NFL1000: Ranking the Top 1,000 Players Heading into the Regular Season

Doug FarrarNFL Lead ScoutSeptember 8, 2016

NFL1000: Ranking the Top 1,000 Players Heading into the Regular Season

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Who's the best player in the NFL right now?

    You probably have a solid answer in your head based on the games you watch, the teams you enjoy and what you know about football.

    Now, a different series of questions: Who's the 53rd-best player in the NFL? Who's the 179th? The 375th? The 940th? The 1,000th-best player?

    That's where things get murky.

    If we want to get more specific, who's the 15th-best quarterback, and is he more valuable than the third-best kicker? If you watch offensive line play, do you have an idea who the 16th-best center might be? How about the 35th-best cornerback based on a standard of evaluation?

    That's a big job, and that's what the NFL1000 series will endeavor to answer each week of the 2016 season.

    With a 15-person crew of experienced evaluators, we'll comb through the game tape to bring you concise, clear evaluations of every single player in the NFL. We'll tell you which rookies are rising and which undrafted players are coming out of nowhere to make an impact. We'll tell you which players are rising and falling in performance and why.

    There is no predetermined narrative with these grades. No mysterious "clutch factor." No tweaked-out quarterback ratings that defy explanation. Our grades are based on pure scouting, and lots of it. We grade the key criteria for each position based on a series of attributes and add in a score for positional importance.

    In the case of a tie, our scouts ask "Which player would I want on my team?" and adjust accordingly.

    Is it a subjective process? Of course—that's what scouting is, and as we like to say, ties are no fun.

    Each player is evaluated and graded by our crack team of scouts, who possess more than 100 combined years of experience in playing, front office work, coaching and media. Cian Fahey, John Middlekauff, Alex Kirby, Mark Schofield, Duke Manyweather, Ethan Young, Joe Goodberry, Charles McDonald, Zach Kruse, Derrik Klassen, Jerod Brown, Ian Wharton, Kyle Posey, Mark Bullock, Chuck Zodda and Doug Farrar have watched tape for months to bring you these grades, and we'll be bringing you player grades based on the game action every week.

    Here are the NFL1000 opening grades for the 2016 NFL season.

Methodology

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    The NFL1000 team of scouts was given a series of important attributes to grade for every player in their positional review. Using a grading scale starting at 0 and going up to anywhere from 10 to 40 based on the position and the attribute, our scouts have graded each player based on their own expertise and countless hours of tape review over the years. Our evaluators were given specific positional assignments based on their proven fields of expertise.

    For established players, tape review for the NFL1000 project was based primarily on the 2015 season, with performance reviews based on the 2016 preseason, if applicable.

    For rookies (check out our weekly Rookie Review), we made our assessments on a player's college tape and as much preseason performance as we could review. Of course, preseason tape can be skewed based on strength of competition, as can college tape, so we've taken that into consideration.

    For players who are switching teams and/or positions, we weighed the 2016 preseason a bit more heavily.

    We'll adjust for opponent, based on the obvious notion that the cornerback we're grading is doing a better job if he's shutting down Antonio Brown than if he's negating the efforts of a seventh-round rookie receiver who won't make final cuts.

    We'll also adjust for players with multiple responsibilities in the course of a game and over the course of time. Think of J.J. Watt or Michael Bennett on the defensive line and how they seamlessly switch from gap to gap. Or how cornerbacks such as Chris Harris and Tyrann Mathieu dominate outside and in the slot. Or how receivers such as Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald bedevil those cornerbacks from multiple field positions.

    That's more important than ever in today's NFL, and we pay attention to it.

    We will not adjust for injuries. If a player is underperforming because of an injury, that's part of his performance, fair or unfair, and it needs to be graded accordingly.

    Grading any player is a subjective process, but with a series of attributes per position and a specific direction as to what to grade and how, we'll work to make it as definitive as possible.

Quarterbacks

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The 2015 season gave us a glimpse of just how good Cam Newton can be. Now we have to find out where he goes from here. Newton deserved to be the MVP last year. His skill set is as impressive as anyone's, and despite what the stats say, his consistency was second-to-none last year.

    Newton is challenging Aaron Rodgers for the mantle of best quarterback in the NFL.

    Rodgers still holds that crown despite his down year. Rodgers' numbers last year were a reflection of his supporting cast rather than his play. At 32 years of age, he is closer to his physical prime than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers. Rodgers' athleticism has always been a mark in his favor against his peers, plus his decision-making and precision as a passer remain exceptional as well.

    Newton and Rodgers have distinguished themselves from their peers, but the second tier of starters in the NFL right now is stacked too.

    Rivers was trapped on an awful team last year but carried a broken offense every single week. Palmer was right there with Newton as an MVP candidate until he suffered a finger injury late in the year and lost his ability to throw the ball accurately.

    Brady had similar struggles late in the season after a lightning-hot start. Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he's healthy. Few quarterbacks throughout history have executed their offenses the way Brees executes Sean Payton's.

    Those old, established players are all on the decline at this stage of their careers. They'll still be among the best in the league at the position because that's just how good they are and have been. It's the other two names in that tier who are really interesting, though.

    Andrew Luck had a disastrous 2015 season. He never looked healthy. Even before he was sidelined through injury, he didn't look like he was 100 percent. One of the most talented passers in the league suddenly looked like he was in pain while trying to throw the ball five yards downfield.

    Luck is healthy now, even if the Colts had to sideline him during the preseason to protect him, so a return to stardom is expected.

    While Luck's season was disastrous from the start, Russell Wilson's got better as the year went on. If he maintains the aggressiveness he played with over the second half of last season, he could find himself atop these rankings in 2017. Wilson is an accurate, intelligent passer who can also make defenders miss more than once in the open field.

    If the NFL has a quarterback problem, it's not apparent at the top. Even outside the top 10, when you look through the teens and into the early 20s, there are still quality starters who just need coaching staffs who can build capable supporting casts or fit them into the right schemes for their skill sets.

    Individual talent in the NFL at its most important position isn't as big of a problem as it is often made out to be. The problem comes when these players aren't put in position to throw 30 or 40 touchdowns in a season.

    NFL1000 won't care if you throw 30 touchdowns in a season, but it will care about how you performed in the process of getting those 30 touchdowns.

     

    Grading Scale

    Acc: Accuracy (Graded out of 25)

    Arm: Arm Strength (Graded out of 25)

    Press: Pressure/Run Threat (Graded out of 20)

    Dec: Decision-Making (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Quarterback Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamAccArmPressDecPosOvr
    1Aaron RodgersGB242318181093
    2Cam NewtonCAR232218171090
    3Philip RiversSD232116191089
    4Andrew LuckIND242317141088
    5Ben RoethlisbergerPIT222116181087
    6Drew BreesNO202115191085
    7Carson PalmerARI232214161085
    8Tom BradyNE222113191085
    9Russell WilsonSEA232414141085
    10Sam BradfordMIN242012141080
    11Eli ManningNYG192014171080
    12Jay CutlerCHI202413111078
    13Marcus MariotaTEN201815141077
    14Ryan TannehillMIA201814141076
    15Andy DaltonCIN192013141076
    16Jameis WinstonTB162115141076
    17Robert Griffin IIICLE202211131076
    18Matthew StaffordDET182412111075
    19Derek CarrOAK172410141075
    20Tyrod TaylorBUF201813131074
    21Matt RyanATL191814131074
    22Alex SmithKC201815101073
    23Dak PrescottDAL191913121073
    24Blake BortlesJAX172212101071
    25Paxton LynchDEN172010101067
    26Colin KaepernickSF1721991066
    27Joe FlaccoBAL19188101065
    28Kirk CousinsWAS17169131065
    29Geno SmithNYJ17201081065
    30Luke McCownNO19187111065
    31Mike GlennonTB1819891064
    32Drew StantonARI151810101063
    33Brock OsweilerHOU15189101062
    34Case KeenumLA1917691061
    35Brian HoyerCHI18176101061
    36AJ McCarronCIN17158101060
    37Nick FolesKC16157121060
    38Josh McCownCLE1615991059
    39Blaine GabbertSF1617791059
    40Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ1516991059
    41Carson WentzPHI1519871059
    42Garrett GraysonNO141510101059
    43Landry JonesPIT16176101059
    44Brandon WeedenHOU1918661059
    45Trevor SiemianDEN1417991059
    46Mark SanchezDAL1617781058
    47Jared GoffLA1515781055
    48Matt SchaubATL1514591053
    49Jimmy GaroppoloNE1217591053
    50Trevone BoykinSEA1416751052
    51Matt CasselTEN1514581052
    52Connor CookOAK1419441051
    53EJ ManuelBUF1614651051
    54Jacoby BrissettNE1316461049
    55Ryan MallettBAL1316451048
    56Cardale JonesBUF1117551048
    57Shaun HillMIN1213571047

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Tony Romo—back injury
    • Teddy Bridgewater—knee injury

Running Backs

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    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    While the NFL is a passing league, the old adage that winning in December and January revolves around the run game still rings true. Having a star running back might not be necessary for success, but being able to run the ball will always be a factor that translates to winning games. The running back position is not only driven by stars but also by players on the rise, and it is complemented by many others who have specific roles they excel under for their teams.

    Although he is returning from a major injury and will be suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season, Le'Veon Bell is the most complete player at his position. He creates a major mismatch for any linebacker or strong safety in the passing game. Bell has special vision, feet and patience—he's the total package.

    On the same level with Bell is arguably the league's greatest genetic freak, Adrian Peterson, who returned to his usual duty of carrying the Vikings offense in 2015. At age 31, he still shows the elite skills that he will need to carry the team after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season to a serious leg injury. Peterson's rare blend of size (6'1", 220 lbs), vision, feet and speed makes him a top-flight player who has yet to show any signs of aging.

    I expect two second-year players to become superstars in 2016: Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Gurley proved last season the ACL injury is all forgotten and that his game-breaking speed is still special. The Rams running back is a perfect bell-cow runner and can carry a team that is flawed at the quarterback position. Gurley's explosion and feet are second to none.

    After flying under the radar as a third-round pick in 2015, David Johnson showed it all as a rookie, scoring 12 touchdowns (eight running, four receiving) last year. He is poised for a monster season thanks to his ability to run inside and outside and dominate in the passing game. His numbers could almost double in 2016.

    There are so many intriguing storylines for backs around the NFL. Can Jamaal Charles rebound from his major knee injury? Can a slimmer Eddie Lacy get back to 2014 form? Can Carlos Hyde have a breakout year under head coach Chip Kelly? Will Latavius Murray hold on to his starting job as younger players on the roster produce?

    I would lean toward yes on all of the questions above.

