Bleacher Report's Midseason All-NFL1000 Team

Doug Farrar@@BR_DougFarrar NFL Lead ScoutNovember 7, 2016

Bleacher Report's Midseason All-NFL1000 Team

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    We have half a season in the books with the expanded NFL1000 project, which means we have a ton of data compiled from our 17-man scouting team. And with that, at the halfway point, we can make some reasonable conclusions as to the best and most valuable players.

    Of course, best and most valuable are always subjective concepts, but many of the names you see here will come as no surprise. There are a few shockers, to be sure (Jordan Reed over Rob Gronkowski? Jadeveon Clowney over Von Miller?), but none of these rankings are done for shock or click value—they all come from the minds of our scouts. We encourage positive discourse among the scouts and among our readers, and we always appreciate the interest.

    The scores you see above every name are the averages of the player's grade through the entire season. We eliminated a few players for low snap counts, though in a couple of cases (Jason Verrett, Reshad Jones), we decided that the player's overall quality of play transcended the lack of a full half-season.

    Our Midseason All-NFL1000 team consists of the players our scouts have found to be at the top of their game, adjusted for role, opponent and situation. We'll see how things turn out at the end of the season when we put together our final All-NFL1000 team for 2016, but here's where things stand now.

    All advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Focus.

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Accuracy: 19.4/25
    Arm: 22.7/25
    Under pressure: 14/20
    Decision-making: 14.6/20
    Positional value: 10/10
    Overall: 80.7/100 

    It hasn’t always been easy for Aaron Rodgers this year, and he hasn't always been spectacular. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards only once this season, and in four of his eight games, he’s posted a QB rating lower than 80. Through the end of last season and the start of the new season, he’s miscommunicated with open receivers at times, and he’s more clearly shown his frustration at times with Mike McCarthy’s limited game plans and route designs.

    So why is Rodgers our No. 1 quarterback at the halfway point? Because of what he does when his receivers are in sync and McCarthy puts more than iso routes in the plan. His four-touchdown games against the Lions and Falcons displayed his ability to throw deep with scary accuracy, hit receivers in rhythm on the move, scan the field for the best option and pull the trigger right when he needs to.

    Part of the NFL1000 grading system is to adjust our numbers for opponent strength and also to take into account what the player has around him. Green Bay’s offensive line has been excellent all season, but the return of Jordy Nelson hasn’t produced the dividends expected. Nelson simply doesn’t have the explosiveness off the line that he used to. And the running game has been impacted by injury to the point that McCarthy has to put receivers in the backfield for a half-effective look.

    Were he in a diverse and functional offense, Rodgers would be far and away the league’s best passer, as he was a few years back. As it is, he’s good enough in the isolated view to top our rankings.

RB: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Inside running: 20.3/25
    Outside running: 19/25
    Receiving: 18.3/20
    Blocking: 17.8/20
    Positional Value: 6/10
    Overall: 80.5/100

    Bell missed the first three games of the 2016 season due to suspension, but he’s still on track for more than 1,900 total yards in 2016, and he’s been the bellcow back since he stepped back on the field in early October. He gained 144 yards on the ground and added 34 receiving yards in his 2016 debut against the Chiefs’ estimable defense, and he’s maintained a torrid pace since, alternating between rushing and receiving with equal aplomb.

    What makes Bell special? It’s his versatility, of course, but it’s also his mastery of the little things. The way he’ll pop a great block when needed – the Steelers have no worries about his every-down status. The route understanding that makes him an occasional threat outside of the backfield and allows offensive coordinator Todd Haley to think outside the box. And his famed patience behind the line – Bell is great at waiting for the hole to open, and he’ll blast right on through. It’s an unusual skill for a young back – many will rush too quickly to the line and find themselves lost in the scrum.

RB: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Inside running: 20.4/25
    Outside running: 19/25
    Receiving: 18.125/20
    Blocking: 17/20
    Positional Value: 6/10
    Overall: 80.5/100

    Remember in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary, when the Cardinals wanted Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and had to settle for Johnson out of Northern Iowa instead in last year’s draft? Yeah, that worked out pretty well.

