NFL News & Analysis

2022 NFL Season Review: All 32 NFL teams' highest-graded players and biggest surprises

Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) during the fourth quarter against the Washington Commanders at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

• Brock Purdy comes in as biggest surprise for 49ers: The rookie quarterback has far exceeded expectations as Mr. Irrelevant.

• Chris Jones finishes regular season as highest-graded Chief: The interior defender beat out quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Creed Humphrey.

Estimated Reading Time: 20 mins

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Arizona Cardinals

Highest-graded player: LT Josh Jones (75.8)

Jones had a rough start to his career, finishing the 2020 and 2021 seasons with sub-47.0 grades. But he broke out in Year 3 with high marks as a run blocker and a pass protector. He allowed only four sacks all season, two of which occurred in Week 18. 

Biggest surprise: DI Zach Allen (72.7)

Allen finished as the No. 24 interior defensive lineman in PFF grade and was disruptive all season long. He racked up 35 pressures and 15 quarterback hits as he became one of the most reliable and consistent players on Arizona’s defense. He should be in for a big payday in free agency in just a few months. 

Atlanta Falcons

Highest-graded player: G Chris Lindstrom (95.0)

Lindstrom finished the season as PFF’s highest-graded offensive lineman, playing 1,047 snaps for the Falcons. He did not allow a single quarterback hit after Week 5 and let up only nine pressures on the season. Lindstrom should be a lock All-Pro selection this season.  

Biggest surprise: RB Tyler Allgeier (86.7)

Despite starting only seven games this season, Allgeier rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a rookie and was PFF’s fifth-highest-graded running back. Allgeier averaged 3.58 yards after contact, the fourth most in the league among qualifying running backs. The Falcons would be wise to get him even more involved in 2023. 

Baltimore Ravens

Highest-graded player: QB Lamar Jackson (85.2)

Jackson missed the final five games of the 2022 regular season, and the Ravens weren't the same without him. Jackson was PFF's No. 5 quarterback in grade this season, including the No. 2 run grade at the position (92.6). When healthy, Jackson is still among the most dangerous and feared players in the NFL.

Biggest surprise: S Kyle Hamilton (82.3)

Hamilton played 547 snaps on defense for the Ravens as Baltimore rotated safeties all year. He was highly impressive as a rookie, finishing the season with the fourth-highest grade among safeties. Hamilton excelled near the line of scrimmage and received an 87.5 grade as a pass rusher and an 84.8 mark as a run defender. If he can get a little better in coverage, Hamilton could be the league's best safety sooner rather than later.

Buffalo Bills

Highest-graded player: QB Josh Allen (91.6)

Allen was the NFL’s highest-graded quarterback this season, and it’s not hard to see why. No one has a better combination of arm talent, athleticism and big-play ability. He also finished with the highest rushing grade (92.7). Allen led the Bills to a 13-3 record and has now firmly established himself as one of the most dominant players in the league. 

Biggest surprise: RB James Cook (78.3)

Cook was a second-round pick by the Bills, but no one expected him to be this good this soon. He was the third-highest-graded player on offense for Buffalo, and his role only grew by the week. He averaged 6.04 yards per carry in the season's final seven games. Not bad. 

Carolina Panthers

Highest-graded player: DI Derrick Brown (84.4)

Brown has quickly established himself as one of the best run defenders in the league. He earned the third-best run-defense grade (80.6) among defensive tackles this season and added in 40 pressures. With his dramatic improvement as a pass rusher, Brown is now one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL.

Biggest surprise: LB Frankie Luvu (74.8)

Luvu had a really nice season for the Panthers, totaling 941 snaps on defense. He finished the year as the 16th-highest-graded off-ball linebacker and earned a 90.3 mark as a run defender. He totaled 63 run stops in 2022, the second most in the NFL. 

Chicago Bears

Highest-graded player: G Teven Jenkins (80.7)

Jenkins didn’t even enter the season as a clear-cut starter, but he was the team’s highest-graded player by the end of the season. He played only 576 snaps, but it’s clear he’s found a home at guard in the NFL. As long as he can stay healthy, he has a chance to be one of the league’s best run blockers for the next several years.

Biggest surprise: T Braxton Jones (75.4)

Jones was a fifth-round pick by the Bears this season and was immediately thrust into the starting lineup. Despite not playing against high-level competition in college, he performed exceptionally well in Year 1. Jones finished as the No. 19 offensive tackle in PFF grade this season and played a team-high 1,033 offensive snaps. The Bears have to be thrilled about the production they got in 2022 from Jones — and his ceiling moving forward.

