PFF's Top 101 of 2012: 90 to 81
Earlier today we kick-started the Pro Football Focus Top 101 NFL Players of 2012.
And now we’re going to continue it.
After starting with 101-91, we’re now moving onto those who were ranked between 90 and 81, and, as ever, it’s important to remember some specific criteria for players making the list;
– This is based solely on 2012 play. Nothing that happened in years previous was accounted for.
– This is created with an “all-positions created equal” mantra, so it asks for a leap of faith that you assume a guard is as important as a quarterback (there are some exceptions here with more situational roles not quite as equal)
Now, let’s get to the ranking!
(Last year’s ranking in brackets)
90. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (8th)
While Eli was unable to replicate his marvelous 2011, let’s not pretend he didn’t play extremely well for most of the season. While some performances disappointed (notably against Pittsburgh and Atlanta) Manning was able to almost carry his struggling Giants into the playoffs with his usual array of clutch throws.
Best Performance: Week 2 versus Tampa Bay, +6.3
Key Stat: Completion percentage under pressure dropped to 47.9% in 2012, after it was 55.6% a year earlier.
89. Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Unranked)
The Steelers’ Timmons certainly benefited from not being required to shift to an outside linebacker spot he’s ill suited for, as was the case in 2012. Finishing the year our fifth-ranked inside linebacker during the regular season he graded positively in every area of his game. Still a little way off his 2010 best, but getting back to it.
Best Performance: Week 16 versus Cincinnati, +4.0
Key Stat: His 28 combined sacks, hits and hurries were the most of any inside linebacker.
88. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Unranked)
Quite the rookie year from the explosive Martin who would finish fifth in the league with 1,454 yards. What’s more impressive is that 1,005 of those came after initial contact, and it required him breaking 53 tackles to earn them. Equally dangerous with the ball in hand out of the backfield, the Bucs back wasn’t always 100% consistent, but he was always a threat.
Best Performance: Week 9 at Oakland, +4.1
Key Stat: Was the third-most elusive starting running back in the league this year.
87. Justin Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers (2nd)
As good as Justin Smith has been, he couldn’t reproduce his brilliance in 2011 this season. Injury certainly impacted him, but it was evident that he wasn’t anywhere near the productive pass rusher he was a year ago. Still, you need to play really well to make this list and the impact of Smith in the run game was still something to behold, even with him drawing increased attention.
Best Performance: Week 11 versus Chicago, +6.3
Key Stat: Finished second in our 3-4 defensive end Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat with a defensive stop on 11.8% of his running plays.
86. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
It’s incredible to think that the once highly thought of Hardy dropped all the way to the sixth round of the draft. Since being selected by the Panthers he’s done his best to show every team wrong for their lack of faith in him, and it resulted in a career best performance in 2012. Our sixth-ranked 4-3 defensive end last season, Hardy earned positive grades for his work in the run game and rushing the passer, in a memorable season.
Best Performance: Week 16 versus Oakland, +4.7
Key Stat: His 10.8 Pass Rushing Productivity rating was the seventh-best of all 4-3 defensive ends.
85. Will Beatty, LT, New York Giants (Unranked)
Injury meant Beatty didn’t start the season as the Giants’ left tackle. Whether injuries handed him his starting job back, or it was the Giants’ plan all along, the former second-round pick didn’t take much time showing everyone what he was capable of. A fine pass protector, Beatty is one of those left tackles who can actually generate some movement in the run game as well.
Best Performance: Week 3 at Carolina, +5.4
Key Stat: Allowed just three sacks and zero quarterback hits all season long.
84. Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears (Unranked)
It was a big year from Melton who further developed his knack for making plays that will get you the attention of those watching the game. His problem remains that his desire to get up the field leaves him susceptible to being taken out of plays, particularly in the run game. However, his attacking attitude pays off more than enough to warrant a spot on this list, with Melton finishing in the Top 10 for defensive tackles in both our Run Stop and Pass Rushing Productivity Signature Stats.
Best Performance: Week 8 versus Carolina, +7.6
Key Stat: Led all defensive tackles with an 11.6 Run Stop Percentage.
83. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals (Unranked)
After the rookie year of Patrick Peterson there were plenty of plaudits and much excitement. But most of it stemmed from what he could do as a returner. As nice as that was for Arizona he was drafted to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and thankfully for the Cardinals faithful this was the year he took steps toward being that. The six touchdowns he got beat for remain an area to improve, but when you’re tasked with going man-to-man with some of the best receivers in the game you can’t expect to win them all. Peterson, who himself had seven interceptions and seven more pass defenses, more than held his own.
Best Performance: Week 2 at New England, +4.0
Key Stat: Just 51.6% of passes into his coverage went for completions.
82. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Unranked)
Another rookie makes the list, and it’s the super-aggressive David who does so. There aren’t many players in the league who have a nose for making tackles like David, who was seemingly always around the line of scrimmage making a name for himself. Overused as a blitzer and someone who gave up too many touchdowns, if he can iron out those issues he may be even higher next year.
Best Performance: Week 14 versus Philadelphia, +3.6
Key Stat: His 18 tackles for a loss were the second-most of any defensive player.
81. Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
It’s not often you see a sophomore quarterback come in during the middle of a season and replace a quarterback who is not only winning, but playing well. But Kaepernick did, as he electrified the masses when he stepped it in for a concussed Alex Smith and made it impossible for the team to go back. The only reason he didn’t feature more highly is because of a lack of playing time, with the athletic quarterback proving extremely effective and handling the pressures of the postseason like a tried and tested veteran. Only injury can prevent him finishing higher next year.
Best Performance: Week 17 versus Arizona, +5.9
Key Stat: His 55.1% Adjusted Accuracy percentage on deep balls was the highest of all quarterbacks in the league.
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