PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 101 to 91
As is the case every year, the PFF Analysis team gets together to discuss who they think were the best players in the NFL last season. 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 2014 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 performance throughout 2014.
– 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 2014 regular season and the final snap of the Super Bowl this past February. Anything outside those dates does not matter.
101. Brandon Williams, NT, Baltimore Ravens (Unranked)
Played sparingly as a rookie in 2013, but the third-rounder out of Missouri Southern really made a splash as a starter in 2014. He’s not an every-down player or a pass rushing threat, but he cracks this list because he is fantastic against the run. He was top dog in that regard this year and he’s much more than a run clogger as his 27 stops against the run show.
Best Performance: Wk12 BAL @ NO, +4.8
Key Stat: His 27 defensive stops against the run were third-most of all defensive tackles.
100. Jared Veldheer, OT, Arizona Cardinals (Unranked)
A good first year in Arizona where he proved the left tackle Arizona has been searching for since PFF was a glint in anyone’s eye. As can be the case in a new team he took a while to get going but after the first six weeks of the season he’d clearly found his rhythm in the Arians offense and would only allow multiple-pressure games four times the rest of the season (and never more than two in a game). Contributed nicely in the running game to boot.
Best Performance: WK13 ARZ @ ATL, +3.5
Key Stat: Fourth-highest pass-blocking efficiency number of any tackle during the 2014 season.
99. Mike Daniels, ID, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
The Packers most consistent defensive lineman saw an increase in playing time in 2014 without any drop off in production. A true every-down player, he wasn’t consistent enough to finish higher, but some big outings and strong grades against the run and with his pass rushing pushed him into the Top 101 for the first time
Best Performance: Week 13, NE @ GB, +4.3
Key Stat: His 8.9 run stop percentage was fifth-best of all 3-4 defensive ends.
98. Everson Griffen, ED, Minnesota Vikings (Unranked)
Went some way toward justifying his big contract extension with a big season for the Vikings. Not as consistent year round as he might liked to have been, it was his big middle of the season (particularly through Weeks 7 to 11) that got him onto the list. An extremely productive pass rusher, we were a little surprised he didn’t rush more from the inside, but that doesn’t take away from his breakout year.
Best Performance: Week 11, MIN @ CHI, +4.9
Key Stat: His 59 quarterback disruptions while lined up on the right side of the line were second most of all 4-3 defensive ends.
97. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (11th)
By his high standards something of a drop-off, and he certainly wasn’t helped by a line that had many, many problems. But Charles, even in a down year, was still worth a spot so good he is. Still behind a patch work line averaged 5.1 yards per carry with a healthy 539 yards coming after contact. Sixth-highest rushing grade on the year of all running backs.
Best Performance: Week 11, SEA @ KC, +2.1 rushing grade
Key Stat: Fifth-highest elusive rating of all running backs.
96. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Owner of the fifth-highest running back rushing grade, Miller had similar issues to Charles in so much as his line was a mess for most of the season and he didn’t do an awful lot right in the passing game. Yet he finished the season particularly strong, earning positive rushing grades in six of seven to finish 2014.
Best Performance: Week 16, MIN @ MIA, +3.8
Key Stat: Cracked 1,000 yards and then some with only two 100-yard rushing games and outside of a run of 97 yards no runs longer than 33 yards. Consistent down to down.
95. Karlos Dansby, LB, Cleveland Browns (59th)
A good first year in Cleveland for Dansby who was exceptional in coverage where he had the second-highest grade of all inside linebackers. Slipped a little as he made less of an impact against the run than in 2013 (he only had 26 run stops) but when you’re as good in the passing game as Dansby you’re always in contention to get end of season awards.
Best Performance: Week 7, CLV @ JAX, +4.8
Key Stat: 0.33 yards per snap in coverage number was the lowest of all inside linebackers.
94. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Took the seventh overall pick a while to get going but really spiked midseason with a trio of extremely impressive outings (most notably the 209 yard effort against Washington). Looked more and more comfortable as the season went on and defensive backs struggled to adjust with his size, helping him to an extremely impressive 12 touchdowns.
Best Performance: Week 11, TB @ WAS, +3.4
Key Stat: 18 receptions on balls thrown 20 yards or more in the air were the most of any offensive player.
93. Chris Borland, LB, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)
Borland sensationally retired after his rookie year but that doesn’t prohibit him from selection. Indeed the only reason he finished so low was how much time he missed, with him taking the league by storm with his play on the field when called upon. He had the fourth highest inside linebacker grade despite playing only 487 snaps, making his loss to the 49ers all the harder to take.
Best Performance: Week 11, SF @ NYG, +6.1
Key Stat: Highest run stop percentage of all defensive players with a 21.3% score.
92. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (97th)
Missed time but still broke 1,000 yards thanks to his five games above the 100-yard mark (including one +200 effort). Green you always feel is a guy capable of doing more with consecutive finishes in the nineties possibly a little low for a man with his upside. But it’s still an achievement and he isn’t always blessed with the most consistent quarterback play.
Best Performance: Week 14, PIT @ CIN, +3.6
Key Stat: 2.59 yards per route run were fourth most of all wide receivers.
91. Branden Albert, OT, Miami Dolphins (Unranked)
If not for missed time Albert was making an All-Pro case so it’s a hard luck story for him that injury has pushed him down the list. The fact he still makes it despite playing just 558 snaps is a testament to how good he was during that period. Averaging just one quarterback disruption allowed per game and with some good work in the run game, Albert was more than justifying his deal in his first year in Miami.
Best Performance: Week 7, MIA @ CHI, +5.9
Key Stat: Second-highest pass blocking efficiency score of all offensive tackles in 2014.
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