The Pro Football Focus Top 101 Players of 2011

| May 3, 2012

Through a collection of pieces, we’ve put together the Official Pro Football Focus Top 101 players of the 2011 year. If you want some in-depth explanation of why these players made the list then click on the following individual posts to find out why:

101-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

If you just want a look at the order of the Top 101, then read on below. If you want to comment on the list, email mailbag@profootballfocus.com

For what it’s worth, no team had more representatives on the list than the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers, each contributing six players. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts had no players make the list.

 

  1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
  2. Justin Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers
  3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
  4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
  5. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
  6. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
  7. Terrell Suggs, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens
  8. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
  9. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
  10. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
  11. Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
  12. Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
  13. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
  14. NaVorro Bowman, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
  15. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
  16. Cameron Wake, OLB, Miami Dolphins
  17. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
  18. Evan Mathis, OG, Philadelphia Eagles
  19. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
  20. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
  21. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
  22. Chris Myers, OC, Houston Texans
  23. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
  24. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
  25. Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore Ravens
  26. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
  27. Carl Nicks, OG, New Orleans Saints
  28. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City Chiefs
  29. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
  30. Johnathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans
  31. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
  32. Brian Cushing, ILB, Houston Texans
  33. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
  34. Marshal Yanda, OG, Baltimore Ravens
  35. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
  36. Sione Pouha, DT, New York Jets
  37. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
  38. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers
  39. Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots
  40. Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
  41. Daryl Smith, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
  42. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
  43. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
  44. Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee Titans
  45. Ray McDonald, DE, San Francisco 49ers
  46. Nick Mangold, OC, New York Jets
  47. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
  48. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  49. Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
  50. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
  51. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
  52. Jason Babin, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
  53. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
  54. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
  55. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
  56. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
  57. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals
  58. Ray Lewis, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
  59. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys
  60. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
  61. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
  62. Brent Grimes, CB, Atlanta Falcons
  63. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
  64. Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers
  65. Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans
  66. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers
  67. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
  68. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  69. Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Denver Broncos
  70. Adrian Wilson, S, Arizona Cardinals
  71. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Green Bay Packers
  72. Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills
  73. Richard Seymour, DT, Oakland Raiders
  74. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
  75. John Sullivan, OC, Minnesota Vikings
  76. Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Detroit Lions
  77. Jay Ratliff, DT, Dallas Cowboys
  78. Carlos Rogers, CB, San Francisco 49ers
  79. Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Atlanta Falcons
  80. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos
  81. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
  82. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
  83. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings
  84. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
  85. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
  86. Paul Posluszny, ILB, Jacksonville Jaguars
  87. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks
  88. Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
  89. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
  90. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
  91. Chris Long, DE, St Louis Rams
  92. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
  93. Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
  94. Alan Branch, DT, Seattle Seahawks
  95. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
  96. London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins
  97. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins
  98. Josh Sitton, OG, Green Bay Packers
  99. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
  100. Erin Henderson, OLB, Minnesota Vikings
  101. Chris Gamble, CB, Carolina Panthers

  • mrenner1

    Vikings had 6. The thing is they all deserve it, but they still suck. Couldn’t be happier about it too.

  • cdub

    This list is marred with inconsistancy in the way players were assessed and ranked on the list. For guys that have every stat and resource available and have watched “every player, every snap”, this list was poorly constructed. Beofre your next list, why dont you guys re-think the way you go about it, because this way isnt working.

    • agaliger

      way to be constructive… for a guy who i have read “just this once, only one time”, your argument is poorly constructed. before your next comment, why don’t you re-think how thoughtful premises lead to constructive conclusions, because this way isn’t working.

    • MCHAWKING

      Your post is terrible. Now I’m not going to explain why its terrible or give any supporting evidence that it’s terrible, or even explain what my criteria for being a terrible post is. I’m just going to give a vague reference to how disappointed I am with your post and how you had all the resources to make a better post.

    • Calcos

      This is a clear case of “my player isn’t ont he list so this list sucks” syndrome.

