PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 30 to 21
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 form 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 four 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.
30. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (39th)
Not as consistent a year as a he is capable of, but the peaks were so high he improved on his 2013 finish. Didn’t step up in the playoffs as you might have hoped but regular big games were pivotal in the Packers’ push to the postseason. A true “quarterback’s best friend”, his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers is evident for all to see.
Best Performance: Week 2, NYJ @ GB, +4.5
Key Stat: Quarterbacks had a 136.4 rating throwing to Nelson, the best mark in the league.
29. Darrelle Revis, CB, New England Patriots (18th)
Revis got the Super Bowl he so coveted, but this year didn’t match the best he can do. Indeed, a slow start to life as a Patriot looked set to keep him off this list, but a fantastic second half of the year meant he couldn’t be ignored. Was as good as any cornerback from Weeks 11 through to 14.
Best Performance: Week 12, DET @ NE, +5.5
Key Stat: Allowed a reception for every 15.5 snaps in coverage, seventh-best mark of all cornerbacks.
28. Cameron Wake, ED, Miami Dolphins (46th)
Still one of the top pure edge rushers, Wake started the season on fire and outside of a surprisingly quiet effort against Denver really didn’t slow down. Graded positively for his pass rush in every other game, and while his run defense wasn’t up to much, you can look past that when you’re as productive getting after the quarterback as the Dolphin.
Best Performance: Week 1, NE @ MIA, +7.7
Key Stat: Earned highest pass rushing grade of all 4-3 defensive ends.
27. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (90th)
Ultimately the record book will read another Super Bowl, so let’s look past the controversy and instead at another excellent year from Tom Terrific. Some wrote him off after his horror show against the Chiefs but he bounced back in fine style before just about doing enough the rest of the season to keep the Patriots on route to their fourth Super Bowl with him under center.
Best Performance: Week 8, CHI @ NE, +6.9
Key Stat: Owner of fourth-highest passer grade during regular season.
26. Calais Campbell, ID, Arizona Cardinals (19th)
There was a time when Campbell was all pass rush and little else. Not anymore. He’s a truly complete defender who needs to be accounted for on each and every down, grading positively against both the run and pass once again in significant fashion. A real knack for making plays and graded negatively only twice all year.
Best Performance: Week 2, ARZ @ NYG, +5.7
Key Stat: His 12% Run Stop Percentage score was best of all 3-4 defensive ends.
25. Ndamukong Suh, ID, Detroit Lions (17th)
A polarizing figure to some given a perceived dirtiness, there’s no denying that the former Lion is something of an interior wrecking ball and 2014 was a showcase to this. A fearsome pass rusher, Suh has got better year after year with his work in the run game, and by the end of the season had picked up the third-highest grade of all defensive tackles. It’s not hard to see why Miami is so excited to have him on board.
Best Performance: Week 10, MIA @ DET, +6.5
Key Stat: Suh’s 56 quarterback disruptions were the most of all defensive tackles.
24. Muhammad Wilkerson, ID, New York Jets (Unranked)
The Jet defender is making a big case for a big payday with a grade that was third best of all 3-4 defensive ends. Another who makes plays whatever the offense calls, it’s a real shame he missed time otherwise he could very easily have finished higher. Before his injury in Week 12 he’d graded negatively just once all year and that was caused by a three-penalty display against Green Bay.
Best Performance: Week 7, NYJ @ NE, +5.2
Key Stat: Had the second best Run Stop Percentage among his peers with a 11.8 mark.
23. Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots (Unranked)
The versatile Hightower played some outside linebacker but really made his mark on the inside. His career year some him pick up big positive grades in coverage and run defense while he also notched an impressive 38 total quarterback disruptions including playoffs. The absence of Jerod Mayo was supposed to hurt the team, but such was the consistency of Hightower it never got close to.
Best Performance: Week 3, OAK @ NE, +5.6
Key Stat: Earned the second-highest grade of all inside linebackers during the regular season.
22. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers (96th)
Excellent in coverage, a force against the run and versatile enough you can do multiple things with him. The Swiss army knife of safeties comes with a guarantee to make plays and not give up many on the backend, as evidenced by the paltry 77.4 QB rating passers had throwing at him.
Best Performance: Week 12, SL @ SD, +3.9
Key Stat: No safety had a better grade than Weddle during 2014 season.
21. Michael Bennett, ED, Seattle Seahawks (16th)
Only his terrible penalty count prevented him from cracking the Top 20 for a second year in a row, but that shouldn’t take away from another excellent showing by Bennett. Fantastic against the run and dominant rushing the passer, if the Seahawks won the Super Bowl it would be him we spent the night talking about after his Herculean effort. One of the most destructive players in the NFL.
Best Performance: Super Bowl, NE @ SEA, +5.8
Key Stat: 70 quarterback disruptions second most of all 4-3 defensive ends.
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