    All Johnson has done since his gradual ascent in his rookie campaign is give Bruce Arians one of the most complete skill sets for his position in the NFL. Johnson can run with power, speed and agility; he’s a threat to catch the ball and win after the catch, and though his blocking isn’t yet entirely consistent, it’s certainly improving.

    Moreover, Johnson has replaced Arizona’s receiver corps as the epicenter of Arians’ offense. With Carson Palmer regressing and the wideouts playing at hit-and-miss levels, it’s been up to Johnson to keep this offense above water. And he has, to the tune of 705 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns, adding in 407 receiving yards on 35 catches for good measure.

    Johnson is probably a bit under the radar unless you’re an NFC West devotee or a fantasy football player. It’s time for more people to recognize that in just his second NFL season, he’s become as complete and effective a running back as you’ll find in the NFL.

    Honorable Mention: Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy

FB: Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore Ravens

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Blocking: 44.1/50
    Rushing: 
    16.6/25
    Receiving:
    11/15
    Positional Value:
    4/10
    Overall: 
    75.7/100

    The fullback position has receded in importance over the last decade, and some NFL teams don’t even carry fullbacks on their roster anymore. They’d rather use hybrid tight ends. But the Ravens have invested fairly serious snap counts in Juszczyk over the last three seasons, and they’ve been rewarded with an old-school pop blocker who can also run and catch.

    Whether he’s asked to take out a tackle or linebacker on a Wham block, veer out of the backfield to run a route or take the ball in a short-yardage situation, Juszczyk has proved he can do it all.

    Honorable Mention: Andy Janovich, John Kuhn, Aaron Ripkowski

WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Route-running: 21.4/25
    Hands:
    20.6/25
    Yards after catch:
    14/20
    Blocking:
    11.4/20
    Positional value:
    9/10
    Overall:
    76.4/100

    There’s little question that Green and Atlanta’s Julio Jones have been the league’s best receivers through the halfway mark. What makes Green just a little more special, by unfortunate necessity, is his ability to contort his body and expand his catch radius beyond comprehension to take in Andy Dalton’s occasionally errant throws.

    This season, though Cincinnati’s offense has fallen back a bit in the post-Hue Jackson era, Green is just as good as he’s ever been. Per Pro Football Focus, no receiver in the league has more yards on passes of 20 or more yards in the air than Green’s 379, and he’s dropped just three passes on 84 targets. That is especially impressive when you counter that stat with the number of plays he makes that other receivers simply wouldn’t.

    Green has every attribute you’d ask for in a receiver: top-end speed, peerless route understanding, toughness over the middle and the kind of body flexibility you see once per decade. No matter what’s going on around him, he’s maintained his standards of performance, and that’s why he’s our top receiver overall at the halfway point.

    Honorable Mention: Jarvis Landry, Demaryius Thomas, Julian Edelman

WR: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Route-running: 19.9/25
    Hands: 
    19.2/25
    Yards after catch: 
    14.4/20
    Blocking: 
    13.5/20
    Positional value: 
    9/10
    Overall: 
    76/100

    When Richard Sherman recently named the toughest receivers he’s ever covered in a piece for The Players’ Tribune, he was specific about Julio Jones’ primary attribute: Jones doesn’t take plays off. As Sherman said, Jones wears you down. If the ball isn’t coming his way, he’s not going to run a half-hearted route. He’s going to look for someone to block, and he’ll do it with total commitment. Or he’ll run the perfect decoy route and take double coverage away from other receivers.

    And when it’s his turn to get the ball, as it so often is, covering Jones is nearly impossible. If you press him, he has the brute strength to embarrass you at the line of scrimmage. If you pattern-read him, he’s so masterful with option routes that he’ll read you and elude your coverage. And if you want to try to match him step for step on vertical routes? Yikes. Better eat your Wheaties.  

    Matt Ryan may have played at an MVP pace through the first half of the season, but he’d be the first to tell you that without Jones, that might not be happening.

