This article will follow a few articles I have published in the past rating defensive positional players, as I am now putting everything together and grading each team in full with this system.

These grades are called “game scores” which are inspired by Bill James’ MLB pitcher game scores. Here is how it works:

  • -1 for each 1st down allowed when on the field
  • .2 points for each QB hit
  • 1 point for each tackle
  • 1 point for each pass defended
  • 1.5 points for each TFL
  • 2 points for each sack
  • 2 points for each fumble forced
  • 4 points for each interception
  • 4 points for each fumble recovered

The idea of this ranking is that you cover a complete set of downs for every four tackles. Each other point total is based on this idea.

To start let’s take a look at the AFC defensive rankings: each dot represents a defensive player on the team and their given grade. Some key takeaways:

  • The Bengals’ defense is stacked. Only one of their players is graded below the division average
  • The Broncos’ defense isn’t as good as many say they are
  • The AFC East defenses are stout…who looks like they have the best squad? Find out later down in the article

Next are the NFC grades. Some key takeaways:

  • The Giants’ defense is fairly strong–they are the top-graded NFC East team
  • The Lions need some help defensively (hopefully from Aidan Hutchinson)
  • The West has the highest division average in the NFC

Below you will find the top 50 graded players of 2021. Unsurprisingly, 19 of the top 20 are LBs, as they have the most opportunities to make plays. Note La’Jarius Sneed as the top-rated CB and Vonn Bell as the highest-rated DB. Even more interesting is the appearance of only 2 linemen in the top 50, Aaron Donald and Sam Hubbard.

Last, but not least, we have our team average and cumulative grades for the 2021 season. The Bengals get the top spot, with an average grade of 68.4! New England takes second (top team in the East), with the Rams falling shortly behind. Despite having the best-graded player overall, the Falcons still struggled on defense–with Oluokun in 2022, they are in for a tough season. The only big surprise here is the Giants at 6–it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up in 2022 and help push their offense to a successful season.