Ever since PFF began to publish player grades, controversy has swirled around their results. I don’t accept PFF grades as gospel. In fact, I think attempting to quantify play on a numerical scale on a play-to-play basis is mostly fruitless. But it’s still one of the better tools we have at this time. Over the course of a full season, sometimes helpful conclusions can be drawn. And because I study every snap, I can offer my critiques for a few of their Bucs player grades as well.
On offense, the Bucs had only three players play over 300 snaps and grade out below 60: Cam Brate, O.J. Howard and Tyler Johnson. In fact, the top 10 Bucs in offensive snap count totals all graded 7o or higher. That’s an exceptional standard, especially considering it’s not even including Antonio Brown. Brown played just 268 snaps as the second-highest graded Buc on the season.
In other words, per PFF, every starting Bucs player was Good, High Quality or Elite on the PFF scale. Pretty incredible.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and RT Tristan Wirfs – Photo by: USA Today
On an individual level, Brady was the top-graded quarterback for PFF during the 2021 season. The Bucs quarterback finished a tad higher than Joe Burrow on the year. Last year, Brady graded out No. 2 overall. Since 2015, Brady has been PFF’s top-ranked quarterback four times.
Other than Brown, Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith were the next 3, all in the 80s. Wirfs ended the season as PFF’s sixth-highest graded tackle in the NFL. Meanwhile, Smith finished in 11th place. Marpet finished as the 7th-highest graded guard in the league. Chris Godwin also landed in the 80s, finishing as PFF’s 13th best receiver. Brown seized fifth place, despite playing less than 300 snaps.
There should be an asterisk for Rob Gronkowski too. His receiving grade is 86.7, which would make him the third highest-graded Buc on offense. But Gronk’s grade takes a hit due to his PFF blocking grade, dropping him to a 79 overall. PFF is notorious for their harsh grading of backs, receivers and tight ends as blockers.
After 17 games, there are not a lot of negatives for the Bucs offensive PFF grades. Howard is the clear disappointment, with a sub-50 grade. Even Scotty Miller, Brate and Johnson managed to land in the mid-50s. If there has been one clear negative for the Bucs this season, it’s that they aren’t as deep at wide receiver and tight end as we thought they were. Below average grades for the top two backup tight ends and for Perriman, Johnson, Miller and Darden reflect that.
Due to injuries, the Bucs have had 19 players see the field for more than 300 snaps on defense. Contrary to the offense, five of those players have graded below 60: Devin White, Ndamukong Suh, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kevin Minter.
White and Minter are easy to agree with. Both have had miserable seasons, although Minter has played just 331 snaps. White leads the Bucs defense in snaps with 1,080. His performance has been the biggest disappointment of the Bucs season. Out of 88 linebackers, PFF has White graded 80th. If White can’t elevate his game for the playoffs, Tampa Bay will enter the offseason with the third-year linebacker as a massive question mark.
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Pierre-Paul has been a shell of himself while playing injured, so that grade makes sense. As someone who watches every snap, I’m totally lost as to why PFF dislikes Suh and Tryon-Shoyinka’s play. Both are playing well, so I’m confused by those grades. Tryon-Shoyinka has been especially exciting for a rookie. Perhaps PFF’s grading is impacted by Todd Bowles’ usage of the first rounder as a joker on defense?
On the other end of the spectrum, Antoine Winfield is the highest-graded Buc on defense. Winfield and Shaq Barrett are the only Bucs defenders to post grades in the 80s. Lavonte David slots in just behind those two as the Bucs top three defensive players of the 2021 season. Jamel Dean, Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Vita Vea and Anthony Nelson fall in closely behind, all at 70+. Whitehead carries the highest run defense grade on the team.
The most confusing grade is Carlton Davis’. Davis has been outstanding since returning from injury this season. But PFF has slapped an average 66.6 grade on the fourth-year cornerback. I think Davis’ offseason market as a free agent would reflect his fine play this season. But I expect the Bucs to use the franchise tag on him, recognizing his value.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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