Now that the NFL season is complete, it’s a good time to take stock of what happened on the field in 2016. The final grades from Pro Football Focus are in the books, and while you can argue with their outcomes they offer a fairly good starting point when considering the best players in the NFL.
The highest placement any Buffalo Bills player received among position groups was sixth, where LeSean McCoy placed among running backs and Richie Incognito placed among guards. Shady was notably kept off of the PFF Top 101 players list as a result of his low pass blocking grade, despite being one of three backs (along with David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals and Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers) to rank in their top ten as both a runner and a receiver. Incognito fell off from the 2015 season, when he placed second among guards, but still had a solid season overall. Mike Gillislee also finished fourteenth at the running back position, ahead of guys like Matt Forte of the New York Jets (22nd), Mark Ingram of the new Orleans Saints (17th), and Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks (15th).
Tyrod Taylor ranked eleventh among quarterbacks in 2016, dropping off from his 2015 rating but still placing in the top half of quarterbacks. Taylor’s run grade of 87.5 placed second among quarterbacks, behind only Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. Interestingly, PFF senior analyst Steve Palazzolo placed Taylor at 20th overall in his ranking of quarterbacks just before the end of the regular season, despite giving him a positive review in the piece.
One of the common defenses of Taylor’s performance in 2016 is the low quality of receivers he had to work with. PFF backs up that argument, as the highest-rated Bills receiver was Sammy Watkins, who tied with Quincy Enunwa of the Jets at 47th overall. Robert Woods placed 59th, between Sterling Shepard of the Giants and the Bengals’ Tyler Boyd. The only other Bills receiver who played enough snaps to qualify for a ranking was Marquise Goodwin, who placed 94th among 115 qualified receivers.
Despite a solid season when he was on the field, Cordy Glenn only placed 22nd among offensive tackles. His lack of playing time likely hurt his cause; only two of the 21 tackles ahead of Glenn played fewer than his 657 snaps, and he was one of only four tackles in the top 24 to play fewer than 900 snaps.
Kyle Williams placed 16th among interior defenders. That was despite being the fourth-rated player in that group against the run, as a woeful pass-rush grade hurt his overall rating. Ditto for the Bills’ top safety, Corey Graham, who placed 37th among all safeties in the league.
Lorenzo Alexander, one of two Bills initially voted into the Pro Bowl, ranked 29th among edge defenders despite finishing tied for third in the NFL in sacks. Considering that NFL leader Vic Beasley ranked lower, however, indicates that the analysts looked well beyond sack total in their ratings. Jerry Hughes placed 64th in that category, largely a result of his run defense grade placing 97th among 107 qualified players.
Anybody who followed PFF throughout the year probably noticed that most of their Bills graphics included Nickell Robey-Coleman, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was the highest-ranked Bills cornerback at 33rd overall. Pending free agent Stephon Gilmore placed 61st overall, while Ronald Darby placed 67th despite the second-best run defense grade among cornerbacks.