Going into the seventh week of the NFL season, the 13 former Colorado Buffaloes have started to make their sizable impact on the league. Here we take a look at how each is doing.
David Bakhtiari, LT, Green Bay Packers
Bakhtiari has not just been the best Buffalo in the NFL, he’s been one of the league’s best players, period. In his sixth season with Green Bay, he has emerged as the best offensive lineman in the world — his 88.9 grade on Pro Football Focus is easily the best of anyone at his position. Robert Mays of The Ringer detailed who he thinks have been the eight best players in the NFL this season and included Bakhtiari:
Putting an offensive linemen on this list amounts to self-parody for me, but it’s been impossible to ignore Bakhtiari’s play this season. He’s been one of the best pass-protecting left tackles in the league for years, but he’s brought his play up a notch in 2018. Bakhtiari used to rely on his athleticism to cut off speed rushers as they tried to get the edge; this season, he’s combined that quick first step with technically perfect hand usage and some next-level mind games. Most offensive tackles try to get their hands on defensive ends quickly in order to dictate the play. Bakhtiari waits, and waits, and waits until the very last moment to stick his hands in a defender’s chest, and he can pull it off because he’s always accurate with that punch. No one is playing better on the blind side right now, and the gap between Bakhtiari and the other players at his position is arguably the biggest in the league.
Mays also includes this clip of Bakhtiari easily disposing of Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes, two terrifying pass rushers.
David Bakhtiari just dominating these first 2 reps and ending it with a nasty slingshot. What he is doing right now is SPECIAL: pic.twitter.com/DnbBAEYoPQ— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) October 2, 2018
Tedric Thompson, S, Seattle Seahawks
We wrote before this season that if future Hall of Fame safety Earl Thomas held out his extension into the season, Thompson would start in his place with the potential to break out. Thomas wound up playing, but depressingly broke his leg. Thompson has since started for the ‘Hawks and has been superb. With his excellent ball skills and physical presence in the run game, Thompson has a 85.6 rating on PFF, which is 7th best of any safety in the NFL. Mike Johnson of PFF wrote that he and strong safety Bradley McDougald have formed the best safety combo in the NFL. On Thompson, Johnson wrote:
The odds were against Thompson in replacing the three-time All-Pro selection and six-time Pro Bowler in Thomas when he was thrown into the starting lineup in Week 5 against a prolific Rams’ offense. However, he’s exceeded all expectations during the past two weeks. Thompson has seen only one target come his way in 75 coverage snaps, and he snatched that target for an interception. When targeted, his passer rating allowed ranks first among safeties at 16.7, and his coverage grade of 80.4 is seventh-best.
Thompson appeared in two games last season for the Seahawks and posted a 61.9 overall grade across his eight snaps. Drafted out of Colorado in 2016, he gave up completions on just 40.3 percent of passes into his area while racking up seven interceptions and seven passes defensed. The second-year safety lacked top-end athletic measurables prior to the draft but was able to make up for it with great anticipation, awareness and tremendous ball skills. Those attributes have been on full display this season in Seattle, as he continues his development as a starter.
It’s unexpected that Thompson has been the second best Buff in the NFL, but it’s a splendid to see him break out so quickly.
Here's that great moment in yesterday's game between fellow Buffs Phillip Lindsay and Tedric Thompson. pic.twitter.com/NUV6oxtPiu— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) September 10, 2018
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos
And here we have everyone’s favorite former CU star. Lindsay — hero of the people, savior of the damned — has been great every time he steps onto the field for his hometown Broncos. Deployed as both a lead back and third-down receiving option, Lindsay has 459 yards from scrimmage, second best on the Broncos. Lindsay has been putting up quality numbers despite being part of a running-back-by-committee on an offense that prefers to have Case Keenum force tough throws. PFF has Lindsay at a 72.7-grade, which is 14th best of all running backs. Lindsay is also improving his pass blocking every week, so we should see more and more of him, especially if the Broncos realize he’s their second best offensive weapon.
Paul Richardson, WR, Washington
Richardson just signed with Washington for 5 years at $40M after spending his first four years making spectacular catches in Seattle. He’s posted a solid 66.9-grade in a season where’s he had 16 catches for 212 yards and 2 TDs in 5 games. Those stats aren’t spectacular, but his main role in the offense is to stretch the field to open up space underneath. Washington has had a good offense even with injuries hitting just about every contributor, including Richardson (knee/shoulder). He’s been key in that.
