PFF's Top 101 of 2013: 40 to 31
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
40. Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints (Unranked)
After two so-so years in the league Jordan finally looked the first rounder as the Saints unleashed him in their hybrid defense. A far more productive pass rusher who spent time rushing from the interior and outside the tackle, he was the lynchpin of a Saints defense that took a giant leap forward. Finishing the season our fourth ranked 3-4 defensive end he was one of three players to earn a +10.0 grade in both run defense and pass rushing.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, NO @ SEA, +7.2
Key Stat: Jordan’s 76 quarterback disruptions were the second most of all 3-4 defensive ends.
39. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
The quiet man of the receiving group, you rarely see his name in headlines but you never forget his contribution on the field. Nelson has developed into one of the most well rounded receivers in the league, able to operate all over the field and run the entire route tree with great efficiency. That’s why he can lead wide outs in yards on quick outs while also finishing fourth in terms of “Go Route” yardage. Incredibly, Nelson had just one negatively graded game (and a -0.4 at that) all year.
Best Performance: Week 17, GB @ CHI, +5.1
Key Stat: A man who featured well in most signature stat categories, Nelson would show his varied talents by finishing sixth overall with 13 deep receptions and fourth overall with 624 yards from the slot position.
38. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings (2nd)
It was always going to be hard for Peterson to follow up his remarkable 2013 campaign and so it proved. Now that’s not to say he had a bad year, and without injuries limiting his playing time (and performance at times) he likely would have finished much higher. Still forced a very healthy 58 missed tackles that were second most of any running back while ending the year our third ranked runner. For most that would bring smiles to their faces while we suspect for Peterson it’s just extra motivation to finish higher next year.
Best Performance: Week 13, CHI @ MIN, +6.1
Key Stat: Peterson finished the year with the third highest Elusive Rating of all running backs.
37. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs (Unranked)
It’s not easy for a safety to go at No. 5 overall and justify the pick, but Berry is a man who has made that happen. His 2013 season wasn’t perfect but it was a highlight reel of what it takes to be a complete safety in the NFL. A rare athlete capable to play linebacker in dime packages, match up man-on-man with tight ends, and perform more traditional safety roles (whether in the box or not). Berry put forth a tremendous season that would earn him the highest grade of any strong safety in the regular season.
Best Performance: Week 12, SD @ KC, +3.6
Key Stat: It’s true that Berry led all defensive backs with 17 combined sacks, hits and hurries.
36. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
You never know quite what you’re going to get from DRC on a year-to-year basis, but fortunately for the Broncos the one year he got them was a good one. Finishing with the fourth highest coverage grade of any cornerback, DRC delivered and then some in his season at Mile High. With an impressive 13 combined interceptions and pass break ups as well as allowing just 44.1% of passes to be complete in his area, his performance made the team forget about Champ Bailey missing the majority of the year.
Best Performance: Week 8, WAS @ DEN, +4.4
Key Stat: Rodgers-Cromartie allowed one reception for every 15.7 snaps in coverage, third best of all cornerbacks.
35. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (12th)
It wasn’t the year most expected from Megatron with injuries meaning he missed two games and had his playing time limited in others. But even with those issues he was still phenomenal when on the field, and well on his way to a higher ranking before his body started to give way at the end of the season. All the superlatives that have been written about him previously remain worthy of getting repeated as Johnson dominated defensive backs once again.
Best Performance: Week 8, DAL @ DET, +5.9
Key Stat: With 2.72 Yards Per Route Run Johnson had the highest mark of any wide receiver to run at least 225 routes.
34. Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles (Unranked)
Peters didn’t look completely healthy to start the year with his first eight games earning a respectable +5.6 grade. Not bad work but not good enough that he’d make this list if he carried it on. No, Peters makes this list with a phenomenal effort in the second half of the season that saw him turn nine games into a +25.4 grade with some fantastic work in the run game. There aren’t many tackles as athletic as him, able to dominate at the second level and shut down pass rushers.
Best Performance: Week 16, CHI @ PHI, +6.9
Key Stat: For 2013 Peters graded in the green for his run blocking in seven games.
33. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Unranked)
The Steelers struggles somehow saw Brown have a fantastic year and get overlooked. At times the fourth year receiver was truly spectacular, making a mockery of his sixth round selection back in 2010. Grading in the green for his receiving work in 10 of 16 games he was all about consistency, never going below 50 yards receiving for a game as he did his damage in every way imaginable. A top tier talent for the Steelers.
Best Performance: Week 3, CHI @ PIT, +5.1
Key Stat: In forcing 16 missed tackles after the catch Brown had the third most of any wide receiver.
32. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears (30th)
On receiving alone Marshall would still have made the list but ranked a ways lower. He still had a phenomenal year (as does anyone who makes this list) with impressive touchdown (12), broken tackles (13) and yards (1,295) telling part of the story. But what propelled Marshall from a man who would have our fifth highest receiving grade to top overall receiver, was his unmatched run blocking. And when we say unmatched we mean that in our six years grading nobody has ever come close, with it being nearly three times as much as the next highest graded receiver. Rarely does a receiver contribute on every down, but Marshall was that rarity.
Best Performance: Week 14, DAL @ CHI, +5.7
Key Stat: Marshall ended the year with a +17.0 blocking grade, the best of any wide receiver and the highest we’ve ever given a player at that position.
31. NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers (59th)
An interesting year for Bowman who would grade in the green nine times throughout the season. That owed to garnering positives in every phase of the game with a particularly strong impression made with his pass rushing where his +11.3 grade was significantly better than all of his peers. More than just a blitzer though it would be unfair not to mention his strong work in coverage that saw him give up just 0.68 yards per snap into his primary coverage (seventh best of his peers) while finishing fourth of all inside linebackers with 42 defensive stops. A truly complete player.
Best Performance: Week 4, SF @ SL, +5.5
Key Stat: Bowman’s 67 defensive stops were the second most of all inside linebackers.
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