Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Billy Moy will be contributing to BNblitz.com all season long.
In this week’s article from Pro Football Focus, we look at the players who’ve earned the 10 highest grades 12 weeks into the season. At PFF, we grade every player on every play and then those grades are aggregated, normalized, and the result is we get a rating that tells us how that player has performed over a select period (for more info on how we grade follow the link).
To quote our article that breaks down the grading system: It’s important to understand that PFF is not grading talent in these numbers, rather strictly performance on the field. Talented players can have bad games, runs or even seasons, and often players without nearly as much talent can put together impressive play on the field. We are not necessarily telling you who the best players are. Our rankings are more of a performance evaluation, and a reflection of how efficiently a player made plays in the time he was on the field.
So with that being said, here are your 10 highest-graded Bills thus far from No. 10 to No. 1:
- Kyle Williams, DI
PFF Overall Grade: 69.6
Out of 112 interior defenders who have logged at least 200 defensive snaps this season, Williams ranks 54th in terms of overall grade, with a grade that sits right on the cusp of being in a tier we’d consider above average (between 70.0-79.9). Williams hasn’t been unbelievable in any one area, but he’s graded out as an average defender in both run defense (64.9) and as a pass-rusher (66.6), something only 55 of 112 interior defenders have done to this point. The Buffalo icon still has it when it comes to shedding defenders as a pass-rusher, his 11.0 win percentage (how often he beats an offensive lineman on a pass rush, including instances when he gets a decisive win but a quick throw gets out before he’s able to land pressure) is tied for 28th best out of the 116 interior defenders who’ve rushed the QB at least 100 times.
- Jordan Poyer, S
PFF Overall Grade: 70.7
Relative to 2017, when he posted a near-elite 87.7 overall grade, it’s been a bit of a down year for Poyer. With that being said, he still has performed at an above-average level and among the 89 safeties who have played at least 200 defensive snaps, his overall grade ranks 40th, and his 74.8 coverage grade ranks 23rd. Out of the 96 safeties who’ve played at least 100 snaps in coverage this season, Poyer ranks 18th by allowing just 0.3 yards per snap he has spent in coverage and the 77.2 passer rating he has allowed into his coverage ranks 31st.
- Robert Foster, WR
PFF Overall Grade: 71.0
One of just two offensive players on this list, Foster ranks 46th out of the 132 wide receivers who have played at least 150 offensive snaps. Foster has shot up the ranks over the last few weeks, posting overall grades of 90.5 (Week 10 against the New York Jets) and 82.4 (last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars), giving him an elite 90.0 overall grade since the start of Week 10, the fourth best among receivers. Foster has caught every catchable ball thrown his way over the last few weeks and his average depth of target of 25.6 yards tops receivers over that stretch, leading him to an average of 7.11 yards per route run since the start of Week 10 – the best among receivers by over three yards (T.Y. Hilton ranks second with 4.05 yards per route run).
- Shaq Lawson, Edge
PFF Overall Grade: 73.1
Lawson ranks 33rd out of 103 edge defenders who have played at least 200 defensive snaps (and we’ll get to two of the 32 guys ahead of him shortly). The former first-round pick has had a pretty pedestrian season as a pass-rusher (59.4 pass-rush grade), but he has excelled in run defense, where his 80.8 grade ranks 10th among edge defenders. Lawson is one of just five edge defenders this season who have recorded at least nine run stops without missing a tackle in run defense.
- Taron Johnson, CB
PFF Overall Grade: 73.5
Johnson ranks 25th out of 114 cornerbacks who have played at least 200 defensive snaps, and he’s one of just four corners to own both coverage and pass-rush grades north of 70.0 – and he’s been hovering right around 15th all season in PFF’s rookie of the year rankings. Opposing quarterbacks have a 78.7 passer rating when targeting Johnson in coverage – the 24th lowest allowed by a qualified corner – and he’s tied for 15th among corners with 10 coverage stops. He’s also been a productive blitzer, his four total pressures are tied for 12th most by a cornerback this season.
- Micah Hyde, S
PFF Overall Grade: 73.8
Hyde ranks 28th out of 89 safeties who have logged at least 200 defensive snaps through the first 12 weeks of the season, however, like Poyer, he’s having a bit of a down year compared to what he did in 2017 (tied his teammate with an 87.7 overall grade last season). Hyde has had some struggles in run defense this season – he has just a 59.7 run defense grade and his six missed tackles in run defense are tied for sixth most among safeties – but he’s having a solid season in coverage. He ranks 18th among safeties with a 76.4 coverage grade and out of 44 safeties who’ve been targeted at least 20 times in coverage, he ranks 12th by allowing a reception just once per every 21.6 coverage snap.
- Matt Milano, LB
PFF Overall Grade: 78.8
Milano has taken a tremendous step forward during his sophomore season, ranking eighth among 80 linebackers who have been on the field for at least 200 defensive snaps after posting a 60.3 grade across 450 defensive snaps in 2017. Milano has been especially good in coverage this season, and his 82.7 grade ranks fifth among linebackers. The former fifth-round pick has allowed just a 62.1 passer rating into his coverage this season – the second lowest surrendered by a qualified linebacker – and his 20.5 playmaker index ranks third (PMI is the rate at which a coverage defender either breaks up or intercepts a pass relative to the number of targets into their coverage).
- Chris Ivory, HB
PFF Overall Grade: 79.0
Out of the 55 running backs who have played at least 200 offensive snaps this season, Ivory's overall grade ranks 11th, and his 84.4 rushing grade ranks sixth. Ivory has carried a reputation as a hard runner who’s tough to tackle, and he’s lived up to that, ranking 14th among backs with an average of 3.2 yards per carry after contact and he ranks 11th by averaging 0.19 force missed tackles per attempt.
- Lorenzo Alexander, Edge
PFF Overall Grade: 81.5
After he logged just 469 defensive snaps from 2011-2015, Alexander has rejuvenated his career in Buffalo. The veteran has been a mainstay on Buffalo’s defense since the start of 2016 (he has played 1,897 defensive snaps for the Bills over the past two and a half seasons) and he’s playing arguably the best football of his career. Alexander ranks 13th out of the 104 edge defenders who have logged at least 200 defensive snaps and he’s one of just seven edge defenders who has a pass-rush, run defense and coverage grade of at least 70.0. The ageless wonder ranks fourth among edge defenders with a 9.6 pass-rushing productivity rating (PRP measures pressure created on a per-snap basis, weighted towards sacks), he’s tied for 28th among edge defenders with a 7.3 run stop percentage and, out of 28 edge defenders who’ve been targeted at least five times in coverage, he ranks fifth by allowing just a 60.6 passer rating into his coverage.
- Jerry Hughes, Edge
PFF Overall Grade: 84.5
The edge is clearly one of the strengths of Buffalo’s defense – and team – and Hughes is the ringleader. The veteran ranks ninth among 104 edge defenders who have played at least 200 defensive snaps, and with a 90.4 pass-rushing grade, he’s one of just three edge defenders to grade out as an elite pass-rusher off the edge through the first 12 weeks of the season. Hughes is tied with Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs for the league lead with 58 pressures (with 51 pressures, Danielle Hunter is the only other edge defender with at least 50) and Hughes is getting the job done efficiently as his 12.0 PRP ranks first among edge defenders as well (for some perspective, Ford ranks fifth with a 9.5 PRP despite having the same number of total pressures has Hughes. Ford has rushed the QB 87 more times than Hughes this season).