PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 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 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 2013 regular season and the final snap of the Super Bowl this past February. Anything outside those dates does not matter.
60. Brandon Marshall, LB, Denver Broncos (Unranked)
Spoiler alert: this is the only Brandon Marshall making the list and it’s obviously the less famous one. Marshall logged 883 snaps during the regular season and because of his excellent work in coverage had the fourth-highest grade of all 4-3 outside linebackers. After a rookie start it’s safe to call his season a revelation with the former fifth-rounder making himself a lynchpin of the defense.
Best Performance: Week 8, SD @ DEN, +4.6
Key Stat: His 0.55 Yards Per Snap in Coverage allowed was lowest of all 4-3 outside linebackers.
59. Evan Mathis, LG, Philadelphia Eagles (7th)
Injury looked set to rob Mathis of his streak appearing in this list, but by returning in Week 10 he compiled enough snaps (608) and was so dominant (second-highest grade of all guards) that he cracks it again. Mathis again starred with his run blocking which remains as good as any in the league, earning positive grades in each of the games he appeared in.
Best Performance: Week 13, PHI @ DAL, +5.6
Key Stat: Graded positively in every game he completed.
58. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
The slot receiver that all teams crave. Cobb is shifty before and after the catch, as evidenced by his impressive 18 forced missed tackles which were third among all receivers. His unique skill set opens up so much for Green Bay with teams struggling to contain him. No slot receiver came close to matching his numbers or his grade.
Best Performance: Divisional Playoff, DAL @ GB, +3.9
Key Stat: His 2.01 Yards Per Route Run was the most from the slot of any wide receiver.
57. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (Unranked)
In an age where QB wins is a stat that for some reason means something to people it’s easy to turn your nose up at the year of Ryan. His Atlanta team wasn’t filled with talent, yet he continually made plays. Enough plays, in fact, that he had the fifth-highest passing grade in the regular season of any QB. Just a shame he tends to save his worst performances for the games that matter most.
Best Performance: Week 1, NO @ ATL, +5.9
Key Stat: His 54% Accuracy Percentage on deep passes was the highest among all quarterbacks.
56. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
The frustrating thing about Frederick is his pass protection. You don’t often notice centers in pass pro but with 14 QB disruptions allowed you do with Frederick. Yet he’s so good in the run game you learn to deal with it, with him able to execute pretty much any block you can think of. He didn’t start the season playing as well as he finished his rookie year, but he took a giant leap forward at the end of the year. To think people laughed at the idea of him as a first-round pick.
Best Performance: Week 14, DAL @ CHI, +6.3
Key Stat: Had the highest run blocking grade of any center.
55. Marcell Dareus, ID, Buffalo Bills (29th)
Don’t be fooled by the sack numbers, Dareus does his best work against the run. And what work he does, proving much more than a lane clogger he can penetrate and shed like few others in the league. It was that element of his game that earned him the fourth overall grade amongst defensive tackles. His pass rushing shouldn’t be ignored with Dareus the kind of interior defender that contributes every down.
Best Performance: Week 5, BUF @ DET, +4.0
Key Stat: His 10.5 Run Stop Percentage was second among defensive tackles.
54. Tyron Smith, LT, Dallas Cowboys (44th)
There are times watching Smith where he can do no wrong. A lockdown left tackle who has the athleticism and strength to make a big difference in the Cowboys zone blocking heavy scheme. At times you almost felt bad for those going against him. He can though struggle at times against more powerful defensive ends in the running game, and it was that stretch from Week 5 to Week 7 that prevented him getting any higher.
Best Performance: WK17, DAL @ WAS, +6.3
Key Stat: Was involved in 10 games where he gave up just one or fewer QB disruptions.
53. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Unranked)
Finished third in the league in yards despite missing time, it was only the sometimes inconsistent nature of Jones (and his habit of picking up knocks) that prevented him finishing higher. There are times when you have to just sit and admire what he’s able to do with his outing against Green Bay being a perfect example how he can take over a game.
Best Performance: Week 14, ATL @ GB, +6.3
Key Stat: Picked up 2.52 Yards Per Route Run, fifth-best in the league.
52. Pernell McPhee, ED, Baltimore Ravens (Unranked)
Earned himself a big free agent deal as a situational menace in Baltimore. Playing just 540 snaps he still earned the second highest grade of all 3-4 outside linebackers. Imagine what he could do with more playing time? A true defensive mismatch who can and was used in a number of ways to exploit and overwhelm offenses, McPhee was fantastic in picking up a huge 64 quarterback disruptions.
Best Performance: Week 4, CAR @ BLT, +5.1
Key Stat: His 14.0 Pass Rushing Productivity score was fourth best of all edge defenders.
51. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (70th)
It was a little worrying that it took Lacy so long to get going, but by season’s end he was playing at a level we’d come to expect after his superb rookie year. Finishing the year, including the postseason, with 10-of-11 games graded positively, Lacy may not have dominated the stat sheet with 100-yard games galore, but he moved the chains whether it be rushing the ball or receiving it.
Best Performance: Week 12, GB @ MIN, +6.0
Key Stat: Had the second-highest grade of any running back in the passing game.
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