     

    Grading Scale

    In: Inside Running (Graded out of 25)

    Out: Outside Running (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Receiving (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Running Back Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamInOutRecBlkPosOvr
    1Adrian PetersonMIN24231715685
    2Le'Veon BellPIT22211817684
    3David A. JohnsonARI20221916683
    4Jamaal CharlesKC22231814683
    5Ezekiel ElliottDAL22221617683
    6Todd GurleyLA23221615682
    7LeSean McCoyBUF21211816682
    8Doug MartinTB22201617681
    9Devonta FreemanATL20201816680
    10Lamar MillerHOU20221714679
    11Spencer WareKC22181518679
    12Jonathan C. StewartCAR22191516678
    13DeAngelo WilliamsPIT21181617678
    14Mark IngramNO19181717677
    15Matt ForteNYJ19201814677
    16Carlos HydeSF21191516677
    17Eddie LacyGB21181517677
    18Chris IvoryJAX20181517676
    19Giovani BernardCIN18191815676
    20Jeremy LangfordCHI21191614676
    21C.J. AndersonDEN18191715675
    22Arian FosterMIA19171815675
    23Jeremy HillCIN21181515675
    24C.J. SpillerNO17201814675
    25Frank GoreIND19171617675
    26DeMarco MurrayTEN18171717675
    27Derrick HenryTEN19191516675
    28Thomas RawlsSEA18181616674
    29Devontae BookerDEN18181715674
    30Latavius MurrayOAK18191515673
    31Danny WoodheadSD18171814673
    32Theo RiddickDET16191814673
    33Darren SprolesPHI17181814673
    34James StarksGB18171517673
    35DeAndre WashingtonOAK17181814673
    36Melvin GordonSD19171614672
    37T.J. YeldonJAX18171615672
    38Andre EllingtonARI17171714671
    39Justin ForsettBAL18171614671
    40Charcandrick WestKC18201413671
    41Rashad JenningsNYG17171516671
    42Ryan MathewsPHI18171515671
    43Tevin ColemanATL19171415671
    44Alfred MorrisDAL18171515671
    45Ameer AbdullahDET16181714671
    46Chris D. JohnsonARI16181615671
    47Jordan HowardCHI18181514671
    48LeGarrette BlountNE18161515670
    49Jerick McKinnonMIN17181514670
    50Matt AsiataMIN16161418670
    51Jonathan WilliamsBUF17171614670
    52Darren McFaddenDAL17171415669
    53Matt JonesWAS16161516669
    54Shane VereenNYG15161814669
    55Christine MichaelSEA18171414669
    56Kenneth DixonBAL17161416669
    57Charles SimsTB15161714668
    58C.J. ProsiseSEA17171513668
    59Tyler ErvinHOU15171614668
    60Darius JacksonDAL17161514668
    61Chris PolkFA17151514667
    62Antonio AndrewsTEN15161514666
    63Dwayne WashingtonDET15161415666
    64Keith MarshallWAS16151414665
    65Paul PerkinsNYG14151613664
    66Alex CollinsSEA15151413663
    67Daniel LascoNO16141314663
    68Kelvin TaylorSF14141413661

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Kenyan Drake—hamstring injury
    • Wendell Smallwood—concussion

Fullbacks

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Some say fullback is a dying position, which may have some merit as offenses evolve around rule changes; however, there are still a lot of high-level players at the position. It is a vital position for more than half the teams in the NFL, and fullbacks tend to be core special team guys.

    The two most versatile players at the position are the Ravens' Kyle Juszczyk and the Panthers' Mike Tolbert. They can block, carry the ball in certain situations and function out of the backfield as receivers. The Ravens and Panthers depend on these two players in every aspect of the game.

    Marcel Reece, who has a receiving background, is the hardest cover out of the backfield given his exceptional hands and route-running ability. The Raiders offense can exploit a mismatch opportunity when a linebacker attempts to cover him in the passing game.

    Fullbacks such as Patrick DiMarco, Jalston Fowler and Michael Burton operate as more old-school "line up and hit you" players. Toughness is a key attribute for these players to succeed. Anthony Sherman in Kansas City might be the most underrated player at the position.

     

    Grading Scale

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 50)

    Run: Running (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Receiving (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Fullback Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamBlkRunRecPosOvr
    1Mike TolbertCAR401913476
    2Patrick DiMarcoATL451510474
    3Jamize OlawaleOAK391912474
    4Marcel ReeceOAK352014473
    5Kyle JuszczykBAL421413473
    6Jalston FowlerTEN44178473
    7Roosevelt NixPIT401712473
    8Bruce MillerFA431412473
    9Zach LineMIN40188470
    10Jay ProschHOU401412470
    11Michael BurtonDET43158470
    12John KuhnNO43157469
    13Anthony ShermanKC42158469
    14Cory HarkeyLA391313469
    15Jorvorskie LaneFA371312466
    16Jerome FeltonFA42128466
    17Paul LasikeCHI38168466
    18Andy JanovichDEN40129465
    19Nikita WhitlockNYG38148464
    20Tommy BohanonFA331413464
    21Malcolm JohnsonCLE361211463
    22Will TukuafuFA40136463
    23Dan VitaleFA36129461
    24Derek WattSD36129461

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Darrel Young
    • Tyler Clutts

Wide Receivers

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    The National Football League may be entering a golden era at the wide receiver position. Young talents such as Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins are capable of game-breaking plays on any given snap. These are the kinds of receivers who can beat a jam at the line of scrimmage, get good separation on their routes with speed or change-of-direction ability, and stretch the defense either horizontally or vertically.

    But veteran receivers continue to shine in this league.

    Larry Fitzgerald finds a way to contribute in Bruce Arians' vertical offense, whether running dig routes over the middle or helping to set the edge as a blocker in the running game. He also has terrific running partners in Michael Floyd and John Brown.

    Dez Bryant will be called upon down in Dallas to help an offense that will rely on rookie QB Dak Prescott, but Bryant's film both from limited work last season and in the preseason demonstrates he is still a difficult receiver to cover. He remains dominant at the catch point. Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are two more talented route-runners in Dallas, giving Prescott a talented trio as he eases into the NFL.

    The rookie class has some interesting names, including Laquon Treadwell with the Vikings and Sterling Shepard with the Giants. These two early-round selections are starting to show true promise.

    Similar scenes will play out for two of the AFC's top contenders. As the New England Patriots rely on untested QB Jimmy Garoppolo for their first four games, the route-running ability of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will be put to the test.

    Out west, the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos open the season with Trevor Siemian under center and hope that the skill sets of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas ease the transition.

    When you step back and look at the NFL as a whole, with the prevalence of three-receiver sets and the rules favoring the offense, this is a great time for the passing game. Many of the receivers in the NFL1000 have the ability and traits to break a game open every time they run a route.

     

    Grading Scale

    Route: Route Running (Graded out of 25)

    Hands: Hands (Graded out of 25)

    YAC: Yards After Catch (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Wide Receiver Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamRouteHandsYACBlkPosOvr
    1Julio JonesATL24241917892
    2Antonio BrownPIT24241816890
    3Dez BryantDAL24241816890
    4Odell Beckham Jr.NYG21241917889
    5Larry FitzgeraldARI22231719889
    6Demaryius ThomasDEN24201819889
    7DeAndre HopkinsHOU23231816888
    8Alshon JefferyCHI23231915888
    9A.J. GreenCIN24231815888
    10Sammy WatkinsBUF25221418887
    11Jordy NelsonGB23221617886
    12Allen RobinsonJAX24231416885
    13Steve Smith Sr.BAL22211717885
    14Brandon MarshallNYJ23221319885
    15Doug BaldwinSEA22211717885
    16John BrownARI22221815885
    17Jarvis LandryMIA22221815885
    18T.Y. HiltonIND24231613884
    19DeSean JacksonWAS23221713883
    20Kelvin BenjaminCAR21211616882
    21Golden TateDET22211912882
    22Danny AmendolaNE22231316882
    23Julian EdelmanNE25191614882
    24Tyler LockettSEA21211813881
    25Allen HurnsJAX22221613881
    26Vincent JacksonTB21221614881
    27Michael FloydARI22231612881
    28Eric DeckerNYJ24201316881
    29Jeremy MaclinKC23251212880
    30Stefon DiggsMIN22201713880
    31Randall CobbGB22221711880
    32Mike EvansTB21231612880
    33Amari CooperOAK23161815880
    34Keenan AllenSD22231115879
    35Jermaine KearseSEA20221712879
    36Pierre GarconWAS19201616879
    37Brandin CooksNO2320189878
    38Emmanuel SandersDEN24211411878
    39Michael CrabtreeOAK2322916878
    40Marvin JonesDET21211711878
    41Jeremy KerleyNYJ19181815878
    42Rishard MatthewsTEN21211612878
    43Tavon AustinLA19202010877
    44Donte MoncriefIND18231216877
    45Anquan BoldinDET19201415876
    46Albert WilsonKC16231712876
    47James JonesFA19201415876
    48Cole BeasleyDAL2120179875
    49Mohamed SanuATL21201610875
    50Travis BenjaminSD20201413875
    51Steve JohnsonSD19201810875
    52Terrance WilliamsDAL20201611875
    53Torrey SmithSF20201512875
    54Andre JohnsonTEN19211314875
    55Kenny BrittLA19201711875
    56Kevin WhiteCHI20181613875
    57Jamison CrowderWAS18181713874
    58Jordan MatthewsPHI19201611874
    59Cecil ShortsTB18191613874
    60Dontrelle InmanSD18201513874
    61Devin FunchessCAR17201613874
    62Will FullerHOU18201612874
    63Kendall WrightTEN20201213873
    64Jarius WrightMIN18191612873
    65Ted GinnCAR19181711873
    66Taylor GabrielATL20191412873
    67Kenny StillsMIA19201412873
    68Davante AdamsGB20201510873
    69Sterling ShepardNYG19191413873
    70Braxton MillerHOU17191514873
    71Tajae SharpeTEN19191314873
    72Jordan PaytonCLE18191315873
    73Charone PeakeNYJ17191613873
    74Josh GordonCLE16191613872
    75Andrew HawkinsCLE17221411872
    76Philly BrownCAR18201610872
    77Jordan NorwoodDEN19201312872
    78Chris HoganNE21191212872
    79Nelson AgholorPHI19191511872
    80Nate WashingtonFA20181214872
    81Seth RobertsOAK19201312872
    82Dwayne HarrisNYG17171713872
    83Laquon TreadwellMIN19181611872
    84Willie SneadNO1919169871
    85Ty MontgomeryGB18181710871
    86Bryan WaltersJAX17231013871
    87Dorial Green-BeckhamPHI19191510871
    88Josh HuffPHI19171611871
    89Michael ThomasNO19201311871
    90Malcolm MitchellNE17181414871
    91Demarcus RobinsonKC16191513871
    92Harry DouglasTEN17231012870
    93Mike WallaceBAL17201411870
    94Robert WoodsBUF19191113870
    95Justin HunterMIA18171512870
    96Marquess WilsonCHI17181512870
    97Tyler BoydCIN18201311870
    98Eddie RoyalCHI1817179869
    99Devin A. SmithNYJ16181512869
    100Quincy EnunwaNYJ15171811869
    101Chris MooreBAL16171513869
    102Jakeem GrantMIA18161512869
    103Marc MarianiTEN17181411868
    104Darrius Heyward-BeyPIT1920129868
    105Rueben RandleFA17181510868
    106Markus WheatonPIT20171013868
    107Aaron DobsonFA18181311868
    108Chris ConleyKC16191411868
    109Keith MumpheryHOU16171215868
    110Rashard HigginsCLE17181312868
    111Kamar AikenBAL1722812867
    112Charles D. JohnsonMIN1817159867
    113Josh BellamyCHI16161512867
    114Quinton PattonSF17151511866
    115Louis MurphyTB1718149866
    116Brandon ColemanNO1718149866
    117Brian QuickLA1716169866
    118Leonte CarrooMIA17181112866
    119Devin LucienNE16151413866
    120Devin StreetNE17161410865
    121Adam HumphriesTB15151412864
    122Ryan GrantWAS1618139864
    123Andre CaldwellFA15161510864
    124Andre RobertsDET1616159864
    125Corey ColemanCLE2014913864
    126Pharoh CooperLA1616159864
    127Tyreek HillKC17171210864
    128Kenbrell ThompkinsFA1520812863
    129Rashad GreeneJAX1718119863
    130Kenny LawlerSEA16161310863
    131Donteea DyeFA1516149862
    132Demarcus AyersFA15151212862
    133Devin FullerATL16161111862
    134Ricardo LouisCLE15151210860
    135Trevor DavisGB1715119860
    136Mike ThomasLA1614139860
    137Daniel BravermanCHI15161110860
    138Aaron BurbridgeSF1514139859
    139Brandon LaFellCIN13121312858
    140Cody CoreCIN12131411858
    141Moritz BoehringerMIN1514119857

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Josh Doctson—Achilles injury
    • Kolby Listenbee—double sports hernia surgery
    • Martavis Bryant—suspended for season

Tight Ends

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    When it comes to the tight end position, the NFL is loaded with talent in every age group, and many of the tight ends happen to be on the same team and working together.