Cincinnati Bengals

Highest-graded player: QB Joe Burrow (90.7)

Burrow was the third-highest-graded quarterback in the NFL this season, just behind Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. However, he finished the year as the No. 1 graded passer (89.2), winning by being deadly accurate from the pocket. The Bengals are legitimate Super Bowl contenders once again with Burrow healthy and under center. 

Biggest surprise: LB Germaine Pratt (80.6)

After their Super Bowl run during the 2021 season, Logan Wilson was considered the best linebacker on this team. Now, that’s not the case. Pratt allowed a 66.4 passer rating in coverage, the best among all linebackers with at least 300 snaps. Pratt and Wilson are now one of the best linebacker duos in the league entering the playoffs. 

Cleveland Browns

Highest-graded player: EDGE Myles Garrett (92.6)

Garrett once again finished as the NFL's highest-graded edge rusher, posting a 93.5 pass-rush grade. He finished fifth in pressures (73) but was tied for the lead in sacks (18). Garrett is still the NFL's best pure pass rusher, and that isn't changing anytime soon.  

Biggest surprise: CB Martin Emerson (72.5)

The 2022 NFL Draft produced several cornerbacks who played well this season, including Sauce Gardner, Tariq Woolen and DaRon Bland. But don’t forget about Emerson, who graded out as the No. 27 cornerback on the season. Despite not recording an interception this season, Emerson allowed just an 85.6 passer rating. Opponents completed only 53.9% of their targets when throwing at Emerson in 2022. 

Dallas Cowboys

Highest-graded player: EDGE Micah Parsons (91.6)

Parsons didn’t quite have the sack totals of Nick Bosa or Myles Garrett this year, but he was every bit as dominant. He had the second-highest grade among all EDGE defenders and he led the league in pressures (90) and hurries (61). Parsons is one of the best pure football players in the NFL and has now put together back-to-back All-Pro caliber seasons to start his career.

Biggest surprise: CB DaRon Bland (73.4)

After losing Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis to injuries, Bland was forced into a big role for the Cowboys. He responded well by recording five interceptions, the second most in the NFL. While he had his moments where he struggled, Bland looks like a home-run selection by the Cowboys after they picked him in the fifth-round from Fresno State. He projects as a high-quality No. 2 cornerback who can play both in the slot and on the outside. 

Denver Broncos

Highest-graded player: CB Patrick Surtain II (86.8)

After a really strong rookie season, Surtain made a massive leap in Year 2. He's quickly developed into a shutdown cornerback, allowing a passer rating of only 82.9. He only really struggled in one game this season and that was against Davante Adams. But Surtain did not allow a single catch in the team’s final two games. In fact, Surtain gave up only six catches for 58 yards in the team's last six games. 

Biggest surprise: G Quinn Meinerz (77.7)

After a solid rookie season, Meinerz made a huge leap in Year 2. He finished as the No. 5 offensive guard by PFF grade, excelling as a run blocker. He allowed only 16 pressures this season and did not allow a sack in the final six games of the year. 

Detroit Lions

Highest-graded player: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (90.7)

Brown dealt with some injuries early in the year and didn’t really take off until Week 8. But after that, he was absolutely fantastic for the Lions. He averaged more than 82 yards from scrimmage a game in the final 11 weeks, catching 78 passes for 886 yards. He totaled 1,256 yards on the season and has developed into the most reliable and consistent weapon on the Lions’ offense. 

Biggest surprise: RB Jamaal Williams (73.5)

How can you not be impressed by what Williams did in 2022? Not only did he lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17), but the team took on his identity and physical style. Williams is the perfect back to pair with D’Andre Swift and was a revelation for the Lions this season.

Green Bay Packers

Highest-graded player: RB Aaron Jones (85.9)

There wasn't a lot of consistency on offense for the Packers this season, but one player who did bring it every week was Aaron Jones. He finished as the No. 6 graded running back on the season and earned the third-highest rushing grade (90.6). It was the fourth straight season in which Jones totaled at least 1,190 yards from scrimmage and scored seven-plus touchdowns. 

Biggest surprise: WR Christian Watson (77.1)

After being a complete nonfactor in the first nine weeks of the season, Watson quickly developed into one of the most dangerous receivers in the league in the final eight games. He scored eight touchdowns and averaged nearly 17 yards per reception. Considering where he went to college and the amount of time he missed early in the season with injuries, Watson becoming the go-to receiver in Green Bay’s offense is about as surprising as it gets.

