2014 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
The end of another regular season brings with it awards time, designed to honor the players who excelled and elevated themselves above their peers as the best of the best. We’ve already announced the PFF All-Pro Team and after our ever first Special Teams All-Pro Team put up yesterday, we’re kicking off the individual awards today with the Offensive Player of the Year.
The 2014 season saw somewhat of a changing of the guard with a number of the familiar candidates sliding away a little and a new crop of offensive superstars making their presence felt. New sets of triplets emerged in Dallas and Pittsburgh while some familiar faces returned from injury-ravaged 2013 seasons to re-establish themselves atop the offensive totem pole.
In past years we have featured a Top 3, a Top 4 and even a Top 10 in our final award listing. This year we have gone for a Top 5 which inevitably means that some worthy candidates will miss out, but there isn’t space for every offensive player who had a great season. Here are the choices of our analysis staff.
4th Runner Up
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The raw rushing yardage total may not match DeMarco Murray’s but there was not a better all-around back in the NFL than Bell this season. The workhorse of the Steelers’ offense, it was rare that Bell didn’t make a telling contribution at some point in a game and his absence was keenly felt in Pittsburgh’s playoff defeat to the Ravens.
Bell forced 84 missed tackles this season between the run and pass games, a mark bettered by only Marshawn Lynch’s 101, and it is that balance of power and agility as both a runner and a receiver that just elevated him above the other running backs to make this list. Bell was our highest-graded back in the passing game and our fourth-highest as a runner, his rounded game leaving LeGarrette Blount surplus to requirements with Bell rarely requiring a breather or to be removed from the game strategically. Having shown glimpses as a rookie, he exploded as a sophomore and seems destined to be one of the league’s best all-purpose backs for the next few years.
3rd Runner Up
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
A return to full health for Gronkowski in 2014 and a reminder that he is the league’s best tight end both as a receiver and with his all-around game. Gronkowski was nursed back to a full workload at the start of the season (not playing in 75% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps in a single game until Week 5), but when he recovered that workload he exploded into life to devastating effect. From Week 5 until Week 15 Gronkowski earned a positive grade as a receiver every game and graded +1.0 or above in all but two of them.
Only Martellus Bennett (25) forced more missed tackles than Gronkowski’s 19 this season, a career-high topping the 15 he broke in his second season back in 2011. In terms of gaining yards per route run only Travis Kelce of the Chiefs was even close to Gronkowski’s mark of 2.53; a figure bettered by just eight wide receivers. This wasn’t a vintage season for Gronkowski as a run blocker, but he still more than held his own in a role that most receiving tight ends tend to be kept out of. Dominant displays against Chicago and Denver — as both a blocker and receiver — highlighted a spectacular midseason run that the Patriots will hope he can reignite against the Ravens this weekend.
2nd Runner Up
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
You will struggle to find a more consistent performer over the last two months than Antonio Brown and though he might not be what you picture as a prototypical “No. 1” wide receiver, people are starting to wake up to the fact that he is absolutely among the league’s elite. Simply on a statistical level he is on a streak of 33 games with at least five catches and 50 yards and this season he routinely racked up more than that.
More than just being a stat-grabber, though, Brown is a difference maker for the Steelers’ offense at every level of the field. As a deep receiver he cannot physically impose himself on a jump ball encounter, but he has the speed and agility to outrun the defense to still be productive enough that teams have to respect him down the field. That, then, opens up the short and intermediate area where he is devastating either by getting so open that he can run away from defenders or by breaking tackles to convert short catches into longer gains. There may be wide receivers that scare a defense more than Brown, but no receiver did more than Brown more consistently in 2014 and that is why he came in third on our ballot.
1st Runner Up
Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore Ravens
Offensive linemen are gradually edging their way up our awards list, in recent seasons we’ve had Jason Peters in the Top 10, Evan Mathis fourth and Carl Nicks sixth but Yanda takes them to a new high of second place. Until a late-season slump, Yanda was on course to at the very least challenge the +48.3 overall grade that Mathis set as our single-season high for a guard last year. Up until Week 15 against Jacksonville, Yanda had been a dominant force in the Ravens’ ground attack, grading positively as a run blocker every single week and above +2.0 10 times, unquestionably the league’s best run blocker this season.
An injury to the starting right tackle has forced Yanda out to that position for some or all of the last three games, but drawing on his experience as a rookie, Yanda has performed well in pass protection even if he hasn’t been the same dominant force as a run blocker. That near seamless transition is all the more to his credit in a stunning season that he will hope doesn’t finish with the Ravens’ trip to New England this Sunday.
Offensive Players of the Year
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
There should be very little surprise as to the identity of our Offensive Player of the Year with Rodgers in the process snagging this award for the third time in the last five years from us. The theme of the players towards the top of this list in this and any other year is relentless consistency. Other players may elevate themselves with isolated excellence, but players like Rodgers put in stunning performances week after week with Rodgers himself putting in a six-week spell in the middle of this season that was utterly mesmerizing.
Since the Packers’ bye week in Week 9 Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdowns with only two interceptions, earning a PFF passing grade of +20.5. In that same span, only two other quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Joe Flacco) topped +10.0, which only serves to emphasize how much Rodgers has separated himself from the competition this season. Whether you go by the stat sheet, the tape or a combination of both, Rodgers’ performance this season speaks for itself and deservedly takes this award for the first time since 2011.
See the other awards we’ve handed out this week:
2014 PFF All-Pro Team
2014 PFF All-Pro Special Teams
2014 PFF Stephenson Award (Best Player)
2014 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Matthews Award (Best Offensive Lineman)
2014 PFF O-Line Rankings
2014 PFF Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Offensive Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Rookie of the Year
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