1-32 poll, plus each team's most improved player

The NFL Power Rankings is a great place to measure improvement. Usually, that improvement is at the team level. But this week we wanted to go further and have our NFL Nation writers identify which player has made the biggest improvements.
These are just a few of the many answers. There are the usual improvement candidates. These include young players who have gained some experience (Trevon Diggers just picked up another pass for Dallas Cowboys), and veterans who are taking their game to a higher level (Cordarrelle Patterson basically does everything for the Atlanta Falcons). But there are many more options. There are receivers who were once forced to play quarterback because of a COVID-19 contact trace crisis (Denver Broncos fan will remember that), and a seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who is somehow better than he was last year.

How we rank our Power Rankings. Our power panel, which includes more than 80 TV personalities, editors and writers evaluates how teams perform throughout the season.


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Previous ranking: 1

Most improved player: WR Emmanuel Sanders

They've made improvements: This wasn't an easy decision. Sanders, the Bills' oldest player, has been a major part of the offense as a downfield threat. This season, he has scored two touchdowns in two games, including Sunday's victory over Kansas City. Sanders's six previous games had two or more touchdowns. The last one was in 2017. Sanders's average reception speed is 16.9 yards, which is an increase of 16 yards from his career-high score. This contrasts to the 8.98 yards he received last year when he was a Saints receiver. He is now one of Josh Allen's most favorite targets. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Previous ranking: 2

Most improved player: RB Chase Edmonds

They have improved: Third-year running back was given an expanded role in the team's offense this season. He isn't just enjoying it, but thriving. Edmonds, the Cardinals' top rusher, is poised to surpass his previous record for yards in one season. He could be a 1,000-yard rusher in just a few games. Edmonds' skills go beyond just carrying the ball. Edmonds spent the offseason improving his receiving skills. He is tied for the team's lead with 23 catches, and has become Kyler Murray's favorite target. -- Josh Weinfuss

Previous ranking: 3

Most improved player: WR Van Jefferson

They've made great strides: After his rookie season, the second-year receiver admitted that he was still a young man and that he felt like his head was spinning in the offense. Matthew Stafford has made Jefferson a consistent target this season. In Week 1, he caught a touchdown pass of 67 yards to spark the offense. Since then, his targets have steadily increased. This is not easy when you are surrounded by Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee, who all catch passes. Jefferson has recieved 14 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns. -- Lindsey Thiry

play 1:03 Yates doesn't worry about Tom Brady’s thumb injury Field Yates doesn't care about Tom Brady’s thumb injury affecting his playing status in Week 6.

Previous ranking: 4

The most improved player is Tom Brady, QB.

They've improved: That sounds absurd, right? What can a seven-time Super Bowl champ QB need to do better? If you look back at last year, Brady was still learning and trying to build rapport with his receivers while Byron Leftwich, the offensive coordinator, was still learning. Brady's touchdown-to-interception ratio has increased from 3.0 to 7.5 last year. The yards after the catch have increased from 542 yards last year to 850 yards. Also, yards per attempt has gone up (7.93 yards per try versus 7.02), so it's clear that he isn't trying to throw harder throws. This suggests better chemistry overall. -- Jenna Laine

Previous ranking: 5

Most improved player: LT Yosh Nijman

They've improved: The second year pro only played 14 snaps in total last season. Many of those were on kneel-down plays that closed out games. He could have survived three left tackle starts. Adam Stevanich, the offensive line coach, was one of them. After Elgton Jenkins' ankle injury, he convinced Aaron Rodgers to hire Nijman. Jenkins was acting as an interim for David Bakhtiari who is still on PUP after undergoing ACL surgery. The Packers were now down to their No. The Packers were down to their No. 3 tackle in Nijman but it's hard to believe based on how the offense has been running in high gear. Rob Demovsky

Previous ranking: 8

Most improved player: CB Trevon Diggs

They've improved so much: Diggs is the only one who can do it. Diggs is in the running to be the Defensive Player Of The Year. He has six interceptions and the Cowboys have Terence Steele as a young tackle. He has nine interceptions in his 10 most recent games dating back to his rookie year. Because he is facing the top receivers of his opponents each week, it means that offenses won't be able to shy away. It's not about how much Diggs has changed. The question is not how much Diggs has improved. It's what can he do better? Todd Archer

Play 0:52 How impressive are the Chargers'? Domonique Foxworth shares his thoughts on the Chargers' win over the Browns.