Houston Texans

Highest-graded player: LT Laremy Tunsil (80.0)

No offensive tackle in the NFL finished with a higher pass-blocking grade than Tunsil (91.7). He allowed just one sack all season and only gave up three quarterback hits. He is the standard for left tackle play in the NFL and should get some All-Pro consideration after Trent Williams and Lane Johnson

Biggest surprise: RB Dameon Pierce (78.9)

Pierce missed the final four games of the season due to an injury, but it's still impressive what he did as a rookie. He finished fourth in the NFL in missed tackles forced (62) despite having only 220 carries. Pierce looks like he'll be a cornerstone player for the Texans moving into the future. 

Indianapolis Colts

Highest-graded player: DI DeForest Buckner (82.3)

Buckner remains one of the most dominant interior defenders in the NFL. He finished fifth in the league in pressures (56), and his 47 stops were second most among all interior defensive linemen. At 28, Buckner just put together one of the best seasons of his career. 

Biggest surprise: T Bernhard Raimann (73.3)

Raimann struggled earlier in the season, especially against the Broncos in Week 5. But he improved significantly over the final two months of the season. From Week 10 on, he was the No. 14 graded offensive tackle in the NFL, allowing just 17 pressures in eight games. Of course, he still has a lot of improving to do, but the Colts have to feel good about his progress in the second half of the season. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Highest-graded player: EDGE Josh Allen (82.9)

Every year, Allen has gotten a little bit better for the Jaguars. This was the best season of his career, finishing as the No. 14 ranked EDGE rusher in the NFL. Allen finished the season with 68 pressures, tied for the ninth-most among all EDGE defenders. He also had 18 QB hits, the fourth-most in the league. He's become one of the better pass rushers in the league in Year 4.

Biggest surprise: DI Davon Hamilton (74.9)

You can make a case that Tyson Campbell deserves to be mentioned here after he graded out as the No. 5 cornerback. But we are going with Hamilton, who was a big reason why the Jaguars were so good against the run late in the season. He finished the season as the No. 18 graded interior defensive lineman and made a big leap in Year 3.

Kansas City Chiefs

Highest-graded player: DI Chris Jones (92.0)

Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Creed Humphrey and Chris Jones all finished the season with grades of at least 90.0. But it was Jones who graded out the highest of all of them. He was the top-ranked interior defensive lineman in the league, and this was his best season to date.

Biggest surprise: RB Isiah Pacheco (74.6)

Jerick McKinnon tied the record for most receiving touchdowns in a season for a running back (9), so he also deserves mention here. But Pacheco is the guy who became the starter in Week 7 and didn't look back. Pacheco averaged 4.9 yards per carry this season and showed good power, averaging 3.0 yards after contact per rush. He and McKinnon are going to play big parts on offense for the Chiefs in the playoffs.

Las Vegas Raiders

Highest-graded player: RB Josh Jacobs (91.6)

After getting his fifth-year option declined in the offseason, Jacobs went on to be the NFL’s leading rusher and finished atop the running back rankings by PFF grade. He led the NFL in missed tackles forced (90) while also averaging 3.40 yards after contact per carry. Jacobs should get paid very well this offseason. 

Biggest surprise: T Jermaine Eluemunor (75.3)

The Raiders had a huge hole at right tackle entering the season, but Eluemunor was surprisingly effective. He played 940 snaps this season, starting games at left tackle, right guard and right tackle. He allowed just one sack and one quarterback hit since Week 3.

Los Angeles Chargers

Highest-graded player: WR Keenan Allen (84.8)

Allen missed a big chunk of the 2022 season due to a hamstring injury, but he still finished as PFF's No. 9 receiver. Allen caught 77.6% of his targets in 10 games and did not drop a single pass. He's not the most dynamic receiver at this stage of his career, but he is among the most reliable. 

Biggest surprise: T Jamaree Salyer (69.2)

When Rashawn Slater went down with a pectoral injury early in the season, it was sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer who stepped up to the plate. While he was far from perfect, he did an excellent job filling in for Slater. He allowed just 10 quarterback hits and finished the year with a 75.9 pass-blocking grade. He'll make for an excellent swing tackle once Slater returns to the lineup.

Los Angeles Rams

Highest-graded player: LB Bobby Wagner (90.7)

Wagner looked like his usual self in 2022 despite changing teams. He was the highest-graded linebacker in the NFL this season, recording 50 stops and 20 pressures. He missed just four tackles all season long as he had the lowest missed tackle rate (2.9%) among all linebackers with at least 500 snaps.

