We’ve now been through 81 of the Pro Football Focus Top 101 rankings, and as we head into the Top 20 it’s worth a look back at the ground we’ve covered to date:
As ever, it’s important to remember the criteria used by our team when selecting this list:
– This is based solely on 2012 play. Nothing that happened in years prior 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 (though 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)
20. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Unranked)
Finally, 2012 was the year we got to see McCoy on the field for an entire season and we were not left wanting. Our second-ranked defensive tackle, McCoy played better than his numbers would suggest, delivering plenty of pressure and penetration in the run game. A real every-down talent and it’s no surprise the Bucs’ defense looked a lot better with him on the field.
Best Performance: Week 14 versus Philadelphia, +7.3
Key Stat: His 53 quarterback disruptions were the third-most for all defensive tackles.
19. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears (Unranked)
You need only look at the key stat to see the kind of unrivaled impact that Tillman had. For a cornerback to make that many plays of that nature almost has to be seen to be believed. Still, without backing it up in coverage it wouldn’t get him a spot on the list, so to feature so highly tells you how well he did there. Tillman added 14 combined interceptions and pass deflections while allowing just 9.4 yards per reception.
Best Performance: Week 9 at Tennessee, +5.5
Key Stat: Forced 10 fumbles.
18. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills (Unranked)
The only reason Spiller isn’t higher is because he didn’t get enough carries in 2012. When he did, he was something to behold. As explosive a player as there was in the league during the 2012 season, he made his blocking seem better by turning nothing into something, frequently. His 6.0 yards per carry average is amazing, while forcing 53 missed tackles on 207 rushes is astonishing. A real game-changer.
Best Performance: Week 10 at New England, +5.0
Key Stat: The most elusive back in all of football with a 94.6 Elusive Rating (22.6 points better than the next best).
17. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (74th)
While getting his first playoff win was big, the season Ryan put forth was bigger. Excelling from first to last, he inspired the Falcons to the top seed in the NFC as he made full use of all the weapons at his disposal. A new offensive coordinator saw him challenge teams all over the field and the result was his best statistical season to date.
Best Performance: Conference Championship vs San Francisco, +6.4
Key Stat: His 13 play-action touchdown passes in his 18 games were the most of any quarterback.
16. Joe Staley, LT, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
Staley is a little bit different compared to all the left tackles that have come before him. He’s not quite the pass protector of some, but his impact in the running game is so much greater that he cruised to our highest overall grade of any tackle in 2012. A real nasty streak in the run game isn’t something that often stands out about left tackles, but Staley has it and then some.
Best Performance: Week 2 versus Detroit, +5.5
Key Stat: Run blocking grade was 10.9 points better than any other tackle.
15. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers (66th)
Weddle just keeps getting better, and while the Chargers can’t be happy with their year, they’ve got to be impressed with the consistency of their star defensive player. Our top-ranked safety graded positively in every area, showing himself capable of manning the deep middle of the field and coming up to support in the run game. The premier player in the league at his position.
Best Performance: Week 14 at Pittsburgh, +4.5
Key Stat: When he played in the box he led all safeties with a 17.4% Run Stop Percentage.
14. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, New York Jets (Unranked)
It’s easy to get lost in the shadow of players used in a similar fashion, and that was certainly the case for Wilkerson this year. Of course playing for the Jets and the circus that followed didn’t help either, but for those in the know he was something special this year. Finishing second in our 3-4 defensive end rankings, Wilkerson was an impact player in the run game and supported that by adding an extremely healthy 37 quarterback disruptions.
Best Performance: Week 11 at St Louis, +7.4
Key Stat: His 46 defensive stops in the run game were the second-most of any 3-4 defensive end.
13. Duane Brown, LT, Houston Texans (65th)
His sackless streak ended, but his reputation just kept growing as the one-time developmental tackle impressed all who watched him. One of the most agile linemen around, Brown not only gave up just 22 quarterback disruptions all year but showed his worth in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme where his athleticism was much appreciated.
Best Performance: Week 12 at Detroit, +8.7
Key Stat: Graded positively in 15 out of 18 games he featured in.
12. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (4th)
Despite a record-breaking season, Johnson dips compared to his 2011 ranking and isn’t even the top receiver selected. Still, he deserves credit for overcoming an unparalleled amount of attention as teams simply didn’t respect the Lions’ running game or other receiving threats. That Johnson very nearly produced the first ever 2,000-yard season from a receiver despite all that is quite noteworthy.
Best Performance: Week 9 at Jacksonville, +4.5
Key Stat: Was targeted 199 times during the regular season.
11. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (1st)
While Rodgers wasn’t quite at the level that saw the Packers strive for perfection last season, he wasn’t far off. Overcoming some protection issues (and creating a few of his own) the Packers continued to ride the arm of Rodgers to success. As accurate as ever and with the same ability to make a big play out of nothing, there’s a reason Rodgers is now the highest-paid player in the game.
Best Performance: Week 6 at Houston, +8.5
Key Stat: His 80.2% Accuracy Percentage for the regular season was the highest of all quarterbacks who attempted at least 250 passes.
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