As is the case every year, the PFF Analysis team gets together to discuss who they think were the best players in the NFL. The end result is a list of the Top 101 best players in a process that strains friendships, features many banging against tables and ever so occasionally sees some obscenities thrown out.
You see our analysts take pride in what we do and aren’t just going to put something out in a flippant fashion. This is our awards show where we do our best to acknowledge the performances of NFL players that deserve recognition.
Now before looking at the list there are some important things to understand regarding the criteria for selection.
– This list is based solely on 2013 play. Nothing that happened in previous years or may happen in the future is accounted for. This isn’t about class or talent; it’s about form throughout 2013.
– This list is created with an All Positions Created Equal mantra. So you won’t see 32 quarterbacks heading the list even though that is the most valuable position, instead seeing how guys played relative to what is expected from their position. You might disagree with this for doing a Top 101 list which is your right, but this is how we’ve done it for the past three years and will continue doing it so that every player has a fair shot at getting the respect they deserve.
– A repetition because it’s often the most misunderstood; this is not a list about talent or a lifetime achievement award. It is solely, 100% based on what happened between the opening kickoff of the 2013 regular season and the final snap of the Super Bowl this past February. Anything outside those dates does not matter.
80. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year didn’t crack a mention from us in our list, but he does make the Top 101. He certainly put forth some highlight-reel-worthy games like his outing against New Orleans while we had him credited for a healthy 61 defensive stops in a year that was an improvement on an impressive rookie season. Some might think this a little low but his play slipped a little between Weeks 7 and 11 (he earned four grades in the red) and the competition is only getting more fierce the further up you go.
Best Performance: Week 16, NO @ CAR, +6.1
Key Stat: Kuechly tallied the second most tackles for a loss of all linebackers with 11.
79. Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons (Unranked)
Our Defensive Rookie of the Year, Trufant didn’t get the attention he should have as the Falcons struggled, but deserves recognition for how well he adjusted to life in the NFL. Looking like he belonged from the first moment, Trufant would allow just a 75.2 QB rating into his coverage while at least breaking up one pass in all bar five games. He didn’t have the interception numbers to wow people, but playing cornerback is a lot more than just that. Impressive consistency.
Best Performance: Week 17, CAR @ ATL, +3.6
Key Stat: Trufant’s 15 pass breakups were the most of any cornerback as he was tied with Buster Skrine.
78. Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles (Unranked)
Kelce would finish the year our top-ranked center, even after the Giants put a beat down on him in Week 5. Outside of that? Well there were just four other negative games and a host of impressive positive ones, with his impact in the running game consistently better than all his peers. Really showed the team what they missed with his injury in 2012 and earned his long-term deal as he paved the way for a big year for LeSean McCoy.
Best Performance: Week 17, PHI @ DAL, +4.1
Key Stat: Gave up just 12 quarterback disruptions all year, 2nd lowest of all centers to pass block at least 500 times.
77. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins (Unranked)
After missing most of 2012, Orakpo seemed on a mission to make up for lost time with a string of eye catching displays that would see him finish 2013 our fourth-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker. A versatile talent most comfortable rushing the passer but who can more than hold his own whatever is asked of him, he ended the year with a creditable 51 quarterback disruptions and 22 defensive stops against the run. That’s the kind of all-around play that most 3-4 outside linebackers strive for.
Best Performance: Week 13, NYG @ WAS, +6.5
Key Stat: Orakpo was the only 3-4 outside linebacker to score a +4.0 or more in pass rushing, coverage and run defense.
76. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
The first (but not last) running back on this list. The season of Murray went somewhat under the radar with Dallas struggling and other issues in Cowboys country taking center stage. Still, it was comfortably his best year to date as he racked up 1,124 yards and found the end zone nine times while lasting a career-best 690 snaps. That earned him the sixth-highest rushing grade of all running backs and propelled him onto this list for the first time.
Best Performance: Week 3, SL @ DAL, +3.5
Key Stat: Finished seventh overall in our Elusive Rating with a 53.2 score.
75. Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns (Unranked)
Few cornerbacks have it as hard as Haden. Always asked to man up with the best the opposition can put on the field at receiver, he performed exceptionally well once again. Sure his grade may not compare to others who didn’t make the list but this is a Top 101 that accounts for the difficulty of what is being asked of players. The Browns’ star defensive player did make his fair share of plays with a healthy 16 combined pass breakups and interceptions. Excellent numbers for a man playing as much man coverage as him.
Best Performance: Week 11, CLE @ CIN, +3.6
Key Stat: Haden allowed just 0.89 yards into his coverage per snap, fifth-best of any cornerback.
74. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (Unranked)
To say Gordon built on his rookie season would be something of an understatement. His 1,646 yards were most in the league while he would finish with seven triple-digit yardage games including two over 200. Granted a fair amount of that yardage game in garbage time, but it was still a tremendous output from Gordon as he averaged 18.9 yard per reception on the 87 balls he caught.
Best Performance: Week 13, JAX @ CLE, +5.4
Key Stat: Despite missing two games, Gordon would still run the 11th most routes of all wide receivers with 615. That might make you think his numbers were inflated, but he still had the second highest Yards Per Route Run of all wideouts with 2.68.
73. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears (Unranked)
After a quiet debut season Jeffery exploded as the Bears offense revamped itself into a high-powered passing attack. Picking up a hugely impressive 1,421 yards (while not even being the top target on his own team) Jeffery showed the kind of playmaking ability this team craved. Whether he was lined up wide or in the slot he was a mismatch for defenders, finishing the season particularly strong.
Best Performance: Week 13, CHI @ MIN, +5.1
Key Stat: Incredibly productive when lined up inside, Jeffery averaged 2.89 Yards Per Route Run from the slot. No receiver could beat or match that number.
72. Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (67th)
Death, taxes and yet another excellent year from Derrick Johnson. In this age that we live in those are some certainties you can believe in. Johnson was particularly strong in coverage where he would earn the highest grade of all inside linebackers thanks in part to his two picks, three pass breakups and 16 defensive stops in that regard. Throw in some decent work in the run game and a useful 23 quarterback disruptions and you’ve got a nice little season.
Best Performance: Week 1, KC @ KAX, +5.0
Key Stat: His 27.7 Pass Rushing Productivity score was the highest of all inside linebackers.
71. Nate Solder, OT, New England Patriots (Unranked)
Outside of one tremendously tricky outing against Denver, Solder delivered an extremely consistent season, grading in the green 10 times throughout the year. With the size and strength to get push in the run game and a strong pass blocker, Solder answered the question as to whether he could be the long-term replacement to Matt Light.
Best Performance: Week 4, NE @ ATL, +6.3
Key Stat: Solder allowed 35 combined sacks, hits and hurries throughout the regular season. Of all left tackles who had 500 pass blocking snaps that was sixth-best.
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