    Several pairs of talented tight ends are ready to light up the scoreboard this season. Ever since losing Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots have been searching for a dynamic complement in the pass game for Rob Gronkowski. Have they found it in Martellus Bennett?

    After tight ends were heavily featured in Chip Kelly's scheme the past three seasons, how will new Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson's offense utilize Zach Ertz and Brent Celek in 2016? What about Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams, two up-and-coming tight ends who are more than capable of spreading the field and plowing the road in the run game in Baltimore?

    Let's not forget to mention the two tight ends in Seattle, Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, who are an integral part of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's attack.

    Speaking of Graham, we'll be waiting to see what he looks like after he went down with a season-ending patella injury last November. Can he return to being the elite red-zone target the Seahawks had in mind when they traded for him?

    When you talk about elite tight ends, you can't go long without mentioning Antonio Gates, who is 36 years old and still making plays on the field. In fact, the NFL is loaded with guys who are getting up there in years but still have the ability to threaten defensive coordinators on every down. Jason Witten (34), Greg Olsen (31), Delanie Walker (32) and Zach Miller (31) are ready to show they still have plenty left in the tank and their best days are ahead of them.

    Then, on the other end of the spectrum, guys such as Gronkowski (27) in New England, Travis Kelce (26) in Kansas City, Tyler Eifert (25) in Cincinnati and Jordan Reed (26) in Washington are just coming into their primes.

     

    Grading Scale

    Route: Route Running (Graded out of 20)

    Hands: Hands (Graded out of 25)

    YAC: Yards After Catch (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Tight End Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamRouteHandsYACBlkPosOvr
    1Rob GronkowskiNE18241824690
    2Jason WittenDAL17221622683
    3Greg OlsenCAR18231619682
    4Jimmy GrahamSEA18221817682
    5Jordan ReedWAS18221718681
    6Delanie WalkerTEN18231420681
    7Jacob TammeATL17191621679
    8Kyle RudolphMIN16201423679
    9Vernon DavisWAS18191719679
    10Tyler EifertCIN18201618678
    11Luke WillsonSEA16201620678
    12Zach MillerCHI17191718677
    13Antonio GatesSD18221318677
    14Richard RodgersGB17201519677
    15Crockett GillmoreBAL17191519676
    16Maxx WilliamsBAL15241219676
    17Travis KelceKC18211615676
    18Zach ErtzPHI15201519675
    19Virgil GreenDEN15241515675
    20Jermaine GreshamARI16191618675
    21Jared CookGB15201321675
    22Anthony FasanoTEN16191221674
    23Cameron BrateTB15211517674
    24Brent CelekPHI14191420673
    25Martellus BennettNE16211119673
    26Coby FleenerNO17191516673
    27Julius ThomasJAX18191118672
    28Charles ClayBUF17201118672
    29Josh HillNO15191418672
    30C.J. FiedorowiczHOU14211021672
    31Nick BoyleBAL14221119672
    32Clive WalfordOAK16211018671
    33Larry DonnellNYG15191417671
    34Jesse JamesPIT14211020671
    35Jack DoyleIND14231018671
    36Tyler KroftCIN14161519670
    37Gary BarnidgeCLE19201113669
    38Andrew QuarlessDET14171418669
    39Mychal RiveraOAK22161015669
    40Chris GraggBUF15221016669
    41Dwayne AllenIND15231114669
    42Lee SmithOAK13211118669
    43Hunter HenrySD15181020669
    44Austin HooperATL14191020669
    45Jordan CameronMIA17201015668
    46Eric EbronDET15161417668
    47Troy NiklasARI12161221667
    48Tyler HigbeeLA14181019667
    49Lance KendricksLA14161218666
    50David JohnsonPIT1520915665
    51Nick VannettSEA1318919665
    52David Morgan IIMIN14171216665
    53John PhillipsDEN1621911663
    54Temarrick HemingwayLA1317918663
    55Jerell AdamsNYG13151116661
    56Beau SandlandCAR14141016660
    57Thomas DuarteFA13121512658
    58Rico GathersDAL13151013657

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Ladarius Green—PUP list
    • Ben Watson—out for season

Left Tackles

7 of 21

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    It's no surprise that Joe Thomas sits atop the left tackle rankings entering the 2016 season. He has played 8,959 consecutive snaps, and when you turn on his film, it is easy to believe what you are seeing is routine and you are watching the same play on a loop. But the truth is, there is nothing routine about it—we are witnessing greatness on each and every snap from a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Not to be outdone, Andrew Whitworth, Trent Williams and Tyron Smith also consistently dominate and provide their teams with elite performance on the left side. Intriguing in its own right is whether the Eagles' Jason Peters can have a bounce-back year in terms of health and provide a consistent anchor to the left side of Philly’s new-look offense.

    In his fourth season with the Saints, Terron Armstead has started to grab the attention of many around the NFL. He took a huge step forward in 2015 and was rewarded with a contract extension worth $65.25 million, with $25 million guaranteed.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run-Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Left Tackle Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Joe ThomasCLE23231820892
    2Tyron SmithDAL23222018891
    3Trent WilliamsWAS22232018891
    4Andrew WhitworthCIN22231918890
    5Terron ArmsteadNO23201820889
    6Jason PetersPHI22202019889
    7Joe StaleySF23211718887
    8Cordy GlennBUF21212016886
    9Donald PennOAK21222014885
    10Duane BrownHOU21221915885
    11Ronnie StanleyBAL23201617884
    12Jared VeldheerARI19201917883
    13Taylor LewanTEN19211717882
    14Anthony CastonzoIND18211616879
    15David BakhtiariGB20191616879
    16Jake MatthewsATL21171516877
    17Branden AlbertMIA18181518877
    18Russell OkungDEN19191515876
    19Donovan SmithTB17211614876
    20Michael OherCAR19181515875
    21Kelvin BeachumJAX20171614875
    22Ryan CladyNYJ19161517875
    23Taylor DeckerDET20161615875
    24Eric FisherKC19191414874
    25Greg RobinsonLA17171616874
    26King DunlapSD19161614873
    27Nate SolderNE18151616873
    28Matt KalilMIN15151717872
    29Charles Leno Jr.CHI18161416872
    30Spencer DrangoCLE17161714872
    31Ryan HarrisPIT18171414871
    32Ereck FlowersNYG14151616869
    33Jason SpriggsGB14151516868
    34Alejandro VillanuevaPIT14141417867
    35LaAdrian WaddleNE16151414867
    36Cornelius LucasDET15161214865
    37Bradley SowellSEA15151313864
    38Brandon ShellNYJ16131314864
    39Chris HairstonSD16141312863

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Right Tackles

8 of 21

    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    The importance of the right tackle position is often overlooked as it relates to how the general public spotlights left tackles, but any quarterback or running back will tell you that right tackles matter. When you factor in guys like Von Miller, J.J. Watt, and Khalil Mack, who frequently play over the right tackle, there cannot be a significant drop-off in talent between left tackle and right tackle if an NFL offense expects to have success

    This offseason saw a few marquee right tackles find new homes. Mitchell Schwartz, who is regarded by our system as the best right tackle in the NFL, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Bobby Massie joined the Chicago Bears, and Donald Stephenson signed with the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

    With the continued development of Marcus Gilbert, who had a breakout season last year in Pittsburgh, and Ja'Wuan James, who is really coming into his own for Miami, there are a lot of guys to be excited about at the position.

    There are a few intriguing storylines at the position heading into the season. The San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis, who retired after the 2014 season when he was regarded as the best right tackle in the NFL, is returning to the field. Davis didn't show much rust upon his return, but still found himself in a position battle against Trenton Brown, who had an outstanding preseason. Davis figures to be the starter at right guard when the games count for real.

    The biggest storyline at this position could be that the Eagles' Lane Johnson faces a potential 10-game suspension after allegedly registering his second violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. What's interesting about his story is that this past offseason the Eagles gave Johnson a five-year contract extension worth up to $63 million that includes $35.5 million guaranteed. It is still unclear if Johnson will be available for Week 1.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run-Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Right Tackle Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Mitchell SchwartzKC23231617786
    2Marcus GilbertPIT22221718786
    3Lane JohnsonPHI22221618785
    4Bryan BulagaGB22221816785
    5Ryan SchraederATL22231615783
    6Ja'Wuan JamesMIA22211616782
    7Bobby MassieCHI20201718782
    8Zach StriefNO19211815780
    9Rob HavensteinLA22171815779
    10Trenton BrownSF18221814779
    11Riley ReiffDET19221614778
    12Morgan MosesWAS20201714778
    13Doug FreeDAL19191914778
    14Chris ClarkHOU17201815777
    15Joe BarksdaleSD19171617776
    16Mike RemmersCAR19191714776
    17Andre Smith Jr.MIN20181615776
    18Derek NewtonHOU15221615775
    19Jermey ParnellJAX15191717775
    20Marcus CannonNE20161715775
    21Donald StephensonDEN19171417774
    22Halapoulivaati VaitaiPHI18191614774
    23Michael OlaFA17171417772
    24Garry GilliamSEA17161517772
    25Demar DotsonTB18161417772
    26Jack ConklinTEN17201413771
    27Jordan MillsBUF17181712771
    28Cedric OgbuehiCIN19151416771
    29Breno GiacominiNYJ16191613771
    30Austin PasztorCLE17161615771
    31Shon ColemanCLE16161913771
    32Joe ReitzIND16151814770
    33Cameron FlemingNE18171414770
    34Gosder CherilusTB19141515770
    35Menelik WatsonOAK17161614770
    36Austin HowardOAK16171613769
    37Ben IjalanaNYJ15171614769
    38Ricky WagnerBAL18171313768
    39Allen BarbrePHI16151614768
    40Le'Raven ClarkIND15151416767
    41Seantrel HendersonBUF15161712767
    42Kyle MurphyGB16161513767
    43Erik PearsFA15161312763
    44T.J. ClemmingsMIN15141215763
    45Jah ReidKC14151313762
    46John TheusSF14151313762
    47Marshall NewhouseNYG15121214760

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Offensive Guards

9 of 21

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The biggest news at the guard position this offseason happened September 3, when the Packers released Josh Sitton, one of the best at his position at the NFL, and saw him sign with the Bears, Green Bay's NFC North rival. With Sitton and Kyle Long, who just signed a lucrative and well-deserved contract extension, Chicago may well have the NFL's best guard tandem. The Packers now have T.J. Lang, a very solid player in his own right, and a projected rotation that will find it tough to match Sitton's consistency.

