With the first installment in the books, No.’s 80 to 61 are up next and as you’d expect, the quality is really starting to pick up.
In this group we’ll see a guy who is on the cover of Madden, a Defensive Rookie of the Year and an All Pro or two. And, while the first set was heavy on linebackers, you’ll find the men that play in front of them to be well represented here.
Remember these are the views of one man, and not necessarily of Pro Football Focus.
80. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants
While Osi Umenyiora was drawing plaudits, Justin Tuck kept on doing what he always seems to do – make plays all day long. One of the most consistent two way defenders in the league, Tuck didn’t quite have the season of some of the guys above him at the defensive end spot, but he was his usual model of consistency. If there’s one thing this year was lacking, it was that big beatdown of a tackle that would have got him more attention.
Best Performance: Week 4 versus Chicago (+4.0)
Key Stat: Has graded in our top ten defensive ends for the past three years.
79. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers
Weddle continues to get better and is now among the best safeties in the league. There aren’t many free safeties who come up and have quite as big an impact against runs as the Charger, who doesn’t sit back waiting for plays to come to him. He dooes, however, need to convert more of those eight pass breaks up into interceptions.
Best Performance: Week 11 at Indianapolis (+3.6)
Key Stat: Made 25 defensive stops despite spending 76.15% of his snaps as a deep safety.
78. Fred Robbins, DT, St Louis Rams
In 2009, Robbins generated some rush, but looked on the decline after a much better ’08 with the Giants. So credit ‘’Big Dog” for repaying the faith shown in him by his former defensive co-ordinator with an excellent first year as a Ram. Working in a rotation, Robbins showed the ability to penetrate, cutting off runs as they developed. It may not have resulted in a tremendous amount of tackles, but it was big for Steve Spagnulo’s defense. A real nice bounce back year, although it tailed off towards the end of the season.
Best Performance: Week 4 versus Seattle (+3.7)
Key Stat: Finished the year with 34 quarterback disruptions.
77. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
He has it all. Great name. Great chant. Great numbers. Yet only 77? Well in some respects 77 is a little high for a guy who is as inconsistent as he is dominant. Suh will do things very few players can do, and he deserves an awful lot of credit for playing as many snaps as he did (his 997 were more than any other defensive lineman not named Terrell Suggs.) But he needs to be more disciplined at times, and too often sold out going for the quarterback which hurt the Lions’ run D. Still, his impact can’t be denied, and I, like many, only expect more in the future.
Best Performance: Week 15 at Tampa Bay (+3.4)
Key Stat: With 41 quarterback disruptions had the third most of any defensive tackle.
76. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns
I’ll be honest. I was shocked to see Joe Thomas struggle so much at the start of the season, culminating in John Abraham giving him a torrid time. So, while it doesn’t excuse a sub-standard season by a player I firmly believe to be the best left tackle in the league, it made a lot of sense to find out he had an illness that massively affected his offseason preparation. That isn’t to say he had a bad season, just not as good as what we’ve come to expect.
Best Performance: Week 12 versus Carolina (+4.8)
Key Stat: Gave up 24 quarterback disruptions, a year after giving up just 15.
75. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
It was tough figuring out to rank Bradshaw. On one hand you’ve got all those fumbles, and those are killers – it almost made me discard him altogether. But then on the other hand you have as good a pass blocking back as there is, and a pretty good runner (even taking into account the fumbles.) I mean, 1,239 yards is no small feat, especially on the back of 276 carries. Plus, he picks up a lot of yards after contact. Essentially, I like my backs to make something happen, and Bradshaw does that. I just wish that something was more consistently positive.
Best Performance: Week 4 versus Chicago (+3.1)
Key Stat: Picked up 66.91% of his yards after contact.
74. Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
While my colleague Sam Monson can’t look at Samuel without seeing a missed tackle flash up, I’m a bit less demanding in what I want from my cornerback. Especially if my cornerback has a season in coverage like Samuel had. The only reason I have him so low is because of a lack of playing time, and that’s my biggest knock on him for 2010. You can’t be an elite player if you’re not on the field, and 678 snaps for a number one cornerback just isn’t enough. Brilliant when on it.
Best Performance: Week 6 versus Atlanta (+2.2)
Key Stat: Quarterbacks had a 31.7 rating when throwing at Samuel. Lesson? Run but don’t throw at Asante.
73. Sione Pouha, DT, New York Jets
When you can make people forget about Kris Jenkins you’re doing something right. That’s what Pouha has done in the Jets hybrid scheme, and he’s done it superbly. The two sacks he ended the year with are somewhat flattering (outside of them he generates next to no pressure,) but the man listed at 325lbs is a behemoth in the middle of the line. For a guy of his size, I’m a particular fan of the hustle he shows on plays, and is just the kind of player everyone should have on their team.
Best Performance: Week 14 versus Miami (+6.5)
Key Stat: Made this list despite only picking up a QB disruption for every 21.69 plays he was on the field. He’s that good in run defense.
72. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Oh how stupid people looked in writing off John Abraham. 2010 wasn’t so much a rebound year for the Falcon, as it was an “I told you so” year for the people who recognized Abraham was still bringing pressure off the edge in 2009. Atlanta has continued to use Abraham in situations that get the best out of him, with the result being left and right tackles alike beaten in a manner of different ways by the veteran end.
Best Performance: Week 1 at Pittsburgh (+6.9)
Key Stat: Picked up pressure on 15.7% of pass rushing snaps. A number bettered by only four others.
71. Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots
He was my rookie of the year and made some great plays, which surprised me a little. I don’t get an opportunity to watch college football so the vibe I got from listening to people was McCourty would contribute on special teams initially, but would struggle on defense if too much was asked. I won’t be listening to those people again. He ably supported in run defense, and while you’d like for him to give up less than four touchdowns, you can make do. Great year for anyone, let alone a rookie.
Best Performance: Week 8 versus Minnesota (+4.2)
Key Stat: Finished fifth in pass deflections (12) and first in interceptions (seven).
70. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT, New York Jets
When you draft a left tackle, above all else, you want him to be a sound enough technician that he doesn’t surrender a lot of pressure. While Ferguson isn’t the complete package (he rarely imposes himself when the Jets run,) he performs his primary function with aplomb. He did have some issues with Mario Williams and Antonio Smith, but you can excuse that, given the greater body of his work.
Best Performance: Week 4 at Buffalo (+3.9)
Key Stat: Had five perfect games in pass protection.
69. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Apparently MJD played the entire season hurt. Wow. That just makes his 2010 all the more incredible, but does explain some inconsistent performances. Seemed to take him an age to really get going but by week 10 had really found his stride, before injury got too much for him at the week 15 point. It was a good year, but by his high standard not a great year.
Best Performance: Week 11 versus Cleveland (+4.4)
Key Stat: Had over 1,300 yards rushing despite finding the endzone only five times rushing.
68. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
You can’t measure a man’s intangibles, but Polamalu must have some because his presence seems to get the Steelers playing better. Wasn’t used to attack quite as much as we’ve been used to, and seems slightly more prone to injury, but has this uncanny ability to make big plays when the Steelers need it.
Best Performance: Week 14 versus Cincinnati (+4.1)
Key Stat: Didn’t give up a touchdown and picked up seven interceptions (but just three pass break ups.) Ball skills.
67. Logan Mankins, LG, New England Patriots
As one of the chief reasons Mankins didn’t make our All Pro Team, it’s a little odd that I find myself putting Mankins so high. After missing eight weeks of the season, and struggling upon his return against Cleveland, it should let you know just how good he was to make this list. It was as consistently dominant a display of run blocking you’re likely to see. It was almost as if the man was playing for a new contract or something.
Best Performance: Week 14 at Chicago (+5.3)
Key Stat: Finished the season with eight consecutive positively green (above +1.0) graded games for his run blocking.
66. Michael Huff, S, Oakland Raiders
From bust to the best free agent safety out there. Huff finally lived up to his potential with the kind of year we’ve long expected from him. He’s not bad in run support, but he excelled as a cover safety who was a surprisingly effective blitzer. If Antrel Rolle got the contract he got playing the way he did, then what does Huff deserve?
Best Performance: Week 13 at San Diego (+2.6)
Key Stat: Picked up pressure on 37.93% of blitzes. Effective.
65. Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
From Denver reject, to Browns focal point. Hillis came to Cleveland an afterthought and made himself a hurdling, every down, feature back. Does have some problems with ball security, but his work as a runner and catching the ball out of the backfield was consistently top notch. To top it all off he’s one of the most entertaining running backs to watch.
Best Performance: Week 9 versus New England (+5.8)
Key Stat: Forced 42 missed tackles.
64. Richard Seymour, DT, Oakland Raiders
Inconsistent in year one as a Raider, Oakland finally seemed to get the best out of him lining him up as a defensive right tackle for the majority of the year. He did have that incident with Big Ben, as well as one or two bad games, but by and large Seymour proved impossible to stop. Just an utterly disruptive player who was a big reason the Raiders took a giant leap in the right direction.
Best Performance: Week 9 versus Kansas City (+6.3)
Key Stat: Got pressure on 10.39% of pass rushing plays. Fifth of all defensive tackles.
63. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
I have a feeling some people won’t like this selection. There are a number of reasons why Vick isn’t higher, revolving around him missing some time and not doing as much as other quarterbacks passing the ball. As a runner he’s in another league altogether, and he did a good job looking after the ball. But a quarterback needs to do more throwing the ball, and come the second half of the year it seemed like Vick wasn’t making as many plays in the air. His stats certainly look good, but I’ll be interested to see what they look like next year.
Best Performance: Week 10 at Washington (+8.6)
Key Stat: Had the same PFF passing grade as Jay Cutler in 19th. Had a rushing grade a full 11.5 points higher than second place (Josh Freeman).
62. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts drafted Jerry Hughes to take some of the weight off the shoulders of Freeney and Robert Mathis, but the lack of an immediate return saw Freeney perhaps a touch overused (he played almost 200 more snaps than John Abraham, for example.) While it put Freeney in situations that didn’t get the best out of him (he had a below average grade in run defense but played 308 snaps in run defense,) he’s still a devastating pass rusher. 75 quarterback disruptions are an excellent return in anyone’s book.
Best Performance: Week 15 versus Jacksonville (+6.8)
Key Stat: Had the highest regular season pass rushing grade (+34.9) of all defensive ends for 2010.
61. Jason Jones, DT, Tennessee Titans
It was disappointing to see Jones struggle in the second half of the season – and I worry we’ll never see him perform at 100% for an entire year – but, at the start of the season, when he was on, there wasn’t another like him. Playing in that Titan defense that encourages you to get up field it would be easy for Jones to ignore his duties as a run defender, but what most stood out about him was his ability to react to what was going on and make a play. Too quick for most interior linemen.
Best Performance: Week 4 versus Denver (+7.5)
Key Stat: His four sacks don’t tell the whole story. 40 total quarterback disruptions were bettered by only three other DTs.