News & Analysis

Worst players at every position this season

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

While Khaled Elsayed named the PFF midseason All-Pro roster and awards on Wednesday, we're going to take a very different approach for this roster. Below are the worst performers at their respective positions this season.

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford, Lions, 46.3

For anyone that has watched football this year, Stafford's inclusion really shouldn’t surprise you. Stafford has been one of the biggest reasons for the poor play of the Detroit Lions this season. Despite two receivers that some teams would kill to have, Stafford hasn’t been able to get anything going. His offensive line has been bad, no doubt about it, and he’s been pressured on 39 percent of his dropbacks.

But even when he isn’t faced with pressure, he’s averaging just 7.8 yards-per-attempt (YPA) and has thrown just one more touchdown than interceptions (seven to six). Any throw over 10 yards in the air is an adventure, as he’s completed just 48 percent of those passes, with an equal amount of touchdowns (six) and interceptions. It was just two years ago that Stafford was our sixth-highest graded quarterback. Safe to say, he won’t be there this season.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck (47.3), Colin Kaepernick (48.6)

Running back: Chris Johnson, Cardinals, 45.3

Johnson has long been someone that puts up the stats but has never graded well, and there are a few reasons for that. It’s easy to run when your O-line is creating holes the size of three people. Currently, the Cardinals have our fourth-best offensive line in terms of run blocking. Johnson’s elusive rating is a mere 40.2, as he’s broken just 20 tackles on 146 touches.

On top of that, the Cardinals’ have one of the most dangerous passing games in the league. So, when you’ve got a really strong offensive line, and a passing game defenses need to focus on, you’re going to get some running lanes. But despite all the yards, Johnson just hasn’t done enough on his own to show he can succeed without the perfect offense around him.

Honorable Mention: Melvin Gordon (50.0), Chris Polk (50.3)

Fullback: Malcolm Johnson, Browns, 30.5

There are many that call the fullback a dead position in the NFL. It’s true that many teams no longer employ a traditional fullback in their offense, aside from short-yardage plays. The Browns are one of the teams still using a fullback fairly regularly, although it’s not clear why. Johnson is our lowest-graded fullback, and it isn’t even close. He’s been essentially useless in run blocking, which is about the only thing fullbacks are really used for. In 136 snaps, he’s made just four positively-graded plays. That’s not a lot.

Honorable Mention: Tommy Bohanon (40.8)

Tight end: Ed Dickson, Panthers, 40.8

Dickson has been below average at just about everything for the Panthers so far this season. He’s rarely looked at in the passing game, with just 13 targets on 103 routes run. He’s caught eight of them, and dropped two. When asked to pass block, he’s not much better, having allowed a QB hit and five hurries in limited snaps. But it’s his run blocking that really earned him a spot on this team. Currently, he has a 30.0 grade when run blocking, which is the worst amongst all tight ends in the NFL.

Honorable Mention: Tim Wright (45.0), Jim Dray (45.4)

Wide receivers: Seth Roberts, Raiders, 43.8, and Greg Jennings, Dolphins, 45.3

When you think of the Raiders, Seth Roberts is definitely not the first name that comes to mind. He’s rarely talked about, but is currently the lowest graded receiver in the entire NFL. Of all receivers that have run more than 200 pass routes, only two have a lower yards per route run average than Roberts’ 0.83. He also has five drops on 22 targets, which is the fifth-worst mark among any receiver with more than 10 targets.

Greg Jennings is much more of a household name. Arguably one of the better receivers in the NFL at one point, he now grades out as the second-worst in the entire league. He hardly even sees the field anymore, having played just 46 snaps in the past four games combined. On the season he’s caught just 10-of-20 passes thrown his way for 104 yards, with only 29 of those coming after the catch. He’s also dropped three balls. It’s been a steady decline for a player who once put up 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.

Honorable Mention: Marlon Brown (45.8), Keith Mumphery (45.9)

Tackles: LaAdrian Waddle, Lions, 22.8, and James Hurst, Ravens, 25.8

Waddle has a run block grade of 42.2, which ranks 57th among qualified tackles in the league (out of 77). That’s actually the good part. When it comes to pass blocking, Waddle grades out at 19.8, which is the worst amongst any tackle that has played at least one snap this season (there have been 107). Waddle has allowed five sacks, six hits and 24 hurries. His pass blocking efficiency of 87.6, if it holds up, will be the worst we’ve ever recorded for a starting tackle.

