PFF's Top 101 of 2013: 70 to 61
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.
70. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
Injury limited Lacy to just 47 snaps over the course of the first four weeks of the season but when he returned to the field he wasted little time making amends. A physical runner who added a much-needed dimension to the Packers’ rushing attack, it’s hard to imagine the team would have made the playoffs without him stepping up in the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Really carried his load and then some.
Best Performance: Week 12, MIN @ GB, +4.7
Key Stat: His 56 forced missed tackles were fourth-most of all running backs.
69. Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Baltimore Ravens (Unranked)
After the faxgate shenanigans that saw Dumervil become a free agent, Elvis took his talents to Baltimore where he would excel as a primary edge rusher in their sub-package defense. In fact, that’s the only reason he wasn’t higher, with the team limiting him to nickel and dime packages while more stout defenders worked against more run orientated formations. When Dumervil was given the chance to rush the passer, he excelled, registering the highest pass rushing grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker as he took a number of right tackles to task.
Best Performance: Week 6, GB, BAL, +6.2
Key Stat: His 15.1 Pass Rushing Productivity score was joint second-highest of all 3-4 outside linebackers.
68. Von Miller, ER, Denver Broncos (4th)
The crazy thing about Miller? He got this high just playing in nine games, that’s how good he was in those games. Missing the early part of the season through suspension and late part through injury, it was all about Weeks 7 to 16 for the Bronco who still picked up his customary best grade for a 4-3 outside linebacker thanks to his fantastic pass rushing and impact plays against the run. His explosion off the snap and ability to get off blocks (and often avoid them altogether) makes him as destructive a player as there is in the league.
Best Performance: Week 12, DEN @ NE, +11.7
Key Stat: Picked up 41 quarterback disruptions in just nine games.
67. Larry Warford, OG, Detriot Lions (Unranked)
It normally takes mid round offensive linemen a bit of time to adjust to life in the NFL. Not so with Warford who looked like he belonged from Day 1, before really kicking into another gear as the season progressed. That would earn him our Rookie of the Year award as he showcased some punch in the run game, while holding up in pass protection, allowing just 15 quarterback disruptions all year. Some introduction to the league.
Best Performance: Week 11, DET @ PIT, +5.9
Key Stat: Didn’t allow a single sack all year.
66. Jason Hatcher, DT, Dallas Cowboys (77th)
The now former Cowboy seemed destined for an even higher ranking after a ferocious start to the year. Unfortunately he missed some time and, when he came back, struggled for consistency in a Dallas front short on talent and overly reliant on him. Still that didn’t stop him having a career-best year, grading particularly well rushing the passer where all but four of his efforts earned him a grade in the green. Quarterbacks learned to fear him in 2013.
Best Performance: Week 7, DAL @ PHI, +6.0
Key Stat: 9.1 Pass Rushing Productivity rating was sixth-highest of all defensive tackles.
65. Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers (57th)
It’s something of a shame Smith missed so much of his season, because when he did play he was extremely good. Featuring on 736 snaps throughout the course of the year, Smith would grade positively rushing the passer in all bar one game on his way to the fifth-highest grade of all 3-4 outside linebackers. Rather incredibly, that was better than his eye-catching sophomore season where he went sack mad, so just think what he could have done (and where he’d be on this list) if he didn’t miss any time.
Best Performance: Week 12, SF @ WAS, +5.4
Key Stat: His Pass Rushing Productivity score of 15.1 was joint second-highest of all 3-4 outside linebackers.
64. Chris Harris Jr, CB, Denver Broncos (64th)
The Broncos were dealt a severe blow when Harris went down halfway through the Divisional Playoff victory against the San Diego Chargers. They lost their best and most versatile cover corner who was having another stellar year. With the rare ability to cover outside receivers on early downs and switch to defending the two-way release of slot weapons in nickel and dime packages, Harris earns a repeat spot on this list.
Best Performance: Week 1, BAL @ DEN, +3.3
Key Stat: Allowed just one reception for every 10.9 snaps in slot coverage. Seventh-best of all cornerbacks.
63. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (Unranked)
Quite the year from Allen who pushes himself up a number of spots with some good work in the postseason where he did his best to keep San Diego competitive against Denver. Even before that game, Allen had already proven himself, rebounding from a quiet first two weeks of the year (30 yards) to put forth one of the best rookie years from a receiver in recent memory. Effective after the catch (he forced an impressive 13 missed tackles while finishing fourth in yards after the catch per reception) Allen became the go-to receiver Philip Rivers was desperate for.
Best Performance: Week 9, SD @ WAS, +4.0
Key Stat: Caught 70.3% of the balls thrown his way. That was third best of all receivers targeted at least 75 times.
62. Stephen Tulloch, LB, Detroit Lions (Unranked)
One of those players who never seems to get his due. Tulloch is known as something of a thumper but since moving to Detroit he’s definitely expanded his skill set to become a very handy player to have on passing downs where he excels at keeping things in front of him and making tackles for short gains. Still, his work against the run shouldn’t be discounted as he proved again that he is one of the better linebackers in the league when it comes to getting off blocks and making plays.
Best Performance: Week 10, DET @ CHI, +6.1
Key Stat: His 40 defensive stops against the run were fifth-most of all inside linebackers.
61. Donte Whitner, S, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
A quite remarkable turnaround for Whitner as he went from a man who allowed more touchdowns than any other safety in 2012 to one of the most reliable cover safeties in the league. A nod to what accountability and desire to improve can do for a player as the former 49er ended the 2013 regular season with the fifth-highest coverage grade of all his peers, finishing with an impressive two picks and six pass breakups to boot, without letting his work in the run game suffer.
Best Performance: Week 12, SF @ WAS, +2.8
Key Stat: Allowed a QB rating of 130.6 in 2012. In 2013? That number dropped to 61.8 when balls were thrown into his primary coverage.
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