- Malik Hooker: The Dallas Cowboys safety ranked first among safeties last season by allowing just 0.19 yards per coverage snap.
- Jared Goff: The Detroit Lions quarterback ranked 17th out of 30 QBs who had at least 300 pass attempts with a 71.2 passing grade.
- Germaine Pratt: The Cincinnati Bengals linebacker ranked 11th in overall grade out of 54 linebackers who saw at least 600 snaps last season.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
The stars are always going to grab most of the attention but there are 22 players on the field each play and while not all of them are stars, they all have a chance to make a big impact. Today we’ll take a look at a player from each team who might not be a household name but still plays a key role in whether or not their team succeeds.
JUMP TO A TEAM:
- 2022 PFF Grade: 75.8
Jones became a regular starter for Arizona starting in Week 10 last season, and he finished the season as the second-highest graded player on the Cardinals offense. After a couple of rough seasons to start his career, the former third-round pick took a big step forward in his third season. Jones was one of just 12 tackles last season to finish the year with a 75.0-plus pass-blocking grade and a 70.0-plus run-blocking grade.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 86.6
McGary was another offensive lineman who took a big step forward in 2022, besting his previous career-high 64.3 overall grade from 2020 with an 86.6 overall grade last season, the fourth-best among all tackles. With a 91.6 run-blocking grade, McGary trailed only Trent Williams in run-blocking grade from a tackle position last season, and Atlanta rewarded him with a new three-year contract this offseason.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 71.2
There were only 13 fullbacks to see the field for at least 100 snaps last season. Ricard led the position with 747 snaps, 137 more than Kyle Juszczyk — who was second among the position in snaps — saw a season ago. Among that group of 13 fullbacks, outside of Ricard, there were just two players to eclipse a 60.0 run-blocking grade — and both did so playing a limited sample of snaps. Ricard towered over his peers with an 88.6 run-blocking grade on 450 run-block snaps.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 73.4
Jones ranked fifth among the Bills defense in terms of overall grade in 2022 and 17th league-wide among interior defenders. With 66 interior defenders seeing at least 500 defensive snaps last season, Jones was one of just 18 who posted a 70.0-plus pass rush grade while maintaining a 65.0-plus run defense grade.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 74.8
Out of 54 linebackers who played at least 600 snaps last season, Luvu ranked 15th with a 74.8 overall grade. Luvu had his struggles in coverage, but he was elite as a run defender, earning a 90.1 run defense grade that ranked third among LBs, trailing just Bobby Wagner and his teammate, Shaq Thompson. Luvu ranked first among LBs with a 19.5% positive grade rate in run defense, and his average depth of tackle at 2.04 yards past the line of scrimmage ranked second best.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 75.4
Jones was the second-highest-graded player on Chicago's offense last season, as he started every single game at left tackle. The fifth-round rookie finished 2022 as the 18th highest-graded tackle in terms of overall grade and was especially good as a run blocker, where his 79.4 grade ranked 10th.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 78.4
Out of 54 linebackers who saw at least 600 snaps last season, Pratt ranked 11th in terms of overall grade. Pratt especially excelled in coverage, where his 87.3 grade ranked third among linebackers and the 71.7 percent completion percentage he allowed into his coverage ranked sixth-best.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.5
Out of 90 cornerbacks who logged at least 300 coverage snaps last season, Emerson ranked 17th with a 75.1 coverage grade. Emerson ranked seventh among cornerbacks in 2022 by being directly responsible for forcing an incompletion on 20.0 percent of the targets thrown into his coverage.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 76.2
Hooker was one of 29 safeties last season to log at least 1,000 defensive snaps and among that group, he ranked fourth in overall grade and was just one of two safeties within that group to have both a coverage grade (74.8) and run defense grade (76.0) north of 70.0. Hooker ranked first among safeties last season by allowing just 0.19 yards per coverage snap.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.6
Fleming ranked 27th last season (out of 58 tackles who logged at least 600 offensive snaps) in overall grade. Seven of the pressures that Flemming surrendered were converted into sacks, but he ranked 18th among tackles by allowing any sort of pressure on just 5.0 percent of his pass block attempts.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.4
