In addition to our upcoming First-Quarter All-Pro Team for the 2019 NFL season, we at PFF have named the following players as the September 2019 Players of the Month. Highlighted below are the top overall rookies, NFC players and AFC players through Week 4.
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Rookies of the Month
The world is falling in love with Jacksonville Jaguars rookie signal-caller Gardner Minshew, and rightfully so. More than just a mustache and feel-good story, Minshew has already shattered pre-draft expectations and currently ranks first among rookies and 11th among all qualifying quarterbacks in passing grade (74.6). Among the 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 50 clean-pocket dropbacks on the year, Minshew ranks fifth in clean-pocket passing grade (86.9) and ninth in clean-pocket adjusted completion percentage (82.7%). And despite getting knocked for a lack of arm strength all throughout the pre-draft process, Minshew leads all 31 signal-callers with at least 25 passes of 10-plus air yards in passing grade on such throws (93.8), with eight big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy throws. Join the Minshew bandwagon for the mustache, jock-strap aerobics and moxie; stay on the bandwagon because he’s actually good.
Among the 33 rookies with at least 100 defensive snaps played through Week 4, Burns ranks first in overall grade at 78.4. He also ranks second among qualifying first-year players in pass-rush win percentage (17.8%), pass-rush grade (72.4) and pressure percentage (15.8%). Totaling three sacks, six quarterback hits and seven hurries in 101 pass-rush snaps, Burns has flashed dominance with a handful of quick pass-rush wins and solid overall consistency across a heavy snap count to start the season.
AFC Players of the Month
Only Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz (86.0) has a higher passing grade than Los Angeles Chargers veteran quarterback Philip Rivers (84.7) through Week 4. Rivers has been efficient and risk-averse throwing the football so far this season, as he currently ranks third in percentage of positively graded throws and 10th in percentage of negatively graded throws. He also ranks sixth in passing grade on throws of 10-plus air yards (91.5) and has thrown an uncatchable ball on just 17% of his attempts, the fifth-lowest mark among the 24 quarterbacks with at least 100 aimed targets so far this year.
Likely a surprise to many, Houston Texans’ DJ Reader, a 2016 fifth-round pick out of Clemson, has earned Defensive Player of the Month honors for September. The 6-foot-3, 347-pounder has been lights out to start his fourth year in the NFL, earning a 90.3 overall grade, 84.3 run-defense grade and 81.7 pass-rushing grade across 158 defensive snaps. He’s recorded two or more pressures in every game this year and has earned 86.0-plus single-game grades in each of the past three weeks. Reader has seemingly taken his game to the next level after earning a 79.2 overall grade in 2017 and a 76.7 overall grade in 2018.
Rookie Notre Dame product Drue Tranquill, the Bolts’ 2019 fourth-round pick, is making an immediate impact as a versatile special teams player. Playing more than 10 special teams snaps across four different phases (kick return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt coverage), Tranquill leads all NFL players with at least 50 snaps played on special teams in overall grade on such snaps at 91.3. He’s recorded two tackles, zero missed tackles and zero penalties on the year.
NFC Players of the Month:
While San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle leads all offensive players in overall grade at 92.7 so far this season, we tipped the scales in favor of Chris Godwin given that Kittle did have the luxury of a bye in Week 4. Of course, Kittle will likely be in the running for PFF Player of the Month honors in the coming months.
In addition to his 90.2 overall grade that leads all qualifying NFL receivers, Godwin leads all at his position with 80 or more routes run through Week 4 in receiving grade (90.1), seventh in yards per route run (2.59) and third in passer rating when targeted (155.0). He has also caught five of his six contested-catch opportunities, forced five missed tackles and gained 15 yards or more on 12 of his 26 receptions.
Shaquil Barrett has exploded in his first chance at a full-time role in the NFL. After rushing the passer fewer than 300 times in three of his first four seasons in the NFL, Barrett already has an 89.4 pass-rushing grade across 172 pass-rush snaps with the Bucs through Week 4. He ranks fourth in pass-rush grade (89.4), fourth in total pressures (25) and tied for 12th in pass-rush win percentage (19.6%) among the 103 NFL players with 80 pass-rush snaps through Week 4. He also has a whopping three forced fumbles and 13 defensive stops.
An undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, J.T. Gray has earned an impressive a 90.9 overall grade across his 69 specials teams snaps so far this season, and he’s done so while playing at least four snaps across five different special teams phases. He’s also logged five tackles and zero penalties on specials through Week 4.