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 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)
60. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (Unranked)
If this list were simply on the back of the second half of the season then Suh would be going a lot higher. From Week 12 onward he was nothing short of exceptional, with a couple of breathtaking performances that very few are capable of. We’ve learned to accept his shortcomings in the run game, with his ability to get at the passer something else.
Best Performance: Week 12 versus Houston, +8.1
Key Stat: His 58 combined sacks, hits and hurries were the second-most of any defensive tackle.
59. NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers (14th)
While there are those who want to crown Bowman the best linebacker in football, he’s not even the best on his own team quite yet. Nonetheless, he’s still a pretty special player and if you weren’t buying into that you need only have watched him get back to his best in the playoffs. A fine every-down defender, Bowman has already proved well worth his big extension.
Best Performance: Conference Championship at Atlanta, +4.6
Key Stat: Allowed 0.59 yards per snap in coverage, lowest of all inside linebackers.
58. Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings (Unranked)
Winfield is never going to get confused with the elite cover-cornerbacks out there, but the all-around package he brings meant he finished 2012 with our highest overall grade among cornerbacks. Of course a lot of that was down to his work in the run game, where the ability of Winfield to blow up plays close to the line of scrimmage is unparalleled among his cornerback peers. An extremely productive player on every down.
Best Performance: WeeK 6 at Washington, +5.4
Key Stat: Had 26 defensive stops in the run game. The next most from a cornerback was 16.
57. Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers (64th)
Some will think Smith should be higher based on his sack numbers alone. However, for that to be the case there needed to be some quicker developing pressure. That doesn’t mean Smith didn’t have a great year, just that there’s room for him to do more. Coped reasonably well with an expanded role.
Best Performance: Week 11 versus Chicago, +9.8
Key Stat: His 70 quarterback disruptions were the most of any 3-4 outside linebacker.
56. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts (Unranked)
Wasn’t Wayne suppose to be done? Instead he became the go-to guy for rookie Andrew Luck, turning his 179 targets into 106 receptions and 1,355 yards. Those numbers may flatter Wayne, who was force fed the ball at times (hence the 10 interceptions thrown in his direction), but not by so much you should doubt his impact, while he also contributed some better-then-you’d-expect blocking.
Best Performance: Week 5 versus Green Bay, +7.1
Key Stat: His 15 receptions on deep balls were the fourth-most of any wide receiver.
55. Russell Okung, LT, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
The first thing you notice when you look at Okung are those horrible 13 penalties he was flagged for. But when you start looking past that you see a former first-round tackle who, by the end of the season, may have been the best tackle in football. He was that good. Okung was exceptional in pass protection, especially given his quarterback’s proclivity for holding onto the ball.
Best Performance: Week 4 at St Louis, +5.6
Key Stat: Gave up 18 combined sacks, hits and hurries in 17 games.
54. Sebastian Vollmer, RT, New England Patriots (Unranked)
There was an obvious midseason blip for Vollmer, who once again battled a bothersome back and had that taken full advantage of by Cameron Wake. But outside that this was a case of Vollmer playing as well as any right tackle in the league, doing a particularly good job of slowing down pressure from getting to his quarterback.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff versus Houston, +4.1
Key Stat: Graded positively in all bar two games in 2012.
53. Mike Iupati, LG, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
Would likely have finished higher but for being hampered by an injury he picked up during the playoffs. Never to be confused with the best pass protecting guards, Iupati is an agile linemen who can manhandle you head on or wipe you out as he pulls to the second level. A punishing blocker.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff versus Green Bay, +4.6
Key Stat: Earned a positive run blocking grade in 14 of his 16 regular season appearances.
52. Michael Roos, LT, Tennessee Titans (Unranked)
Season 2012 was a year where Michael Roos got back to his best in emphatic fashion, with a campaign that really deserved more attention then it got. Despite setting up to pass protect on over 600 snaps, Roos allowed just 26 quarterback disruptions and even earned himself a positive grade for his work in the run game. Impressive.
Best Performance: Week 17 versus Jacksonville, +4.4
Key Stat: Gave up one pressure or fewer in seven of his 2012 games.
51. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings (61st)
Some of the team wanted Harvin higher based on his production, while some wanted him lower based on how little he played. Everyone recognized just how good he was when he was on the field in 2012, but with just 677 yards he was always going to struggle to finish higher. Harvin was near unstoppable during the first half of the year.
Best Performance: Week 2 at Indianapolis, +4.2
Key Stat: Forced 22 missed tackles, the most of any wide receiver.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled