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Divisional standouts – the top-graded players in AFC South play

Offense Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 82.5 Our top-rated offensive player in AFC South play last season may come as a surprise to some – probably not to Titans fans – as Derrick Henry was dominant in divisional games last season.
From a rushing standpoint, Henry led the AFC South in a multitude of metrics that we track here at PFF, including rushing attempts (91), rushing yards (469), yards after contact (369), touchdowns (3), first downs (21), forced missed tackles (19) and yards after contact per attempt (4.05).
His 78.2 receiving grade ranked second in division play, and he ended the season with eight explosive plays (plays of 15-plus yards), which was third behind only DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Hurns.
In divisional play last year, Mariota finished first in adjusted completion percentage (74.8), and he also finished sixth in divisional play with a rushing grade of 69.7, while also tying for fifth in first down conversions (10) as a rusher.
Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 77.2 The now-Cowboys receiver was a very productive member in the Jags’ receiving corps last season.
He also finished first among receivers in AFC South play with an average of 2.33 yards per route run.
Defense Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 89.8 Campbell was dominant during his first season in Jacksonville.
Against divisional rivals last season, Campbell’s production continued as he ranked sixth in pass-rush grade (82.9), and second in total quarterback pressures (34).
His run defense grade of 72.7 ranked third among divisional edge-rushers, and his run-stop percentage of 10.0 percent ranked 12th in division play.
In divisional matchups, Casey played a key role in helping Tennessee to a 5-1 record a season ago; his pass-rush grade of 80.4 ranked first among interior defensive linemen in divisional play as did his 27 total quarterback pressures.

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Dec 17, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell (93) reacts while running onto the field prior to the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL regular season is rapidly approaching. Soon, talks of the top players and best teams will flood social media as each team’s fanbase will champion for their guys. One of those key components to be considered a top player is how well they stack up against their divisional rivals.

In our last look back at the 2017 season, we take a glimpse at the players who have the highest grades against their division rivals from a season ago. We’ll take a look at the top-10 grades on offense and defense only on contests against their respective divisions. How well did your favorite players play against the division last year? Don’t see them below? Grab a PFF Elite subscription for access to Premium Stats 2.0 to find out for yourself.

[This is a part of a series that will highlight the league’s highest-graded players when they take on their divisional rivals.]

Offense

Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 82.5

Our top-rated offensive player in AFC South play last season may come as a surprise to some – probably not to Titans fans – as Derrick Henry was dominant in divisional games last season. From a rushing standpoint, Henry led the AFC South in a multitude of metrics that we track here at PFF, including rushing attempts (91), rushing yards (469), yards after contact (369), touchdowns (3), first downs (21), forced missed tackles (19) and yards after contact per attempt (4.05). While Henry was part of a timeshare with Demarco Murray for most of the season, not only did he drastically outperform his counterpart, he outperformed every offensive player in the AFC South.

Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 80.0

Walker has quietly been one of the best tight ends in the NFL since signing with Tennessee in 2013. Since then, he leads all tight ends with 356 receptions and his 4,156 receiving yards ranks third among tight ends in that span. From a receiving standpoint, Walker was as consistent as they come when playing divisional opponents last year. His 78.2 receiving grade ranked second in division play, and he ended the season with eight explosive plays (plays of 15-plus yards), which was third behind only DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Hurns.

Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 78.9

If you were to glance at the box score stats, Mariota’s 2017 season could be seen as a regression from his 2016 season. He threw for roughly the same number of yards as he did in 2016 (3,232), but his touchdowns were cut in half from 26 to 13, while his interceptions jumped from nine to 15. However, despite the regression in overall statistics, Mariota ended 2017 with an overall grade of 76.2 – the best mark of his career. In divisional play last year, Mariota finished first in adjusted completion percentage (74.8), and he also finished sixth in divisional play with a rushing grade of 69.7, while also tying for fifth in first down conversions (10) as a rusher.

Overall Grade against AFC South Teams: 78.8

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