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
20. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
The in-vogue safety right now and with good reason. Everybody wants an Earl Thomas because it makes life in the defensive backfield a lot easier with a safety with that kind of range. Thomas isn’t without his flaws (14 missed tackles), but his playmaking and impact goes far beyond that drawback. There aren’t any other safeties who can play the deep role yet still impact the run like him while his ballhawking ensures interceptions if teams try to go deep.
Best Performance: Week 7, SEA @ ARZ, +3.2
Key Stat: Lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage on just 12.8% of running plays (sixth lowest in the league) yet finished 17th overall in tackles against the run for safeties.
19. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals (29th)
He didn’t start the year as well as he might have hoped (his first four games saw him earn a -1.3 grade), but from there on he was on fire. Finishing second overall in our 3-4 defensive end rankings Campbell continued to show his development from pass rushing pest into complete every down weapon, as able to make plays in the run game as he is to cause problems for passers. Particularly strong in the second half of the season, and if he can keep that level up for a whole season then the top 10 awaits.
Best Performance: Week 10, HST @ ARZ, +7.4
Key Stat: Eight games with at least four quarterback disruptions.
18. Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Unranked)
He wasn’t quite at his best, but even at less than 100% he still put enough on tape that many can only dream of. The marriage with Tampa Bay may not have lasted nor been a perfect fit, but he made the most of his one year in Florida, allowing just 54% of passes into his coverage to be complete while intercepting two balls and breaking up another six. Not hugely eye catching numbers but great work nonetheless, particularly in the first half of the year.
Best Performance: Week 6, PHI @ TB, +3.7
Key Stat: His 0.72 yards per snap in coverage allowed was best of all cornerbacks.
17. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (60th)
Five sacks must mean Suh wasn’t that good right? Wrong. Ever since his eye popping rookie numbers people have set unrealistic expectations for Suh, celebrating in his failure to reach them amidst concerns over his character. The truth is it’s taken longer than some might have expected, but he’s become the dominant player he was destined to be with 2013 his best (and most complete year) to date. Grading positively in all bar three games (with four grades over +5.0) Suh made plenty of offensive linemen wake up dreading watching the tape.
Best Performance: Week 13, GB @ DET, +8.1
Key Stat: His 72 combined sacks, hits and hurries were second most of all defensive tackles.
16. Michael Bennett, DE, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
We were at the front of the queue of people scoffing when only the Seahawks would hand Bennett a one-year prove it deal. He was good enough in 2012 that he deserved more and, with a huge chip on his shoulder, he didn’t waste a lot of time proving a lot of people wrong. Rotating at end on base packages and kicking inside to tackle in the Seahawks nickel package, Bennett caused all sorts of havoc on his way to the fifth highest regular season grade of all 4-3 defensive ends. That alone wasn’t enough to get him this high but a tremendous postseason (a +10.0 grade in three games) was the difference.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, NO @ SEA, +7.2
Key Stat: Third highest pass rushing productivity score of all 4-3 defensive ends.
15. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins (Unranked)
Since entering the league in 2010 Williams has been on a steady incline, culminating with his best season to date in 2013. Sure he had a couple of tricky outings against Aldon Smith and Von Miller, but beyond that he had 13 games where he allowed two or fewer quarterback disruptions. What’s more some of his work in the run game was eye catching, with Williams a left tackle who consistently generated movement both laterally and up the field. Fine work.
Best Performance: Week 13, NYG @ WAS, +6.9
Key Stat: Incredibly half of the games he was involved in saw him earn a +3.0 grade or better.
14. Robert Mathis, OLB, Indianapolis Colts (Unranked)
A sack machine with a history of forcing fumbles like it’s going out of fashion, Mathis was prolific throughout 2013 with 64 quarterback disruptions and eight forced fumbles. That saw him earn the second highest grade of all 3-4 outside linebackers while also earning a positive for his work against the run where he ended with a very useful 22 defensive stops against the run (which were seventh most at the position). There aren’t many defensive playmakers like Mathis and 2013 proved it.
Best Performance: Week 7, DEN @ IND, +6.7
Key Stat: Had 11 games with at least four quarterback disruptions.
13. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (Unranked)
While Graham isn’t much of a blocker, we can look past that (and clearly have) because of the mismatch he is in the receiving game. Ending the year our top ranked tight end in large part due to his +19.8 receiving work, Graham established himself the prototype tight end in the modern NFL. A dominant threat in the red zone and whenever he’s asked to move the chains, he picked up 16 touchdowns and led the position with his 1,215 yards. They just don’t make weapons like him.
Best Performance: Week 3, ARZ @ NO, +2.7
Key Stat: His 2.26 yards per route run were the most of any tight end.
12. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns (34th)
In the modern NFL pass blocking is key. It’s why teams spend first round picks on offensive tackles, trying to find a guy who can protect his quarterback’s blind side. So it’s no surprise that the best pass blocking left tackle is the highest rated tackle in our 101. Thomas isn’t one of these players to develop a reputation and rest on it, still as dominant today as he was in his early years. Despite quarterbacks who would hold onto the ball, little help given his way, and the team dropping back to pass more than any others, Thomas allowed just 37 quarterback disruptions on his way to picking up the highest pass blocking grade of any tackle.
Best Performance: Week 12, PIT @ CLV, +4.6
Key Stat: Gave up two or fewer quarterback disruptions on 10 of the 16 games he was involved in.
11. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (Unranked)
Charles may have ended up with a higher yards per attempt mark in 2012, but we were more impressed with his running in 2013 as evidenced by such a high placed finish. Of course with Andy Reid in town it wasn’t just his rushing that wowed us as Charles was a more potent (and reliable) weapon in the receiving game, and it was that which pushed him so far up this list along with an incredibly strong (five green graded games on the bounce) finish to the regular season.
Best Performance: Week 15, KC @ OAK, +4.9
Key Stat: Averaged 1.75 yards per route run, the most of any feature back.
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