News & Analysis

Five players that can break out with their new teams

By Mark Chichester
Mar 18, 2019

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Oct 18, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett (48) reacts against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of the new league year came with its fair share of shocks, surprise moves, and bargain deals, and while trades such as the one that the Cleveland Browns made for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon took the headlines and immediately catapulted the Browns to the AFC North favorite, other moves flew under the radar somewhat. Below is a list of five players who recently signed with new teams and have a chance to make a very real impact in 2019.

Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The former undrafted free agent out of Colorado State has never put up the same lofty sack totals as players like his ex-teammate Von Miller, for example, but make no mistake about it, Barrett has been consistently good at generating pressure and getting to the quarterback during his time in the league. Barrett has earned run-defense and pass-rushing grades over 70.0 every single season of his career, while his three-year pass-rushing productivity rating of 14.8 ties him with Michael Bennett, J.J. Watt, Myles Garrett and Trent Murphy for the 30th-best mark among edge defenders with at least 500 pass-rushing snaps since 2016. Barrett just needs a chance to showcase his skills in a full-time starting role, and that’s exactly what he’s going to get in Tampa Bay.

Preston Smith, Green Bay Packers

Smith seems to be peaking just in time for a much-needed breakout season for Green Bay. His 2018 overall grade of 76.9 was a career-high for the former second-round pick, and he has increased his pressure totals each of the last two seasons, from 34 in 2016, to 39 in 2017, to 53 in 2018 – which tied for 24th among 109 edge defenders in the 2018 season. If Smith can continue to produce at this high level and show the same durability that has allowed him to play at least 750 snaps in each of the past three years, he could very well be the first Green Bay edge defender since Julius Peppers (2015) to generate 50 pressures over the course of a season.

Justin Coleman, Detroit Lions

This move will go a long way in securing the slot cornerback position for Lions in 2019, a position that was somewhat of a weak spot last year. During the 2018 season, Nevin Lawson led the team with 389 slot coverage snaps, yet his 63.8 overall grade and his 62.5 coverage grade respectively ranked 56th and 57th among the 97 defensive players with at least 100 slot coverage snaps last year.

During his time in the league, Coleman has proved to be one of the better options at the position. He’s recorded single-season coverage grades of at least 75.0 in each of the last two campaigns, while his four-year slot coverage grade of 79.1 ranks seventh among cornerbacks with at least 500 slot coverage snaps over that span. When targeted as the primary slot coverage defender during his career, Coleman has allowed 96 catches from 154 targets for 1032 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s allowed a passer rating of just 82.5, forced an incompletion on 13.0% of those targets and allowed an average of just 1.09 yards per slot coverage snap, which rank sixth, eighth and 14th among cornerbacks with at least 100 targets in that span, respectively.

Tyrell Williams, Oakland Raiders

In an attempt to bolster a wide receiving corps that collectively ranked 27th among the league’s pass-catching units in yards per route run, the Raiders have looked to former Charger Tyrell Williams to pair with the team’s marquee signing, Antonio Brown. Showing his ability to step up to the plate when his team needs him most, Williams caught 69-of-111 targets for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016, when he was thrust into a primary role in the wake of Keenan Allen’s season-ending injury.

Allen’s return from injury and the emergence of Mike Williams pushed Williams down the pecking order in Los Angeles 2017 and 2018, but he still managed the lead the league’s receivers in deep receiving yards (291) through the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, something that should pair nicely with Derek Carr’s ability to find the open man deep down the field. Since 2016, Carr’s 45.9 adjusted completion percentage on passes targeted at least 20-yards downfield ranks fourth among all qualifying quarterbacks in that span. 

Adrian Amos, Green Bay Packers

As Senior Analyst Mike Renner wrote last week, Amos to Green Bay is arguably the best value deal of free agency so far. While his 12 combined interceptions and pass breakups over the past two seasons wouldn’t give the impression of an elite safety, Amos has been one of the league’s premier players at the position over recent seasons. His overall grade over the past three years falls into the elite category at 90.6, and it ranks third among all safeties with at least 1,000 snaps since 2016. In a career that has spanned 2,315 snaps in coverage, he has been beaten for a reception longer than 40 yards just once, and he was downgraded at the third-lowest rate of any starting safety in 2018. Now that he’s in the spotlight thanks to his four-year, $36 million deal, Amos will now have the chance to make his name heard, and if he can keep up the same stellar play that made him shine in Chicago, he’ll be well on the way to providing the kind of safety play that Green Bay has been missing for some time.

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