The Pro Football Focus Top 101 ranking is well underway now, and before continuing the countdown we seriously suggest you catch up with what has gone on before with the links below.
As ever, it’s important to remember the criteria that went into selecting this list;
– This is based solely on 2012 play. Nothing that happened in years previous was accounted for.
– This is created with an “all-positions created equal” mantra, so it asks for a leap of faith that you assume a guard is an important as a quarterback (there are some exceptions here with more situational roles not quite as equal)
Now, let’s get to the ranking!
(Last year’s ranking in brackets)
50. Alex Boone, RG, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
Boone just about takes the honors in the battle between the 49ers guards, thanks in large part to a stronger finish to the year. An impactful run blocker, Boone did give up some pressure, but when you are as consistent in the run game as he is you can live with it.
Best Performance: Week 11 versus Chicago, +4.4
Key Stat: Had the highest run blocking rating of any right guard.
49. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Unranked)
The knock on Roddy White has always been the issues he’s had with drops. Well, in 2012 we saw very little of that (just four drops) while he was still incredibly productive. Indeed, while many thought his role for the Falcons would dimish, he turned his 18-game season into 1,527 yards and eight touchdowns.
Best Performance: Week 2 versus Denver, +4.2
Key Stat: Dropped just 3.7% of all catchable balls (including postseason). The second-lowest amount of any wide receiver targeted at least 100 times.
48. Reshad Jones, S, Miami Dolphins (Unranked)
Entering a big year, Jones showed himself to be one of the most active safeties in the entire league with a knack for making plays all over the field. That saw him intercept four balls, deflect another four and pick up 21 defensive stops, while allowing only 19 receptions into his coverage all year. The 14 missed tackles weren’t great, but his all-around display was enough to see him finish third overall in our safety rankings.
Best Performance: Week 9 at Indianapolis, +5.2
Key Stat: His 1.34% of coverage snaps allowed to be converted into first downs or touchdowns in his primary coverage was fifth-lowest of all safeties.
47. Ryan Clady, LT, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
After a year spent protecting the somewhat unpredictable Tim Tebow, life got a lot easier for Ryan Clady when Peyton Manning rolled into town. Far from dominant in the run game, Clady makes his name as a pass protector and that’s exactly why the Broncos were never going to let him hit the open market in free agency.
Best Performance: Week 3 versus Houston, +5.8
Key Stat: Allowed just 22 quarterback disruptions on 609 pass blocking snaps.
46. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants (17th)
The danger was always there with how people viewed “JPP”. As good as his 2011 season was the emphasis placed on his sack numbers were always going to come back to bite him. And while it’s true he didn’t have quite the same impact as he did when the Giants won it all, it shouldn’t take away from a tremendously complete season he put forward. Excellent against the run, there’s no shame in the 55 QB disruptions he managed.
Best Performance: Week 14 versus New Orleans, +6.0
Key Stat: His 30 defensive stops in the run game were the third-most of any 4-3 defensive end.
45. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
Outside a couple of fumbles when Thomas wasn’t touched, it was a big year for the former first-round pick who showed what he could do with a viable quarterback throwing him the ball. Making some spectacular catches as he picked up 1,430 yards and 10 touchdowns, Thomas emerged as one of the most dynamic receivers in the league.
Best Performance: Week 8 versus New Orleans, +7.1
Key Stat: Picked up 2.51 yards per route run, seventh-highest in the league.
44. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons (84th)
The immortal Gonzalez slowed no signs of slowing down with another classic year where he was as productive a tight end catching the ball as any other. Indeed, he was so good we’ve managed to largely ignore his woeful blocking, but when you pick up 65 combined first downs and touchdowns (most of any tight end) you earn that leeway.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff versus Seattle, +5.4
Key Stat: Broke 16 tackles. Most of any tight end.
43. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots (Unranked)
Over the years Mayo hasn’t developed into the kind of playmaker maybe he was expected to be. However, he has got better year after year since being drafted, and he does have a habit of influencing plays regardless of what is asked of him. Missed just five tackles all season and was well worth our second-highest grade for any 4-3 outside linebacker.
Best Performance: Week 1 at Tennessee, +4.5
Key Stat: His 56 defensive stops were third-most of any 4-3 outside linebacker.
42. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (6th)
If you asked anyone in PFF towers to name the best tight end in football they’d all come back with the same answer, and that answer would be the Patriots’ Gronkowski. It’s only because he missed such a significant amount of time that he wasn’t close to replicating his 2011 ranking, yet it’s worth pointing out that even missing a quarter of the season he still earned the highest regular season grade of all tight ends. A true difference-maker who ensures his presence is felt on every down.
Best Performance: Week 8 at St Louis, +7.2
Key Stat: His 2.44 yards per route run were the most of any tight end in the regular season.
41. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (Unranked)
The favorite target of Andy Dalton built on a strong debut season to firmly establish himself as one of the league’s best receivers. With 11 touchdowns and 1,350 yards, Green overcame a lack of support around him to match his peers in terms of output. Would have finished higher but for teams finding ways to slow him down in the second half of the season.
Best Performance: Week 3 at Washington, +4.3
Key Stat: His 474 yards on passes that went over 20 yards in the air were the fifth-most of any receiver.
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