    Honorable Mention: Jarvis Landry, Demaryius Thomas, Julian Edelman

TE: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

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    Dan Mullan/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Route-running: 16/20
    Hands: 18.8/25
    Yards after catch: 15.8/20
    Blocking: 17.8/25
    Positional Value: 6/10
    Overall: 74.4/100 

    This may be our most controversial selection, regardless of position. Reed over Rob Gronkowski? What the heck? But if you’ve been following our NFL1000 rankings, you’ll know that our scouts have been profoundly impressed with Reed’s route-running ability, his sneaky knack for getting open and his acuity after the catch.

    He does this without Gronkowski’s pure physical dominance (not that Gronk hasn’t improved as a route-runner, but there are times in a game when he can simply overpower his defenders). Reed has to do more with technique. His only limitation might be as a deep receiver, and that has as much to do with Kirk Cousins’ inconsistencies in that area as anything.

    Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert

LT: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass protection: 20.4/25
    Run-blocking: 
    20.4/25
    Power: 
    18.2/20
    Agility: 
    18.4/20
    Positional value: 
    8/10
    Overall: 
    85.4/100

    Smith is the glamour player in the NFL’s best offensive line, and he’s more than earned that designation with remarkably consistent play over the last few years.

    In 2016, with a rookie quarterback and running back, he’s been perhaps at his best. Smith will give up the occasional sack, but the sheer power and athleticism he displays on a regular basis mitigates that to a large degree.

    There’s no way to consistently beat Smith when he’s at the top of his game. If you try to bend the edge with him, he’s more than agile enough to take you around the arc. If you want to bull-rush him, he has no problem matching power with power. And if he’s looking to set the edge in run-blocking, you have a good chance of getting buried if you’re in his way.

    He’s improved in his technique and awareness in the last few seasons, becoming better at picking up stunts and line games, and he’s without question the best all-around tackle in the game right now.

    Honorable Mention: Trent Williams (WAS), Jason Peters (PHI), David Bakhtiari (GB)

RT: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass protection: 20.8/25
    Run-blocking: 
    21.2/25
    Power:
    16.5/20
    Agility: 
    17/20
    Positional value:
    7/10
    Overall: 
    82.5/100

    Johnson had a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs hanging over him like the Sword of Damocles all season, and that finally dropped on Oct. 11, which that the Eagles will have to go with fifth-round rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai until Week 16. Vaitai has shown improvement, but he has a long way to go to replace Johnson.

    One of the most agile blockers in his 2013 draft class, Johnson has married athleticism with impressive power and high-quality technique. Before his suspension, he had allowed just one sack and four quarterback hurries in 275 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and he’s been a beast in the run game as well.

    Honorable Mention: Bryan Bulaga (GB), Marcus Gilbert (PIT), Zach Strief (NO)

OG: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass protection: 19.6/25
    Run-blocking: 
    20.2/25
    Power: 
    17.6/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Positional value: 
    7/10
    Overall: 
    80.4/100

    Is there a more valuable offensive lineman in the league than Yanda? If so, it’s a short list. Over his 10-year career, the veteran has proved able to play both guard and tackle at an All-Pro level, but it’s at guard where he most clearly excels. There, he can combine his peerless feel for inside blocking with a true nasty streak and outstanding technique.

    Though Baltimore’s offense has seen its struggles this season, Yanda hasn’t been a part of that when healthy. Per Pro Football Focus, he has allowed just four quarterback hurries with no sacks or quarterback hits, and he’s been his usual powerhouse self in the run game, though he’s missed time with a shoulder injury. If he’s able to keep this level of play going a few more seasons, Yanda might get Hall of Fame consideration down the road.

    Honorable Mention: Josh Sitton (CHI), Kelechi Osemele (OAK), Trai Turner (CAR)

OG: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass protection: 19.1/25
    Run-blocking: 
    20/25
    Power: 
    17.6/20
    Agility: 
    15.7/20
    Positional value: 
    7/10
    Overall: 
    79.4/100

    Zack Martin played left tackle at Notre Dame, but the Cowboys were wise to switch him to right guard after they selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft. He made the All-Pro first team in his rookie year and has never slipped below that standard of performance since.