Previous ranking: 9

The most improved player - OT Storm Norton

They've made great strides: Norton, who was in the XFL before becoming the Chargers' starting right tackle after Bryan Bulaga's injury, has been an XFL player. Norton was a rookie and stumbled his first game. However, he has steadily risen through the ranks to become the Chargers' No. Pro Football Focus ranked Norton as the 2nd-ranked offensive lineman. After Sunday's victory over the Browns, Brandon Staley, Chargers coach, gave him a game ball. Justin Herbert also believes in Norton, a 6-foot-8, 308-pound Norton. He saw Norton holding up Myles Garrett of Cleveland. Although he was not perfect and gave up a sack, he proved to be reliable. Shelley Smith

Previous ranking: 7

CB Anthony Averett is the most improved player

They've improved: Averett was a fourth-round selection in 2018. He has now taken over for Marcus Peters. Averett, a capable backup for years has allowed the lowest passer rates in coverage during four games according to Pro Football Focus. Are the Ravens able to afford to keep Averett after this season? This improvement could make Averett a more desirable free agent in the offseason. -- Jamison Hensley

Previous ranking: 6

Most improved player TE David Njoku

They've improved: Despite it being a loss, Njoku maintained his strong start to the season and produced a career performance against the Chargers. Njoku finished the game with 161 receiving yards and seven receptions. He also had a career-high touchdown catch of 71 yards, in which he evaded a defender to race into the end zone. Njoku was a 2017 first-round selection. He has struggled to find his place in Cleveland. He even requested a trade at one point. Njoku, Cleveland's top receiver through five games may finally be finding his stride. Jake Trotter

Previous ranking: 11

Most improved player: TE Jody Forson

Their performance has improved: Fortson, who spent two seasons as a wide receiver on the Chiefs practice squad, was promoted to tight end in spring. He's been a great find. Fortson caught all four targets this season, two of which were touchdowns. He is a little over 240 pounds and not the right size to be a tight end but has proven himself to be a good blocker. -- Adam Teicher

Previous ranking: 18

CB Kristian Futton is the most improved player

They've improved: Fulton was unable to play last season due to a knee injury. However, he is now the Titans' starting right cornerback. Through five games, he has only one interception and six passes defensive. Fulton's Week 2 performance was his best, when he limited Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf's reception to just one catch for eight yards. Fulton, a second-year CB, has shown confidence in his play on the field. Turron Davenport

Previous ranking: 12

The most improved player WR DJ Moore

They've improved: Consistency makes the biggest difference. Moore had a great 2020 season. However, his catch rate (66 out of 118) was only 59% and he only had four receiving touchdowns. Moore's catch rate for this year is 70% (35 out 50) and he has already received three touchdowns. He is now Sam Darnold’s favorite target and not Robby Anderson, as many expected. -- David Newton

Previous ranking: 17

Most improved player: WR Deonte Hari

They've improved: Harris was an All-Pro return specialist in 2019 as an undrafted rookie. The Saints are now working Harris, a 5-foot-6, 170-pound speedster, more into an offense lacking dynamic pass catchers. He is the leader of the team with 236 yards receiving on 12 catches, including TDs of 72 yards and 55 yards. Jameis Winston has been a reliable target on third downs for him. Harris was unable to play Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury. He now has the week off to recover. Mike Triplett

Previous ranking: 16

Most improved player: LB Logan Wilson

They have improved: The team's second-year linebacker has successfully taken over the starting position of linebacker. He has 46 tackles for the team and three of four interceptions. He was a backup player last season and has shown some good moments in the first five games. Many of his teammates have praised him. Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Reader said. -- Ben Baby

