In addition to our Midseason All-Pro Team, our latest quarterback rankings and our midseason offensive line rankings, we at PFF have named the following players as the October 2019 Players of the Month. Highlighted below are the top overall rookies, NFC players and AFC players through Week 8.
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NFC PLAYERS OF THE MONTH
Offensive Player: QB Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
There is no player that has been hotter over the last four weeks than Cousins, and frankly, no other player has come close to his overall grade of 95.2 over that stretch. In each of those four games – all of which were wins for the Vikings – Cousins graded at 83.0 or higher. PFF’s quarterback grades don’t always align with box score production, whether that be due to dropped passes or an 80-yard screen in which the receiver does all the work, but in the case of Cousins in October they absolutely do. His 10.9 yards per attempt (1.7 higher than the next closest qualifying quarterback) and 137.1 passer rating (18.4 higher than the next closest quarterback) are deserved given how well he has played of late.
Defensive Player: LB Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
The NFC awards remain in Minnesota, as Cousins’ teammate Eric Kendricks was the highest-graded defensive player in the conference. He has put together one of the more impressive defensive performances of any player this season, recently making PFF’s Midseason All-Pro Team, and October was no different. Kendricks was an all-around star in the middle of the Vikings’ defense with run defense, coverage and pass-rushing grades all above 80.0. He recorded 11 pressures (most of any off-ball linebacker), seven pass breakups (five more than any other linebacker) and did not miss a single tackle in run defense.
Special Teams: Sherrick McManis, Chicago Bears
Not only did McManis make his four defensive snaps in October count by forcing a fumble on the goal line against the Oakland Raiders, but he has consistently performed at a high level on special teams for the Bears. McManis recorded a 90.6 overall grade and showed his versatility with 10 or more snaps on five different special teams phases (kick return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt coverage and field goal/extra point block). In October, he made three special teams tackles, committed no penalties and did not miss any tackles.
AFC PLAYERS OF THE MONTH
Offensive Player: WR Deandre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Both Tyreek Hill (89.8) and Josh Jacobs (89.3) graded higher than Hopkins (89.2) among AFC offensive players with 100 or more snaps in October, but Hopkins’ 294 snaps were more than double both players, earning him the Player of the Month honors. The Deshaun Watson-to-Hopkins connection began to fire on all cylinders, as the two connected on 83.7% of their 43 targets for 358 yards and 27 first downs this past month. Only Michael Thomas had more first down conversions receiving than Nuk over that stretch. Hopkins led all wide receiver in PFF WAR – or wins above replacement – last season, and if October was any indication, he isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Defensive Player: LB Alexander Johnson, Denver Broncos
Despite injuries and ineffective play from the Broncos' linebacking corps to open the season, Johnson didn’t crack the defensive rotation until Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Since then, all he has done is earn the highest overall grade of any defender in the AFC. Johnson’s 29 total tackles without a missed tackle are the most of any player in the league over the month of October, and despite being targeted 20 times as the primary coverage defender (sixth-most among linebackers over the last four weeks), Johnson is allowing just under six yards per target on those plays. He’s proving to Vic Fangio and company that he deserves a spot on the field.
Special Teams: K Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Sometimes the greats don’t get the recognition that they deserve because their elite-level play becomes expected. Tucker falls into that “under-appreciated greatness” category from time to time, but his performance in October deserves some love. In just three games, Tucker went 10-for-10 on field goal attempts, four of which were 40-plus yarders, and he connected on all seven of his extra points. It’s a testament to just how automatic Tucker is that JuJu Smith-Schuster’s overtime fumble in Week 5 had such a strong sense of finality to it. Everyone knew Tucker wasn’t missing that kick. He didn’t, of course, and the league is still waiting for his first miss of the 2019 season.
ROOKIES OF THE MONTH
Offensive Rookie: QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Murray was the clear-cut number one choice in this year’s draft for us at PFF, but over the first month of the season, his play could be categorized as shaky at best. Over the last four weeks, though, Murray has looked much more comfortable in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, showing the skillset that got him drafted first overall. His overall grade of 80.6 ranked eighth among all quarterbacks in October, much improved from the 61.6 grade he posted in September (22nd). Perhaps the most promising element of his past month was the jump we saw from him on the high-end throws. Murray quadrupled his big-time throw rate from 1.8% of attempts in September to 7.3% in October.
Defensive Rookie: EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
When you watch Nick Bosa on the football field, it’s hard to convince yourself that this is a rookie out there making offensive tackles look foolish. There were 16 rookie defenders with 50 or more pass-rushing snaps in October. Bosa’s pass-rush win rate of 24.2% was the highest among that group by 11%. He has simply been on another level than his peers. Among all defenders, Bosa's win rate ranks fourth over the last four weeks, trailing only Myles Garrett, J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. It’s safe to say that Defensive Rookie of the Month for October isn’t the last award that Bosa will be winning this season if he stays healthy.