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PFF Gives out Player Superlatives


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At PFF, we now have more data than we know what to do with. Over time, we've developed data sets that focus on very specific traits.

Here, we dig into some of the best performers in niche categories throughout the league, hitting on everything from the best blitzer to the best quarterback at throwing a slant route to the toughest running back to tackle.


Most elusive QB

Tyrod Taylor, Bills

Taylor has had the highest average time to throw in the league since becoming Buffalo's starter at the beginning of last season, and the gap only increases over the field if you fold in scrambles. He spends his day buying time in the pocket just to deliver the ball. When you add in the fact that as a ball carrier he has the moves and athleticism to make people miss and gain yardage, Taylor is the most elusive QB in the game. Last season he forced 39 missed tackles and this season he has already notched 13.

Runner-up: Cam Newton, Panthers


Toughest RB to tackle

David Johnson, Cardinals

He doesn't have the experience of other running backs, but Johnson has been extremely difficult to contain so far in his young career. Last season he ranked seventh in PFF's elusive rating metric -- which measures missed tackles in both the run and pass game and yards after contact -- on 169 touches. And this season he ranks second to only Eddie Lacy. Entering Monday night's game against the Jets, he had broken 29 tackles on 118 touches and was averaging more than three yards per carry after contact. In the first quarter Monday, he broke a shifty 58-yard TD run. Johnson has strength, speed and an exceptionally quick jump cut that allows him to leave would-be tacklers in the dust.

Runner-up: DeMarco Murray, Titans


Best pass-catching RB

Theo Riddick, Lions

Riddick is such a good receiving weapon for the Lions that there was talk in the offseason they would be moving him to slot receiver permanently. He led all running backs last season with 80 catches despite playing only 481 snaps. He caught 85.1 percent of the targets thrown his way and dropped just two balls all season. In 2016, he has 26 receptions and has caught 83.9 percent of his targets. Only Giovani Bernard has more receptions among running backs, and Riddick is almost halfway to matching his snaps from a year ago as the Lions have struggled to keep running backs healthy.

Runner-up: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers


Best pass protector

Joe Thomas, Browns

Thomas has been the NFL's prototypical blindside protector for a decade, and he shows no signs of declining, even as the Browns roll through an endless list of starting QBs, most of whom do not make his job any easier. He finished as PFF's No. 1-rated pass-blocking tackle in 2015, and has followed that up by ranking No. 4 so far this season. In 2016, he has surrendered one sack and 10 total pressures protecting four different QBs (five if you count WR Terrelle Pryor moonlighting under center). Thomas is still as good as it gets as a pass-blocker.

Runner-up: Josh Sitton, Bears


Most unblockable pass-rusher

Aaron Donald, Rams

There's a good case that Von Miller is the most devastating pass-rusher in the league, but Miller tends to win quick or not at all. Donald will get there eventually if given time. No player in the NFL works as relentlessly to shed blocks and converge on the QB as Donald. He added another six pressures against the Lions in Week 6, bringing his season total to 35. That's an average of 5.8 per game -- as an interior pass-rusher. Donald is the most productive pass-rusher in the game right now from a volume standpoint, and if you're facing him, you can only hope the ball is gone before he gets where he's going, because you won't stop him getting home.

Runner-up: Von Miller, Broncos



Best blitzer

Dont'a Hightower, Patriots

The Patriots like to blitz their inside linebackers, but practically no other players. Despite knowing it's coming, teams are unable to stop Hightower from racking up pressure on the blitz. A season ago, he notched 24 total pressures on 116 blitzes and this season his rate is even better, having recorded a dozen total pressures on only 41 blitzes. Hightower is a powerful, athletic linebacker, but he just has an innate sense for how to attack those gaps along the line, giving blockers very little time to see him emerge before squeezing through the gap and harassing the quarterback.

Runner-up: Anthony Barr, Vikings


Best CB in man coverage

Patrick Peterson, Cardinals

There is no Darrelle Revis circa 2009 in today's NFL. Everybody is prone to lapses in a way Revis just wasn't at that time, but when Peterson is fully healthy, he's as close as it gets. Entering Week 6, Peterson led the NFL in coverage snaps per reception allowed at more than 20. He finished atop the league in the same category a year ago -- and Peterson held Antonio Brown to two catches for just 26 yards on six targets when they met in 2015, albeit with no Ben Roethlisberger at QB.