    When it comes to the best at the position, it's tough to argue against Baltimore's Marshal Yanda. Through his nine-year career, Yanda has turned his strength, athleticism, understanding of the game, and pure meanness into a peerless skill set.

    If Yanda wants to keep the wolves at bay and maintain that top spot through the 2016 season, he's going to have to fight off a ton of competition, especially among two young guards whose starts are rising very quickly. Zack Martin of the Cowboys has helped establish the league's best offensive line with his own attributes (start with a true nasty streak in the run game), and Carolina's Trai Turner has what it takes to be the best at his position in the game. Drive-blocking, pass sets, pulling, and working his way through a complex run game—Turner took a huge step forward in 2015, and we expect more of the same in 2016.

    Look for Oakland's Gabe Jackson and Indianapolis' Jack Mewhort to advance their names in this exciting class of young guards. Veteran stories abound as well. Can Richie Incognito maintain his surprising 2015 season, in which he came back from self-imposed oblivion and managed to impress with a new level of technique? And can Evan Mathis, one of the smartest guys in the league, continue to impress for his third team in three seasons? If he can, the Cardinals may challenge Chicago for the best guard twosome with Mathis and Mike Iupati.

    Guard isn't a traditionally glamorous position, but when you look at the salaries these guys are making, you know how valued they are among NFL coaches and executives. We value them here as well, and here's how we see the class heading into the new season.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run-Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Offensive Guard Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Marshal YandaBAL22241916788
    2Zack MartinDAL23241815787
    3Trai TurnerCAR20242016787
    4Josh SittonCHI23201718785
    5Richie IncognitoBUF21241913784
    6Evan MathisARI18241617782
    7Gabe JacksonOAK20221713779
    8Mike IupatiARI17231912778
    9Jack MewhortIND21181814778
    10Andrew NorwellCAR19211714778
    11Clint BolingCIN18201716778
    12T.J. LangGB20181616777
    13David DeCastroPIT20181715777
    14Kyle LongCHI17191618777
    15Joel BitonioCLE17181519776
    16Kelechi OsemeleOAK14231714775
    17Kevin ZeitlerCIN17181815775
    18Mark GlowinskiSEA17181518775
    19La'el CollinsDAL15191914774
    20Justin PughNYG19161516773
    21Brandon BrooksPHI20121420773
    22Alex BooneMIN14181816773
    23Jeff AllenHOU17181614772
    24Anthony DavisSF19171712772
    25Cole TonerARI18171515772
    26John MillerBUF16161715771
    27John GrecoCLE18161416771
    28Joe ThuneyNE17161318771
    29Ronald LearyDAL18181612771
    30Ramon FosterPIT17191710770
    31Chris ChesterATL14171517770
    32A.J. CannJAX16171614770
    33James CarpenterNYJ15171714770
    34Laken TomlinsonDET13161816770
    35Quinton SpainTEN15161715770
    36Laremy TunsilMIA16131617769
    37Joshua GarnettSF14161715769
    38Stefen WisniewskiPHI17151614769
    39Billy TurnerMIA15161615769
    40Rodger SaffoldLA16141517769
    41Ali MarpetTB11161618768
    42Denzelle GoodIND16151614768
    43Andy LevitreATL15151515767
    44Brandon ScherffWAS16141713767
    45Christian WestermanCIN13141715766
    46D.J. FlukerSD15141713766
    47Cody WhitehairCHI16131416766
    48Germain IfediSEA12171713766
    49Max GarciaDEN14181710766
    50Brandon FuscoMIN15141416766
    51Jonathan CooperNE13151714766
    52Xavier Su'a-FiloHOU13161416766
    53Connor McGovernDEN13151318766
    54Jamon BrownLA14161612765
    55Alex LewisBAL15141514765
    56Zane BeadlesSF16131514765
    57Spencer LongWAS15141415765
    58Larry WarfordDET14171611765
    59Shawn LauvaoWAS13161613765
    60John UrschelBAL12151516765
    61Ted KarrasNE15151513765
    62Chance WarmackTEN13161612764
    63Cody WichmannLA14131614764
    64Tim LelitoNO11161614764
    65Andrew TillerSF15141612764
    66Ty SambrailoDEN16131414764
    67Orlando FranklinSD16141512764
    68Mackenzy BernadeauFA14151413763
    69Andrus PeatNO10141616763
    70Parker EhingerKC14151413763
    71Jahri EvansNO13161710763
    72Laurent Duvernay-TardifKC13121219763
    73John JerryNYG14121614763
    74Luke JoeckelJAX14131514763
    75Hugh ThorntonIND12151613763
    76Michael SchofieldDEN14161214763
    77Jonotthan HarrisonIND13131415762
    78Garrett ReynoldsLA13151512762
    79Brian WintersNYJ12131416762
    80Kevin PamphileTB13131316762
    81Senio KelemeteNO12131614762
    82Oday AboushiHOU14151511762
    83Joe HaegIND14121415762
    84Jermon BushrodMIA12111516761
    85Joe DahlDET13131216761
    86Wes SchweitzerATL12151413761
    87Isaac SeumaloPHI11131514760
    88Vladimir DucasseFA11151512760
    89Sebastian TretolaTEN12141610759
    90Mike PersonATL13111116758
    91Vadal AlexanderOAK12141510758
    92Rees OdhiamboSEA12131312757
    93Donavon ClarkSD11131510756
    94Dallas ThomasMIA10121313755

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • J.R. Sweezy—back injury

Centers

10 of 21

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Center has never been a glamorous position, but when you look at the great offensive lines in NFL history, good luck finding one without a center who was worth his weight in intelligence, toughness and savvy when it came to shifting lines and protection calls.

    In today's NFL, where hybrid defenders are the norm and ever-changing pass-rushing and run-stopping schemes are more common than ever, the center's importance is reflective. The NFL's best center, Dallas' Travis Frederick, is the point man for the league's best offensive line, and that's no coincidence. Weston Richburg of the Giants faces a different type of challenge—he's the only true standout on a line that has seen iffy performances despite boasting a lot of first-round picks.

    Several up-and-comers look to join the ranks of Frederick and Richburg in the new season. Kansas City's Mitch Morse has all the tools to become an All-Pro. Buffalo's Eric Wood may be the most underrated center (we'll endeavor to change that), and two teams in the NFC North have two good players at the position: Green Bay with Corey Linsley and J.C. Tretter, and Minnesota with Joe Berger and Nick Easton.

    Look also for a couple of players who are switching positions: Cleveland's Cameron Erving and Seattle's Justin Britt. Both youngsters have shown impressive development in their short times at NFL center, and with rookies Ryan Kelly and Evan Boehm also showing great potential in the preseason, this position is in good hands for the league's future.

     

    Grading Scale:

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run-Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Center Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Travis FrederickDAL23242017690
    2Weston RichburgNYG22221818686
    3Ryan KalilCAR20211517679
    4Mike PounceyMIA17191718677
    5Eric WoodBUF19181717677
    6Jeremy ZuttahBAL19201616677
    7Maurkice PounceyPIT18191617676
    8Rodney HudsonOAK18211710672
    9JC TretterGB19181217672
    10Max UngerNO18171516672
    11Corey LinsleyGB17191713672
    12Ryan KellyIND17151618672
    13Mitch MorseKC17181218671
    14Joe BergerMIN16171615670
    15Evan BoehmARI15171715670
    16Jason KelcePHI18171117669
    17Nick MangoldNYJ16181810668
    18John SullivanFA1619189668
    19Ben JonesTEN16191611668
    20Justin BrittSEA15181316668
    21Alex MackATL15181810667
    22Khaled HolmesFA17181610667
    23Brian SchwenkeTEN16181512667
    24Cameron ErvingCLE15161416667
    25David AndrewsNE16171314666
    26Brandon LinderJAX16171314666
    27Max TuerkSD16141515666
    28Matt SlausonSD1518187664
    29Cody WallacePIT12161713664
    30Matt ParadisDEN16171014663
    31Marcus MartinSF13151612662
    32Patrick LewisBUF15161312662
    33Joey HuntSEA14151413662
    34Ted LarsenCHI15151411661
    35Russell BodineCIN1415168659
    36A.Q. ShipleyARI1416148658
    37Daniel KilgoreSF14151013658
    38Joe HawleyTB1415166657
    39Bryan StorkFA13151112657
    40Josh LeRibeusFA14131013656
    41Kory LichtensteigerWAS12141113656
    42Tim BarnesLA1413129654
    43Travis SwansonDET13141110654
    44Austin BlytheIND1214128652

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Nick Martin—ankle surgery
    • Hroniss Grasu—torn ACL 

3-4 Defensive Ends

11 of 21

    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    Outside of probably the best defensive player in football, 3-4 defensive ends don't get the headlines 4-3 ends do. Today's NFL asks 3-4 ends to play the run with athleticism and length, but most of them kick inside and play defensive tackle on passing downs and need to win with leverage and strength as well. Only the very best offer this type of versatility, and it shows with who graded out as the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.

    After all-around badass J.J. Watt, there are Cameron Heyward, Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell and Muhammad Wilkerson. Having an awesome name isn't a requirement—all of these guys also have the required athleticism, length and versatility to be dominant players along the defensive line.

    Look for second-year defenders Henry Anderson, Arik Armstead and Leonard Williams to take the next step after posting strong rookie campaigns. However, Williams started playing some nose tackle this preseason and could end up being graded in that category if he sticks. He's so good versus the run that he should hold his own at the nose. That's the type of versatility you look for in these guys.

     

    Grading Scale

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 15)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 30)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    3-4 Defensive End Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamSnapRushRunTklPosOvr
    1J.J. WattHOU15252817691
    2Jurrell CaseyTEN14212715683
    3Mike DanielsGB12212516680
    4Muhammad WilkersonNYJ14232215680
    5Calais CampbellARI13212416680
    6Sheldon RichardsonNYJ13212314677
    7Cameron HeywardPIT12202414676
    8Derek WolfeDEN12192316676
    9Jaye HowardKC12192313673
    10Malik JacksonJAX13221813672
    11Leonard WilliamsNYJ11172315672
    12Joey BosaSD13172212670
    13Timmy JerniganBAL9172413669
    14Stephon TuittPIT10182213669
    15Allen BaileyKC10162214668
    16Corey LiugetSD9172213667
    17Vinny CurryPHI13201612667
    18Arik ArmsteadSF8162115666
    19Henry AndersonIND10152015666
    20DaQuan JonesTEN7122416665
    21Mario Edwards Jr.OAK12151814665
    22DeForest BucknerSF11152013665
    23Karl KlugTEN11181613664
    24Jared CrickDEN9152014664
    25Jonathan BullardCHI12141814664
    26Robert NkemdicheARI12161911664
    27Chris I. BakerWAS8151915663
    28John HughesCLE8172012663
    29Quinton DialSF8122413663
    30Frostee RuckerARI10151813662
    31Kendall ReyesWAS10151912662
    32Vance WalkerDEN8141914661
    33Kendall LangfordIND9132013661
    34Xavier CooperCLE12161512661
    35Chris JonesKC11151712661
    36Datone JonesGB10131615660
    37Jarvis JenkinsNYJ10151614660
    38Dean LowryGB10141613659
    39Lawrence GuyBAL10131712658
    40Bronson KaufusiBAL10151512658
    41Ricky Jean FrancoisWAS9121812657
    42Denico AutryOAK9131613657
    43Justin EllisOAK7102014657
    44Will SuttonCHI12131511657
    45Ricardo MathewsPIT8121812656
    46Mike PennelGB10111612655
    47Taylor HartSF7121713655
    48Letroy GuionGB7121712654
    49Leger DouzableBUF7101713653
    50Mitch UnreinCHI9101513653
    51Carl NassibCLE10121312653
    52Tony Jerod-EddieSF8101612652
    53Devon StillHOU9101312650
    54Billy WinnDEN881211645

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Desmond Bryant—torn pectoral 

4-3 Defensive Ends

12 of 21

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Ezekiel Ansah and Michael Bennett are the league's premier pass-rushers at 4-3 defensive end. Both men are athletic and strong, have violent hands and can play the run and pass equally. Ansah is still developing, and that should be scary for opposing defenses.

