PFF's Top 101 of 2013: 60 to 51
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
60. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (79th)
A strange year for Brees who at times was playing as good as ever, but couldn’t maintain those high levels throughout the year, resulting in several lulls as the Saints earned an NFC wild card. His numbers were as prolific as ever as he crossed the 5,000 yard mark but that did owe something to volume as his yards per attempt would see seven others ahead of him. In a year that wasn’t great for quarterbacks Brees certainly was one of the best of the bunch.
Best Performance: Week 14, CAR @ NO, +7.6
Key Stat: Threw for over 300 yards 12 times during the 2013 regular and postseason.
59. Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals (Unranked)
A truly eye catching display from Dansby who certainly earned his big money move to Cleveland. A strong blitzer with great instincts for the ball in coverage Dansby excelled on every down after being unceremoniously dumped by Miami. Put up the kind of numbers that would have got him far more media attention if he’d been on a more fancied team, but can be content with making this list.
Best Performance: Week 14, SL @ ARZ, +4.8
Key Stat: His 14 combined pass break ups and interceptions were the most of any inside linebacker.
58. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals (83rd)
While we were impressed with Peterson, there was some criticism thrown his way as he allowed seven touchdowns and had one particularly bad game against Kendall Wright. Yet no cornerback is perfect and the good more than outweighed the bad when it came to Peterson’s performance in 2013. One of the few corners asked to track a team’s top receiver, Peterson held up to the challenge well, allowing just 54.4% of passes into his coverage to be complete.
Best Performance: Week 14, ARZ @ TB, +4.5
Key Stat: Targeted one of every 7.7 snaps in coverage. That was the third highest (best) number in the league.
57. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs (Unranked)
Another double digit sack season for Hali who would log 970 regular season snaps in a season with his customary heavy workload. As ever his pass rushing was the key to his success as he led his position in quarterback disruptions during the regular season before adding another seven in a big postseason showing. He may have been upstaged by his partner in crime, but Hali nonetheless was incredibly productive on his way to finishing sixth overall during our regular season rankings.
Best Performance: Week 4, NYG @ KC, +4.3
Key Stat: 77 quarterback disruptions were the most of any 3-4 outside linebacker.
56. Brandon Mebane, DT, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
Quite the effort from Mebane to make it this high up despite being a largely situational player (in that he plays base downs and rarely anything else). But that’s how good he was in his role throughout the regular and postseason, where he delivered plenty of plays in the run game while adding 33 quarterback disruptions. In another team he’d be ticketed for more heavy use so we’re not holding his role against him because of how well he performed when called upon.
Best Performance: Week 17, SL @ SEA, +6.4
Key Stat: One of only four players to score a +10.0 or above at the defensive tackle position for both run defense and pass rushing.
55. Randy Starks, DT, Miami Dolphins (Unranked)
One of the forgotten men in the league in some respects, Starks has been around so long that he rarely gets the credit he is due. He didn’t finish his 2013 season quite as well as he might have liked but he did more than enough in the first half of the season especially to earn this ranking. Grading positively against the run and rushing the passer, he would finish 11th in terms of total pressure and third in number of defensive stops against the run at his position. A real impact player.
Best Performance: Week 5, BAL @ MIA, +7.7
Key Stat: Finished 10th in our Pass Rushing Productivity signature stat and sixth in our Run Stop Percentage amongst defensive tackles.
54. Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco 49ers (16th)
An interesting year for Staley who started off slow and finished with his worst performance of the year in the Conference Championship game. Outside of that though he was his usual fantastic self, picking up 11 grades in the green with six of those above +3.0. That ensured Staley had the sixth highest pass blocking grade of all left tackles while seeing only four of his peers finish with a better run blocking grade. That ensured Staley would keep his spot in the Top 101.
Best Performance: Week 4, SF @ SL, +6.2
Key Stat: Had the best Pass Blocking Efficiency score of all left tackles with a 96.6 mark.
53. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (45th)
An explosive playmaker, it’s no surprise to see Thomas make this list again even if he has dropped a few places. The NFL leader in yards gained on wide receiver screens, while finishing behind just two others when it comes to go-routes, there’s no denying that Thomas excels when it comes to making the big plays. Four times he took the ball more than 50 yards while finishing with a receiver best 14 touchdowns. Explosive.
Best Performance: Week 10, DEN @ SD, +3.8
Key Stat: Picked up 706 regular season yards after the catch. The most of all wide receivers with his 7.7 yards after the catch per reception also the joint highest.
52. Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
It was remarkable enough that Davis came back and was able to play throughout 2012 without looking terrible. In fact it would be easy for him to plateau there, accepting that injuries had limiting him. But judging by his brilliant 2013 they clearly haven’t with Davis finishing the year our third ranked 4-3 outside linebacker thanks largely to his fantastic work in coverage where he picked up an incredible 38 defensive stops and added two picks and four pass break ups. A physical freak of nature.
Best Performance: Week 16, NO @ CAR, +3.6
Key Stat: Graded positively in pass coverage in all bar three games.
51. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (9th)
While Johnson isn’t getting any younger he’s still an incredible talent, devoid of the attention he deserves because of the struggles of his quarterback and low touchdown total. Nonetheless he still finished seventh in the league in terms of yardage in spite of some erratic passers, while having the sixth highest receiver grade on the year. Don’t write him off yet just because he’s locked in a battle with Father Time.
Best Performance: Week 9, IND @ HOU, +5.4
Key Stat: Picked up 3.35 yards per route run when running ‘In’ routes. The most of any receiver.
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