Previous ranking: 14

Kendall Hinton, WR, is the most improved player

They've improved. Hinton continues to move up the development curve through hard work and being available when needed by the Broncos. Hinton was famous last year for being forced to play against the Saints as the Broncos' quarterbacks were unable to attend the game due to violations of COVID-19 protocols. Hinton started the season on the practice team again. However, after Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and other injuries, he was promoted. He was able to make a crucial third-down conversion in Sunday's loss in Pittsburgh by tapping his toes on the sideline. This, along with his first touchdown in his career, are two examples of how far the team has come. Jeff Legwold

Previous ranking: 23

De Robert Quinn is the most improved player

They've improved: Quinn admittedly had an awful 2020 season but has since bounced back. Quinn has been the Bears most consistent pass-rusher through five games. Quinn has had 4.5 sacks through five games, compared with two sacks over 15 games in 2020. Khalil Mack has been able to thrive on the opposite side of the line due to Quinn's reemergence. Quinn and Mack are now one of the NFC’s most dominant pass-rushing teams. It's amazing how much a year can make. Jeff Dickerson

Previous ranking: 10

Bryan Edwards, WR, is the most improved player

They're improving: He had a horrible drop while wide open downfield during Sunday's ugly loss to the Bears by the Raiders. He had been the team’s closer in Las Vegas' 3-0 season. He was clutch with catches late in games. He has now surpassed his rookie season totals of 11 catches for 193 yards and 13 catches for 236 yard. -- Paul Gutierrez

Previous ranking: 15

Most improved player: WR Deebo Samson

They've improved: Samuel's rise is due to his health, but he also worked hard in the offseason in order to lose weight, grow his route tree, and become a better receiver. It has paid off. Samuel is now primarily a gadget player, limited to designing runs and intermediate routes. He is the league's second leading receiver (548 yards), and the 49ers' clear No. 1. The 49ers' No. 1 target in the passing match. -- Nick Wagoner

Previous ranking: 20

Jakobi Meyers is the most improved player

They've improved: Meyers was targeted 47 times, and has recieved 31 receptions for 302 yard. Meyers' progress is evident in the fact that he only had one catch for seven yards through the first five games last season. However, the third-year receiver still needs to find his first touchdown reception. -- Mike Reiss

Previous ranking: 13

Most improved player: WR Freddie Swain

They've improved: The Seahawks' sixth-round pick last year has been their third receiver, while rookie Dee Eskridge has been out since the opener. Swain's 2020 numbers are easily surpassing last year's, with Swain scoring two touchdowns in five games to match his total from last year. He scored one touchdown on a scramble against the 49ers, where he was very aware of how Russell Wilson had strayed from his script. -- Brady Henderson

Previous ranking: 24

Most improved player: DL Cameron Heyward

How they have improved: Heyward played like a man on a mission and has been the anchor of a Steelers' defense that's been in transition due to a series injuries. The 11-year-old veteran is Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated interior defender. He has played five games and outperformed Jonathan Allen and Aaron Donald. The Steelers' pass rush as a whole has not been as strong as it was in previous seasons. However, Heyward still leads the team with 14 solo tackles and one sack. -- Brooke Pryor

Cam Heyward, Cordarrelle Patterson & Taylor Heinicke ESPN

Previous ranking: 19

QB Taylor Heinicke is the most improved player

They've improved: Not many candidates are available -- perhaps DeAndre Carter, but Heinicke qualifies when you consider where he was in 2020: taking classes at Old Dominion University. He thought he would be back in the NFL when he was almost done. He is the most improved player in their league. Heinicke is not without faults, but they are on display against very good defenses. Heinicke lost four picks to New Orleans and Buffalo. He has thrown for 1,208 yards, eight touchdowns (with five interceptions), and has led two game-winning drives. While his future may be as a solid backup quarterback, a year ago, he was an NFL afterthought. John Keim

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Previous ranking: 22

De Everson Griffen is the most improved player

They've improved: The Vikings brought the 33-year old defensive end back to Minnesota. He was a rotational pass rusher and spent 2010-19 in Minnesota. Griffen is now in the starting line-up after five games. Griffen has switched to a new role, splitting reps between defensive and three-technique passing downs. Griffen played 72% of snaps in the season against Detroit, surpassing D.J. Wonnum was also in the lineup. Griffen is a key part of the Vikings' pass rush. He has four sacks in five games, compared to six with Dallas and Detroit a year ago. Courtney Cronin