One could make the case that Hurst has actually played worse, because his struggles are all around. His run blocking grade of 27.9 is the third-worst among any tackle to take a snap, and his pass blocking grade of 26.1 is second-worst. His 29 pressures allowed has led to a pass blocking efficiency of 89.4, which is also lower than we’ve ever recorded among starting tackles.

Honorable Mention: Charles Leno Jr. (32.4), Garry Gilliam (32.3)

Guards: John Miller, Bills, 34.5, and J’Marcus Webb, Raiders, 39.2

Miller has had a really rough time pass blocking all season, and his 29.2 grade in that discipline reflects that (lowest in the NFL among guards). He’s graded negatively in every game he’s played, and his pass blocking efficiency of 91.9 is the fourth-worst in the NFL. Factor in his 40.8 run block grade (15th lowest in the league), and you’ve earned a spot on this team.

Webb has just been consistently below-average in both aspects of offensive line play. His pass block grade of 39.5 and run block grade of 36.3 are both among the worst in the league. He hasn’t had a ton of extremely poor games like some players, but just a string of eight straight below-average games. Perhaps he’ll turn it around in the second half of the season, but for now, he’s on this list.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Devey (37.4) and Roger Saffold (38.2)

Center: Kory Lichtensteiger, Redskins, 19.1

Even though he’s out with an injury, there was just no way to leave Lichtensteiger off of this team after his historically bad start to the season. Currently, he ranks as the lowest-graded player in all of football at any position, with a grade of 19.1. He has a pass blocking efficiency of 93.8, the second-lowest in the league. His run blocking is even worse, with a grade of just 18.7. Before this year, the lowest cumulative grade we’d ever given a center through five games was -12.6. Lichtensteiger had a -27.3.

Honorable Mention: Trevor Robinson (28.2)

 

We at PFF put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).

Defensive interior – ends: Xavier Cooper, Browns, 42.5, and Ricardo Mathews, San Diego Chargers, 44.1

Cooper has struggled slightly more against the run (40.8 grade) than rushing the passer (45.4), although neither grade is very good. He’s made only four run stops all year, for a very low run stop percentage of just 4.8. In terms of pass rushing, he’s recorded just two hurries all season. He’s posted below-average grades in every game except for one, in which he was exactly average.

Mathews is very equal in his poor play. He has nearly identical run defense and pass rush grades (44.3 and 45.8 respectively). He has just one sack and five hurries in 138 pass rushes, and just five run stops all year. He’s been ever so slightly worse than his teammate Kendall Reyes, but the Chargers defensive line could really use some improvement over the second half of the season.

Honorable Mention: Kendall Reyes (45.5), Jared Crick (47.6)

Defensive interior – tackle: Markus Kuhn, Giants, 46.8

Kuhn has been below-average when it comes to rushing the passer, just not extremely below-average. He has a sack, a hit, and two hurries in 79 pass rush snaps. But it’s his run defense that’s been a real struggle for him this season. He’s been on the field for 108 run plays, and has made just two run stops. That’s a 1.9 run stop percentage, ranked 70th out of 73 qualified defensive tackles.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Mebane (48.6)

Edge rushers: Chris Clemons, Jaguars, 44.8, and Bud Dupree, Steelers, 49.8

Most of Clemons’ struggles stem from his third-lowest-in-the-league run defense grade of 38.5. He has just four run stops and three missed tackles on 90 rushing plays. But even when it comes to rushing the passer, something an edge rusher should excel at, Clemons does not. He’s gone after the quarterback 220 times this season, and has come away with just two sacks and 11 total hurries. That’s a pass rush productivity score of 4.0, the fourth-lowest in the NFL.

Dupree has a very even mix of reasons for being on this team. Pass rushing, he’s been below-average, with only 14 total pressures in 162 pass rush snaps, with five of those being unblocked pressures. Against the run he’s been even worse, making just two run stops in 119 snaps. He’s only missed one tackle too, so it’s not as though he’s getting there and not finishing. He’s just not getting involved at all, which is even worse.