While Goff might never reach the elite level of play we saw early in his career, the former first-overall pick was plenty serviceable for the Lions last season. Goff ranked 17th out of 30 QBs who had at least 300 pass attempts with a 71.2 passing grade, he was fifth among the group with a 76.2 adjusted completion percentage and he led the Lions offense to 253 first downs picked up through the air, the ninth most among QBs.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 71.1
Jaire Alexander grabs all the headlines, but Douglas was rock solid on the other side of the field in 2022. Douglas ranked 24th among CBs in overall grade and was one of just 11 cornerbacks who played at least 600 defensive snaps while maintaining both coverage and run defense grades north of 70.0. Douglas ranked 19th among corners with a 13.2 forced incompletion percentage and the 80.8 passer rating opposing QBs had while targeting Douglas in coverage was tied for the 18th lowest among CBs.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.4
No wide receiver recorded a higher catch rate on contested targets in 2022 than Collins (minimum 10 contested targets), who did miss some time due to injury. His raw stat line is underwhelming, but with C.J. Stroud throwing him passes in 2023, a breakout could be on the horizon.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 82.1
When on the field, Rodgers has provided the Colts with consistently solid play since they drafted him out of Massachusetts in the sixth round back in 2020. Over 434 snaps last season, the third-year pro posted his third straight season with an overall grade north of 70.0 and set a new career best with an 81.5 coverage grade. Out of 106 cornerbacks who saw at least 250 coverage snaps in 2022, Rodgers ranked fifth in terms of coverage grade and third by allowing just 4.9 yards per time he was targeted in coverage.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 80.8
Campbell led all cornerbacks last season with 1,275 defensive snaps and out of the 41 corners who logged at least 500 coverage snaps in 2022, he ranked fourth with an 80.7 coverage grade. Among that group, the second-year ranked third with an average of 0.66 yards per coverage snap, trailing just Sauce Gardner and Patrick Surtain II.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.3
Tough to find an “underrated” player on the most prolific offense in football, but Smith fits the mold. The second-year player out of Tennessee followed up 1,404 snaps with a 72.7 overall grade as a rookie with a 72.3 overall grade across 1,230 snaps in Year 2. Smith ranked 11th out of 60 guards who saw at least 600 snaps last season in overall grade and was one of just eight guards to have at least a 65.0 pass-blocking grade (68.4) and at least a 70.0 run-blocking grade (70.8).
- 2022 PFF Grade: 75.3
After his 2021 season was cut short, Eluemunor bounced back in a big way in 2022. Eluemunor finished last season ranked 20th out of 58 tackles who logged at least 600 snaps in terms of overall grade and was one of 10 tackles to eclipse the 75.0 mark both in pass protection (76.1) and run blocking (75.7).
- 2022 PFF Grade: 80.7
It took a while for Akers to win over the featured back role within the Rams offense, but he ended 2022 as Los Angeles' second-highest graded offensive player and one of 18 running backs with at least 190 rushing attempts and an 80.0-plus rushing grade. From Weeks 13-18, Akers saw at least 12 rush attempts in each game after failing to get to 12 attempts in seven games prior. During that stretch, he ranked third among HBs with an 83.6 rushing grade.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 69.8
Drafted in the sixth round prior to last season, Salyer was thrust into the starting LT job in Week 4 in 2022 and maintained that job through the end of the year. Salyer finished the season ranked 31st out of 58 tackles who saw at least 600 offensive snaps in terms of overall grade, but he ranked 20th with his 76.4 pass-blocking grade while tallying up the 12th most pass-blocking snaps among all tackles.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.3
Hunt has played a big role in bringing stability to a Dolphins offensive line that was at the bottom of the league not too long ago. Hunt ranked 11th last season out of 60 guards who played at least 600 snaps in terms of overall grade and was one of three guards last season north of 70.0 in both run-(74.5) and pass-blocking (74.6) grades.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.0
Phillips struggled as a pass-rusher last season, but he was stout against the run. He was one of 28 interior defenders last season to log at least 300 snaps defending the run and among that group, he ranked seventh with a 73.8 run defense grade. Phillips was 10th in positive grade rate when stopping the run while also posting the seventh-best negative grade rate.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 78.4
