The Pro Football Focus Top 101 ranking is well underway now, and before continuing the countdown we suggest you get caught up on what has gone before with these links to the previous installments:
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 as 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)
40. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (92nd)
When you look at what Lynch has done for the Seahawks, it’s amazing to think it didn’t work out for him in Buffalo. A bruising back who can make you miss in the open field, his problems with fumbling are about the only thing you can hold against him. Instead, you find yourself praising his ability to take more than what his line gave him, which saw him finish with a very healthy 5 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Best Performance: Week 9 versus Minnesota, +4.3
Key Stat: His 58 forced missed tackles were second most of all running backs.
39. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
It was something of an up-and-down year for Davis in 2012. He started off the year playing as well as anyone, even if he wasn’t seeing the targets he would perhaps expect. Then he became something of an afterthought in the offense, and it was only really a fantastic slate of postseason play that propelled him up the rankings. A player you feel would benefit even more if he was a more profiled part of the offense.
Best Performance: Conference Championship at Atlanta, +5.5
Key Stat: Averaged 1.3 Yards Per Route Run during the regular season, and 2.9 during the postseason.
38. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (Unranked)
Sixth-round rookies are simply not meant to be this good. While many want to attribute the success of Morris to a scheme that benefited him, that’s unfair to a player who finished third in the league in yards after contact and finished third in the league in forced missed tackles in the running game. He didn’t offer much as a receiver, but you can look past that when you measure the joy the Redskins had running the ball with him.
Best Performance: Week 17 versus Dallas, +4.2
Key Stat: His 24 runs over 15 yards were second-most in the entire league.
37. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
Before the season Crabtree was looking like something of a disappointment relative to what he cost the 49ers. It turns out that was less about him, and more about his quarterback, with Crabtree taking his game to another level when Colin Kaepernick came into the lineup. Cutting back on the drops, Crabtree continued to look like one of the most impressive after-the-catch receivers in the league, forcing 19 missed tackles (including the postseason) while also adding 12 touchdowns.
Best Performance: Week 17 versus Arizona, +4.1
Key Stat: His 2.66 Yards Per Route Run (including playoffs) were the fourth-most of any receiver.
36. Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
There was some considerable debate about just how high Hayward should go. Not because of his performance but simply because of his role which saw him chiefly used as a part of the Packers’ sub-package defense (no matter how often they used it). Despite not seeing as much time as his peers, Hayward still earned the second-highest coverage grade of all cornerbacks. He also wasn’t flagged for a single penalty all year and didn’t allow any touchdowns. He’ll have to go some ways to better his rookie season.
Best Performance: Week 11 at Detroit, +4.6
Key Stat: The 43.4% completion percentage he allowed into his coverage was lowest of all cornerbacks.
35. Max Unger, C, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
A much better run blocker than pass protector, Unger got better and better as the season went on, finishing with two of his best performances when it really mattered — in the playoffs. Always creating space for his running backs, his athleticism is put to perfect use in the Seahawks’ scheme.
Best Performance: Week 16 versus San Francisco, +4.5
Key Stat: Gave up just three quarterbacks hits all season.
34. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns (67th)
The gold standard among pass protecting left tackles, it’s only because Thomas was far from impressive in the run game that he doesn’t feature more highly. However, when you can go through an entire season and give up only 16 combined sacks, hits and hurries (while pass protecting 618 times) you’re doing something right.
Best Performance: Week 13 at Oakland, +3.7
Key Stat: Gave up a quarterback disruption for every 89.6 seconds he was pass protecting. The next best from a tackle was 68.7.
33. Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets (Unranked)
When Revis Island was shut down for the year, many wondered how Cromartie would react. The Jets’ defense demanded more out of him and Cromartie responded by going toe-to-toe with the top receivers in the game and making life incredibly hard for them. Given what was asked of him it’s incredible he walked away giving up just 511 yards into his coverage all year.
Best Performance: Week 1 versus Buffalo, +2.5
Key Stat: Missed just four tackles all year.
32. Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens (34th)
For so often the top right guard in the league, nothing changed in 2012. As reliable as it gets in pass protection and a powerhouse with his run blocking, there may not be a more reliable player in the league at any position than Yanda. Always gets the job done.
Best Performance: Week 4 versus Cleveland, +5.2
Key Stat: Had a Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 98.4. That’s the best for all right guards in the league.
31. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (Unranked)
Turning the Redskins from a punch line to a relevant contender, RG3 was the dose of energy and talent that this team desperately needed. His play on the field was nothing short of his exceptional, with the Redskins putting him in an offense that made full use of his skill set from Day 1. The end result was a player who was extremely accurate and extremely productive, and well worth such a prominent ranking.
Best Performance: Week 6 versus Minnesota, +5.1
Key Stat: With an Accuracy Percentage of 75% under pressure, RG3 was tops of all quarterbacks.
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