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.
10. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (40th)
After something of a non-event in Week 1, Lynch started his season rolling from there. While he picked up just five 100-yard rushing games (including the postseason) it was his ability to turn poor blocking into positive yardage that kept the Seahawks’ offense in position to score. Nothing is more telling than the 97 missed tackles he forced as a runner that left many a defender a broken heap on the floor. Lynch was pivotal in the Seahawks making and winning the Super Bowl, even if the big show wasn’t a game for him to post huge numbers.
Best Performance: Week 10, SEA @ ATL, +4.9
Key Stat: Lynch’s 104.6 postseason Elusive Rating was the best in the league.
9. Andrew Whitworth, OL, Cincinnati Bengals (Unranked)
A pretty special year from Whitworth, with the more you look at it the more you appreciate just how amazing a season he had. Starting off at left tackle he would start nine games and still earn a grade that was 15th best of all offensive tackles. Obviously that wasn’t enough to get a top 10 spot on the list, but combined with how he played at guard, there was no leaving him off. Looking every bit as good at guard Whitworth would earn the seventh highest grade in just 350 guard snaps to highlight his versatility. It’s not easy to be an excellent offensive lineman at one position in the NFL, let alone two in the same season.
Best Performance: Week 14, IND @ CIN, +5.7
Key Stat: Whitworth’s combined grade of +40.5 at guard and offensive tackle was bested by just one other offensive lineman.
8. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (Unranked)
Talk about a player reveling in a system. McCoy was already pretty handy under Andy Reid but he took his game to another level with Chip Kelly in town. Comprehensively finishing top of our running back rankings (despite his poor pass blocking) he led the league in yards per rushing attempt, total yards rushing and yards after contact. All while finishing third with 57 forced missed tackles and only fumbling once. Equally dangerous with the ball in hand he wasn’t short on opportunities to excel with the Eagles doing an excellent job of getting him in space, but he still had to make the moves once they did.
Best Performance: Week 16, CHI @ PHI, +5.1
Key Stat: McCoy didn’t grade negatively with his rushing in one game.
7. Evan Mathis, OG, Philadelphia Eagles (6th)
Three in a row for Mathis who would once again finish the year our top ranked offensive guard. He didn’t quite match his fantastic play in 2012, but he wasn’t far off. Once again it was his run blocking that made him stand miles apart from the rest as his grade dwarfed that of the competition, finishing with a score twice as high as the man in second spot. He might not get the credit he deserves but he’s a huge part of the Eagles incredibly successful rushing attack, and our top ranked offensive linemen in this years 101.
Best Performance: Week 2, SD @ PHI, +5.0
Key Stat: Mathis simply graded positively with his run blocking in every single game.
6. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks (5th)
Sherman would have been way lower but for some tremendous work in the postseason that made anyone who wasn’t already aware realize that he was more walk than talk. Locking down the left side of the Seahawks defense he didn’t allow a pass longer than 38 yards all year and was only beat for two touchdowns. What’s more his playmaking skills ensured teams did their best to stay away from him, and rightfully so with just 49.2% of passes into his coverage completed.
Best Performance: Week 7, SEA @ ARZ, +4.5
Key Stat: Led league with eight interceptions.
5. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (82nd)
Good as a rookie, David allayed fears of a sophomore slump by taking his game to a new level with a sublime 2013. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a true outside linebacker perform like him, throwing himself around with reckless abandon in the run game while having the awareness to make plays in coverage. Grading in the green in 10 of his 16 games, David was an every down playmaker. He lead his position in tackles for a loss, defensive stops (he had 21 more than any other) and finishing behind just DeAndre Levy with five picks.
Best Performance: Week 7, TB @ ATL, +5.0
Key Stat: David’s 17 tackles for a loss were the most of any linebacker.
4. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20th)
It may have been a bad year in Tampa Bay, but it was a great year individually for McCoy who stayed healthy and remained incredibly productive. His work against the run (which earned a +7.8) grade is never going to be his calling card but saw him make more than his fair share of plays, while his work rushing the passer was something to behold. Operating on a line where he was the only legitimate pass rushing threat teams still couldn’t slow him down. McCoy earned the highest pass rushing grade (and overall one) of any defensive tackle. You don’t often see defensive tackles get graded above +5.0 six times in one season.
Best Performance: Week 14, BUF @ TB, +9.5
Key Stat: His 11.1 Pass Rushing Productivity score was the best of all defensive tackles.
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (7th)
It didn’t end with the Super Bowl he coveted, but it did end with the highest grade of any quarterback in the league (+43.3) once again. Manning didn’t have his best game in the Super Bowl, but it was one of only five negatively graded games all year and it was against a defense that shut down all his weapons. So while it certainly prevented Manning challenging the spots beyond him, we weren’t going to overreact to a fine year as Manning broke records throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. He had some help after the catch but he dominated our QB rankings with a season for the ages.
Best Performance: Week 14, TEN @ DEN, +7.5
Key Stat: Is it really a surprise that Manning’s 58.1% completion percentage when under pressure was the highest in the league?
2. Robert Quinn, DE, St Louis Rams (Unranked)
After two years in the league we didn’t see this coming. Quinn had flashed his immense talent in his first two years, but in 2013 he wouldn’t just flash talent, instead bringing it out to play on a week to week basis. Earning the highest grade we’ve ever given a 4-3 defensive end, Quinn would grade above +5.0 seven times during the year with a number of tackles having their worst games of the year against him (and some even earning benching’s on the back of them). A truly remarkable year and we look forward to seeing what he does in 2014.
Best Performance: Week 12, CHI @ SL, +14.4
Key Stat: Quinn’s amazing 91 combined sacks, hits and hurries were the most of any defensive player in 2013.
1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans (1st)
What can you say about Watt that hasn’t already been said? The Texans struggles and his reduced sack numbers seemed to make it easy for people to call his 2013 a down year, but the remarkable talent that he is would actually grade better in 2013. Once again would finish with the best Run Stop Percentage and Pass Rushing Productivity score of all 3-4 defensive ends, with more stops and tackles for loss than his peers. His numbers truly reflect his dominance with a grade over twice as good as anyone else. That’s what happens when you grade at +5.0 or over in 12 of 16 games. A truly unique talent who with only three years in the league is already building a Hall of Fame career.
Best Performance: Week 12, JAX @ HST, +12.1
Key Stat: Simply put, Watt’s +111.6 grade for a season is the highest ever awarded to any player in the PFF era.
That brings the 2013 PFF Top 101 to a close. Here’s a reminder of the previous entries: