2013 PFF All-Rookie Team
So how will the 2013 draft class be remembered? Well, based on only one year’s performance, certainly not in the same rosy way we saw both the 2011 and 2012 groups. There’s a real paucity of top quality in a number of positions and a lot of than can be attributed to a less than stellar first round where we only graded 10 of 32 selections “green” (including none of the top seven selections).
However, there is talent, and as we know all too well some players mature and come through later than others, so let’s not write them off just yet and concentrate on a number of the success stories as well as those positions lacking strength or depth.
Quarterback: Mike Glennon, TB (-8.2)
As can be seen from the grade, this selection falls firmly in the “best of a bad bunch” category. The bottom line is: when he was protected well he played well, but when he was under pressure his play deteriorated to an unacceptable level. When kept clean he had a passer rating of 101.4 and we graded him a +8.0 but under duress those numbers dropped to 55.7 and -15.8. Worryingly for Tampa Bay fans, those numbers are remarkably similar to the ones Josh Freeman put up in 2012.
Honorable Mention: None
Running Back: Eddie Lacy, GB (+17.8)
This was a remarkably composed season in all facets of play for the Packers new halfback. Not only was he our fifth-graded pure rusher but he also caught the ball well and blocked like a veteran when asked; of the 120 pass plays he was asked to stay in, he only allowed one hit and two hurries.
The only worry here is around longevity. His running style is so aggressive with a large percentage of his 56 missed tackles forced being the result of slamming the ball into hole. That said, he is remarkably light on his feet and elusive for a big man and hopefully this will see him through.
Honorable Mention: Zac Stacy (SL) & see below and slot receiver
Fullback Running Back: Giovani Bernard, CIN (+17.8)
No fullback? Well, no.
If you are obsessed with a name, try Tommy Bohanon (NYJ) but he was our lowest-graded blocker and hence we felt it better to dwell on a player that could have been our No. 1 halfback but for running the ball 114 times less than Lacy. In fact, that number aside, his other stats were remarkably similar to the Packer; an identical 4.1 yards per attempt and 2.3 yards per attempt after contact. However, it was as a receiver he stood out – his 20 missed tackles forced second only to Jamaal Charles and Pierre Thomas (22 each) who both had far more receptions.
Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, SD (+17.0) and Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN (+6.8)
No surprise to see Allen selected with the third-rounder only taking a single game to make the starting line-up and playing incredibly consistently down the stretch. His 2.06 Yards per Route Run ranked 13th among all wide receivers (just ahead of Dez Bryant) and five dropped passes is perfectly acceptable number based on his 101 targets.
The other selection may be a slight surprise given his base numbers were 333 yards behind DeAndre Hopkins. However, factor in what he did as a runner and the overall production per snap and you see Patterson is a special player. Given an offseason to learn his trade, the sky is the limit given his freakish talent.
Honorable Mention: DeAndre Hopkins (HST)
Slot Receiver: Andre Ellington, ARZ (+14.7)
OK, so we are playing our own game here but why wouldn’t we want to get Ellington on our team? Anyway, with nearly 35% of his snaps either in the slot or out wide, this hardly feels like cheating.
Tight End: Jordan Reed, WAS (+10.3)
This was supposed to be a fine tight end class but none really stood out in all facets of play. In the end we went with Reed with the downside being the limited number of snaps (383) and his injury. The upside, however, is when he was on the field he did a great job with his 2.19 Yards per Route Run third among tight ends. Also, unlike some of his contemporaries, he wasn’t completely flawed as a blocker.
Honorable Mention: Zach Ertz (PHI)
Tackles: David Bakhtiari, GB (LT) (-6.9) and D.J.Fluker (RT) (+0.4)
When Bryan Bulaga went down before the season started the worst was feared, but after a slow start in pass protection Bakhtiari’s performances improved significantly. He’ll need a lot of improvement in his run blocking, though, if he intends to keep his job on Bulaga’s return. Fluker’s grade may look OK, but when you factor in that he was forced to play left tackle for 289 snaps and take out those performances (where he did struggle), you see a grade of +11.1 at right tackle alone. That would see him just squeezed out of the Top 10 RT’s in football.
Honorable Mention: Justin Pugh (NYG) & LaAdrian Waddle (DET)
Guards: Kyle Long, CHI (LG) (-3.3) and Larry Warford, DET (RG) (+22.8)
At left guard we invoked personal privilege and decided Long would be a better selection than our original choice of Hugh Thornton (IND) who could only manage a -15.3 rating in 14 starts. While Long never hit his preseason heights he never looked completely out-matched and played his best two games during the last quarter of the year.
Warford was probably the surprise of the season for me, never allowed a sack and at times looked truly dominant in his run blocking. That level of play was so high we named him PFF second team All-Pro earlier this week.