    Keep an eye on Trey Flowers in New England; he might be the breakout defensive end in 2016. He has had a good preseason in his second year, and with his positional versatility, he should see plenty of snaps for the Patriots. He isn't the quickest or strongest, but Flowers finds a way to consistently pressure the quarterback.

    I'm also looking for Jason Pierre-Paul to recapture his previous form after he severely injured his hand in 2015 and returned with mixed results when healthy. He looked sharper in preseason, and I expect him to have a good year.

    Lastly, I'm looking for Kony Ealy to take the next step for Carolina. After an impressive Super Bowl performance, Ealy has higher expectations and could boost the pass rush for an already good Panthers defense. He was originally thought of as an interior nickel rusher, but he has shown he can win on the edge, which could make him a dynamic rusher.

     

    Grading Scale

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    4-3 Defensive End Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamRushRunSnapTklPosOvr
    1Michael BennettSEA21231716784
    2Ezekiel AnsahDET23191915783
    3Olivier VernonNYG22171816780
    4Robert QuinnLA20161916778
    5Brandon GrahamPHI20201516778
    6Cliff AvrilSEA20161914776
    7Carlos DunlapCIN21191415776
    8Chandler JonesARI16211417775
    9Jabaal SheardNE18171616774
    10Robert AyersTB19181416774
    11Cameron JordanNO17221216774
    12Rob NinkovichNE17201218774
    13Cameron WakeMIA19151815774
    14Dante FowlerJAX19141816774
    15William HayesLA16201218773
    16Everson GriffenMIN19171515773
    17Frank ClarkSEA18161715773
    18Connor BarwinPHI18171614772
    19Jerry HughesBUF19141912771
    20Dwight FreeneyATL21131812771
    21Danielle HunterMIN14161716770
    22Devin TaylorDET16141614767
    23Brian RobisonMIN12201017766
    24Kony EalyCAR18151213765
    25Michael D. JohnsonCIN13181215765
    26Trey FlowersNE15161314765
    27Noah SpenceTB16131712765
    28Vic BeasleyATL16121712764
    29Charles JohnsonCAR14171412764
    30Randy GregoryDAL15141612764
    31Jason Pierre-PaulNYG13171214763
    32Mario WilliamsMIA17131412763
    33Shaq LawsonBUF17131313763
    34Emmanuel OgbahCLE14151314763
    35Shilique CalhounOAK17111810763
    36DeMarcus LawrenceDAL15141412762
    37Jared OdrickJAX13171114762
    38Matt JudonBAL13131514762
    39Jason D. JonesMIA14161113761
    40Kasim EdebaliNO14121414761
    41Adrian ClaybornATL12161213760
    42Charles TapperDAL12131414760
    43Chris LongNE12151213759
    44Yannick NgakoueJAX16131211759
    45Ronald BlairSF12131512759
    46Kevin DoddTEN13131213758
    47Stephen WeatherlyMIN12121512758
    48Alex McCalisterPHI14101710758
    49Kerry WynnNYG8171015757
    50George JohnsonTB14121311757
    51Howard JonesTB15101411757
    52Anthony ZettelDET10161113757
    53Ryan DavisFA13111411756
    54Bobby RichardsonNO10141114756
    55Jacquies SmithTB1591510756
    56Trevor BatesIND12111412756
    57Andre BranchMIA11121312755
    58Darryl TappNO12111312755
    59Mario AddisonCAR12111211753
    60Ryan DelaireCAR11111212753
    61Terrence FedeMIA11121211753
    62Derrick ShelbyATL10121112752
    63William GholstonTB714814750
    64Wallace GilberryDET1112812750
    65Kroy BiermannFA814813750
    66Eugene SimsLA9111012749

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None 

Defensive Tackles

13 of 21

    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Defensive line play is highly valued in the NFL right now. The league is littered with great athletes and technically sound players at the position. Leading that group is Rams superstar Aaron Donald, who's been a premier player in the league over the past two seasons. His freakish athleticism, awareness and sound technique allow him to dominate any offensive lineman he faces.

    Behind him in that elite group are Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox and Cincinnati's Geno Atkins. The latter has been a phenomenal 3-technique for the Bengals throughout his career, and Cox is making the switch to 3-technique under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, where he's thrived this preseason.

    Behind those three, there are familiar names in Gerald McCoy, Kawann Short and Ndamukong Suh. Short enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, posting 11 sacks for a stalwart Panthers front seven. Suh started off slowly last season but was his dominant self Weeks 7-16.

    The Rams have an incredible group of defensive tackles with Michael Brockers and Dominique Easley filling in behind Donald. Easley has struggled through some unfortunate injury luck, but his talent has never been in question.

    An underrated unit is the Vikings trio of Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson. Joseph has established himself as one of the best nose tackles in the game, while Floyd has been a disruptive presence at 3-technique when healthy.

    A few underrated defensive tackles in the league right now are Atlanta's Grady Jarrett, Dallas' Jack Crawford, Buffalo's Corbin Bryant, Jacksonville's Roy Miller and San Diego's Brandon Mebane. All played well last season and should stand out more in increased roles this year. Two second-year players who need big seasons are Danny Shelton of the Cleveland Browns and Jordan Phillips of the Miami Dolphins. Both struggled as rookies.

     

    Grading Scale

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 25)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Defensive Tackle Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamSnapRushRunTklPosOvr
    1Aaron DonaldLA24242315692
    2Fletcher CoxPHI23242215690
    3Geno AtkinsCIN23232314689
    4Ndamukong SuhMIA22222315688
    5Kawann ShortCAR23212413687
    6Gerald McCoyTB23222114686
    7Dontari PoeKC22192314684
    8Marcell DareusBUF21192314683
    9Michael BrockersLA19192414682
    10Malcom BrownNE19192215681
    11Brandon J. WilliamsBAL19162415680
    12Linval JosephMIN18162515680
    13Kyle D. WilliamsBUF19202114680
    14Dominique EasleyLA23191813679
    15Sharrif FloydMIN21192013679
    16Alan BranchNE19172215679
    17Nick FairleyNO21182013678
    18Damon HarrisonNYG18142515678
    19Bennie LoganPHI18172314678
    20Johnathan HankinsNYG19182015678
    21Roy MillerJAX18152315677
    22Haloti NgataDET18172115677
    23Corbin BryantBUF19182013676
    24Ian WilliamsSF18152314676
    25Tom JohnsonMIN20191812675
    26Paul SoliaiCAR17132415675
    27Grady JarrettATL19181913675
    28Brandon MebaneSD18152313675
    29Tyrone CrawfordDAL18172014675
    30Tyson AlualuJAX20171814675
    31Akiem HicksCHI17181914674
    32Star LotuleleiCAR18172013674
    33Jonathan BabineauxATL20161715674
    34Henry MeltonDEN21191612674
    35Vince WilforkHOU15162215674
    36Ra'Shede HagemanATL20132014673
    37Rodney GunterARI16171915673
    38Caraun ReidSD17181814673
    39Eddie GoldmanCHI17162014673
    40Clinton McDonaldTB19181613672
    41Jack CrawfordDAL18181713672
    42Sylvester WilliamsDEN16162013671
    43Cedric ThorntonDAL17152013671
    44Robert NkemdicheARI20151713671
    45Domata PekoCIN16161814670
    46Akeem SpenceTB17161813670
    47Jay BromleyNYG17151813669
    48Ahtyba RubinSEA16141914669
    49Kenny ClarkGB18151713669
    50Zach KerrIND16141715668
    51Kyle LoveCAR15142012667
    52Jarran ReedSEA16151713667
    53Vernon ButlerCAR19131811667
    54Earl MitchellMIA15171612666
    55Cullen JenkinsWAS17151612666
    56Michael B. BennettJAX16151514666
    57Tyson JacksonATL16131813666
    58David ParryIND14131814665
    59A'Shawn RobinsonDET15141812665
    60Maliek CollinsDAL17151413665
    61Abry JonesJAX15141712664
    62Dan WilliamsOAK13141912664
    63Tony McDanielSEA16141612664
    64Jordan HillSEA15131613663
    65Tyeler DavisonNO16131612663
    66Jihad WardOAK16161411663
    67Adolphus WashingtonBUF14151612663
    68Javon HargravePIT16141512663
    69Adam GotsisDEN14161512663
    70Terrance KnightonFA15131612662
    71Danny SheltonCLE13141612661
    72Beau AllenPHI13141810661
    73Sheldon DayJAX14131612661
    74D.J. ReaderHOU14121811661
    75Jordan PhillipsMIA13141611660
    76John JenkinsNO15111513660
    77Austin JohnsonTEN13151312659
    78Vincent ValentineNE12141511658
    79Hassan RidgewayIND13151311658
    80Quinton JeffersonSEA14141211657
    81Darius LathamOAK13121412657
    82Markus KuhnFA14111312656
    83Nick HaydenFA12131411656
    84Andrew BillingsCIN14111312656
    85Dwan EdwardsFA13111312655
    86Mike PurcellSF13111510655
    87Al WoodsTEN13111410654
    88David OnyemataNO13111211653
    89Matt IoannidisWAS12131210653

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Sheldon Rankins—injured reserve
    • Sealver Siliga—injured reserve

3-4 Outside Linebackers

14 of 21

    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    We've entered a golden age of 3-4 rush linebackers. Khalil Mack, Von Miller and Justin Houston have Hall of Fame-caliber talent and elite production, while other young rushers such as Aaron Lynch and Jadeveon Clowney could be ready to make the jump into the upper tier of game-plan wreckers.

    The top three at the position are firmly in place, with Mack coming off an All-Pro season, Miller now the highest-paid defensive player and reigning Super Bowl MVP, and Houston only two years removed from a 22-sack season.

    As long as the 3-4 defense remains prevalent in the NFL, rush linebacker will be a prime position with immense value. As the 2016 regular season nears, it's clear the NFL is stacked at the position with a strong combination of established stars, emerging young talent and veteran stalwarts.