      I’ll behonest there are some things I probably don’t understand how it ranked. For instace, Bowman statisticlly was probably the best ILB in the league last year but is he really more important that Patrick Willis? I don’t think the rankings are purely on numbers so important of a player should be noted. In the case of Bowman and Willis I would bet everything that Willis is more important to the team and what it did last year then Bowman was. I say bet because its impossible to judge leadership and lockeroom importance. I just imagine the gritty veteran, Ray Lewis like leader of the 49ers defense is more important than just his stats.

    • kao1

      Are you going to give even one reason why you feel that way? Or just complain to complain?

    • cdub

      For example,

      Daryl Washington had as good a year, if not better then Navorro Bowman, yet did not make the list.

      Calais Campbell blew Watt and McDonald out of the water with the season he had this year, yet is ranked lower then both. Was a better pass rusher playing the 5 tech DE then both Watt and McDonald were playing 3tech, had 14 passes defended, and an INT. Basically outplayed them in every aspect of the game except run stopping, and was graded by PFF themselves as the 2nd best DE last season, yet still lower then the other 2?

      • cdub

        What makes Campbells numbers more impressive and sheds light on why his run stopping numbers werent as good is the scheme. Our Nickel sub packages consisted of 2 down lineman (Campbell and Dockett), 4 LBs, and 5 DBs. Usually having a Safety in the box for run support. Campbell simply was not asked to set the edge and contain the run. He was asked to put as much pressure on the QB as possible while being double teamed. And he did it damned well, racking up 9 sacks (as a 5tech… insane), defending 14 passes, logging an INT, and 2 FFs.
        Niether Watt or McDonald were anywhere close to that. They both played in your standard Nickel package with 4 down lineman, where they usually kicked inside to the 3 tech.

  • jakuvious

    Disappointed to not see Flowers on year. He wasn’t as spectacular as he was in 2010, but I don’t think there were 11 CBs better than him either. Yeah yeah, the TDs he allowed, but I only have him responsible for 6 of the 8 you guys list, and one of those 6 was against Calvin on a great move after he already stopped the guy just before that.

    • Neil Hornsby

      Interested in which two you don’t have him down for. Could you let me know Game, Quarter and time left please and I’ll have a look. Most of these are done before the all-22 footage is available so things may be clearer now.

      • jakuvious

        Oh, I’d have to go back and look for one of them (and I might in the next day or two when I have some time), but one of them was the first TD you had him as allowing in Indy. But that is more a difference in how I feel accountability should be done. It was a screen pass to Pierre Garcon for about six yards. First of all, I don’t feel as though screens should be tallied the same as a traditional pass play. It should be considered unassignable, because it is an incredibly unorthodox play. Second, Flowers did the appropriate thing in at least forcing him inside, where he should’ve had help. Had Flowers played it differently, Garcon walks in uncontested on the right, where at least how he did it, someone else had a shot at a tackle inside. But that is a matter of disagreement in the methodology, not the recording, as Flowers was initially lined up against Garcon, if anyone was. The other one, I’m not sure. As I said, I may look, the number 6 comes from an argument some time ago on a message board. It was probably either the Denver TD to Decker or one of the three Detroit TDs.

        Oh, and to be more precise on that Indy TD, it was 1st quarter, 7:41 left to go, and that would’ve been week 5, I believe.

        • Neil Hornsby

          Ah, OK. This is one of the reasons we always say be careful of numbers because they need context. When we put a throw “on” a player that doesn’t necessarily mean he gets a bad grade; it’s just a rough tool and I’d like to think the grading gives better clarity.
          If you find the other one, let me know.

  • kernelreefer

    The 30-21 link isn’t working. At least right now, it’s not.

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

      Should be fixed now, thanks!

  • tundragator

    Question, how can Jordy Nelson make the list but not Greg Jennings? I realize that Nelson had some crazy numbers but it seemed like he really benefitted from attention on Jennings. When Jennings was out, Nelsion sort of fell off the map.

  • MCHAWKING

    Nelson had a 3 touchdown game with a QB throwing to him starting his 2nd career game, he also had 2 TDs the game before that in Chicago. How exactly is that falling off the map? If Jennings hadn’t been he may have earned a spot but looking at just this season, pretty clearly Nelson had a better 2012.

  • Raptir

    Wow! Just Wow!