Biggest surprise: RB Cam Akers (80.7)

It was quite the season for Akers. After a poor performance in Week 1, he was sent to the bench. Then, the team agreed to trade him after his role had diminished. But after no trade suitors popped up, he returned to the field and looked like a different player. He finished the season as the No. 14 graded running back and looked like his old self in the second half of the year.

Miami Dolphins

Highest-graded player: WR Tyreek Hill (92.1)

Hill finished the season as the highest-graded receiver despite a ton of turnover at the quarterback position. He had one of the best seasons of his career as he helped change the franchise in Miami. He averaged an absurd 3.20 yards per route run this season, 0.58 more than Justin Jefferson, who was No. 2 in this category. 

Biggest surprise: C Connor Williams (78.4)

Before the 2022 season, Williams had never started a game at center in his life. Not in high school, college or the NFL. But after signing him in free agency to a big deal, the Dolphins moved him to center, which worked out exceptionally well. He finished the season as the No. 4 graded center in the league as he helped solidify the interior offensive line of the Dolphins. 

Minnesota Vikings

Highest-graded player: WR Justin Jefferson (90.4)

Jefferson led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,809 and averaged an absurd 2.62 yards per target. Even after back-to-back incredible seasons to start his career, he was even better in Year 3. He and Tyreek Hill are the clear-cut top two receivers in the NFL right now.  

Biggest surprise: EDGE Danielle Hunter (86.3)

Hunter has always been an excellent player, but he's battled a ton of injuries over the past few seasons. He makes this list due to his bounce-back season in 2022. Hunter played 905 snaps for the Vikings, racking up 70 pressures to go along with 12 sacks. He's back to being an elite edge rusher and one of the most feared defensive ends in the league.

New England Patriots

Highest-graded player: EDGE Josh Uche (83.1)

Uche played only 373 snaps this season, and usually that wouldn't be enough to qualify for a list like this. However, we need to include someone who recorded 12 sacks and 56 pressures on just 285 pass-rush snaps. The Patriots have found an emerging star in Uche and increased his role significantly after Week 12. On a per-snap basis, Uche is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the league right now.

Biggest surprise: CB/WR/KR Marcus Jones (67.6)

Can you name the last NFL player to score an offensive touchdown, a special teams touchdown and start on defense, all in the same season? Before Marcus Jones, it was Deion Sanders. Jones is far from Deion as a player, but no one else is like him in the NFL. The fact that Jones was able to meaningfully contribute at three different positions in 2022 was nothing short of incredible.

New Orleans Saints

Highest-graded player: LB Demario Davis (82.7)

Demario Davis was a Pro Bowl selection for the first time in his career. He certainly earned it, as he finished as the No. 5 linebacker in PFF grade on the year. Davis racked up 43 run stops with nine sacks and seven hurries. He does everything exceptionally well and is one of the most well-rounded linebackers in the league.

Biggest surprise: LB Kaden Elliss (81.5)

Playing next to Davis was Kaden Elliss, a surprise starter for the Saints at the end of the year. Once Pete Werner went down with an injury, Elliss played a significant number of snaps for New Orleans. He finished the year as the No. 6 linebacker by PFF grade, totaling 20 pressures, eight sacks and 36 run stops. Between Davis, Elliss and Werner, the Saints are loaded at linebacker.

New York Giants

Highest-graded player: DI Dexter Lawrence (92.0)

No player in the NFL took a bigger leap this season than Dexter Lawrence. After three solid seasons in New York, Lawrence emerged as a superstar for the Giants. He tied Chris Jones as the highest-graded interior defensive lineman in the league. Despite being a nose tackle and weighing more than 340 pounds, Lawrence racked up the second-most pressures (63) among interior defensive linemen. 

Biggest surprise: QB Daniel Jones (76.0)

Jones wasn’t fantastic this season, but he was solid. He finished the year as the No. 17 quarterback by PFF grade, and that’s all the Giants needed to make the playoffs. Considering the offensive line he played behind and the weapons he was throwing to, it’s a shock that he was able to have this type of season. 

New York Jets

Highest-graded player: DI Quinnen Williams (90.1)

Williams was dominant for the Jets this season, recording 13 sacks and 14 quarterback hits. Both of those ranked second among interior defenders. Williams finished as the fourth-highest-graded interior defender this season, behind only Dexter Lawrence, Chris Jones and Aaron Donald. That certainly isn’t a bad group to join. 