Center: Travis Frederick, DAL (+13.2)
Many laughed at the Cowboys for this pick but, as so many times happens, it may have been best if the pundits had waited until he’s at least played an NFL game before denigrating the selection. It’s true that on occasion his pass blocking was lacking but as a run blocker he was fantastic and ended the year our top-rated center in that regard.
Click to Page 2 for the Defense and Special Teams…
Defensive Interior: Sheldon Richardson, NYJ (+30.4) and Kawann Short, CAR (+16.4)
Richardson was one of the few first-rounders to live up to his draft billing; his play against the run was both superb and consistent and he ended the year ranked fourth at his position in Run Stop Percentage. Short was the second defensive tackle taken by the Panthers and, if anything, may have out-produced his more illustrious colleague… which is high praise given how well Star Lotulelei played. The highlight was the pressure he was able to generate in passing situations with his 36 total QB disruptions seeing him listed ninth in Pass Rushing Productivity for tackles.
Honorable Mention: Johnathan Hankins (NYG)
Nose Tackle: Star Lotelelei, CAR (+15.1)
There were times when you would have liked to see Lotelelei generate a little more push in the middle (23 disruptions from 363 rushes is below average for a DT) but that isn’t why he was drafted. He was selected to stop the torrent of yards Carolina has given up between the tackles in previous seasons and in that regard he was a huge success.
Edge Rushers: Ziggy Ansah, DET (-0.7) and Sio Moore, OAK (+8.6)
Prior to the season we felt Ansah might get pushed around in the running game but make up for that with his ability to get pressure. As it transpired, it was the other way around with the first-rounder doing a solid job holding his edge but being flattered by his sack numbers; his nine being accompanied by only 25 other hits or hurries. Moore’s play was very similar with the majority of his positive grade coming against the run and being slightly below average as a rusher.
Linebackers: Kiko Alonso, BUF (+16.0) and Alec Ogletree, SL (-4.2)
Alonso should be pleased to know NFL scorers everywhere are looking out for him; his 72 assisted tackles is a preposterous number, and not one we agree with, but the 33 we do credit him with is still good for third. All the talk of tackles, though, just diminishes what should be a far more important point – his +11.3 grade in coverage was second only to Derrick Johnson.
Ogletree played 97% of defensive snaps and had his moments including an excellent all-around display in Week 16 against Tampa Bay. Overall though it was a mixed year as he struggled with tackling throughout, missing 19. If he can sort this out the Rams will be well pleased with their selection.
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant, ATL (+12.2) and Logan Ryan, NE (+4.9)
Our seventh-rated cornerback, Trufant played 1022 snaps including 572 in coverage and seemed to get better as the year progressed. Quarterbacks have a QB Rating of 75.2 when throwing his way due to a completion percentage of only 53% and 17 passes either intercepted or defensed. He’s surely the main bright spot in a blighted Falcons season. Ryan follows hot on the heels of his colleague and our selection at the same position last year, Alfonzo Dennard. While Dennard has regressed a little this year, Logan has picked up the slack with his five interception and six knockdowns all coming in the last 10 weeks of the year.
Honorable Mention: Xavier Rhodes (Min)
Slot Cornerback: Tyrann Mathieu, ARZ (+12.2)
Well that all turned out all right, didn’t it? Grading positively in every facet of play, Mathieu looked a good player in Week 1 and only got better. Playing two positions (safety and slot corner in nickel) he excelled in both and provided the whole Cardinals secondary with a boost. An NFL rating when throwing against him in the slot of only 62.0 was the highlight, but you can also throw in 12 QB disruptions on blitzes and his fourth-ranked Run Stop Percentage.
Honorable Mention: Nickell Robey (BUF)
Safety: Kenny Vaccaro, NO (+1.9) and Eric Reid, SF (+4.7)
The first two safeties chosen in the first round, Vaccaro and Reid have both been entrenched as starters since opening day. Vaccaro was a major key to the Saints’ improvement in the secondary, as his three missed tackles is barely believable when compared to the 32 the starters combined for last year.
Reid hasn’t been quite that sure, missing 13, but has compensated by not being penalized (Vaccaro was flagged five times) and making three more interceptions.
Kicker: Caleb Sturgis, MIA (+26.4)
While his 76.5 field goal percentage is not great, there were mitigating factors and he ended up mid-pack in our rankings.
Punter: Sam Martin, DET (+16.4)
A fine first season was marred only by his inability to cope with the harsher elements of Philadelphia and Chicago. Despite this he still proceed to finish 2013 as our seventh-ranked punter.
Special Teamer: Jamie Collins, NE (+6.5)
His overall athletic ability came to the fore playing force on kickoff coverage and right tackle on punts. What was most impressive was his consistency, never once grading red in any facet of play in any individual game.
Kick Returner: Cordarelle Patterson, MIN (+14.3)
He led the league in kick return average with 32.4 and was our top-rated player at the position.
Punt Returner: Tavon Austin, SL (+4.8)
Two touchdowns highlighted the play of Austin who also returned 18 kickoffs as well.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil