Stock Report: AFC, Season Opener
Ben Stockwell offers up the first installment of a new series tracking the form of the NFL's fastest rising, and hardest falling, AFC players.
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…
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.