Previous ranking: 25

Most improved player: DT Javon Hargrave

They've improved: Hargrave is the Eagles' top player through five games. Six sacks are his record for the season. This is the most among defensive tackles, and the third-most in the NFL. He also has half a sack less than his career record. Hargrave, 28 years old, had four great seasons with the Steelers prior to joining the Eagles in 2020. Although he was limited by injury last season, he has become a dominant force in his second green year. Tim McManus

Previous ranking: 21

Michael Pittman Jr. is the most improved player

They've improved: Pittman is the Colts second-round pick in 2020. He has received more receptions (23) and receiving yards (279) in four games than he did in 13 games as an rookie. In his new role as No. 1, he leads the Colts both in those categories. No. 1 receiver. Mike Wells

Play 2:12 Can Cordarrelle continue his impressive performance? Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss Cordarrelle Patterson’s recent success, and the fantasy value that he brings.

Previous ranking: 27

Most improved player: RB Cordarrelle Patterson

They've improved! Patterson is the answer to almost all Falcons problems at this point. In this instance, however, it is wildly accurate. Patterson is the NFL's most improved player, period. Patterson has 25 catches for 295 yards and his best season since 2017. He's also already equaled his career-high of four receiving touchdowns. His 173 yards as a runner is his third-highest total season. It's Week 5. Arthur Smith, the Falcons' coach, has been the playcaller who finally understood how Patterson should be used in his ninth season as a Falcons player and fifth team. -- Michael Rothstein

Previous ranking: 26

Most improved player: DL Christian Wilkins

They've improved: In just five games, Wilkins already has surpassed his career high in QB hits (44) and his new career record in tackles for loss (5). Wilkins has also registered one sack this season, one shy of his career record. The 2019 first-round pick has always brought energy to the field -- sometimes "too much" juice, according to coach Brian Flores -- but his production is starting to match that after a solid-but-unspectacular start to his career. Marcel Louis-Jacques

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Previous ranking: 30

Most improved player: S Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Johnson was drafted in the second round as a cornerback. He is now in his second year at safety. Safety Justin Reid stated that Johnson is becoming more comfortable in the defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s system and it is now showing up on field. Johnson had two interceptions in Weeks 4, and 5, which were his first two career. -- Sarah Barshop

Previous ranking: 29

CB Bryce Hall is the most improved player

They've improved: The Jets have five passes defensed, the fifth-round pick in 2020. He was injured at the ankle during his last season at Virginia. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hall is one of only eight NFL players with more passes defensed. Hall was able to get his feet under him as a starter in the second half last season, although he was still recovering from the layoff. He is now 100% and plays the CB1 role, which gives him a chance of being a long-term starter with the Jets. -- Rich Cimini

Play 0:41 Daniel Jones is set for concussion protocol Stephania bell reports on Daniel Jones' concussion following the Giants' Week 5.

Previous ranking: 28

QB Daniel Jones is the most improved player

How they have improved: Jones' turnover problem has always been a problem -- up until now. Jones seemed to finally have this sorted and was playing great football before he was knocked unconscious in the second half of Sunday's game against Dallas. Jones has only one fumble and one interception this year -- and that interception was a Hail Mary. This is a clear sign of improvement from the third-year QB. He is currently in the top 10 NFL quarterbacks in QBR with 61.0 through five week. -- Jordan Raanan

Previous ranking: 31

Most improved player: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Reeves Maybin is the first-year Lions coach. Reeves-Maybin stands out as he was only active on special teams last year. He has improved over the last few weeks. He was particularly impressive on Sunday against Minnesota, when he recovered and forced a crucial fumble. Campbell stated, "He makes plays." "He's productive to us." Eric Woodyard

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Previous ranking: 32

James Robinson is the most improved player

They've improved: Robinson has 1,316 yards of rushing on the pace, surpassing his rookie total by almost 250 yards. Robinson tried to improve his speed and power in the offseason. Robinson was a good rookie and could run for 1,500 yards if the Jaguars gave him more than the 16 carries that he has averaged over the three previous games. Mike DiRocco