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.
Now onto the list where you can find previous editions linked to
30. Dontari Poe, DT, Kansas City Chiefs (Unranked)
One of (if not the) most durable defensive tackles in the league, Poe proved to be some kind of athlete to manage the workload he did while grading in the green in 11 of 16 games he featured in. Particularly strong against the run (where his 30 defensive stops were 3rd most of all nose tackles) this every down terror showed no signs of slowing down as the year went on, registering a pressure in all but two games with eight games of three or more. Described as a workout warrior before entering the league, there aren’t any tagging him for his combine numbers instead of his performance now.
Best Performance: Week 5, KC @ TEN, +4.6
Key Stat: His 1,004 regular season snaps were the most of any defensive tackle and he was rested in Week 17.
29. Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills (Unranked)
Put it all together in his third year where he looked like everything and more you’d expect from a former third overall pick. Dareus started the season very slowly with three negative games out of the gate. He then set about righting some wrongs with dominant performance after dominant performance. By the end of the season he’d earned three grades over +5.0 and nine in total in the green. An every down player who does as much damage on third down as he does on first, Dareus would finish sixth overall in our defensive tackle grading in a true breakout year.
Best Performance: Week 10, BUF @ PIT, +6.3
Key Stat: His 36 defensive stops against the run were the joint most of any defensive tackle in the league.
28. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
While Chancellor had a decent year, he was only our 12th-ranked safety in the regular season. So how exactly did he propel himself this far up the list? With a truly breathtaking postseason that saw him turn three games into a+12.6 grade. That remarkable stretch, at such a crucial juncture of the season, was as good as we’ve seen from anyone at any position in the playoffs and pushed Chancellor into consideration and beyond. The kind of enforcer who makes the type of plays that force teams to adjust their gameplan.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, NO @ SEA, +5.7
Key Stat: Including the postseason, Chancellor missed one tackle for every 13.9 attempted. Good for 10th best of all safeties.
27. Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee Titans (95th)
We didn’t see this coming with Casey. It’s not that he wasn’t a great player in 2012, but he was very much more of the immovable object as opposed to irresistible force he became in 2013. A once proud run plugger who did his work around the line of scrimmage, Casey turned himself into a man whose primary business became tormenting quarterbacks. In that regard he earned the third highest pass rushing grade of all defensive tackles with a very healthy 54 quarterback disruptions while still earning a positive grade versus the run.
Best Performance: Week 13, TEN @ IND, +8.6
Key Stat: Casey managed 25 quarterback disruptions in his first two years in the league combined before notching 54 this year.
26. Kyle Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills (22nd)
Our third-ranked 3-4 defensive end, Williams had no problem taking his success in more conventional defenses into the one instilled by Mike Pettine. With his customary strong play against both the run and pass (earning a +20.0 grade in both) Williams would five times earn a grade above +4.0 while finishing sixth at his position in terms of total defensive stops. You get the feeling if he played in a bigger market more people would appreciate his consistent excellence.
Best Performance: Week 16, MIA @ BUF, +5.9
Key Stat: His 69 combined sacks, hits and hurries were third most of all 3-4 defensive ends.
25. Josh Sitton, OG, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
It’s not easy switching from one side of the line to the other but you’d never have guessed with how he performed in 2013. His 2013 season saw him finish second overall in our guard rankings with him strong in the run game and exceptional in pass protection where his grade was best of all. That’s what tends to happen when in 648 pass blocking snaps you give up just one sack and seven hurries. Outside of a poor first week of the season (-4.5 grade against San Francisco) he would grade positively in every game.
Best Performance: Week 15, GB @ DAL, +4.7
Key Stat: Sitton earned the best Pass Blocking Efficiency score of all offensive guards.
24. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers (10th)
Newer inside linebackers may catch the attention but old reliable continues to deliver the goods. Once again finishing highest of all at his position Willis overcame missing two games to put forward another strong season that featured 11 games graded in the green. Remains a do it all kind of player where others fails overcompensating, still capable of doing the old school linebacker work in the run game while standing toe to toe with the speedy tight ends who have become more commonplace.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, SF @ CAR, +3.4
Key Stat: The six time All-Pro linebacker picked up just three negatively graded games all year and only one worse than a -0.4. The model of consistency.
23. Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins (Unranked)
It’s hard to explain why it’s taken Grimes so long to get the credit he deserves. We mean if the guy was a first round pick surely there’d be a lot more press about the impressive seasons he’s put together. In any case Grimes rebounded from missing nearly all of 2012 with a fine first year in Miami where he locked down the left side of the field and earned the third-highest regular season grade of all cornerbacks in coverage. A model of consistency (except for some woeful tackling against Cincinnati), he was flagged for just two penalties all year.
Best Performance: Week 2, MIA @ IND, +4.9
Key Stat: Grimes didn’t allow any touchdowns into his primary coverage all year (vs. four interceptions).
22. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (28th)
Maybe it’s the positional change or the lack of attention the New England defense gets, but it’s flown under the radar just how good a football player Devin McCourty actually is. Fresh off earning the highest regular season grade of all safeties in coverage hopefully this ranking will do something to correct that, with his versatility an asset not something that should hold him back. This year that meant he led safeties in pass break ups and allowed just 18 receptions all year into his primary coverage in the regular season. McCourty graded negatively just twice all year.
Best Performance: Week 7, NE @ NYJ, +5.0
Key Stat: His seven pass breakups were the most of any safety in the league.
21. Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs (Unranked)
Houston would finish the year our top-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, with the only thing keeping him from going higher in this list are the five games he missed at the end of the season. Before that (and when he returned for the playoffs) he was phenomenal, grading negatively just twice (and no worse than a -0.4) and being the kind of all-around playmaker that teams crave from a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Best Performance: Week 11, KC @ DEN, +9.4
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