PFF's Top 101 of 2014: 80 to 71
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.
80. Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons (79th)
A dire year for most players on the Falcons’ defense, but for the second year running Trufant could not be counted among that number. The reliable cornerback made it two lists out of two in his sophomore season as he allowed a very healthy 58.7% of passes into his coverage complete while intercepting three balls and deflecting another nine.
Best Performance: Week 10, ATL @ TB, +2.9
Key Stat: Graded positively in all but four games.
79. Donald Penn, LT, Oakland Raiders (Unranked)
The Bucs didn’t look too smart after ditching Penn for Anthony Collins, but the Raiders came out smiling given just how well he played. Seemingly playing with a chip on his shoulder most of the year, you rarely noticed Penn such was his shutdown nature in pass protection. Sure his run blocking didn’t wow you like others, but when you can go through a year earning the fifth-highest grade in pass protection for all left tackles what more could the Raiders ask for?
Best Performance: Week 16, BUF @ OAK, +6.3
Key Stat: Only graded negatively in pass protection twice all year.
78. T.J. Lang, RG, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)
Lang slipped a few spots because his effort against Seattle wasn’t one of his better ones, especially in the run game. Don’t let that detract from another strong year from the unheralded Packer, who may be in the shadow of the other Green Bay guard but is a vital cog in their continued success himself. He actually had the third-highest grade of all guards in the regular season so good he was.
Best Performance: Week 16, GB @ TB, +6.3
Key Stat: Was flagged for only three penalties all year.
77. Rashean Mathis, CB, Detroit Lions (Unranked)
There is a tendency to write aged players with an injury history off. However, Mathis is bucking the trend with his consistently top level play in Detroit. He allowed just 555 yards into his coverage all year as he proved more than up to the test of what was thrown at him. He’s not the player he once was but he has adapted to end an impressive career not the top.
Best Performance: Week 16, DET @ CHI, +4.3
Key Stat: His 0.86 yards per snap in coverage were 10th best among cornerbacks.
76. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
He’s not going to be confused with a world class sprinter any time soon, but Witten does so many things so well he doesn’t need to be. Excellent at finding space running routes and using his body to best close coverage, he’s also an important cog in a rushing attack that makes life easy for their backs. At 33-years-old how much longer can he go on for? On the evidence of 2014 a while yet.
Best Performance: Week 16, IND @ DAL, +4.3
Key Stat: Witten’s 486 yards from the slot were second most of all tight ends.
75. Kyle Williams, ID, Buffalo Bills (Unranked)
Williams was at it again in 2014 with some big performances that forced him back onto this list. He’s not quite as destructive against the run as he once was and might not play as many snaps as yesteryear. Williams still got that knack for making interior linemen look incredibly bad with his ability to generate pressure. He may be down the list for praise when it comes to the Buffalo line but he just makes plays.
Best Performance: Week 3, SD @ BUF, +9.3
Key Stat: Only one defensive tackle had a better pass rushing grade than Williams.
74. Brandon Graham, ED, Philadelphia Eagles (Unranked)
Imagine where Graham might have got to if he had played more than 524 snaps? That was really the only thing holding back a man who finished with the fourth-highest grade of all 3-4 outside linebackers who was especially productive rushing the passer. We’re excited to see what he can do with a path to more snaps in 2015, because if he maintains his 2014 work over a larger sample size watch out the top of the list.
Best Performance: Week 1, JAX @ PHI, +3.5
Key Stat: His 17.0 Pass Rushing Productivity score was the best in the league.
73. Will Hill, S, Baltimore Ravens (86th)
Hill doesn’t help himself with regular suspensions but he’s just so good when he plays that he keeps cracking the Top 101. This year was no different as despite playing just 724 snaps he still had sixth-highest safety grade, with a couple of really impressive outings in the playoffs. Imagine what he could do if his off-field decision making was as good as his on the field play?
Best Performance: Week 16, BLT @ HST, +2.8
Key Stat: Only graded negatively in one game.
72. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
A more balanced offense brought out the best in Romo who put up big numbers in Dallas’ surprise big year. His 40 touchdowns and 4,189 yards (including the postseason) jump out at you but it was his accuracy that really stood out, whether on deep or short balls. To think some were writing off the Dallas QB before the season started.
Best Performance: Week 7, NYG @ DAL, +7.0
Key Stat: His 53.6% Accuracy Percentage on deep passes was third best in the league.
71. Kareem Jackson, CB, Houston Texans (Unranked)
Earned himself a big deal with his play after he had the seventh highest pure coverage grade of all cornerbacks. Proved a tough guy for quarterbacks to get at as he intercepted three balls and deflected another six, leaving them posting a 74.1 rating throwing at him. Potentially would have ranked higher but for missing time that limited him to 785 snaps.
Best Performance: Week 16, BLT @ HST, +2.4
Key Stat: Didn’t grade in the red (-1.0) or worse in any games.
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