With Week 9 of the NFL season in the books, it is time to look at the best performers at each position from last 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 the individual did not have a great game. Not all positions are created equal. Prior performance has no bearing on this list. With that said, let’s look at the best 11 offensive players and best 11 defensive players from Week 9.
You can find my Week 8 Team of the Week here.
An asterisk (*) indicates a player that would earn a spot on the All-Pro team through seven weeks.
Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Herbert had a terrific trip to Philadelphia on Sunday. He launched a pair of touchdowns, and he tacked on a third touchdown on the ground. Herbert led the week in passing, narrowly edging out Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo. Among starters, Herbert finished third in PFF passing grade as Justin Fields and Baker Mayfield finished on top. After two stinkers in the last three weeks, it was encouraging to see Herbert bounce back to form.
If the season ended today, Kyler Murray would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Running Back: James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
It was a loaded week at running back with four backs finishing with more than 100 yards. Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb had massive days on the ground, and they added a pair of rushing touchdowns. However, the nod here goes to Conner. Conner posted three touchdowns, adding a long screen pass. He ended with 173 scrimmage yards in a gargantuan performance after Chase Edmonds left with an injury. Notably, Conner now leads the NFL with 11 total touchdowns.
If the season ended today, Taylor would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Wide Receiver: Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Unlike running backs, there was a low bar for wide receivers this week. Brown had a solid day, certainly, but his 116 receiving yards were tied for the most among receivers. (To his credit, Cordarrelle Patterson led the week with 126 receiving yards and would have earned the spot over Brown had he been listed as a receiver). Brown was Baltimore’s most consistent threat, moving the ball when called upon against the Minnesota Vikings.
If the season ended today, Cooper Kupp would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Wide Receiver: DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
Smith tied Brown for the yardage lead, but he added a touchdown in Philadelphia’s loss to the Chargers. Smith was PFF’s highest-graded receiver, earning a 92.3 grade. When Jalen Hurts targeted Smith, Hurts had a perfect passer rating. Smith has been overshadowed by other members of his draft class, but this was a statement game against one of the better secondaries in the NFL. The Eagles have found their No.1 receiver.
If the season ended today, Davante Adams would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Wide Receiver: Elijah Moore, New York Jets
Speaking of rookies, Moore exploded for a pair of touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football. Moore was one of three receivers to haul in a pair of touchdowns (Olamide Zaccheaus and Malik Turner), but Moore gets the nod when his 84 yards are factored in. Among receivers to have eight targets, Moore finished fifth in yards per route run. (Brown was fourth).
If the season ended today, Deebo Samuel would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Cole Kmet and Pat Freiermuth made compelling cases on Monday Night Football, but Kittle maintained his spot. In his return to the field, Kittle torched the Arizona Cardinals for 101 yards and a touchdown. He led all tight ends in yards, and his touchdown sealed his inclusion. It was not a flawless performance as Kittle both dropped a pass and fumbled on one of his catches, but the overall output was strong enough.
If the season ended today, Mark Andrews would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Left Tackle: Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers
Slater was one of three tackles to grade out well in both pass-blocking and run-blocking. Unlike Terron Armstead, the other left tackle, Slater did not surrender any pressures. On 43 pass-blocking snaps, Slater kept Herbert out of danger. On his 26 run-blocking snaps, Slater paved the way for the Los Angeles rushing attack. It was a well-rounded performance from the top tackle of the 2021 draft (so far).
If the season ended today, Trent Williams would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Left Guard: Matt Feiler, Los Angeles Chargers
Feiler ran away with this spot, making him the third Charger in this installment. He was dominant as a run-blocker, earning an 83.9 grade, the best for any left guard. Feiler was sturdy in pass protection, not surrendering a pressure across 43 pass-blocking snaps. Jon Runyan comes in second here, but left guard had one of the largest gaps of any position this week.
If the season ended today, Joel Bitonio would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Center: Andre James, Las Vegas Raiders
James had a mediocre pass-blocking day by grade, but he did not allow Derek Carr to be pressured. Alternatively, James had a sensational day as a run-blocker despite the Raiders falling in an upset loss. James led all centers in run-blocking grade by 10.4 points, posting a near-elite 88.3 grade. Lloyd Cushenberry was the only center to have an overall grade within five points of James’.
If the season ended today, Creed Humphrey would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Right Guard: Shaq Mason, New England Patriots
Unlike left guard, right guard was tightly-contested. Mason narrowly edged Wyatt Teller for this spot. The difference was just one pressure. Mason kept Mac Jones clean on 22 pass-blocking snaps while Teller gave up one hurry to Mayfield. Both players were dominant as run-blockers (per usual), but Mason was slightly better in pass protection. Either player is a valid choice, but Mason gets the nod here.
If the season ended today, Zack Martin would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Right Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints*
Ramczyk was the third tackle to post an 80.0 grade as both a pass-blocker and a run-blocker. Ramczyk and the Saints lost on Sunday, but it was far from his fault. He was flawless on 48 pass-blocking snaps, keeping Trevor Siemian from facing any pressure. As a run-blocker, he finished second among right tackles (La’el Collins). As is the standard, Ramczyk had a stellar well-rounded game. With this effort (and Jack Conklin’s injury), Ramczyk has ascended to the right tackle All-Pro spot.
