PFF’s Top 101 of 2014: No. 2, Aaron Rodgers
If the PFF Top 101 took position value into consideration, there’s little doubt that Aaron Rodgers would top the list, so it’s only another epic performance that is keeping him from the top spot. But Rodgers’ play in 2014 still deserves special mention as the NFL MVP separated himself from the other top quarterbacks in the league, and he maintained that distance for most of the season.
Rodgers graded positively in all but two games, including four impressive efforts that saw him post at least a +5.0 grade. His Week 15 struggles against the Buffalo Bills proved to be an aberration, as it was his only game “in the red” the entire season.
When it comes to skillset, there’s not a better-rounded quarterback in the league. Rodgers has the arm strength and accuracy to shred defenses at all levels of the field. When the pocket breaks down, he’s extremely athletic on the move, either as a runner or a passer, and his ability to make plays outside of the pocket often slows opposing pass rushes out of fear for his big-play ability.
Perhaps the most underrated part of Rodgers’ game is the work he does pre-snap, and it’s almost unfair when paired with his physical attributes. You can often see him manipulating the snap count, getting into favorable running plays, and forcing the defense to declare their intentions earlier than they’d like. When you add it all up, you get a total package from a quarterback standpoint as Rodgers is capable of winning games with his arms, legs, and brain.
Best Games: Week 11 vs. Philadelphia (+7.2), Week 13 vs. New England (+5.0)
It wasn’t easy to narrow down Rodgers’ best game, but from a grading standpoint, his Week 11 effort against the Philadelphia Eagles was the best. The Eagles came out playing press man coverage, and Rodgers made them play with pinpoint downfield throws. Even the passes that weren’t completed were well-placed, either drawing a pass interference penalty or falling incomplete largely due to his receivers’ inability to beat cornerbacks down the field.
As for the game against the Patriots, it was a yet another example of Rodgers’ ability to make big-time throws to carry the Packers to victory. Just as he did in the Eagles game, Rodgers took advantage of single coverage whether leading Devante Adams on a double move or working through his progressions to find Richard Rodgers with a pretty touchdown pass on a deep crossing route. Even when the eventual Super Bowl champs had good coverage, Rodgers found a way to beat them in one of the year’s better regular season games.
No matter which way you slice the numbers, Rodgers finds himself among the best in the league. His +38.7 pass grade led the NFL while his +5.1 grade as a runner ranked third. He was by far the best quarterback in the league in a clean pocket while ranking eighth when under pressure. He was also the best when teams sent a traditional rush and he came in at fourth against the blitz. Short passes, deep passes, doesn’t matter – Rodgers was the league’s best quarterback.
Among the things that make Rodgers special is his ability to make pinpoint, downfield throws while rarely putting the ball in harm’s way. He led the league in big time throw (BTT) to turnover-worthy play (TWP) ratio, always a great indicator of the league’s best signal-callers. Every week we see Rodgers thread the needle down the field, often times while on the run, making throws only a handful of quarterbacks can make. When paired with his outstanding decision-making, you get a special player.
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