seems premature. He’s back to being the best center in the league.

Honorable Mention: Brian De La Puente (CHI)


Click to Page 2 for the defense…



  • Consumed

    Idk if people are reluctant to consider Jordy a top 5 receiver this season. It would be stupid to not do so

  • Dohkay

    DeAndre Levy probably deserves at least an honorable mention.

    • Kent Lee Platte

      It’s a testament to scheme, I guess, that not one player from the best defense in the NFL is on here.

      • Chris

        The Bengals don’t have any I agree. It’s sad.

        • Kent Lee Platte

          I was referring to Lions (#1 in YPG), but that the Bengals (#1 in PPG) don’t either is just as impressive.

  • Chris

    It’s too bad Burfict has been so limited by injuries. His grade of +5.6 in only 54 snaps ranks 4th out of all 4-3 OLBs, and most of those guys have 200 more snaps than he does. If you projected his grade over Jelani’s 235 snaps, Burfict would have a +24.4 grade. No one else has over +8.5.

    And as a Bengals fan I can confirm when watching games that he’s really looked that good when he’s on the field.

    • Ryan

      You can’t project a grade, no one has a grade that high. Levy has been one of the most impactful OLB, his grade just isn’t inflated because he doesn’t get asked to rush the passer like a few other 4-3 OLB do.

      • Chris

        I realize you can’t project a grade like that. What I’m saying is Burfict has outplayed all other OLBs but his snap count has been too limited by injury and the bye to be factored in.

        Week 1: +3.1 run defense, +1.3 coverage in just 23 snaps
        Week 2: +0.2 run defense, +1.4 coverage in just 31 snaps

        In just those 54 snaps he’s got a higher coverage grade than all but one other OLB, his teammate Lamur. And his run grade ranks 12th despite playing 1/5 of the snaps the other guys at the top have played.

        He has not buoyed up his grade with pass rushing numbers. He has just been flat out dominant in the time he’s been on the field. That’s why I said it’s a shame his snaps have been so limited, because if they hadn’t he’d be listed as the top OLB.

        • Ryan

          Von Miller and the other two LB from Miami have inflated numbers from pass rushing. Levy and Burfict are clearly the two top OLB in the NFL.

  • MTA000

    Ravens yards per rush up 1.4 over last season – 4 ravens run blockers among the all stars and honorable mentions probably not a coincidence.

  • ChickenHunter

    About Cameron Wake…”Has there been a more consistent pass rusher in the league these past five years?” Yeah, Aldon Smith with 42 sacks in 43 games he’s actually played. Doesn’t get more consistent then that. Just saying that when these guys get on someone’s nuts, they overdo it.

    • Chris

      Aldon Smith has been in the league 3 years. He has racked up a 94.4 overall grade over 2575 snaps (0.037 per snap).

      Cameron Wake has been in the league 5 years. He has racked up a 191.1 overall grade over 3831 snaps (0.050 per snap).

      Aldon Smith has racked up 231 pressures over 2575 snaps (11.1 snaps per pressure).

      Cameron Wake has racked up 355 pressures over 3831 snaps (10.8 snaps per pressure).

      Aldon Smith has hit the QB (sack or knockdown) 98 times over 2575 snaps (26.3 snaps per QB hit).

      Cameron Wake has hit the QB (sack or knockdown) 156 times over 3831 snaps (24.6 snaps per QB hit).

      Aldon Smith has converted 98 of his 231 pressures into QB hits (sacks or knockdowns), a conversion rate of 42%.

      Cameron Wake has converted 156 of his 355 pressures into QB hits (sacks or knockdowns), a conversion rate of 44%.


      Cameron Wake is better across the board.

      • PetEng

        Wake is a significantly better player as a pass rusher.
        Wake: .079 pts/pass rush snap. (2066, 163.9)
        Smith: .056 pts/pass rush snap. (1469, 83.4)

        Smith is comfortably a better run defender though.

    • Chris

      2009: Wake graded 3rd at 4-3 DE despite playing less than 200 snaps.
      2010: Wake graded 4th at 3-4 OLB
      2011: Wake graded 1st at 3-4 OLB
      2012: Wake graded 1st at 4-3 DE
      2013: Wake graded 3rd at 4-3 DE
      2014: Wake is currently 1st at 4-3 DE

      2011: Smith graded 2nd at 3-4 OLB, behind Wake.
      2012: Smith graded 3rd at 3-4 OLB
      2013: Smith graded 5th at 3-4 OLB, playing just over half a season.

      In terms of getting the praise they deserve, Wake doesn’t get nearly enough.

  • TomC

    The sack stat is overrated, and is by no means an accurate measure of consistently applying pressure. Sacks occur on roughly 2% of plays, which is not an accurate sample size of pressure being applied throughout a game.

    In Aldon Smith’s case, he has played alongside Justin Smith who has been one of the most devastating pass rushers from the 3-4 defensive end position.

    With two elite pass rushers (Aldon and Justin) playing on the same side of the defense, and possessing a strong inside pass-rush, the defensive playbook is opened up to stunts, leading to to many plays where Aldon Smith was left unblocked.

    “[in 2012] no edge rusher recorded more pressure unblocked this season than Smith did with 14 total pressures; once every 43.4 pass rushes”

    The absence of a healthy Justin Smith and the effect it had on the players around him, specifically Aldon Smith, was felt from week 15 to the season’s end.

    “From the time Justin Smith was injured against the Patriots in Week 15 to their eventual Super Bowl defeat, Aldon Smith did not register a sack (having notched 20 in 13 games before that) and his pass rushing grade was -4.8 in those final six games compared to a +17.2 in the 13 games with a healthy No. 94 at his side.”