Honorable Mention: Kasim Edebali (47.3), Mike Neal (50.5)

Linebackers: Perry Riley, Redskins, 27.1, and Keenan Robinson, Redskins, 34.1

It’s a mix of depressing and terrifying that both of the Redskins’ inside linebackers made this team. Riley makes this list thanks to a run defense grade of 20.6 and a pass coverage grade of 34.8. Among all inside linebackers, Riley ranks dead last in run stop percentage thanks to just four run stops in 134 snaps (3.0 percent). He’s hardly better in coverage, allowing an eighth-worst 1.23 yards per cover snap

Robinson has a run stop percentage of 9.2, which is good for the 18th best in the league. Yet he has a league-worst (by a lot) run defense grade of 15.1. What’s the reason for that? Well, it has a lot to do with his almost hilariously-bad missed tackle rate to start this season. Robinson has missed 15 tackles this season, 12 of them in the run game. He’s made 18 stops in the run game. For every three stops he makes, he’ll miss two tackles. That’s a bad rate, and needs to improve if he wants to get off this team by the end of the year

Honorable Mention: Curtis Lofton (34.0), Lawrence Timmons (32.3)

Cornerbacks: Brandon Browner, Saints, 26.7, and Joe Haden, Browns, 32.3

Browner has a league-worst coverage grade of 27.3, thanks to 36 receptions allowed for 571 yards and a touchdown. Now those numbers don’t look terrible, but then you add on the 16 defensive penalties that he’s had, and his grade starts to make a lot more sense. Browner can’t seem to go one game without holding or interfering, and it’s the reason he is on this list.

Haden hasn’t played in many games this year, but when he has, the Browns would have been better off with him not suiting up. Haden is averaging just 6.2 cover snaps per reception, which is the fourth-lowest in the NFL. What’s more, his 2.60 yards per cover snaps allowed is the most in the NFL. Quarterbacks targeting Haden are 24-for-31 for 387 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a QB rating of 158.2. Quarterbacks in the NFL this season have been 0.1 point off of being absolutely perfect throwing at Joe Haden.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Flowers (34.0), Antwon Blake (31.8)

Safeties: Dashon Goldson, Redskins, 37.1, and Trenton Robinson, Redskins, 36.3

Once again, Redskins’ teammates make this team at the same position, and it’s no less depressing/scary than before. Goldson is here thanks to equal struggles in coverage and run defense. Coverage-wise, Goldson grades out at 43.4, which is 82nd among 85 safeties in the NFL. He’s missed 12 tackles, including eight against the run, compared to 13 run stops. No safety in football has a lower run defense grade than Goldson’s 29.7

Robinson is just the tiniest bit better than Goldson. His coverage grade of 43.9 ranks 81st out of 85 safeties, and his run defense grade of 33.1 is the second worst. He’s missed two less tackles (so he still 10 missed tackles), but he’s only made eight run stops. So, there is one thing that Goldson beats him at. Still, not good; especially for the Redskins, whose entire midfield made this team.

Honorable Mention: Jahleel Addae (48.3), Calvin Pryor (46.2)

 

Kicker: Jason Myers, Jaguars

Myers has missed a 44, 48, and 53-yard field goal this year, as well as three extra points. He’s also had two kickoffs out of bounds, and only forced touchbacks on 20-of-38 kickoffs (52.6 percent).

Honorable Mention: Travis Coons

Punter: Mike Scifres, Chargers

Nobody’s punts are returned more frequently than Scifres’, who is seeing 72.7 percent of his punts being brought back. Only 8-of-33 punts have landed inside the 20, and his net punt averages a league-low 35.5 yards.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Locke

Returner: Bishop Sankey, Titans

Sankey is averaging just 21.3 yards per kick return, and has muffed two of them. He’s also had a regular fumble on a return.

Honorable Mention: Phillip Dorsett

Special Teams: James Winchester, Chiefs

Winchester, the Chiefs’ long snapper, the man who’s only job is to long snap, has been inaccurate on 11 long snaps this season.

Honorable Mention: Zak DeOssie

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