Dugger took a big step forward in 2022 after a promising first couple of seasons as a second-round pick out of Lenoir. Out of 63 safeties who logged at least 700 defensive snaps last season, Dugger ranked eighth in terms of overall grade and was one of four safeties to post 75.0-plus grades defending the run (76.7) and in coverage (78.3). Dugger was especially good at making plays defending the run near the line of scrimmage. Out of 65 safeties who played against the run on at least 250 plays last year, Dugger ranked first with an average depth of tackle of 3.87 yards.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 80.8
Shaheed was an undrafted rookie out of Weber State who was able to elevate himself from the practice squad and establish a real role within the Saints offense by the end of the season. Starting in Week 12, Shaheed saw at least three targets in every game to close out the season and during that stretch, he posted an 80.5 receiving grade that ranked 15th best among 100 receivers who saw at least 100 passing snaps. He ranked second among receivers over that spane with an average of 2.71 yards per route run.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 76.1
With the exception of Week 18 when the Giants sat him, Hodgins saw at least 25 receiving snaps in every game from Week 11 through the end of the season. Over that stretch, he ranked 29th out of 87 receivers who saw at least 150 snaps on passing plays with a 74.2 receiving grade. Hodgins ranked 12th over that stretch by catching 62.5 percent of his contested targets and the 124.2 passer rating that his QB had when targeting him ranked sixth-best.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 82.6
Franklin-Myers was one of 49 edge defenders to see at least 600 defensive snaps last season and among that group, he ranked 13th in terms of overall grade and was one of just six edge defenders in that group to have at least a 75.0 grade in both run defense (76.8) and as a pass-rusher (76.0).
- 2022 PFF Grade: 89.8
He might not be underrated in Philadelphia, but I'm not sure the rest of the world realizes just how good Graham still is at this stage of his career. Out of the 72 edge defenders who logged at least 500 defensive snaps last season, Graham ranked fifth in overall grade, and his 89.8 pass-rushing grade ranked sixth. As a pass-rusher, his 23.1 percent win rate ranked fourth best among edge defenders, and his 11.5 pass-rushing productivity rating ranked first.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 73.8
Warren was one of the most efficient pass catchers out of the backfield in 2022. The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State was one of 45 RBs last season to see at least 30 targets in the passing game and among that group, he ranked fourth with a 79.8 receiving grade. Additionally, he ranked second by converting 43.8 percent of his catchable targets into either a first down or touchdown.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.1
The second-year safety out of USC ranked 20th last season out of 75 safeties who logged at least 500 defensive snaps in 2022, earning that grade while playing 1,214 snaps — over 800 more than he logged as a rookie. Out of 51 safeties who saw at least 500 snaps in coverage last year, Hufanga ranked 10th with a 74.6 coverage grade, and his seven forced incompletions were tied for fifth most.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 72.5
Lewis had shown himself capable as a run blocker during his first two seasons in Seattle after it drafted him in the third round back in 2020, but this past season, he took a big step forward in pass protection, finishing the season ranked 11th out of 65 guards who played at least 500 snaps. Lewis ranked 13th this past season among guards with a 98.2 pass-blocking efficiency rating, a significant jump from the 96.9 ratings he posted in each of his first two seasons.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 77.9
Out of 74 cornerbacks who logged at least 600 defensive snaps last season, Dean ranked eighth in terms of overall grade and was one of just three corners to have a coverage grade of at least 75.0 (75.6) to go with a run defense grade of at least 80.0 (82.5). The 73.3 passer rating that Dean allowed into his coverage was the 10th lowest among corners, and he was the only cornerback to record at least five defensive stops without missing a single tackle last year in run defense.
Tennessee Titans: EDGE Denico Autry
- 2022 PFF Grade: 82.8
Autry was a productive pass-rusher during his first season with Tennessee in 2021, but last season, he took a step forward as a run defender as well, finishing the season ranked 14th out of 72 edge defenders who saw at least 500 snaps last season in terms of overall grade. Autry ranked 15th last season among edge defenders with a 14.9 percent pressure rate, and his 20.8 percent positive grade rate in run defense ranked seventh.
- 2022 PFF Grade: 82.9
Out of 63 safeties who saw at least 700 snaps last season, nobody had a higher overall grade than Curl, who was one of two safeties to finish the year with both a run defense (80.5) and coverage grade (80.8) north of 80.0. Curl was a seventh-round pick back in 2020 and has now finished each of his first three seasons with at least 700 defensive snaps played with an overall grade of at least 68.0.