    • Chris

      We call that laying the boom. Good stuff. Unblocked pressures is something I wish would get added to the statsheets here.

      As a Bengals fan, I can testify to Justin Smith being a beast.

    • patchel

      you fail to mention that during that same time period, Aldon Smith was injured and eventually required off season shoulder surgery.

      • MinkoVen

        You play. You produce. If you can’t produce, then you shouldn’t be playing.

    • Chris

      What is this in response to?

  • Andreas Haakshorst

    I know how great Watt has been and I understand that every way possible to point that out seems justified, BUT:
    since you allways point out that PFF grades are not compareble across positions, would you please stop mentioning Watt having the highest grade ACROSS ALL POSTIONS (or the highest seanson grade ever to be given to any player for that matter)? It just makes your reasoning seem very hypocritical.

  • adsf

    Michael Bennett’s has the 4th highest pass rush grade across all positions. THat’s worthy of an honorable mention but I can see how he isn’t mentioned because his run defense isn’t as high as that of others’. I think that can be attributed to the fact that he’s playing inside at DT so often that you can’t expect a 275lber to defend against the run from that spot. So it’s usually in pass rushing situations that he’s in there and if you double a 275 guy it’s over. I wonder what his run d grade splits are on the edge versus inside.

  • ChickenHunter

    Yeah, Cameron Wake is a Defensive End with absolutely no coverage responsibilities, Aldon Smith does and there goes 1/2 your argument. Cameron also plays LDE, against the weakest tackle on the team, Aldon plays on the right side against the best tackles on the team. so there goes the other half of your argument. Cameron Wake also plays in one of the weakest divisions in the weakest conference, so you’re not even looking at the level of competition when considering any number. Aldon has done it all in regular season and THE PLAY-OFFS AGAINST THE BEST TEAMS. That’s where the real men play. Garbage time doesn’t count.

    TomC and Chris think they know football just because they subscribe to this BS here and only read numbers. All Cameron does in passing situations is rush the passer, Aldon drops in coverage a big percentage of his plays and isn’t rushing the passer. When Justin Smith was injured, so was Aldon. He wasn’t healthy the whole year, yet he had a hell of a playoff run. Cameron Wake has one job to do and yet can’t close the deal on the QB as well as Aldon does. Close only counts with horseshoes & hand grenades.

    Chris/TomC, leave your parents basement and go actually play something besides Madden before you embarrass yourself further.

    • Jordan MacGeever

      You sound like you have no clue what your talking about…absolutely ridiculous I guess the fact he embarrassed the 49ers Anthony Davis 2 years ago means nothing? 10 sacks in. His career against the Patriots means nothing? Wake plays his best against the best teams. And constant pressure hurts a QBs performance more than anything on the planet learn the game.

    • Chris

      LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL where do I start with this.

      Aldon Smith dropped back into coverage just 61 times out of his 736 snaps last year. You do realize Wake dropped back 25 times out of 694 snaps despite the fact that he was a DE. GEE WILLICKERS DRE THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Oh no wait, it doesnt. Smiths job is to play the edge against the run and disrupt the backfield against the pass while dropping into coverage 2-3 times a game. Aka exactly what Wake does.

      And yes, Wake plays DE. Now. But you do also realize he played OLB in 2010 and 2011, including a 2011 where he graded 1st at the position ahead of Smith and outplayed him both against the run and getting to the passer?

      Also playing OLB inherently gives Smith an advantage since he can come from wider angles and out of much more varied zone/fire blitz schemes, while a DE is 1 on 1 with a tackle almost every play? Which winds up giving Smith a lot more free rushes at the QB, as Tom mentioned. Yet despite all the extra free rushes, Wake still gets to the QB more frequently, as I posted.

      Or that as Tom mentioned Smith has been lined up opposite Justin Smith, a perennial pro bowler, his whole career while Wake has had to do it himself?

      Yea I guess I could start there.


      • PetEng

        Wake did not grade higher than Aldon on a per pass rush snap basis in 2011 (Smith’s rookie year).
        Aldon’s rookie year was one of the best defensive performances by a rookie under PFF grading ever (look it up, you’ll be impressed). Better than Wake, J.J. Watt, and Justin Smith on a per snap basis that year.
        The question is merely how much is due to him and how much due to Justin Smith, et al.

        • Chris

          A very good point.

          As far as the quality of teammates – Wake was 1 of only 4 players to finish the season with a positive grade on a #22 ranked Dolphins’ defense, while Smith was 1 of 12 players to do so on the 49ers #1 overall ranked defense.

  • Gordon Paesani

    Levy by a mile. Picked as best defender for September

  • Riffly

    Wow, no bengals anywhere? Not even O-Line? Am I missing something? Has another team not allowed a sack?? I thought PFF was beyond big market favoritism.

    • Chris

      The tackles have been really good, but it’s more of a team effort on the OL. And with Atkins not back to snuff yet and Burfict missing too many snaps there aren’t really any other contenders

    • Hannah Hayes

      Yeah. Clearly they favor big markets because no Bengals are on the list…

  • don julio

    Ricky wagner. aka who i spent my senior year spring break with up north in iron mountain michigan

  • Graniterlm

    Aldon Smith benefits from the biggest cheating DE in the league Justin Smith. A good player but cheats like crazy

  • [email protected]

    A white guy cant be an elite wide receiver.

  • Grisha

    I haven’t seen J.J. Watt since he played my Giants… I am surprised that we were able to scheme-play him entirely out of the game… 4 Quarters (minus two plays) watching him fly up/across the field entirely too late. I guess he did dictate our schemes and hold our attention, so he was effective that way, but I am surprised other teams haven’t been able to do the same…

  • Rick S.

    Von Miller?