With Week 1 in the books, it is time to look at the best performers at each position. This will only concern this week. It should be a mix of usual suspects and random one-game wonders. If a player is not on the list, it does not mean that that player did not have a great game. Not all positions are created equal. With that said, let’s look at the best 11 offensive players and best 11 defensive players.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson had an incredible Week 1. He fired four touchdowns past a talented Colts defense, tallying 254 yards and a 152.3 rating. He had an 81.2 PFF passing grade bolstered by a trio of big-time throws. Wilson had zero turnover-worthy plays, giving him the slightest of edges over Kyler Murray. Tom Brady, Jalen Hurts, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston also had stellar weeks, but Wilson lands at the top of the pile.
Running Back: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey did not score, but he did have a well-rounded game. He ran for 98 yards on 21 carries, good for 4.7 yards per carry. Through the air, McCaffrey caught all nine of his targets for 89 yards. He only had a 69.9 overall PFF grade and 54.0 rushing grade, but his 93.4 receiving grade was tops among all players. McCaffrey forced five missed tackles, including three as a receiver. Overall, McCaffrey placed third in the week in scrimmage yards, finishing behind two of the three Team of the Week wide receivers. Joe Mixon is an honorable mention. He led the week with 127 rushing yards, and he found the end zone once.
Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill demolished the Browns secondary to the tune of 11 catches, 197 receiving yards, and a touchdown. He had a 90.7 receiving grade, the best among wide receivers. His 197 receiving yards and 201 scrimmage yards both led Week 1. Hill earned a 94.6 grade on deep targets, converting his five into three catches, 125 yards, and a touchdown. He even had a 93.2 grade on intermediate targets. Hill tied the next receiver with most first downs with his eight.
Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Amari Cooper settled for a 74.8 receiving grade, but his production speaks for itself. Cooper hauled in 13 passes for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He ranked first in catches, third in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. Cooper was the week’s most heavily targeted receiver, and it paid off massively despite Dallas taking the loss. Cooper converted on three of four contested-catch opportunities, and he forced two missed tackles. As mentioned in the Hill blurb, Cooper’s eight first downs were tied for the most in the league.
Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel was the go-to option in the San Francisco offense. Samuel translated 12 targets into nine catches, 189 yards, and a touchdown. He had the longest play of the week, a 79-yard touchdown. His 86.1 receiving grade ranked second to Hill heading into Monday Night Football. Samuel tacked on six first downs, and he did not let a drop derail his day.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rob Gronkowski finished third among tight ends with 90 receiving yards. However, unlike T.J. Hockenson and Darren Waller, Gronkowski found the end zone twice. He had a tremendous night, catching eight of nine targets. On four contested opportunities, Gronkowski secured three catches. He made a pair of tackles miss as well. Gronkowski earned an elite 90.4 receiving grade and 85.0 grade in total. Beyond Hockenson and Waller, others in consideration included Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Pharaoh Brown.
Left Tackle: Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers
Heading to Monday Night Football, Trent Williams led the way among tackles with a 92.2 overall PFF grade. He was the highest-graded left tackle as a run blocker (91.9) and fourth-highest pass blocker (82.5). Williams did not surrender a pressure across 28 pass-blocking snaps. Williams’ dominance as a run blocker came primarily on zone-blocking plays. On 21 zone runs, Williams earned a 91.5 grade, the best in the NFL among tackles. Elgton Jenkins narrowly missed out on a slot. Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater were both impressive in their NFL debuts.
Left Guard: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
Heading into Monday Night Football, Joel Bitonio‘s 93.5 PFF grade was six points higher than any guard and 11.5 points higher than any left guard. Bitonio had a dominant all-around game. He had a 91.4 run-blocking grade, placing him second to Matt Feiler. While Feiler struggled as a pass protector, Bitonio finished as the No.2 guard as a pass blocker. Despite Cleveland suffering a defeat, Bitonio was a standout. Left guard was a fairly open-and-shut case, but David Edwards, Quinton Spain, and Michael Onwenu had impressive games.
Center: Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions
Continuing the theme, Frank Ragnow had a stellar all-around game. Among centers, Ragnow ranked first in PFF grade, first in run-blocking grade, and second in pass-blocking grade. He allowed just two pressures on 71 pass-blocking snaps against a talented San Francisco front. Ragnow was one of just two centers to grade out as a 70.0 on both zone runs and gap runs. The other, J.C. Tretter, was Ragnow’s stiffest competition. Rookie Josh Myers had a strong debut replacing 2020 All-Pro Corey Linsley in Green Bay as well.
Right Guard: Alex Cappa, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Alex Cappa was the No.2 graded guard behind Bitonio. He finished third in run-blocking grade and tied for fifth in pass-blocking grade. Cappa allowed just one pressure across 50 pass-blocking snaps. On his run-blocking snaps, Cappa excelled on zone-blocking snaps. His 86.7 zone-blocking grade was sixth. Daniel Brunskill deserves a mention, but he was a distant second place.
