2013 PFF All-AFC East Team
Today we begin our trip around the league to name the All-Division teams made up of 2013’s best at each position. First stop: the AFC East.
The annual one-sided race in the AFC East showed signs of getting more competitive with the Miami Dolphins making a run at the New England Patriots, but their late collapse thrust the New York Jets back into the No. 2 spot with an 8-8 record.
There’s room for optimism for all three of the Patriots’ competitors as the Jets and Buffalo Bills have some impressive pieces on their respective defenses while the Dolphins appear to have found a quarterback to build around for the future.
They’re still all chasing New England, but the race for the top spot might be a bit closer in the coming years.
Here’s a look at the AFC East’s best players for 2013.
Quarterback: Tom Brady, NE
Little surprise here that Brady is the class of the AFC East, but the competition was much closer than past year’s with Brady’s slow start combined with an emerging Ryan Tannehill. Despite the down year, Brady still finished the season as our No. 5 passing quarterback at +16.6.
Running Back: Fred Jackson, BUF
In a division filled with committee approaches, Jackson gets the nod for his strong all-around effort this season. He graded at +5.5 as a runner, picking up 890 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 387 yards and a score through the air. Throw in his +3.4 effort as a blocker and division-leading 677 snaps, and Jackson earned his spot as the division’s best running back.
Flex: Charles Clay, MIA
While he’s not the most stout as a run blocker, Clay emerged as a playmaker in the passing game, grading at +6.1 on his way to 69 receptions for 759 yards and six touchdowns.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, NE
Despite playing only 390 snaps, Gronkowski was his usual dominant self, grading at +12.9 in the passing game with 39 receptions for 592 yards and five touchdowns. The Patriots’ offense was clearly more efficient during his short time on the field.
Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman, NE and Brian Hartline, MIA
Edelman emerged as Brady’s favorite target, catching 105 passes for 1056 yards and six touchdowns. He took over a lot of New England’s slot production with his 506 yards and 1.72 Yards Per Route Run run that ranked 10th among slot receivers. Hartline proved an effective weapon in the intermediate range where he caught 27 of his 53 targets for 457 yards. He was also one of the league’s most sure-handed receivers, dropping only five of his 81 catchable passes, good for an eighth-best drop rate of 6.17 percent.
Left Tackle: Nate Solder, NE
In a close battle with Buffalo left tackle Cordy Glenn, Solder get the nod as he emerged as one of the league’s top left tackles. Though he did give up 10 sacks, he surrendered little other pressure, while continuing his strong run blocking. He’s one of the league’s best tackles at getting to the second level and blocking in space.
Left Guard: Logan Mankins, NE
It wasn’t Mankins’ best effort as a pass blocker, but he continued his reputation as one of the league’s best run blocking guards. His +11.5 run block grade ranked sixth at the position.
Center: Mike Pouncey, MIA
It wasn’t exactly a banner year for center play in the AFC Easy, but Pouncey was fairly consistent with only three games in the red this season. His +7.6 pass block grade paced all centers while his 98.1 Pass Blocking Efficiency tied for eighth.
Right Guard: Kraig Urbik, BUF
Urbik continues to fly under the radar as one of the league’s solid guards. He ranked 21st overall at the position, including a +4.8 pass block grade that ranked 19th. He also came in eighth in Pass Blocking Efficiency at 97.3.
Right Tackle: Sebastian Vollmer, NE
Despite having his season cut short after only 516 snaps, Vollmer’s pass blocking was just too good to ignore. His +10.5 pass block grade ranked among the best right tackles in the league and he managed to stay penalty-free in his 7+ games of action.
Defensive Ends: Kyle Williams, BUF and Sheldon Richardson, NYJ
After a red game to kick off the season, Williams got back to his dominant ways, particularly in the second half when he graded in the green in eight of his last nine games. His +20.5 pass rush grade ranked fourth among 3-4 defensive ends while his +20.8 grade against the run ranked fifth. Throw in a third-best 10.3 pass rush productivity, and Williams was an easy choice for the All-AFC East team.
While many expected Richardson to break into the league as a pass rush specialist, it was his impressive work against the run that helped him emerge as one of the league’s best rookies. His +34.0 run stop grade ranked second behind only JJ Watt while his 9.8 Run Stop Percentage ranked fifth.
Nose Tackle: Marcell Dareus, BUF
Our No. 6 rated defensive tackle, Dareus got some love on our All-Pro team as he broke out into a really good all-around player. He led all defensive tackles with 45 stops on his way to a +19.2 run stop grade that ranked third. He also showed well as a pass rusher, grading at +11.2 with a pass rush productivity of 7.9 that ranked 10th.
Edge Defenders: Cameron Wake, MIA and Rob Ninkovich, NE
While it wasn’t the dominant performance we saw from Wake in 2012, he still ranked second among 4-3 defensive ends with a +27.7 pass rush grade. His 14.0 Pass Rushing Productivity also came in second as he notched pressure on 71 of his 397 pass rush snaps. The opposite of Wake, Ninkovich emerged as the league’s top 4-3 defensive end against the run this season at +25.1. Only teammate Chandler Jones played more than his 1114 snaps as he rarely came off the field.
Linebackers: Kiko Alonso, BUF and Brandon Spikes, NE
Another defensive rookie of the year candidate, Alonso played all 1176 of the Bills snaps on his way to a +11.3 coverage grade that ranked second among inside linebackers. He still has some work to do against the run but it was an impressive debut for the second-rounder. Yet another run-first player in the Patriots’ front seven, Spikes did his usual damage blowing up opposing blockers, almost acting as an extra defensive lineman at times. His +11.6 grade against the run led all inside linebackers, but he continued to struggle in coverage at -3.6.
Cornerbacks: Brent Grimes, MIA and Leodis McKelvin, BUF
The Dolphins got their money’s worth from Grimes on his one-year deal as he bounced back from injury to grade as our No. 2 cornerback overall, including No. 3 in coverage at +12.0. His 14 defensed passes ranked third among cornerbacks and he added four interceptions while not surrendering a touchdown. Playing a career-high 947 snaps, McKelvin made the most of them as his +8.7 coverage grade ranked seventh among cornerbacks. He knocked away 13 passes to tie for sixth in the league while allowing only 1.09 Yards Per Cover Snap to tie for 27th at the position.
Free Safety: Devin McCourty, NE
Our top-rated safety, McCourty really took to the position in his first full year as starter. He was rarely out of position, but also managed to get his hands on seven passes to lead all safeties. McCourty was also one of the surest tacklers at the position as he missed only one out of every 14.4 attempts to rank 10th among safeties.
Strong Safety: Steve Gregory, NE
It was an uninspiring group of strong safeties in the AFC East, so Gregory gets the nod after providing a solid complement to McCourty on his 849 snaps. He does his best work when asked to play downhill and his run stop percentage of 4.4 percent ranked 13th among safeties.
Kicker: Nick Folk, NYJ
Our Pro-Bowl kicker made 33 of his 36 attempts, including three from beyond 50 yards.
Punter: Brandon Fields, MIA
Fields tied for the league lead with a 48.8 gross average while his 42.6 net yards ranked second.
Returner: Julian Edelman, NE
Quietly one of the league’s best punt returners, Edelman averaged 11.0 yards on his 35 punt returns this season.
Special Teamer: Jamie Collins, NE
Collins showed well on both kickoffs and punts grading at +3.0 and +3.5, respectively.
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