    Martin is tailor-made for the guard positionhe's nasty, tough, technique-sound and adept at the second level. Defenders who must choose between dealing with Martin or center Travis Frederick guess wrong most of the time, as there is no favorable option.

    Honorable Mention: Josh Sitton (CHI), Kelechi Osemele (OAK), Trai Turner (CAR)

C: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass protection: 18.7/25
    Run-blocking:
    19.7/25
    Power: 
    17.4/20
    Agility: 
    15.1/20
    Positional value:
    6/10
    Overall: 
    76.9/100

    There has been a lot of great center play in the NFL this year. Rookies Ryan Kelly of the Colts and Cody Whitehair of the Bears have performed beyond their years, and both Detroit's Travis Swanson and Denver's Matt Paradis are differentand much betterplayers than they were last year.

    But when it comes to the pantheon at the position, there's only one for that spot: Dallas' Trevor Frederick. No center in the league possesses his combination of raw power, scheme versatility, effectiveness at the second level and the ability to erase some of the best defensive tackles in the game.

    Many found it funny when the Cowboys selected Frederick out of Wisconsin with the 31st overall pick in the 2013 draft; Frederick famously said he didn't expect to go in the first round. But he's since repaid Dallas' faith in him many times over. He is the epicenter of the league's best offensive line and the shot-caller for an offense that can run zone slides and man power with equal aplomb. He's one of the primary reasons for the success of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    Through the first half of the season, Frederick has allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and just three quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus. According to Football Outsiders' stats, the Cowboys are averaging a league-best 5.04 yards per attempt when rushing up the middle. Best in the league is precisely what Frederick has become.

    Honorable Mention: Ryan Kelly (IND), Travis Swanson (DET), Matt Paradis (DEN)

3-4 DE: Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Snap quickness: 13/15
    Pass rush: 
    20/25
    Run defense: 
    25/30
    Tackling: 
    18/20
    Positional value: 
    7/10
    Overall: 
    83/100

    Muhammad Wilkerson's spot atop the list of 3-4 defensive ends speaks to the oversell of sacks when it comes to defining a lineman's value. He's played through injuries this season and hasn't thrived the way he has in the past as a pure pass-rusher, but he's still an outstanding run-stopper and gap penetrator.

    Joey Bosa didn't make the cut for this position because of his limited snap count (due to his delay in getting in the starting lineup) and because the Chargers are playing him at end and outside linebacker. If San Diego primarily plays Bosa at end across the second half of 2016, though, he could well top this list by the end of the season. We've seen few linemen in recent years come into the NFL with limited ramp-up time and dominate the way Bosa has.

    Honorable Mention: Emmanuel Ogbah, Mike Daniels, Cameron Heyward

3-4 DE: Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Snap quickness: 12/15
    Pass rush:
    17.1/25
    Run defense: 
    20.6/30
    Tackling: 
    15.9/20
    Positional value: 
    7/10
    Overall:
    72.6/100

    Few linemen have been more versatile and consistent than Arizona's Calais Campbell over the last few years, but 2016 has been a particularly standout year for the veteran. At 6'8" and 300 pounds, Campbell can line up anywhere in the formation and destroy gaps and blockers. The Cardinals use him primarily as a 3-technique tackle in their base front, but when Arizona goes to its hybrid fronts, you can see him anywhere from nose tackle to Wide 9 end. Despite being as big as he is, Campbell can bend the edge and get around blockers from out wide.

    Campbell's sack totals are down from a few years ago, but that has more to do with positioning and usage than a drop in performance. Make no mistakethe 30-year-old still has it.

    Honorable Mention: Emmanuel Ogbah, Mike Daniels, Cameron Heyward

4-3 DE: Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass rush: 18.6/30
    Run defense: 16.4/20
    Snap quickness: 16/20
    Tackling: 14.7/20
    Positional value: 8/10
    Overall: 73.7/100

    We've seen players benefit from scheme changes in the past, but few in recent memory have done more with a new overall plan than Philadelphia's Brandon Graham in the switch from Bill Davis' 3-4 base front to Jim Schwartz's aggressive 4-3 defense. Before, Graham was asked to read and react, which wasn't his game. Now he's directed to tee off on the quarterback, and he can do that with impressive quickness and power.