If the season ended today, Ramczyk would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Interior Defensive Line: Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans
There are statement games. Simmons operated on a higher ethereal plane on Sunday night. He never shared the field with a certain No.99 on the opposing sideline, but Simmons put the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on notice. Simmons tied Kwity Paye (edge) for the most pressures of Week 9, and Simmons turned three of the nine into sacks. It was a dominant all-around game from the blossoming superstar.
If the season ended today, Cameron Heyward would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Interior Defensive Line: Christian Barmore, New England Patriots
Heyward nearly hijacked this spot from Barmore at the last second, but Barmore’s demolition of the Carolina Panthers narrowly staves off the former All-Pro. Barmore influenced the passing game no matter if he got home or not. The rookie had three pressures, all hurries, but when he did not directly influence Sam Darnold, he was swatting passes at the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, for Patriots fans, this will be the first of many Team of the Week nods for Barmore.
If the season ended today, Aaron Donald would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Edge Defender: Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars
In the battle of players named Josh Allen, the Jaguars one came out on top. Entering Sunday, Allen had zero career interceptions. He victimized the other Allen on a rare coverage snap. Similarly, he had zero career fumble recoveries. Dawuane Smoot punched the ball out, and Allen fell on the football. To complete the trifecta, Allen sacked the opposing Allen. This is one of the cases that grade does not matter; the storyline does. Condolences to Markus Golden.
If the season ended today, Myles Garrett would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Edge Defender: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Watt is perhaps the only player in the NFL that can have an underwhelming three-sack, one-PBU game. Watt was fortunate to get home on all three of his pressures, but he was as impactful as ever when he did get home. He tied for the week’s lead with five stops as an edge. He may have been lucky on his sacks, but Watt proved his reputation as one of the game’s best big-game performers.
If the season ended today, Maxx Crosby would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Linebacker: Damien Wilson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Believe it or not, the Jaguars get their second mention on the defense. Wilson was integral in Jacksonville’s defensive masterclass. He dominated in coverage, recording a PBU and not allowing a 10-yard completion. Among linebackers to play 40 snaps, Wilson finished third in PFF grade, but his coverage grade (85.5) was second to Kyle Van Noy. Without Wilson, the Jaguars almost certainly lose.
If the season ended today, De’Vondre Campbell would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Linebacker: Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys
Vander Esch had been quite poor for the first two months of the season. Contrarily, the Cowboys were one of the best teams in the NFL. On Sunday, Vander Esch had an All-Pro performance while the rest of the Cowboys stunk up AT&T Stadium. Vander Esch finished third in PFF grade among all defensive players (both included later in this list), pacing all linebackers with an elite 91.5 grade. His seven defensive stops also led the week.
If the season ended today, Darius Leonard would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Cornerback: J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots
Getting a pick-six or bringing in multiple interceptions nearly clinches a spot in the rankings. Jackson decided to do both, victimizing Darnold twice including a long pick-six. In coverage, Jackson had as many interceptions as yards allowed as he terrorized the Panthers. Jackson is a hot-and-cold player, but he burned brightly this week. He allowed a 0.0 passer rating while in coverage in one of the best games by a cornerback all season.
If the season ended today, Casey Hayward would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Cornerback: Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
Ward finished second among all defenders with a sensational 93.1 grade against the Cincinnati Bengals. It began on the first drive when Ward picked his college teammate Joe Burrow, taking the interception 99 yards to open the scoring in the Battle of Ohio. Burrow targeted Ward four times on the day. Ward turned those four targets into the aforementioned interception and a pair of PBUs. When Ward is healthy, he is a top-10 cornerback.
If the season ended today, Trevon Diggs would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Safety: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans*
Byard put on another show on Sunday Night Football. This is his third 86.0 or higher grade in five weeks, and he has four interceptions and a forced fumble in those five weeks. For this week, Byard took the interception back for a touchdown, altering the momentum of Sunday night hugely. It was an all-around excellent performance for the Titans’ defense as Byard continues to be the NFL’s best defensive back.
If the season ended today, Byard would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Safety: Xavier McKinney, New York Giants
Previously Appeared: Week 6
McKinney lit the Raiders on fire, posting the week’s highest defensive grade. He hauled in a pair of interceptions, taking one back for a touchdown. McKinney ranked eighth among safeties in run defense grade, first in coverage grade, and first in tackling grade. Few players in the NFL have put together an all-around dominant performance as McKinney did against the Raiders. McKinney allowed a 34.4 passer rating when in coverage.
If the season ended today, Marcus Williams would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Defensive Back: Camryn Bynum, Minnesota Vikings
While the rest of the Vikings eroded over 98 defensive snaps, Bynum had a sensational game against the Ravens. Bynum finished second among safeties in PFF grade, and he earned every bit of his 90.0 grade. He notched 11 tackles (as calculated by PFF) without missing one, a tough task across five quarters of action. Bynum picked off Lamar Jackson, and he earned component PFF grades of at least 80.0 in coverage, run defense, and tackling.
If the season ended today, Jalen Ramsey would earn the author’s All-Pro vote.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images