     

    Grading Scale

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    3-4 Outside Linebacker Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamRushRunCvgTklPosOvr
    1Khalil MackOAK24241323791
    2Von MillerDEN24221323789
    3Justin HoustonKC23231123787
    4Pernell McPheeCHI2222921781
    5Clay MatthewsGB20211320781
    6DeMarcus WareDEN20211022780
    7Aaron LynchSF21191320780
    8Jadeveon ClowneyHOU2023723780
    9Whitney MercilusHOU2120822778
    10Ryan KerriganWAS2120920777
    11Tamba HaliKC2119920776
    12James HarrisonPIT19201020776
    13Brian OrakpoTEN19191020775
    14Melvin IngramSD2119720774
    15Willie YoungCHI18171019771
    16Aldon SmithOAK2018818771
    17Trent MurphyWAS1917918770
    18Shaquil BarrettDEN1817919770
    19Jerry AttaochuSD17191017770
    20Markus GoldenARI1917918770
    21Trent ColeIND1817918769
    22Preston SmithWAS1917817768
    23Lamarr HoustonCHI1618819768
    24Nate OrchardCLE1816917767
    25Arthur MoatsPIT17161017767
    26Leonard FloydCHI1717917767
    27Kamalei CorreaBAL15171018767
    28Dadi NicolasKC17161017767
    29Elvis DumervilBAL1617818766
    30Robert MathisIND1915817766
    31Julius PeppersGB1717817766
    32Nick PerryGB1718519766
    33Ahmad BrooksSF1518719766
    34Joe SchobertCLE16151117766
    35Sam AchoCHI1518916765
    36John SimonHOU1817914765
    37Shane RayDEN1716817765
    38Erik WaldenIND1617718765
    39Kyler FackrellGB1516918765
    40Derrick MorganTEN1616817764
    41Joshua PerrySD13151118764
    42Paul KrugerNO1815716763
    43Calvin PaceFA1617617763
    44Jonathan NewsomeFA1515917763
    45Jordan JenkinsNYJ1614917763
    46Eli HaroldSF1517617762
    47Alex OkaforARI1516618762
    48Jarvis JonesPIT1517815762
    49Armonty BryantCLE1616716762
    50David BassTEN1715716762
    51Courtney UpshawATL1218518760
    52Lamarr WoodleyFA1215719760
    53Za'Darius SmithBAL1315717759
    54Kyle EmanuelSD1413916759

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Bud Dupree—injured reserve

4-3 Outside Linebackers

15 of 21

    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    As NFL defenses continue to shift more and more toward shutting down opposing passing attacks, linebackers who can cover or rush the passer are becoming increasingly more important. Linebackers are more valuable when they can be three-down players, and it's no coincidence that those types of players top this list. Versatility is the name of the game.

    Heading into his third year in the league, Anthony Barr has quickly become the ideal NFL linebacker. He's fast, aggressive and instinctive. Barr is aware of the 21 other moving parts on any given play, allowing him to regularly put himself in the best position to make plays. Players as young as Barr (24) rarely display the confidence that he does. When Barr sees a play developing, there is no hesitation in his movements. He clicks and closes in a heartbeat, often resulting in big plays, whether that be a tackle for loss, a sack or a defended pass. There is nothing that Barr can't do.

    The unsung hero of this group is Dont'a Hightower. His teammate, Jamie Collins, tends to garner more of the attention (and for good reason, as he is also a top-five player at his position), but Hightower makes the New England defense work. There is not a linebacker in the league who is as destructive to offensive linemen as Hightower. He attacks the line of scrimmage and blows up blockers, forcing plays back to his teammates. Hightower is not a flashy player who racks up gaudy stats, but it is his understanding of opposing offenses and ability to facilitate that enables the other 10 Patriots defenders to make explosive plays. Hightower is the man behind the scenes who makes the movie work. He is the executive producer of the Patriots defense.

    Though it seems Bruce Irvin has been swept under the rug since he failed to be a full-time pass-rushing threat in Seattle, he is one of the more interesting outside linebackers in the league. Like the two aforementioned players, Irvin can do it all, though he does so from a different alignment. In Oakland, Irvin will play more like a 3-4 outside linebacker like he did in Seattle—a position that will ask him to rush off the edge, hold the perimeter in the run game, and defend the flats and boundary as a coverage player. Irvin provides an explosive pass rush off the edge, both as a pure speed threat and as a speed-to-power player.

    As a run defender, Irvin is wildly underrated. He can set the edge and force plays back inside, or he can shed blockers to make plays himself. He is a nimble player in tight areas and has a crafty way of finding his way to the ball-carrier. Irvin is also a quality coverage player, though he never gets credit for it. He can hold down the flats to prevent players from getting past the sticks. If his man carries up the sideline, Irvin has no problem turning and running with him. Though Irvin does not tend to line up in a traditional alignment for his position, he has a versatile skill set that allows him to be a playmaker on any down and distance.

     

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    4-3 Outside Linebacker Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRunRushTklPosOvr
    1Anthony BarrMIN24221423689
    2Thomas DavisCAR22241223687
    3Dont'a HightowerNE21231322685
    4Jamie CollinsNE22221221683
    5Sean LeeDAL21221022681
    6K.J. WrightSEA20211023680
    7Malcolm SmithOAK20211120678
    8Lavonte DavidTB17211123678
    9Bruce IrvinOAK18201220676
    10Vontaze BurfictCIN14211223676
    11Shaq ThompsonCAR16221121676
    12Mychal KendricksPHI18201319676
    13DeAndre LevyDET22171120676
    14Mark BarronLA17201020673
    15Karlos DansbyCIN19161120672
    16Telvin SmithJAX14201021671
    17Myles JackJAX1718921671
    18Nigel BradhamPHI2017720670
    19Daryl SmithTB2220615669
    20Akeem AyersIND1320920668
    21Neiron BallOAK18151118668
    22Philip WheelerATL1419718664
    23Chad GreenwayMIN1517620664
    24A.J. KleinCAR1518816663
    25Devon KennardNYG12171117663
    26Josh BynesDET1817615662
    27Kevin Pierre-LouisSEA1717616662
    28Vincent ReyCIN1118718660
    29A.J. HawkFA1219716660
    30Najee GoodeFA1315718659
    31Michael MorganSEA11151015657
    32Barkevious MingoNE1213917657
    33Jonathan CasillasNYG1416615657
    34Jelani JenkinsMIA1613615656
    35Thurston ArmbristerDET1016816656
    36De'Vondre CampbellATL1315615655
    37Sean WeatherspoonATL1315614654
    38Dan SkutaJAX8151015654
    39Jonathan FreenyNE1214616654
    40Koa MisiMIA1115616654
    41Paul DawsonFA1016615653
    42Emmanuel LamurMIN916714652
    43Damien WilsonDAL1014616652
    44Joplo BartuFA1015615652
    45Andrew GachkarDAL1113615651
    46Neville HewittMIA1510614651
    47Mark HerzlichNYG1512414651
    48Jatavis BrownSD1014714651
    49Jake GanusFA1213513649
    50Cameron LynchFA1013613648
    51Kyle WilberDAL814515648
    52Spencer PaysingerMIA1012515648
    53Justin DurantDAL1212512647
    54Kamu Grugier-HillPHI1410512647
    55J.T. ThomasNYG813613646
    56Ramon HumberBUF1112512646
    57Antwione WilliamsDET813514646
    58Cory JamesOAK1012513646
    59Devante BondTB811712644

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Jaylon Smith—knee injury
    • Steven Daniels—shoulder injury

Inside Linebackers

16 of 21

    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    It's Luke Kuechly's world, and the rest of us are just living in it. Few inside linebackers are on Kuechly's level with any given ability, and nobody is combining those skills into a transferable package as well as Kuechly. Whether covering tight ends up the seam, meeting lead blockers in the gap or chasing running backs to the sideline, Kuechly is a true three-down linebacker and the only one in the National Football League who is playing routinely above average. The Carolina Panthers have cracked the proverbial code in finding an inside linebacker who doesn't need to leave the field on third down.

    Behind Kuechly is a group of linebackers who can do one thing quite well, or show flashes of being complete players, but have failed to dominate week in and week out. Players such as San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman can return to All-Pro form but are dealing with injuries, team changes or the loss of strong teammates. The fluctuating performances of inside linebackers throughout the preseason have left defenses looking nearly unrecognizable as teams are forced to run varied looks and often resort to nickel packages as a base defense. Isolating specific traits from multiple players is the difference between fielding a top defense and looking incompetent each week. The result is twofold, with coaches often deciding how they'd least like their inside linebackers to be exploited.

    Entering the regular season, the top inside linebackers consist of a group of varied abilities. Kuechly's gold standard has set impossible expectations for others throughout the league, but with rosters limited on Sundays, coaches have to utilize players who can be versatile in multiple packages. The majority of the inside linebackers today fall into an average group of players who have inconsistent technique and, as a result, inconsistent results. In any given week, someone may make an impressive play to be noticed. Conversely, he might be targeted for his inefficiencies.

    An intriguing player to note for the upcoming season is Baltimore Raven Zach Orr. A third-year linebacker who went undrafted out of North Texas, Orr has earned the starting spot next to C.J. Mosley in Baltimore after beating out Arthur Brown throughout the preseason. Orr has the benefit of playing next to Mosley and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, two players who comfortably rush the passer. Orr is stout and aggressive, with good coverage skills that make him immensely valuable when the Ravens bring immediate pressure. Orr had nine tackles throughout the first three preseason games and showed well-rounded athleticism and versatility. He begins the season in the middle of the pack but could end his year in the top 10 with continued development.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 35)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Inside Linebacker Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunRushTklPosOvr
    1Luke KuechlyCAR24331414691
    2Jerrell FreemanCHI21321214685
    3Danny TrevathanCHI22311214685
    4C.J. (Clint) MosleyBAL20311313683
    5Bobby WagnerSEA21311213683
    6Derrick O. JohnsonKC18311313681
    7Brandon M. MarshallDEN20291213680
    8NaVorro BowmanSF15321314680
    9Deone BucannonARI24271112680
    10Wesley WoodyardTEN21301010677
    11Denzel PerrymanSD18301112677
    12Paul PoslusznyJAX15301114676
    13Alec OgletreeLA18301111676
    14Zach BrownBUF17301111675
    15Christian JonesCHI19261112674
    16Rolando McClainDAL16301111674
    17Benardrick McKinneyHOU1829912674
    18Ryan ShazierPIT19271111674
    19Zach OrrBAL20251112674
    20Tahir WhiteheadDET17281012673
    21Ben HeeneyOAK20251210673
    22Brian CushingHOU13301013672
    23Kevin MinterARI1728813672
    24Eric KendricksMIN16271112672
    25Jasper BrinkleyFA16291011672
    26Craig RobertsonNO21251010672
    27Gerald HodgesSF17251013671
    28David HarrisNYJ14281013671
    29Stephen TullochPHI13271213671
    30Avery WilliamsonTEN1726912670
    31Jordan A. HicksPHI16251013670
    32Stephone AnthonyNO15271210670
    33Mason FosterWAS15281110670
    34Preston BrownBUF17251011669
    35Chris KirkseyCLE15251013669
    36B.J. GoodsonNYG16261011669
    37D'Qwell JacksonIND1526912668
    38Sam BarringtonKC1725911668
    39Nick VigilCIN1725911668
    40Antonio MorrisonIND1824812668
    41Blake MartinezGB1727810668
    42Su'a CravensWAS192599668
    43Will ComptonWAS15241111667
    44Manti Te'oSD17241010667
    45Ray-Ray ArmstrongSF16251010667
    46Kentrell BrothersMIN1626910667
    47Kelvin SheppardNYG1625109666
    48Lawrence TimmonsPIT1624812666
    49Kwon AlexanderTB1624911666
    50Michael WilhoiteSF1525812666
    51Kiko AlonsoMIA1726710666
    52Todd DavisDEN14261010666
    53Justin MarchKC1725810666
    54Elandon RobertsNE172698666
    55Keenan RobinsonNYG1523813665
    56Shea McClellinNE14241011665
    57Alani FuaARI1425911665
    58James LaurinaitisNO1524812665
    59Jonathan AndersonCHI1426910665
    60Erin HendersonNYJ16231010665
    61Tyler MatakevichPIT1625711665
    62Darron LeeNYJ182489665
    63Paul WorrilowATL142888664
    64Rey MaualugaCIN1326811664
    65Scooby Wright IIICLE1623118664
    66Anthony HitchensDAL1621911663
    67Perry RileyFA1523810662
    68Deion JonesATL172289662
    69Demario DavisCLE142489661
    70Sio MooreIND1720810661
    71Jake RyanGB142579661
    72Nate PalmerTEN1422810660
    73DeMeco RyansFA1223810659
    74Josh ForrestLA152297659
    75Curtis LoftonFA1122810657
    76Nate IrvingFA142088656