    With four sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 31 quarterback hurries, per Pro Football Focus, Graham has become one of the best pure quarterback disruptors in the league, and his 18 total stops point to his versatility. Graham has become the point man in a Philadelphia defense that will take this team as far as it can go in 2016.

    Honorable Mention: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Khalil Mack

4-3 DE: Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass rush: 19.4/30
    Run defense: 15.4/20
    Snap quickness: 16.3/20
    Tackling: 14.6/20
    Positional value: 8/10
    Overall: 73.7/100

    A fourth-round pick out of USC in 2010, Minnesota's Everson Griffen had to overcome a few maturity issues early in his NFL career, but he's been one of the Vikings' bastions of consistency in recent years as they ascended to become one of the league's best defenses. As Minnesota's interior defensive line and linebacker corps improved, Griffen has begun to enjoy more space to excel as a pure pass-rusher. With six sacks, eight quarterback hits and 20 quarterback hurries, per Pro Football Focus, he's done that despite receiving a ton of attention from every opposing offensive line.

    Honorable Mention: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Khalil Mack

DT: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Snap quickness: 22.1/25
    Pass rush:
    20.6/25
    Run defense:
    21/25
    Tackling:
    14.7/15
    Positional value:
    6/10
    Overall:
    84.4/100

    Aaron Donald has been a force of nature since the Rams selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft out of Pitt, but in 2016, he's taken the title of Most Terrifying Defensive Lineman from J.J. Watt and stuck it decisively in his pocket.

    Donald's pressure numbers would be enviable if he was a single-teamed defensive endfive sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 29 hurries, per Pro Football Focusbut to put up those numbers as an allegedly undersized, frequently double-teamed tackle in a straight 4-3 front is ridiculous. No tackle in the NFL possesses Donald's combination of nastiness, strength, speed through gaps and consistency…and oh, by the way, he's a great run-stopper too.

    Honorable Mention: Kawann Short, Sharrif Floyd, Ndamukong Suh

DT: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Snap quickness: 20.6/25
    Pass rush: 
    20.1/25
    Run defense: 
    20.1/25
    Tackling: 
    14.1/15
    Positional value: 
    6/10
    Overall: 
    80.9/100

    Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox has excelled under the radar for the last few seasons because he wasn't featured as a gap-killing tackle in Bill Davis' 3-4 defense. Under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Cox is back to the 3-tech tackle position he thrived in as a rookie in 2012, and the results have been astonishing.

    Cox goes through stretches where he is just about impossible to block, as he brings amazing speed and agility for his size. With four sacks, two hits and 23 hurries, per Pro Football Focus, he's on pace to match his torrid 2015 season in a completely different scheme.

    Honorable Mention: Kawann Short, Sharrif Floyd, Ndamukong Suh

3-4 OLB: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass rush: 23/25
    Run defense: 22/25
    Coverage: 9.5/15
    Tackling: 22.5/25
    Positional value: 8/10
    Overall: 85/100 

    Jadeveon Clowney plays both end and outside linebacker in Houston's base defense, but we classify him as more of an outside linebacker because even in 4-3 fronts, he'll play the "Leo" end role at times. Whatever you want to call him, there's no question that 2016 has been an excellent continuation of his 2015 breakout season.

    With J.J. Watt being a relative nonfactor due to injury, the Texans have been relying on Clowney to maintain quarterback pressure. He's done a great job of that, racking up three sacks, seven hits and 15 hurries, per Pro Football Focus. In addition, his 20 total stops point to the versatility of his overall game, which is why we ranked him as the best 3-4 outside linebacker through the first half of the 2016 season.

    Honorable Mention: Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Chandler Jones

3-4 OLB: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass rush: 21.9/25
    Run defense: 19.9/25
    Coverage: 10.7/15
    Tackling: 21.2/25
    Positional value: 8/10
    Overall: 81.7/100 

    There has been no better and more consistent pure edge-rusher over the last three seasons than Denver's Von Miller, and he's maintained his level of play from the incredible 2015 season during which he almost single-handedly took the Panthers offense apart in Super Bowl 50. This season, with Malik Jackson having left in free agency and DeMarcus Ware missing considerable snaps due to injury, Miller hasn't dropped off whatsoever.