Runner-up: Aqib Talib, Broncos


Best offensive hybrid player

Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

The Steelers don't really utilize Bell's unique skill set as much as they could. He's a big back who excels enough as a receiver that he could easily play that position, too, and yet the Steelers line him up only sparingly in the slot. In 173 snaps over the last three weeks since his return, Bell has played in the slot 23 times and split out wide on 14 occasions. But he is a true hybrid player in terms of being too athletic for linebackers or safeties to cover, and too tough for cornerbacks to tackle.

Runner-up: Terrelle Pryor, Browns


Best defensive hybrid player

Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals

When fully healthy, Mathieu is a wrecking ball near the line of scrimmage. Capable of playing cornerback, safety and even some linebacker, Mathieu is the same game-changing ballhawk he was in college, and proof that you don't need to be 220 pounds to make an impact in the NFL. Nobody reads the game better on defense than Mathieu, and that allows him to break on the ball in a variety of different ways, forcing turnovers by appearing where he is not expected. As he continues to recover from an ACL tear late last season, expect to see Mathieu's game-changing ability show up more often in the weeks to come. Last season, he finished first among corners in QB pressures as a pass-rusher (with 10) and in run-stop percentage, in addition to his excellent work in coverage. The Honey Badger snagged his second interception of the season on Monday night.

Runner-up: J.J. Watt, Texans


Best QB at every route

Slant: Drew Brees, Saints

No quarterback has attempted or completed more slant passes this season than Brees (he's 18-of-24 overall on such throws). Brees has always been an exceptionally accurate QB and that even extends to ball placement, which is especially important on slants. His slant passes have led to more yards after the catch than they have in the air because Brees allows his receivers to catch the ball without breaking stride.

Runner-up: Aaron Rodgers, Packers



Out: Brian Hoyer, Bears

So far this season, we've really only seen the good version of Hoyer. That usually sticks around until Week 10. He has thrown two TDs and completed 85.7 percent of out-routes he has thrown this season. Perhaps most important, he hasn't thrown an interception on the route. When quarterbacks throw picks on out-routes, they often result in points the other way.

Runner-up: Tom Brady, Patriots


Dig/Crosser: Matthew Stafford, Lions

Not having the crutch of Calvin Johnson has actually helped Stafford become more of a well-rounded quarterback so far in 2016. He currently ranks fifth overall among QBs with an 86.2 grade, his best mark in years. He has been particularly effective on in-breaking routes, completing 75 percent of his attempts on that pattern for 96 yards, 2 TDs and zero picks. His three incompletions on these throws have all been drops by his receivers.

Runner-up: Matt Ryan, Falcons


Hitch/Comeback: Kirk Cousins, Redskins

Cousins hasn't performed to the standard he set in the second half of last season, and he must be giving the Washington hierarchy sleepless nights as they plot what to do at the position, but he remains a player capable of some impressive accuracy, at least in certain areas. On hitch/comeback routes this season, he is 25-of-28 for 273 yards. Now he just needs to come close to matching his accuracy on the other routes from 2015.

Runner-up: Tom Brady, Patriots


Post/Corner: Andrew Luck, Colts

The Colts' entire offense is designed around Luck holding the ball and taking deep shots, so he had better be good at it. Luckily for Indy, he is excellent at post/corner routes, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions on them in 2016. He has completed seven of 14 attempts and is averaging 24.4 yards per completion.

Runner-up: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers


Go: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Roethlisberger throws the best deep ball in the game. His accuracy down the field is quickly turning Sammie Coates into a legitimate deep threat. So far this season Roethlisberger has been on target with 19 of the 31 go routes he has thrown, with three of them being dropped, for a total of 448 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick has attempted more of them.

Runner-up: Russell Wilson, Seahawks


Best WR at every route

Screens: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos

Dating back to the days of Tim Tebow and then Peyton Manning, Thomas has always been at his best catching bubble screens and making things happen after the catch. Broncos QBs have produced a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when targeting Thomas on screens this season, and he's averaging 14.8 yards after the catch per reception on those pass patterns. He's a big, fast and athletic receiver who can be very tough to bring down by smaller defensive backs close to the line of scrimmage.

Runner-up: Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings


Slant: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants

Slants are a staple route in most NFL offenses, but especially in the Giants' scheme. In addition to all of the spectacular catches in his arsenal, Beckham also does the routine stuff well. So far this season Beckham has caught every slant thrown his way, gaining 137 yards and scoring a touchdown. He ranks second among WRs with a yards-per-catch average of nearly 20 on slant routes.

