PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 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 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 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. Junior Galette, ED, New Orleans Saints (Unranked)
The Saints’ season didn’t go to plan but you can’t fault Galette for that. He may not have got off to the most consistent start to the year but from Week 5 onward he was near unstoppable as he delivered big pressure game after big pressure game. The former undrafted free agent is one of the most fearsome edge defenders in the game.
Best Performance: Week 9, NO @ CAR, +8.1
Key Stat: Had the second-highest pass rush grade of all 4-3 defensive ends.
69. Johnathan Hankins, ID, New York Giants (Unranked)
Didn’t just replace Linval Joseph but acted as an improvement with his ability to contribute whatever the offense did. Initially there was a feeling he’d just be a run clogger but as the season went on delivered more and more pressure, with his ability to control blockers plain for all to see. 700 snaps might be the bar going forward for a guy who can impact every down.
Best Performance: Week 5, ATL @ NYG, +6.5
Key Stat: Had the eighth-most defensive stops against the run of all defensive tackles.
68. Kelechi Osemele, LG, Baltimore Ravens (Unranked)
Was on course for a higher finish but couldn’t match his excellent second half of the year with a similar second half as the Ravens and himself coped with some injuries on the offensive line. But even when his performance tailed off, he was still a player to watch, with his run blocking in the Ravens’ zone blocking scheme a real joy. Pass protection remains an area he could be more consistent in.
Best Performance: Week 1, CIN @ BLT, +5.7
Key Stat: Owner of the fourth-highest grade for run blocking of all guards.
67. Kelvin Beachum, LT, Pittsburgh Steelers (Unranked)
The Steelers really stumbled into a franchise left tackle, right? Not many would have seen the seventh-round pick as the solution back in 2012, but he has proven that with his best year to date. He’s not a dominant run blocker, but you want your left tackle to slow edge rushers down and giving up just 24 quarterback disruptions all year shows Beachum is more than capable of that.
Best Performance: Week 11, PIT @ TEN, +5.0
Key Stat: Had the second-best pass blocking efficiency of all left tackles with a 97.8 score.
66. Anthony Castonzo, LT, Indianapolis Colts (Unranked)
There may not be a more difficult job in pass protection than being the left tackle for the Colts. More seven-step drops, more drop-backs and more time with the QB holding onto the ball make it the lethal combination for a pass protector. So credit to Castonzo who has got better each and every year since entering the league, developing into an accomplished pass protector with 2014 being his finest example yet.
Best Performance: Week 3, IND @ JAX, +4.1
Key Stat: Spent 66 more snaps in pass protection than any other tackle.
65. DeAndre Levy, LB, Detroit Lions (Unranked)
It wasn’t the year in coverage we saw from Levy in 2013 (it was a backward step in that regard), but wow what an effort against the run. He was a force for the Lions as he graded positively in all except two games with his chart requiring sunglasses there was so much bright green (indicating a grade of at least +1.1) on it. Would have been easy for the team to falter when Stephen Tulloch went down, but Levy carried the extra burden exceptionally well.
Best Performance: Week 10, MIA @ DET, +4.0
Key Stat: Of all conventional 4-3 outside linebackers no other had as high a grade against the run.
64. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (35th)
Are the days gone when Johnson was cracking the Top 10? While his talent level is never in doubt he’s proven a big target for defenders and missed more time in 2014 than anyone (barring opponents) wants to see. When he is at full health there remains no player who can do what he does, and there were plenty of glimpses of that this year.
Best Performance: Week 13, CHI @ DET, +4.3
Key Stat: Had a positive receiving grade in all but two games.
63. Elvis Dumervil, ED, Baltimore Ravens (69th)
The Ravens really know how to get the most out of Dumervil. He will never be the every-down influence that some may want, but as a prominent part of all their sub-packages he terrorizes tackles across the league. No surprise that he recorded a pass rushing grade of at least +1.0 in 11 games, that’s the norm for the ultra-productive former Bronco.
Best Performance: Week 7, ATL @ BLT, +4.4
Key Stat: Had the third highest pass rushing productivity score from the left side of all 3-4 outside linebackers.
62. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
He’s not a guy who puts up the stats to wow you on a weekly basis, but his numbers on the year and sheer consistency make him invaluable to the Panthers. A chain-mover who makes life easier for his quarterback, he’s also a good enough blocker that he aids in that element of the game. Finished the year with the second-highest grade catching the ball of all tight ends.
Best Performance: Week 7, CAR @ GB, +3.0
Key Stat: His 1.88 yards per route run was second most of all tight ends.\
61. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks (Unranked)
He was limited a tad during the regular season as injuries cost him a lot of playing time. But he came strong in the postseason, especially the Super Bowl, where he once again highlighted to the world that he is a true do-it-all linebacker. Often and easy to overlook given the loaded nature of the Seattle team, he just makes plays.
Best Performance: Week 3, DEN @ SEA, +3.4
Key Stat: Finished in the Top 10 for missed tackle efficiency, yards per snap in coverage and run stop percentage at the inside linebacker group.
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