PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 40 to 31
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.
40. Jamie Collins, LB, New England Patriots (Unranked)
Pushed himself up the Top 101 with a strong playoff run that was the exclamation mark on an excellent second half of the year. His only disappointment was the start to the year which was less than was expected, but improved when it mattered most. A versatile defender who was particularly excellent coming forward.
Best Performance: Week 11, NE @ IND, +6.0
Key Stat: No inside linebacker had as many pressures as the 26 Collins managed.
39. Khalil Mack, ED, Oakland Raiders (Unranked)
For a while Mack was in for some criticism as the sacks didn’t flow. That one number didn’t come close to telling the story of Mack, who was a solid pass rusher and an out of this world run defender. His 54 quarterback disruptions are a number to be proud of, but it’s his work in the run game that sees him so high. Nobody made life as hard for blockers on the edge as Mack, a true rookie force.
Best Performance: Week 16, BUF @ OAK, +7.8
Key Stat: Scored the highest grade of any edge defender in run defense.
38. Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers (52nd)
The medical marvel that is Davis shows no signs of slowing down. His 2014 season was another for the ages with his work in coverage as good as any linebacker. He might not have the picks to earn the praise, but his ability to keep things in front of him and limit the yardage after the catch. Some stellar work rushing the passer added to the notion that there aren’t many linebackers you’d rather on the field on a passing down than Davis.
Best Performance: Week 11, ATL @ CAR, +4.7
Key Stat: Tied with the Broncos Brandon Marshall for the highest coverage grade of any 4-3 outside linebacker.
37. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (60th)
Saints woes aside it was another quality year from Brees. His middle of the season was particularly impressive where between Weeks 7 and 13 he graded positively in each and every game. So why is the guy who had the second highest passing grade only 37th? Well, when it mattered most at the end of the season he produced some of his weakest performances, failing to lead the Saints to the playoffs.
Best Performance: Week 13, NO @ PIT, +6.5
Key Stat: Had the second highest adjusted accuracy score of all quarterbacks.
36. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Unranked)
Didn’t have the success in the playoffs that he would have liked but led the Steelers to the postseason with some of his usual fantastic play that saw him grade negatively only three times. Showed his top end talent with an out of this world effort against Indianapolis and its just a shame he couldn’t replicate that to push himself higher up.
Best Performance: Week 8, IND @ PIT, +10.7
Key Stat: Had the third highest adjusted accuracy score under pressure of all quarterbacks.
35. Josh Sitton, LG, Green Bay Packers (25th)
Sitton isn’t the kind of guard you notice a lot and that’s a good thing. Only beaten for 10 quarterback disruptions all year, he just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and there aren’t many defensive players who get the better of him. Was exceptional during the playoffs saving his best performance for when it mattered most.
Best Performance: Conference Championship, GB @ SEA, +5.2
Key Stat: His Pass Blocking Efficiency score of 98.7 was joint best in the nation.
34. Gerald McCoy, ID, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4th)
An interesting year for McCoy who dealt with an injury that impacted his performance and playing time, as well as developing a habit for jumping offsides that contributed to him being flagged 10 times. Yet despite that, he still was an incredibly productive pass rusher grading positively in all bar one games in this regard. It may not have been 2013 but it was still impressive.
Best Performance: Week 5, TB @ NO, +8.9
Key Stat: Had the highest pass rushing grade of all defensive tackles.
33. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (22nd)
McCourty wasn’t close to finishing this high before he peaked in the playoffs with a tremendous postseason. The Patriot center fielder is the kind of guy who quarterbacks tend to stay away from, targeted just once for every 27.9 snaps in coverage (third best among all safeties). He’s the definition of a safe safety.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, BLT @ NE, +3.2
Key Stat: Had the highest grade of all safeties in the playoffs.
32. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets (Unranked)
Back to his best, the longtime benchmark for center play in the NFL would finish the regular season our top-ranked center. An excellent run blocker it was his pass blocking that pushed him over the edge, where he allowed only seven hurries all year.
Best Performance: Week 13, MIA @ NYJ, +5.4
Key Stat: Had the best Pass Blocking Efficiency score of all centers.
31. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (76th)
Giving every opportunity to shine, Murray wasn’t going to miss out on cashing in behind the Cowboys’ stunning offensive line. Led the league in yardage, proving the standout runner during the regular season. Fell behind others because of his work in the passing game combined with the excellence of one other in the postseason. Still, tremendous year.
Best Performance: Week 4, NO @ DAL, +2.4
Key Stat: His 25 runs over 15 yards were most in the league by seven.
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