Runner-up: T.Y. Hilton, Colts


Out: Randall Cobb, Packers

Operating largely from the slot, Cobb is the player in the Green Bay offense who can turn quick out-routes into bigger plays. Cobb is averaging more than 16 yards per reception this season on such patterns (tops in the NFL among WRs with at least two such catches), and needs Aaron Rodgers to lean more on out-routes within the offense.

Runner-up: DeSean Jackson, Redskins


Dig/Crosser: Julio Jones, Falcons

Look no further than Jones' destruction of Bene Benwikere and the Carolina Panthers' secondary for evidence of the WR's prowess on this route. He compiled 104 yards and a touchdown on digs/crossers during that Week 4 matchup, a good day overall for most receivers. Jones is the most physically gifted WR in the NFL, and that allows him to separate before the catch and break away from defenders for huge chunk plays once he has the ball in his hands.

Runner-up: Tyrell Williams, Chargers


Comeback: Terrelle Pryor, Browns

Pryor's transition to wide receiver has been remarkably successful. He still doesn't run the most complex route tree in the league, but Pryor has been effective using his big frame to shield defenders from the ball on comeback patterns, catching seven of eight targets for 65 yards. QBs have a 100.5 passer rating when targeting Pryor on comebacks, more than 34 points higher than the NFL average on that route.

Runner-up: Mike Evans, Buccaneers


Hitch: Jordy Nelson, Packers

Nelson may still be recovering from last year's ACL injury, but he's still one of the league's best at running a hitch route, showing the ability to threaten the deep route before stopping on a dime. Two of his five TDs so far this season have come on the pattern. Nelson is also very good at finding space in zones when the play breaks.

Runner-up: Alshon Jeffery, Bears


Post/Corner: A.J. Green, Bengals

Green torched Darrelle Revis and the Jets' defense on the opening week of the season for a big 54-yard touchdown. Green is averaging 23.3 yards per catch on post routes, catching six of his seven targets for 140 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He's dangerous on corner routes as well, this season catching two of the three attempts sent his way for 45 yards.

Runner-up: Julio Jones, Falcons


Go: Sammie Coates, Steelers

Coates is bringing back memories of the impact Mike Wallace once had when teamed with Ben Roethlisberger: The Auburn speedster has five catches on go routes and is averaging 44.8 yards on those receptions. And his numbers could be even better, as he has been dealing with a hand injury that may have contributed to a pair of drops on go routes.

Runner-up: Amari Cooper, Raiders


Best tackler at every defensive position

Edge Defender: William Hayes, Rams

Hayes isn't just a guy who believes in mermaids and doesn't believe in dinosaurs; he's a very good football player and a big reason why the Rams felt comfortable moving on from Chris Long this offseason. Hayes hasn't missed a tackle in his past 44 attempts, the most among all edge defenders.

Runner-up: Shaquil Barrett, Broncos


Defensive Interior: Dan Williams, Raiders

Williams has regressed a little bit this season, but if you come within his wing span, he is taking you down. Over the past two seasons, Williams has secured every one of his 40 attempted tackles. At 327 pounds, he excels at stuffing the run and anchoring the middle of the line.

Runner-up: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers


Linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Panthers

Kuechly's rare combination of instincts and tackling ability has made him a mainstay atop our LB rankings. We have charted him with just one missed tackle in 65 tries this season. And in 2015, he had the best missed tackle rate among any inside linebacker (once every 24 tackle attempts).

Runner-up: Brandon Marshall, Broncos


Cornerback: Desmond Trufant, Falcons

Trufant may not have quite the coverage ability of Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson, but he is a better tackler than both. Over the past two seasons he has missed just one tackle, and missed none in the running game where cornerbacks often find themselves unable to wrap up in the open field.

Runner-up: Chris Harris Jr., Broncos


Safety: Devin McCourty, Patriots

The best-tackling safety in the NFL is a former cornerback. McCourty may not hit like Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas, but as a byproduct of that, he doesn't miss tackles like they do, either. He has whiffed on just one tackle in the first six weeks of the season, having notched 30 solo tackles.

Runner-up: Harrison Smith, Vikings




Its a pretty fun read. Better than reading about the jets

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8 hours ago, varjet said:

Pretty much an indictment that of all the winners, runners ups and mentions in that article, none are Jets.

What are you talking about?? We definitely got a few mentions, e.g.

Green torched Darrelle Revis and the Jets' defense on the opening week of the season...


Entering Monday night's game against the Jets, [Johnson] had broken 29 tackles on 118 touches and was averaging more than three yards per carry after contact. In the first quarter Monday, he broke a shifty 58-yard TD run. 

Maybe we didn't win any awards, but we were definitely key contributors to many of them.


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