    Helping Miller to a degree is Denver having the best secondary in the gamehe gets a ton of coverage pressurebut he's also nearly impossible to block consistently because of his rare speed, amazing moves and surprising strength. He's on pace to match 2012's 18.5-sack total, and with five hits and a league-leading 33 hurries, he brings more edge pressure than any other defensive player.

    Honorable Mention: Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Chandler Jones

4-3 OLB: K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 18.9/25
    Run defense: 20.7/25
    Pass rush: 8.4/15
    Tackling: 20.3/25
    Positional value: 6/10
    Overall: 74.3/100

    K.J. Wright often gets lost in the incredible cast that makes up Seattle’s great defense, and his occasional lapses against tight ends are more noticeable at times than his overall attributes. But this season, he’s been at his versatile best, with better overall coverage and a two-sack total that already matches his career high. In Kris Richard’s more aggressive, blitz-frequent defense, Wright has been allowed to show all he can do.

    Honorable Mention: Nigel Bradham, Lavonte David, Anthony Barr

4-3 OLB: Bruce Irvin, Oakland Raiders

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 17.8/25
    Run defense: 20.5/25
    Pass rush: 10.5/15
    Tackling: 19.1/25
    Positional value: 6/10
    Overall: 73.9/100

    Week after week in Jack Del Rio’s defense, Bruce Irvin has shown the versatility the Raiders hoped they would get when they signed the former Seahawk to a four-year, $37 million deal in March. Oakland isn’t putting Irvin into coverage a ton, which is smart, because that’s not his game—Irvin is better when he’s asked to pin his ears back against quarterbacks and use his base athleticism against the run. He has only two sacks this season, but he’s added nine quarterback hits and 17 quarterback hurries to that total, with 17 stops overall.

    Honorable Mention: Nigel Bradham, Lavonte David, Anthony Barr

ILB: Jerrell Freeman, Chicago Bears

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    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass defense: 20.5/25
    Run defense: 
    30.1/35
    Pass rush: 
    10.9/15
    Tackling: 
    12.5/15
    Positional value: 
    6/10
    Overall: 
    80/100

    Originally signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Mary Hardin-Baylor years ago, Jerrell Freeman has been a good player for a long time, and he’s hit a new level in his first year with the Bears. In Vic Fangio’s hybrid 4-2-5 defense, Freeman is asked to roam the field with speed and accuracy, and he’s definitely able to do that—with 53 solo tackles and 35 total stops, he’s been as good as any inside linebacker at snuffing out the run.

    Moreover, he’s been an asset in coverage, limiting offenses to short completions most of the time on a heavy target ratio. It’s taken Freeman too long to be recognized as a franchise linebacker, but he’s in the right place for that to happen now.

    Honorable Mention: Eric Kendricks, Bobby Wagner, Dont'a Hightower

ILB: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Pass defense: 20.1/25
    Run defense: 
    30.1/35
    Pass rush: 
    11.1/15
    Tackling: 
    12.6/15
    Positional Value: 
    6/10
    Overall:
    79.9/100

    Death, taxes and Luke Kuechly—every year, the Panthers linebacker earns his place atop the rankings, and every year, it’s well-deserved. It’s been a rough year for the Carolina defense with several new pieces in the secondary and some serious underperforming in the front four. That has caused defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to blitz Kuechly and Thomas Davis more often, which has taken away from Kuechly’s peerless coverage abilities. But it’s also increased his pressure total—he already has two sacks after a career high of three in 2014 and 32 stops to prove he still has what it takes against the run.