    You list three OLB’s ahead of D Ware. Ware is clearly to best OLB in the league and perhaps one of the top 3 Defensive players and you list him 26. Goes to show how poorly you rate players.

    By the way…

    Your list of QB’s….

    QB #1: 61.3%, 4177 yards, 29 TD, 12 INT, 92.2 QB rating
    QB #2: 62.9%, 4624 yards, 27 TD, 20 INT, 88.7 QB rating
    QB #3: 60.0%, 4051 yards, 21 TD, 17 INT, 84.5 QB rating
    QB #4: 66.3%, 4184 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 102.5 QB rating

    Which one of these was left off? #4 You list Ryan #1 Rivers #2 and NEWTON #3 but #4 does not? What is wrong with you!!!

    Yes Romo is #4. Wonder why?

    • Raptir

      66.3%, 4184 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 102.5 QB rating = NOT making the list

      61%, 4,933 yards, 29 TD, 92.9 QB rating = #8 on the list

      This is supposed to be based on the numbers right? SAD

      • Neil Hornsby

        No, it’s not based on those numbers. If it was there would be no need for anyone to do more than look at box scores and take one from another. We take every throw, by every QB and rate them in the context of the game and what happened on that individual play.

        If you want to know why QB Ratings and pure numbers are of little use watch this play: http://prod.www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/09000d5d81cd41c6/Lions-Spievey-gets-lucky-INT

        • MCHAWKING

          Terrible throw by Rodgers! How can he be MVP throwing picks like that???

  • cdub

    No answer for Daryl Washington being left off this list?

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

      You didn’t ask a question in that area as much as just suggest you think he played better than NaVorro Bowman.

      We didn’t, and didn’t think it was particularly close.

      Washington is a good player, and a very talented young player who may end up getting even better, and last year he was Bowman’s equal as a blitzer and in coverage – he may have even been a little bit better – but Bowman was MUCH better against the run, and that was a massive distance in overall grade. Despite playing a handful fewer snaps, Bowman made more tackles, more assists, almost 20 more defensive stops and earned a +19.4 grade vs the run compared to Washington’s +3.0.

      On what basis did Washington have a better season than Bowman? If sacks is your only criteria then Washington was excellent, but was sent on the blitz almost twice as often as Bowman, who was 2nd in the NFL amongst ILBs for pass-rush-productivity (behind only Washington).

      Washington may have got 2 picks, but also surrendered 3 TDs to Bowman’s 1 in coverage, and Bowman broke up 6 passes to Washington’s 4.

      • cdub

        Your right I made more of a statement then anything.

        You said it yourself, Washington may have been better then Bowman in coverage and blitzing and that is what I was referring to. Washington had 7 passes defended not 4, You should go back and watch the tape again for that.

        I know Washington gave up a TD against Jerome Simpson where he did that crazy front flip over Washington, and I know he gave up a TD against the Browns where the QB extended the play and Dwash was left alone in the secondary with a WR which isnt a very favorable position for a LB. But when was the 3rd TD he gave up? I cant recall that one.

        Also Im curious how he graded so low against the run?

        • hobson22

          And this list cant account for oppertunity..think about it, the San Fransisco D was absolutly sick..this is coming from a Giants fan..I think Bowman is very underrated..but man theres so many studs on that team, it has to be hard to get stats..not to mention i am sure Washington had more oppertunities because his Defense was on the field a lot more than the San Fran’s I am sure..I dont know that forsure, but you have to figure since San Fransisco had the best Defence last year (in my eyes).

  • hobson22

    I am a fan of this website and all the stats and information it provides…With that said, some things in football can not be measured..I will likely have people say I am Bias because of I am a giants fan, but I have to disagree with JPP’s ranking..Yeah maybe he didn’t get as many pressures or hits, like you guys record..But JPP doesn’t always try to go after the QB, sometimes he just stops and trys to bat balls down and get his hands in he passing lanes..He has a 6’5″ frame..he uses all of his athletic ability to affect the QB..I would wonder if you guys could have a stat on that..because as a giants fan who watched many games it is very apparent that JPP didn’t go straight for the QB..So there is no surpise when I saw that he was ranked 31 or whatever when it comes to ‘pressures’.