Biggest surprise: CB Sauce Gardner (88.5)

Not only was Gardner the clear-cut best rookie cornerback in the class, but he was also the best cornerback in the NFL this season. Period. He finished the season with an 88.5 overall grade and a 90.2 coverage grade. He played nearly every snap on defense (1,114) and allowed just a 52.5 passer rating, the best in the NFL among cornerbacks. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Highest-graded player: EDGE Brandon Graham (89.8)

Graham played only 474 snaps this season, as the Eagles did a fantastic job of rotating their pass rushers. Plus, it's easy to limit snaps for someone like Graham when you rotate him with Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick and Robert Quinn. But Graham finished the season as the No. 5 edge rusher in the league with a 22.9% win rate (fifth best in the NFL). 

Biggest surprise: EDGE Josh Sweat (86.6)

Sweat was the seventh-highest-graded edge rusher this season, totaling 13 sacks on just 356 pass-rush snaps. He played only 587 snaps this season due to a heavy rotation on the defensive line and was still able to hit double-digit sacks. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest-graded player: DI Cameron Heyward (89.7)

Heyward has been the model of consistency in Pittsburgh, as this was his fourth straight season with an overall grade of 89.0 or better. He finished fourth in run stops among interior defensive tackles (43) and recorded 12 sacks. There aren't many interior defensive tackles in the league who are this consistent and dominant in both phases of the game. 

Biggest surprise: EDGE Alex Highsmith (78.0)

Highsmith finished the 2022 season with 15 sacks and 55 pressures, both of which were career highs. Despite not having T.J. Watt opposite of him for a big chunk of the season, Highsmith was able to be productive for the Steelers. Going into the final year of his rookie contract, he should be in for a big payday from the Steelers. 

San Francisco 49ers

Highest-graded player: T Trent Williams (93.0)

Another year, another top finish for Trent Williams. He was the top-graded offensive tackle this season by a good margin. Williams allowed just 15 pressures all season long and surrendered only two quarterback hits. What makes Williams so special is that for as good as he is as a pass protector, he's even better in the run game. He is a generational tackle who is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. 

Biggest surprise: QB Brock Purdy (76.6)

How can you not be impressed by Brock Purdy? Not only have the 49ers won all six games he's played, but Purdy is actually adding value to the offense. He has been an incredibly efficient passer (8.1 yards per attempt) and has led all quarterbacks in passer rating (112.0) since Week 13.

Seattle Seahawks

Highest-graded player: S Ryan Neal (85.6)

Neal was the highest-graded safety in the NFL this season by a pretty good distance. He was able to rack up six pass breakups and 25 run stops. He's a complete safety who has been an integral part of Seattle's defense this season. 

Biggest surprise: QB Geno Smith (79.8)

You can make a case that Smith should be the Comeback Player of the Year for several reasons. He led the Seahawks to the playoffs and graded out as a top-10 quarterback this season by PFF. He also had the second-most big-time throws (34), behind only Josh Allen. After starting just five games from 2015-2021, Smith was among the biggest surprises during the 2022 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Highest-graded player: LB Lavonte David (84.1)

David was as good as ever in 2022, grading out as the third-ranked linebacker in the NFL. He earned the second-highest coverage grade (88.5) among all linebackers, as he allowed just one touchdown on 76 targets. 

Biggest surprise: C Robert Hainsey (66.6)

After Ryan Jensen went down with a leg injury before the season began, Hainsey was next in line to take snaps at center. He did an admirable job, grading out as the 12th-ranked center in the NFL this season. He wasn't dominant by any means, but he was a reasonably consistent player that Tampa Bay desperately needed on the interior offensive line. 

Tennessee Titans

Highest-graded player: RB Derrick Henry (85.9)

Henry was the sixth-highest-graded running back this season, and he hasn't appeared to lose a step. It's not surprising that Henry again led the NFL in yards after contact (1,257), as that's what he's done his whole career. He still's the most dangerous running back in the league due to his power and ability to rip off long runs at any moment. 

Biggest surprise: TE Chigoziem Okonkwo (75.4)

Okonkwo became a massive weapon for the Titans in the second half of the season when the offense needed more playmaking. He led all tight ends in yards after the catch per reception (7.8) and was No. 1 in yards per route run (2.61). The Titans need to make him a focal point of their offense moving forward.

Washington Commanders

Highest-graded player: EDGE Montez Sweat (86.4)

Chase Young missed most of the season, but it was Sweat who stepped up and provided pass-rush production for Washington. Sweat graded out as the No. 8 edge rusher on the season, totaling 62 pressures and 19 quarterback hits.

Biggest surprise: RB Brian Robinson Jr. (82.5)

Robinson missed the first month of the season after suffering a gunshot wound to the leg in August. But when he returned to the field, he was dynamic. Robinson was the eighth-highest-graded running back on the season, averaging 2.62 yards after contact per rush. 

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