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Reggie Ragland—knee injury
    • Joe Walker—torn ACL 

Cornerbacks

17 of 21

    Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    The life of an NFL cornerback is as difficult as that of any position, as the injection of otherworldly athletes at wide receiver hasn't stopped despite rule changes favoring the offense even more. The list is small when discussing the NFL's elite cornerbacks, as the cream of the crop blends premier physical traits with precise attention to detail. The list of the finest cornerbacks is once again headlined by familiar faces.

    The Arizona Cardinals boast two of the most versatile and unique cornerbacks in Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. Mathieu's ability to seamlessly line up at safety, slot and boundary cornerback is a critical piece of their talented defense. As he returns from a torn ACL, he must again prove himself after a setback.

    Peterson took a massive step forward in 2015 as he learned to control his diabetes and refined his footwork. Instead of being known as a physical specimen, he's as well-rounded as almost any corner in the league as he enters his sixth season. He's on the heels of longtime greats and potential Hall of Famers in New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

    Revis has seen a dip in his athleticism over the last two seasons, but he's still a standout in the secondary because of his physicality and intelligence. He's not to be taken lightly by any opponent despite being 31 years old. But his reign as the NFL's best came to an end in 2015.

    Young stars such as Atlanta Falcons corner Desmond Trufant, Kansas City Chiefs corner Marcus Peters and New Orleans Saints corner Delvin Breaux headline the new era of up-and-comers who hope to become stalwarts at the position for the foreseeable future. While interceptions help establish dominance, it's the play-to-play consistency that'll strike fear into the opposition from targeting these cornerbacks.

     

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 30)

    React: Reaction/Recovery (Graded out of 30)

    Slot: Slot (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 10)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Cornerback Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamCvgReactSlotTklPosOvr
    1Tyrann MathieuARI27271910992
    2Chris Harris Jr.DEN2726199990
    3Darrelle RevisNYJ26271810990
    4Patrick PetersonARI2728187989
    5Richard ShermanSEA2528179988
    6Desmond TrufantATL2725188987
    7Bradley RobyDEN2525179985
    8Marcus PetersKC2528147983
    9Jimmy SmithBAL2625157982
    10Darius SlayDET2621177980
    11Jason VerrettSD2425157980
    12Delvin BreauxNO2521168979
    13Jeremy LaneSEA2420186977
    14Ronald DarbyBUF2324146976
    15Trumaine JohnsonLA2321167976
    16Sean SmithOAK2622127976
    17Josh NormanWAS2522127975
    18Dominique Rodgers-CromartieNYG2223155974
    19Janoris JenkinsNYG2123156974
    20Malcolm ButlerNE2223145973
    21Adam JonesCIN2022157973
    22Bashaud BreelandWAS2321155973
    23Sam ShieldsGB2120166972
    24Orlando ScandrickDAL1921167972
    25Stephon GilmoreBUF2224106971
    26Casey HaywardSD2018177971
    27Robert AlfordATL2019176971
    28Kyle FullerCHI2020156970
    29Nolan CarrollPHI2019156969
    30Jimmie WardSF1817177968
    31Kareem JacksonHOU1815197968
    32Quandre DiggsDET1716187967
    33Vernon HargreavesTB1719175967
    34Jalen RamseyJAX1718148966
    35Tramaine BrockSF1816156964
    36Terence NewmanMIN1914166964
    37Johnathan JosephHOU2018116964
    38Kyle ArringtonBAL1615168964
    39Prince AmukamaraJAX1816119963
    40Damarious RandallGB1816146963
    41Lamarcus JoynerLA1317168963
    42Bryce CallahanCHI1716156963
    43James BradberryCAR1714158963
    44Captain MunnerlynMIN1613177962
    45Trae WaynesMIN1714175962
    46MacKensie AlexanderMIN1616165962
    47Aqib TalibDEN1817107961
    48Vontae DavisIND1817125961
    49Tracy PorterCHI1515166961
    50Trevin WadeNYG1516156961
    51Pierre DesirSD1715136960
    52Jalen MillsPHI1415166960
    53Xavier RhodesMIN1912136959
    54Patrick RobinsonIND1815134959
    55Eric RoweNE1517117959
    56Brent GrimesTB1718123959
    57Juston BurrisNYJ1617125959
    58Alterraun VernerTB1315165958
    59Tramon WilliamsCLE1717105958
    60Bene BenwikereCAR1214167958
    61Perrish CoxTEN1414156958
    62Brandon FlowersSD1516135958
    63Sean DavisPIT1315138958
    64DeShawn SheadSEA1316127957
    65Ross CockrellPIT1715115957
    66Kyle WilsonNO1513155957
    67Kevin A. JohnsonHOU161796957
    68Darius ButlerIND1315146957
    69Eli AppleNYG1613145957
    70Cyrus JonesNE1415145957
    71Will BlackmonWAS1614125956
    72Kenneth AckerKC1413146956
    73Sterling MooreNO1414154956
    74Buster SkrineNYJ1416125956
    75KeiVarae RussellKC1614125956
    76Kalan ReedTEN1416125956
    77Logan RyanNE1314127955
    78Leon HallNYG1412137955
    79Nickell RobeyBUF1511146955
    80Jalen CollinsATL1413126954
    81Nevin LawsonDET1414125954
    82Will RedmondSF1513143954
    83Rashard RobinsonSF1413153954
    84Byron MaxwellMIA171485953
    85Jayron HosleyFA1214126953
    86Justin BethelARI1314143953
    87Xavien HowardMIA1312118953
    88Daryl WorleyCAR1213136953
    89Zack SanchezCAR1114154953
    90William GayPIT1512115952
    91Dre KirkpatrickCIN151585952
    92Davon HouseJAX1314115952
    93Jamar TaylorCLE1211137952
    94William JacksonCIN1514104952
    95Kendall FullerWAS1411135952
    96Tavon YoungBAL1213117952
    97Eric MurrayKC1213126952
    98Harlan MillerARI1213126952
    99Phillip AdamsFA1212134950
    100Anthony BrownDAL1114124950
    101Bobby McCainMIA1211125949
    102K'Waun WilliamsFA1211116949
    103Johnthan BanksTB1312105949
    104Brandon WilliamsARI1311124949
    105Maurice CanadyBAL1312105949
    106David AmersonOAK131673948
    107Trumaine McBrideFA1011126948
    108Leodis McKelvinPHI1410105948
    109Artie BurnsPIT131394948
    110Justin ColemanNE111395947
    111Antonio CromartieIND151274947
    112Mike JenkinsARI119135947
    113Lardarius WebbBAL1112114947
    114Kevon SeymourBUF1111124947
    115Aaron ColvinJAX1210105946
    116Cary WilliamsFA121096946
    117Jerraud PowersBAL1210105946
    118Jude Adjei-BarimahTB911134946
    119Chris CulliverMIA1310104946
    120Sherrick McManisCHI1011124946
    121T.J. CarrieOAK1010115945
    122Prince Charles IworahSF129105945
    123Dwayne GratzJAX111284944
    124Shareece WrightBAL129104944
    125Neiko ThorpeFA111194944
    126D.J. WhiteKC111086944
    127Tyler PatmonFA910114943
    128Blidi Wreh-WilsonFA10987943
    129D.J. HaydenOAK91194942
    130Jordan LucasMIA101085942
    131Morris ClaiborneDAL101084941
    132Coty SensabaughLA810104941
    133Brice McCainTEN89104940
    134E.J. BiggersFA81084939
    135Brandon CarrDAL9974938
    136Trey CaldwellCLE7885937
    137LeShaun SimsTEN8775936
    138Greg TolerWAS7575933
    139Antwon BlakeTEN7753931

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Free Safeties

18 of 21

    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Free safety might be the most underrated position simply because they spend most of the time off camera on the TV broadcast. But they shouldn't be forgotten about completely, as they are incredibly important. Everyone knows of the elite guys such as Earl Thomas, Devin McCourty and Harrison Smith, but there are a few other interesting players to keep an eye on going into the season.

    One of the safety partnerships many are eager to see is in Philadelphia. The Eagles signed Rodney McLeod to join Malcolm Jenkins in the secondary. Jenkins was the free safety in Philadelphia last season but often played closer to the line of scrimmage in a strong safety role. McLeod should take over the deep-coverage responsibilities and, in theory, provide a solid partner with a complementary skill set to Jenkins.

    The retirement of Charles Woodson raises an interesting storyline. Oakland replaced him with free-agent Reggie Nelson, who should slot in well on paper but may struggle to replace the leadership and presence Woodson had. By signing with Oakland, Nelson left a hole to be filled in Cincinnati. The Bengals have depth at the position and should be able to promote from within, but it's impossible to say just how well a player will perform in an increased role until he actually does it.

    Eric Reid's play for the 49ers has seen him rise to the cusp of the top group of free safeties in the league. Expect him to improve this season and firmly grasp a spot near the top of these rankings. Texans safety Andre Hal is another one who could improve after a promising season last year. Meanwhile, the likes of Chicago and Atlanta have questions to answer at the free safety position.