Right Tackle: Rob Havenstein, Los Angeles Rams
While Rob Havenstein was the No.3 graded right tackle, he faced tougher matchups than the top two. He had a strong, well-rounded game including a 79.2 run-blocking grade and 74.5 pass-blocking grade. He allowed zero pressures on 28 pass-blocking snaps. While Havenstein is the only Ram to crack the Team of the Week, they only allowed six pressures as a team. Jack Conklin was a dominant run blocker, but he surrendered a trio of pressures and a sack. Marcus Cannon was also stellar, but he faced Jacksonville. Havenstein faced Chicago.
Interior Defensive Line: Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cameron Heyward was simply sensational. He posted a 95.3 overall defensive grade, the best among all defenders. However, the most impressive part of his day was his week-high 12 pressures. No other defensive player had even 10 pressures. Among interior defenders, Heyward was first in run defense grade and second in pass-rush grade. His well-rounded statistical profile (one sack, one TFL, two pass deflections, one forced fumble) earned him the de facto Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1.
Interior Defensive Line: Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia Eagles
Remember how Javon Heyward was second in pass-rush grade? Hargrave was the only interior defender to edge Heyward out. Hargrave tallied six pressures on 26 pass-rush snaps, earning two sacks. He tacked on a pair of tackles for loss as well. He posted the second-highest grade among interior players, being dragged down by an average performance against the run. Honorable mentions include Malik McDowell, Aaron Donald, Leonard Williams, and Michael Pierce.
Edge Defender: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
T.J. Watt posted seven pressures and a pair of sacks. He added a tackle for loss and a forced fumble as well. Watt earned an 83.9 PFF grade including 70.0s or above in run defense, tackling, and pass-rushing. He ranked tied for third in pressures, but he had a better game as a run defender than the top two pass-rushers. Expect Watt to continue to post stellar weeks as the season progresses.
Edge Defender: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
Chandler Jones is living in the nightmares of Titans fans everywhere. He had five sacks and seven pressures, essentially ensuring his spot on the list. Jones was the top-graded edge defender with a 93.8 grade. He was effective as a run defender (70.6), and he was first in pass-rush grade (93.1). Jones led Week 1 in forced fumbles, sacks, and tackles for loss. Watt and Jones were fairly easy selections, but there were a few honorable mentions. Von Miller had a terrific return to action with the Broncos. Demarcus Lawrence had a special performance in run defense to go along with five pressures. Arik Armstead had nine pressures, and Myles Garrett had eight.
Linebacker: Dre Greenlaw, San Francisco 49ers
PFF grade is irrelevant when you have the only pick-six of the week. Dre Greenlaw victimized Jared Goff for a 39-yard interception return touchdown. He tallied six tackles including four solo efforts. Greenlaw earned a 70.4 coverage grade, and his overall grade was dragged down with a poor run defense grade. Regardless, Greenlaw had the play of the week, so he earns the LB1 spot.
Linebacker: Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers
Shaq Thompson was the top-graded coverage linebacker, earning an 88.7 grade. He picked off Zach Wilson and had an otherwise solid performance. Thompson recorded a pressure and three defensive stops. He recorded 10 tackles including five solo tackles. He had a sack, a tackle for loss, and three passes defended. His overall 75.7 PFF grade ranked ninth among linebackers, but only two players ahead of him played more snaps. Beyond Greenlaw and Thompson, Lavonte David, Kyzir White, and Christian Kirksey are honorable mentions.
Cornerback: Byron Murphy, Arizona Cardinals
Byron Murphy had a trio of passes defended. Among cornerbacks with 10 snaps, Murphy ranked seventh in overall grade and fourth in coverage grade. He was sturdy enough against the run, and he had a strong 77.8 tackling grade. When targeted, Murphy conceded just a 70.5 passer rating, quite impressive considering that he did not have an interception. Murphy posted his highest coverage grade since Week 4 of 2019.
Cornerback: Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins
Only one cornerback had more snaps and a higher PFF grade than Xavien Howard. Despite a fairly average grade for his coverage (64.8), Howard was excellent as a run defender. His 94.8 run defense grade ranked second to the aforementioned Lawrence. Howard forced a fumble, continuing his trend of disruptive takeaways. His coverage grade buries the lede to some degree as Howard allowed just three catches for 20 yards against the Patriots. Beyond Murphy and Howard, Carlton Davis, Paulson Adebo, and Marshon Lattimore deserve honorable mentions.
Safety: Logan Ryan, New York Giants
Logan Ryan had an outstanding all-around game for the Giants. For pure counting stats, Ryan tallied 10 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. Ryan was the top-graded safety, narrowly beating out Derwin James. Ryan ranked second in both pass-rush grade and coverage grade among safeties. He had a pair of pressures, just one of four safeties to do so. Among the four, Ryan was the only standout in coverage.
Safety: Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints
Marcus Williams had an interception of Aaron Rodgers, putting an exclamation point on a strong performance for the Saints as a whole. Williams allowed a 68.8 rating while on coverage, even better than the aforementioned James. He was an average run defender, but he was an efficient tackler. Honorable mentions include James, Justin Reid, Jevon Holland, and Budda Baker.
Defensive Back: Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite a below-average run defense grade, Joe Haden earns his spot with his exceptional coverage grade. Haden played the fourth-most coverage snaps among corners, and he achieved an 88.6 coverage grade. All told, his coverage grade ranked first, helping him to be the top-grade corner. Haden added five tackles and a forced fumble. It was quite an impressive performance for the 32-year-old.
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