PFF's Top 101 of 2013: 50 to 41
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
50. Terrance Knighton, DT, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
When you look back at the 2013 free agent market, you won’t find many people who look at the signing of Knighton as one of the big moves. A big talent who struggled to consistently show it in Jacksonville, he went to Denver and, after a decent enough start, really exploded into life the second half of the season before taking his game to another level in the postseason. His work against New England was some of the finest in his career as he really proved an every down terror. Too physical for linemen at the line of scrimmage and too quick when it came to getting into the backfield, Knighton became the player he had the potential to be.
Best Performance: Week 16, DEN @ HST, +6.9
Key Stat: Graded positively in all bar 4 games in 2013.
49. Keenan Lewis, CB, New Orleans Saints (Unranked)
The good work of Lewis in the playoffs pushed him into the top 50, but his work during the regular season was more than enough to get him on the list regardless. Another of the guys playing heavy man coverage against the best an opposition can muster, you’d never have known it from how quiet Lewis kept things, allowing just three picks and a 67.4 QB rating on balls thrown into his coverage. No longer in the shadow of Ike Taylor, Lewis really stepped it up.
Best Performance: Wild Card, NO @ PHI, +2.8
Key Stat: Allowed 0.89 yards per snap into his primary coverage. Fifth best in the league.
48. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (23rd)
A strange year in some respects for Wilson, who dropped 25 spots in the Top 101 but walked away with a Super Bowl. He never quite hit the heights of his fantastic 2012 end of season run, instead starting slow, heating up, cooling off again, before doing the business in the big game. He does have his detractors (who tend to point to the talent around him rather than his own failings) but an equal argument can be made he’s held back by the Seahawks successful style that doesn’t require him to do too much. After all he did have the 4th highest yards per attempt average in the league.
Best Performance: Week 11, MIN @ SEA, +5.3
Key Stat: His 48.3 Accuracy Percentage on deep balls was the highest in the league.
47. Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers (63rd)
He might not be the kind of receiver who can shake a defensive back loose, but he is the kind of target who just hauls in balls regardless of what coverage is draped over him. Still incredibly physical (it’s not his wheels that led to him picking up 5.2 yards after the catch per reception, it’s his 13 broken tackles) Boldin was the safety net Colin Kaepernick desperately needed, working the short and intermediate areas and moving the chains to get the 49ers into scoring position. A great offseason get.
Best Performance: Week 1, GB @ SF, +4.7
Key Stat: Picked up 224 yards from out breaking routes, the most of any wide receiver.
46. Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins (8th)
What makes this ranking all the more impressive is that Wake would pick up an injury in Week 2 that limited his playing time to just 72 snaps between Weeks 3 and 9. Far from ideal after his hot start to the year (10 quarterback disruptions in Week 1), Wake made up for lost time the remainder of the year to finish with the second highest pass rushing grade of all 4-3 defensive ends. It may not have been a top 10 finish and it did represent a dropoff from his eighth placed ranking a year earlier, but an extremely commendable effort nonetheless.
Best Performance: Week 1, MIA @ CLE, +8.4
Key Stat: Had the second highest Pass Rushing Productivity score of all 4-3 defensive ends with a 14.0 score.
45. Louis Vasquez, OG, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
Finishing the year our top ranked right guard, Vasquez more than proved worth the money the Broncos invested him in the 2013 offseason. Giving up just 12 combined sacks, hits and hurries all year, Vasquez was a big asset for Peyton Manning while also earning the ninth highest run blocking grade of all his peers. He achieved these with sheer consistency, with just two negatively graded games all year.
Best Performance: Week 12, DEN @ NE, +5.3
Key Stat: His 98.4 pass blocking efficiency score was the third best score of all offensive guards.
44. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
Smith used his third year in the league to establish himself as one of the best young tackles in the game. His sophomore season (which was his first at left tackle) flashed talent, but this was a year where he really started to put it all together. His second half of the year was especially strong, grading in the green in seven out of eight games while only earning one grade in the red all year long. If Smith can sustain that play throughout an entire season then he’ll be finishing higher than 44 next year.
Best Performance: Week 17, PHI @ DAL, +5.0
Key Stat: Gave up just 31 quarterback disruptions on 629 pass-blocking snaps. Good enough for the second best pass blocking efficiency of all left tackles.
43. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (Unranked)
Quite a comeback from Rivers who most had written off after two somewhat disappointing seasons. But he enjoyed a career renaissance with an offense that was designed to see him make quick decisions, relying less on the vertical attack that was so prevalent with Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd streaking downfield. Instead Rivers was far more consistent, never grading lower than -0.8 and grading in the green in 10 of 18 starts.
Best Performance: Week 2, SD @ PHI, +5.7
Key Stat: His 78.7 adjusted accuracy percentage was the highest in the league.
42. Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
What a way to go. Gross ended his career on a high as his play saw him earn the third highest grade of all left tackles in 2013. How’d he do it? Just four negatively graded games all year (none below -0.6) showed the consistency of the long time Panther who played his part in the team making it to the postseason. That was built on strong pass protection and avoiding yellow flags, ensuring Gross was as reliable as any tackle in the league.
Best Performance: Week 11, NE @ CAR, +5.5
Key Stat: Flagged for just one penalty all year. No 16 game starter at left tackle was flagged less.
41. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers (86th)
Hardy earned himself the Panthers franchise tag with his best year to date, taking a step forward from his 2012 breakout year. Ending the season extremely strongly, he was the type of defensive end who would feast on tackles that showed any weakness, three times picking up three sacks in a game. What’s more, he was relentless against the run with six games graded in the green and the ninth most defensive stops against the run of his peers.
Best Performance: Week 17, CAR @ ATL, +7.2
Key Stat: One of three defensive ends to walk away with a pass rushing and run defense grades above +10.0.
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