     

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 30)

    Rec: Recovery (Graded out of 30)

    Slot: Slot/LB (Graded out of 10)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Free Safety Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRecSlotTklPosOvr
    1Earl ThomasSEA2729718889
    2Devin McCourtyNE2826818888
    3Harrison SmithMIN2626818886
    4Malcolm JenkinsPHI2723916883
    5Rodney McLeodPHI2427518882
    6Eric ReidSF2426617881
    7Darian StewartDEN2324717879
    8DeAngelo HallWAS2222817877
    9Andre HalHOU2323616876
    10Reggie NelsonOAK2321617875
    11Tashaun GipsonJAX2225812875
    12Michael GriffinFA2222716875
    13Marcus GilchristNYJ2222715874
    14Jairus ByrdNO2221617874
    15Darian ThompsonNYG2220717874
    16Ricardo AllenATL2221517873
    17Kurt ColemanCAR1923616872
    18Duron HarmonNE2122516872
    19Ha Ha Clinton-DixGB2121517872
    20Jordan PoyerCLE2120617872
    21Vonn BellNO2119717872
    22Micah HydeGB1921716871
    23Eric WeddleBAL2318714870
    24Shawn WilliamsCIN1819718870
    25Mike C. AdamsIND1918817870
    26Rashad JohnsonTEN2118515867
    27Antrel RolleFA1917716867
    28Glover QuinDET1918517867
    29Rahim MooreFA1819418867
    30Byron JonesDAL2021612867
    31Michael ThomasMIA1819516866
    32Bradley McDougaldTB1818616866
    33J.J. WilcoxDAL1919515866
    34Kevin ByardTEN1818616866
    35Adrian AmosCHI1817616865
    36Robert GoldenPIT1618716865
    37DeAndre Houston-CarsonCHI1717617865
    38Michael MitchellPIT1718615864
    39Tyvon BranchARI1716617864
    40Ron ParkerKC1818614864
    41Kendrick LewisBAL1719515864
    42Bacarri RamboFA1719614864
    43T.J. GreenIND1818614864
    44Justin SimmonsDEN1817615864
    45Antoine BetheaSF1616716863
    46Chris ConteTB1717416862
    47Chris ProsinskiCHI1516616861
    48Dashon GoldsonATL1917413861
    49Kavon FrazierDAL1616516861
    50Walt AikensMIA1616513858
    51Ed ReynoldsCLE1516513857
    52Larry AsanteFA1415414855
    53Sergio BrownFA1415512854

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None 

Strong Safeties

19 of 21

    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Eric Berry is one of the two best safeties in football. He does everything well—playing single high, covering the slot, running with athletic tight ends down the seam, hitting like a truck while being able to wrap up and factoring into the run game. He and Seattle's Kam Chancellor are the two clear headline players of the strong safety group. While they deserve their recognition, they shouldn't overshadow some other strong performers.

    Reshad Jones quietly had an exceptional season last year with the Dolphins, ranking fourth in the NFL in tackles with 135, an incredible effort from the strong safety position. Similarly, Tony Jefferson flew under the radar in Arizona's fantastically talented secondary. Both are solid, well-rounded players who should be reliable performers for their teams this season.

    Elsewhere, Jacksonville will hope that the arrival of Tashaun Gipson at free safety will allow Johnathan Cyprien to stay at his more natural strong safety position. The Jaguars struggled to find the right combination at safety last season, often switching Cyprien between both roles. Perhaps focusing on just one role will help the 2013 second-round pick reach his potential.

     

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Recovery (Graded out of 25)

    Slot: Slot/LB (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Strong Safety Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRecSlotTklPosOvr
    1Eric BerryKC24231918690
    2Kam ChancellorSEA22221819687
    3Reshad JonesMIA22211819686
    4T.J. WardDEN20211717681
    5Morgan BurnettGB19201718680
    6George IlokaCIN19211618680
    7Tony JeffersonARI18191818679
    8Calvin PryorNYJ17191817677
    9Kenny VaccaroNO17201716676
    10Quintin DempsHOU18181617675
    11Barry ChurchDAL18181716675
    12Karl JosephOAK19181616675
    13Isa Abdul-QuddusMIA17181617674
    14David BrutonWAS17171717674
    15Patrick ChungNE17181517673
    16Corey GrahamBUF17161717673
    17Eddie PleasantHOU17161717673
    18Dwight LowerySD17161617672
    19Jaquiski TarttSF17171516671
    20Da'Norris SearcyTEN16161517670
    21Roman HarperNO17161516670
    22Keanu NealATL17161615670
    23Miles KillebrewDET16161517670
    24K.J. DillonHOU16181416670
    25Deon BushCHI17171416670
    26Landon CollinsNYG15161716670
    27William MooreFA15141717669
    28Andrew SendejoMIN16161615669
    29Donte WhitnerFA16141616668
    30Daimion StaffordTEN15161516668
    31Derrick KindredCLE15161516668
    32Jayron KearseMIN17151614668
    33Marqui ChristianARI17151415667
    34Will ParksDEN15151613665
    35Will AllenFA15141514664
    36Kemal IshmaelATL15151314663
    37Jimmy WilsonFA14151513663
    38John CyprienJAX15141413662
    39Clayton FejedelemCIN14151413662
    40Taylor MaysFA13141315661
    41James IhedigboFA13141414661
    42T.J. McDonaldLA15131512661
    43Jahleel AddaeSD13141314660
    44Brandon MeriweatherFA13131413659
    45Robert BlantonBUF13131314659
    46Josh EvansFA13151212658

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Will Hill—10-game suspension
    • Kyshoen Jarrett—right shoulder nerve damage
    • Trenton Robinson—torn pectoral

Kickers

20 of 21

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2015 NFL season saw one of the biggest changes in the kicking game in recent history with the extra point being lengthened from 20 to 33 yards. A play that was successful 99.3 percent of the time in 2014 saw its accuracy dip to 94.2 percent on the longer extra points. While many people feared kickers would struggle on field goals as a result of reduced confidence, the 84.5 percent field-goal accuracy last season was actually a 0.5 percent improvement.

    Leading the way in the preseason rankings are Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys and Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots, who are the only two kickers above 80 in the NFL1000 rankings. Bailey and Gostkowski have established themselves with extended track records of excellence and are head and shoulders above any other kickers on this list. The next tier down features Steven Hauschka, looking to build more consistency on extra points, and Justin Tucker, who is trying to bounce back from a 2015 filled with long-distance woes and has a new contract with a record amount of guaranteed money for a kicker.

    Question marks this year can be found with Brandon McManus, who needs to prove his dramatic improvement in 2015 was not a fluke, as well as Blair Walsh, attempting to move past the disappointment of his costly miss in the 2015 playoffs. Greg Zuerlein of the Los Angeles Rams also has some serious questions regarding his accuracy, though six of his 10 misses came from 50-plus yards. Lastly, Dan Carpenter of the Bills and Jason Myers of the Jaguars look to improve on their disappointing performance on longer extra points last year, with both drawing the ire of their fanbases because of their inconsistency.

    One of only two true rookies expected to start in Week 1 is Roberto Aguayo, the second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a player of focus this preseason. While Aguayo had his struggles, he finished the preseason 8-of-10 on field goals and 7-of-8 on extra points, slightly below-average numbers, though he showed significant improvement in the final two weeks, with no misses during that time.

    Other young kickers to watch are Chandler Catanzaro of the Cardinals and Chris Boswell of the Steelers, who both have the ability to move into the upper echelon of NFL kickers but need to display more consistency from week to week.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pwr: Kick Power (Graded out of 40)

    Acc: Kick Accuracy (Graded out of 40)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 10)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Kicker Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamPwrAccTklPosOvr
    1Stephen GostkowskiNE35375380
    2Dan BaileyDAL34385380
    3Steven HauschkaSEA35316375
    4Justin TuckerBAL38286375
    5Dustin HopkinsWAS32317373
    6Matt PraterDET28355371
    7Josh BrownNYG25376371
    8Ryan SuccopTEN30325370
    9Brandon McManusDEN33285369
    10Phil DawsonSF30305368
    11Graham GanoCAR33257368
    12Chris BoswellPIT27317368
    13Adam VinatieriIND27325367
    14Robbie GouldFA29286366
    15Mason CrosbyGB27305365
    16Chandler CatanzaroARI31255364
    17Blair WalshMIN29265363
    18Mike NugentCIN28266363
    19Jason MyersJAX33207363
    20Josh LamboSD31208362
    21Andrew FranksMIA32225362
    22Caleb SturgisPHI30245362
    23Nick FolkNYJ25285361
    24Cairo SantosKC26266361
    25Sebastian JanikowskiOAK29235360
    26Connor BarthCHI28245360
    27Dan CarpenterBUF28226359
    28Nick NovakHOU23275358
    29Roberto AguayoTB26245358
    30Travis CoonsFA22255355
    31Matt BryantATL25215354
    32Greg ZuerleinLA30105348
    33Kai ForbathFA2597344

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Punters

21 of 21

    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The top of the punting rankings has a name that might not be familiar to many football fans but should be after his performance last year. Brett Kern of the Tennessee Titans holds down the top spot and is the only punter with a score of at least 80 in our initial rankings. Kern displayed phenomenal distance control and a big leg, and also showed above-average hang time in 2015. Perennial upper-echelon punters Pat McAfee, Sam Koch and Sam Martin occupy the next three spots, with each of them having strong campaigns as well.

    Britton Colquitt, recently cut by the Denver Broncos and signed by the Cleveland Browns, finds himself in fifth. Though his contract made him expendable in Denver, his performance in the second half of last season and in the Super Bowl propelled him to heights he has not seen before in his career. But he needs to prove he can perform in that fashion over a longer period of time. Also cut in the preseason, Mike Scifres is our 11th-ranked punter and will likely find himself work before the end of the year because of his accuracy and ball placement.

    Thomas Morstead, Tress Way and Drew Butler all have significant question marks surrounding their game, with Morstead and Way tied for the worst accuracy and distance control in the league with Shane Lechler and Butler having arguably the weakest leg out of any NFL punter. Scifres may find his way into one of these spots before the season is done.

    The standout young gun in this year's class is Drew Kaser, who has the ability to be an upper-tier punter this year. His track record at Texas A&M was outstanding, and his preseason work shows an uncanny ability to pin teams within their 10-yard line, with end-over-end punts stopping on a dime on a consistent basis. He has every tool necessary to be an elite punter early in his career; he simply needs to prove it.

    Rookies Riley Dixon and Lachlan Edwards also appear to have starting jobs to open the season. Dixon showed improvement throughout the preseason and has the potential to be a league-average punter this year, though Edwards has significant work to do in terms of consistency and leg strength to get there.

     

    Grading Scale

    Dist: Kick Distance (Graded out of 20)

    Hang: Kick Hang Time (Graded out of 20)

    Acc: Kick Accuracy (Graded out of 45)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 5)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Top Possible Score of 100

     

    Punter Rankings Week 1
    RankPlayerTeamDistHangAccTklPosOvr
    1Brett KernTEN1817393380
    2Pat McAfeeIND1616375377
    3Sam KochBAL1515404377
    4Sam MartinDET1415404376
    5Britton ColquittCLE1215413374
    6Jon RyanSEA1616363374
    7Andy LeeCAR1715353373
    8Bryan AngerTB1616335373
    9Ryan AllenNE1513374372
    10Matt BosherATL1714333370
    11Mike ScifresFA1414363370
    12Jordan BerryPIT1213374369
    13Chris JonesDAL1413353368
    14Johnny HekkerLA1615295368
    15Drew KaserSD1515323368
    16Dustin ColquittKC1514323367
    17Pat O'DonnellCHI1214343366
    18Marquette KingOAK1315323366
    19Kevin HuberCIN1416303366
    20Colton SchmidtBUF1514303365
    21Jacob SchumGB1115333365
    22Brad NortmanJAX1516283365
    23Brad WingNYG1413294363
    24Matt DarrMIA1715244363
    25Riley DixonDEN1315293363
    26Donnie JonesPHI1414283362
    27Shane LechlerHOU1616243362
    28Jeff LockeMIN1013323361
    29Bradley PinionSF1214293361
    30Ryan QuigleyFA1013313360
    31Tress WayWAS1414244359
    32Drew ButlerARI1015273358
    33Tim MasthayFA1111293357
    34Thomas MorsteadNO1313243356
    35Lachlan EdwardsNYJ911253351

     

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None