The good people at Pro Football Focus spend enormous amounts of time breaking down every player’s performance on every individual play throughout the season. In the end, players can then be given a final rating somewhere between zero (poor) and 100 (elite). If you want to learn more about their methodology, you can read PFF’s Player Grade overview.
What I have always appreciated about PFF is that while no player evaluation system is perfect, at least PFF is consistent. Players are graded by the same criteria which enables them to be given one of seven grades based on their rating and position rank:
- High Quality
- Above Average
- Below Average
Based on free, public information available at PFF’s Carolina Panthers page after Week 17, here are the final 2018 ratings, grades, and position rankings for each of the Panthers starters and regular contributors on defense. (Note, I did the same write-up last year and here’s the link.)
Grades and Ranks After Week 17, per PFF
|Kyle Love||IDL||76.8||Above Average||32|
|Dontari Poe||IDL||65.7||Above Average||82|
|Julius Peppers||Edge||75.9||Above Average||23|
|Mario Addison||Edge||69.5||Above Average||44|
|Wes Horton||Edge||42.4||Below Average||107|
|Luke Kuechly||LB||90.7||High Quality||2|
|Thomas Davis||LB||74.2||Above Average||17|
|Shaq Thompson||LB||68.6||Above Average||31|
|James Bradberry||CB||66.4||Above Average||59|
|Donte Jackson||CB||65||Above Average||64|
|Eric Reid||S||66.5||Above Average||53|
|Mike Adams||S||51.4||Below Average||83|
1 - Luke Kuechly: 90.7 rating, No. 2 linebacker. Luke will go down as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, health permitting. No surprises here and no need to explain any further.
2 - Kawann Short: 85.7 rating, No. 14 interior defensive lineman. KK had another solid season. Despite missing two games, his 12 tackles for loss dwarfed the combined totals of Dontari Poe (four), Kyle Love (zero), and Vernon Butler (zero), per Football Reference.
3 - Kyle Love: 76.8 rating, No. 32 interior defensive lineman. This one’s a surprise, but PFF loved Kyle Love. He registered just 19 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, and zero tackles for loss. But some of the value of interior defensive linemen doesn’t show up on the stat sheet (e.g. eating blockers) so PFF saw something special with what Love was doing.
1 - Wes Horton: 42.4 rating, No. 107 edge rusher. The Panthers struggled all year to get pressure on the quarterback coming from the edge and Horton was part of the problem. Despite playing 537 snaps, Horton registered just 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits.
2 - Mike Adams: 51.4 rating, No. 83 safety. Adams really struggled this year, especially in coverage. In my weekly “Plays to Love/Hate” column he tied for the defensive lead for the most “Plays to Hate” on the season, meaning his gaffes significantly impacted multiple games this year.
3 - Captain Munnerlyn: 61.6 rating, No. 84 cornerback. This one passes the eye test. Captain was either too slow, too short, or too out of position to consistently make plays. With the lack of a pass rush this year Captain was left on an island too often and the outcome usually wasn’t good.
Respecting our elders: Major props to Julius Peppers (75.9 PFF grade, No. 23 defensive end) and Thomas Davis (74.2, No. 17 linebacker) for terrific seasons. Carolina should seriously consider bringing both of them back next year if they can work out team-friendly deals.
Eric Reid’s production: Eric Reid’s (66.5, No. 53 safety) performance significantly exceeded his cap hit. Carolina signed him after Week 3 on a $1.4 million deal and he immediately delivered an “above average” season at a position of serious need.
Turning the corner: Both James Bradberry (66.4, No. 59 cornerback) and Donte Jackson (65.0, No. 64 cornerback) were given “above average” grades this year. Hopefully they both continue to improve as they play on rookie deals for the next few years.
Dontari Poe above average?: Color me surprised by this one. He seemed invisible to me so PFF must have seen him doing things like eating double teams that I missed. If “meh” was a grade, that’s the one I’d use.
Again, what I appreciate about PFF is that so much of what happens in football cannot be measured by simple statistics. Their system isn’t perfect (none are), but at least it’s consistent.
With that, props to Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, and Kyle Love – the Carolina Panthers 2018 PFF Defensive MVPs.