Nate Solder, LT, New York Giants
You may have heard nasty things about the Giants’ offensive line and how it’s one of the worst in the league. That’s not Solder’s fault. He’s been solid in holding down the blind side, but apart from rookie guard Will Hernandez mauling fools, it’s the rest of this unit that resembles wet cardboard. In the first year of his 4-year, $62M contract, Solder has a 66.6-grade, which isn’t quite worth the salary, but it’s still good at left tackle. Don’t blame Solder for being offered the contract, and certainly don’t blame him for Eli Manning being washed up.
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
Crosby had one game from hell, but has otherwise been back to his usual self in his age-34 season (James Stefanou is 32, lmao). In the Packers’ heartbreaking 31-22 loss, Crosby missed 5 field goals and another extra point; even a mediocre game from him would have made up the difference. There were murmurs that Crosby was shook, and after that he had already missed a game-winning field goal in a 29-29 tie with Minnesota, the Packers would look for other options. Green Bay stuck with their all-time leading scorer and he returned to his old self. To finish his 3-for-3 game, Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired to beat the 49ers 33-30. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Jimmy Smith, CB, Baltimore Ravens
Smith hadn’t seen the field since last December. Since then, he tore his Achilles tendon, was suspended four games for PEDs, and suspended another four games in 2018 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He had emerged as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, but he’s missed a lot of time and it was expected for him to take time to shake off the rust. In two games, he has a decent 53.5-rating, but he hasn’t had to do much of anything. The Ravens defense is arguably the best in the league, and last Sunday they recorded 11 sacks (!) in their 21-0 beatdown of the Titans. Expect Smith to be tested for real when Baltimore plays the high-flying New Orleans Saints, who feature elite wideout Michael Thomas and the dynamic Alvin Kamara.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Awuzie was expected by many to break out this season after a superb rookie season wherein he was still limited by injuries. He’s been mostly healthy this season, but has struggled for the first time since his freshman season at CU. Part of his issues have come because of the emergence of Byron Jones, the corner opposite him who has been the best in the league at the position. Offenses want no part of Jones and instead force-feed Awuzie’s man. He’s had a difficult time with that high volume as he’s been beat badly by Golden Tate and DeAndre Hopkins, most notably. There’s also been the problem that he’s been perfectly defending WRs making indefensible catches. He should bounce back sooner than later.
Ken Crawley, CB, New Orleans Saints
Crawley enjoyed his long-awaited breakout last season, but has since fallen on hard times as the formerly vaunted New Orleans has badly regressed. Perhaps Crawley overperformed his ability last season, but his struggles haven’t been all his fault. Last year’s secondary was superb mostly because of rookie corner Marshon Lattimore emerging as a superstar. Lattimore had taken away his side of the field, meaning the Saints’ coverage could lean towards Crawley. But Lattimore hasn’t been great and Crawley hasn’t had that same safety help. He’s also been unlucky to deal with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, two freaks in different ways, and the Saints’ stellar offense has forced other teams to pass in volume.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, San Francisco 49ers
In his rookie season, Witherspoon emerged as a starter and looked to have broken out as the 49ers’ best cornerback. But so far in 2018, he’s struggled so badly that he’s been benched and is now playing in reserve. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is confident that he’s just going through a slump and that he will figure it out soon.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Atlanta Falcons
Oliver was drafted by the Falcons with hopes that he would be a future lockdown corner, although he would take a bit of time to develop. A freak athlete but technically raw, Oliver hasn’t seen many defensive snaps. One of the few he did see resulted in one of the season’s best highlights, but not for him; A.J. Green cooked him on the Bengals’ last-second game-winning score. It’s difficult to defend Green no matter who you are, but especially so if you’re a rookie like Oliver. This season was always going to be about his growth.
Josh Tupou, NT, Cincinnati Bengals
Tupou is making his career as a massive nose tackle who can control the line of the scrimmage. He hasn’t played much for Cincy, but he’s been good in the time he’s spent on the field. He even got his first career tackle last week.
Daniel Munyer, OG, Arizona Cardinals
Munyer is a reserve guard on one of the league’s worst offensive lines and has graded poorly in his few snaps, but hey, the NFL is the NFL and we’re proud to see him suiting up.