    Honorable Mention: Eric Kendricks, Bobby Wagner, Dont'a Hightower

CB: Jason Verrett, San Diego Chargers

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 24.7/30
    Reaction/recovery: 
    23.5/30
    Slot: 
    16.7/20
    Tackling: 
    6.7/10
    Positional value: 
    9/10
    Overall: 
    80.6/100

    It’s a real shame that Jason Verrett was lost for the season to a torn ACL in early October, because through the first four weeks, he was playing better than he ever hadand better than any cornerback in the NFL. Though he played through injuries in the last two weeks of September, he did a great job of shutting down the receivers he did face—Allen Robinson, Jeremy Maclin and Brandin Cooks. We’re not going to disqualify him in this case, though he hasn’t had a full season, and hopefully, he’ll be ready to go and as good as he’s been next season.

    Honorable Mention: Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib

CB: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 23.4/30
    Reaction/recovery: 
    24.3/30
    Slot: 
    16.7/20
    Tackling: 
    6/10
    Positional value: 
    9/10
    Overall: 
    79.4/100

    Marcus Peters snagged eight interceptions in his rookie season despite learning as he went in the first half of 2015 and getting burned by some of the NFL’s savvier receivers. Any opposing receiver who hoped he’d have a sophomore slump should put that right out of his mind, because Peters picked up where he left off in the final eight games last year.

    He already has five picks this season and has really expanded his field vision—lately, few cornerbacks have been better at jumping routes and anticipating the timing of throws. Quarterbacks who target Peters have a 53.5 passer rating.

    Honorable Mention: Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib

FS: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 23.9/30
    Reaction/recovery: 
    24.4/30
    Slot: 
    6.4/10
    Tackling: 
    16.5/20
    Positional value: 
    8/10
    Overall: 
    79.2/100

    Devin McCourty has now been a full-time safety in Bill Belichick’s defense for four seasons, and few pass defenders in the league are more versatile. He can cover the deep third and center field well against the long pass, shore up in run support and allow teammates to move around in coverage from outside to the slot. On 14 targets this season, McCourty has allowed just 74 yards and a 71.7 opposing passer rating.

    Honorable Mention: Harrison Smith, Rodney McLeod, Darian Stewart

SS: Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Coverage: 20.2/25
    Reaction/recovery: 
    21.2/25
    Slot: 
    16.7/20
    Tackling: 
    16.5/20
    Positional value: 
    6/10
    Overall: 
    80.6/100

    Reshad Jones was lost for the remainder of the season to a torn rotator cuff in mid-October, which was a huge blow to Miami’s defense, because there isn’t a better run-stopping safety in the league—that’s been true of Jones for some time now. Moreover, he was solid in coverage this season, with 67 yards and a 42.8 opposing passer rating allowed on 17 targets.

    Honorable Mention: Kam Chancellor, Eric Weddle, Keanu Neal

P: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Kick distance: 16.7/20
    Kick hang time: 
    16.3/20
    Kick accuracy: 
    35/45
    Tackling: 
    3.1/5
    Positional Value: 
    3/10
    Overall: 
    74.1/100

    When Chuck Zodda, our special teams expert, scouts punters and kickers, he goes beyond the stats. According to Chuck, one of the reasons Thomas Morstead tops our list of punters is that he didn’t place a single punt between the hashmarks in his first eight weeks, and just eight punts landed inside the numbers. That ball placement is crucial, and when you factor in Morstead’s average of 50.8 yards per kick (a career high), it’s clear he’s passed the eye test, and the numbers agree.

    Honorable Mention: Johnny Hekker, Marquette King, Pat McAfee

K: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

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    Associated Press

    NFL1000 Scores at Midseason

    Kick power: 33.9/40
    Kick accuracy: 
    34.7/40
    Tackling: 
    4.4/10
    Positional value: 
    3/10
    Overall: 
    76/100

    The NFL has done as much as possible to make things harder on kickers in the last few seasons, and we’ve seen several at the position bow to that pressure. Justin Tucker has never seemed to do so, though—he’s been as solid as a rock since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

    2016 has been perhaps his best season to date. Tucker is one of three kickers who have been perfect on the season with field goals, and he’s hit 13 from 40 yards or more, including four of at least 50 yards. In addition, he hasn’t missed an extra point this season, though Baltimore’s offense hasn’t given him too many chances.

    Honorable Mention: Adam Vinatieri, Dan Bailey, Greg Zuerlein