PFF’s Top 101 of 2012: 101 to 91

PFF launches its rankings of the Top 101 players for 2012 as Khaled Elsayed introduces you to the first set of 10.

| 4 years ago

PFF’s Top 101 of 2012: 101 to 91

Every year the PFF team gets together, and every year there is mayhem.

Getting six individuals to put together an inherently subjective list of the top 101 players in the NFL in 2012 is a grueling process, but once again we’ve reached our destination.

Now some things are pretty important in understanding the criteria for the list;

– This is based solely on 2012 play. Nothing that happened in years previous was accounted for.

– This is created with an “all-positions created equal” mantra, so it asks for a leap of faith that you assume a guard is an important as a quarterback (there are some exceptions here with more situational roles not quite as equal).

So without further ado, let’s count from 101!

(Last year’s ranking in brackets)


101. Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings (Unranked)

Spoiler alert: Walsh is the only special teams specialist to make the list this year. That makes him the first and only kicker to be selected to a PFF Top 101, and it wasn’t a choice without its detractors. However, when you nail 10-out-of-10 kicks from 50 yards or more you put yourself in with a chance of making this list and the record-breaking Walsh did just that. A truly special year for this kicker.

Best Performance: Week 15 at St Louis, +5.8

Key Stat: His 10 successful attempts from 50 yards or more are the most in any season by any NFL player ever.

100. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (Unranked)

If this list were built solely on those four postseason games that culminated with the Ravens’ quarterback hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, then Joe Flacco would rank right at the very top. But it’s not, and there were 16 other games that can’t be discounted where Flacco struggled with accuracy for a Ravens team that stumbled into the playoffs. Flacco was truly special in the playoffs, showing the kind of poise and knack for the big play that was integral in his team winning it all.

Best Performance: Week 16 versus New York Giants, +6.8

Key Stat: Owned a stunning 16 touchdowns to zero interception ratio on all balls thrown at least 20 yards in the air.

99. Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati Bengals (Unranked)

Jaguars fans will be disappointed to see Nelson here after he failed to live up to his drafting in Jacksonville. Since moving to Cincinnati he’s really blossomed into a fine safety and 2012 was a great example of his growth. His work in coverage was what saw him make this list, finishing fourth overall in our safety rankings after allowing just 231 yards into his coverage all season while having the flexibility to line up deep or in the box, earning just two negative grades all year.

Best Performance: Wild Card Round at Houston, +2.5

Key Stat: Spent 34.1 percent of his snaps lined up in the box. Nelson was more than just a deep safety.

98. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos (80th)

So the playoffs didn’t really go well for Bailey who struggled to stop Torrey Smith getting in behind him. Yet one game, however important it is, doesn’t undo a season’s worth of good work. Bailey was still up to the task of matching up with a team’s top receiver, and he only allowed 40 regular season receptions, including just one touchdown. A fine year with a horrid end.

Best Performance: Week 15 at Baltimore, +4.3

Key Stat: Just 4.27 percent of his coverage snaps ended with him giving up a first down or touchdown. That is the sixth-lowest of all cornerbacks for 2012.

97. T.J. Ward, S, Cleveland Browns (Unranked)

Playing in Cleveland doesn’t always lend itself to having your performances rewarded with nationwide praise. So while you don’t often hear the name of Ward mentioned among the better safeties in the league, don’t think that’s a reflection on what he did in 2012. A real force in the box, Ward is more than just adequate in coverage, allowing just 12 receptions into his coverage all year.

Best Performance: Week 12 versus Pittsburgh, +3.7

Key Stat: Missed just one tackle for every 17.5 he attempted in 2012. That was the second best number of all safeties.

96. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)

The scary thing about Bryant is that even with 1,382 yards he could have had so much more. A quite fantastic end to the season shouldn’t make you forget a somewhat inconsistent start where big plays mixed with equally big  disconnects with his quarterback. His final eight games though, including that game versus New Orleans, should put all the NFL on notice for 2013.

Best Performance: Week 16 versus New Orleans, +4.2

Key Stat: His five touchdowns on passing thrown over 20 yards in the air were second most in the entire league.

95. Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee Titans (Unranked)

You know what you’re going to get with Casey, and that’s one heck of a run stuffer. Sure the glory and the fame go to the guys who bring the quarterback down, but the ability of Casey to not just eat up blocks, but get off them and make plays is near unmatched. A real find for the Titans.

Best Performance: Week 9 versus Chicago, +4.7

Key Stat: His 29 defensive stops in the run game were the third-most of any defensive tackle.

94. Jared Veldheer, OT, Oakland Raiders (Unranked)

It wasn’t a pretty year for Raiders fans but they can at least be happy to see Jared Veldheer develop into a very impressive left tackle. A decent run blocker, Veldheer responded from his disappointing outing against Atlanta and midseason slump to finish the season playing as well as any tackle in the league. With the Raiders not giving him a lot of help it’s commendable that he gave up just five sacks all year.

Best Performance: Week 10 at Baltimore, +5.0

Key Stat: Gave up just 14 combined sacks, hits and hurries in his final eight games of the season.

93. Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers (Unranked)

If Shields had featured more than the 742 snaps he managed then he’d have finished a lot higher, such was the level of his performance. He excelled in press coverage allowing just 47.7 percent of balls his way to be complete while intercepting three passes and deflecting another seven.

Best Performance: Wild Card Round versus Minnesota, +3.6

Key Stat: Was beaten for just 14 combined first downs and touchdowns all year.

92. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens (85th)

The Ravens Rice didn’t get this selection on the back of his running between the tackles. His 1,143 yards are nothing to be sniffed at, but Rice would only finish 19th in our pure running back rankings as he more or less took what the opposing defenses gave up. Where he did excel was catching the ball out of the backfield where he was our top-ranked back and added 478 yards and one incredible fourth down conversion. An extremely important asset to the Ravens.

Best Performance: Week 1 versus Cincinnati, +3.1

Key Stat: Only Darren Sproles had more targets than the 80 he was afforded.

91. Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts (Unranked)

Allen wasn’t even the first tight end the Colts selected in the 2012 draft, but he’s the one who made the biggest impact as a rookie. In an age where his position seems to be moving towards more of a receiver role, Allen was a refreshing reminder that you can still find players that do it all. Earning positive grades in every facet of his game, the third-round pick demonstrated that he warrants being on the field for every down.

Best Performance: Week 15 at Houston, +5.1

Key Stat: Stayed into pass protect on 111 occasions and gave up just four quarterback disruptions all year.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Rosen

    How can TJ Ward have his best performance against Cleveland?

  • Yolo

    Justin Tucker > Blair Walsh and it isn’t even close

    • Kevin

      Blair Walsh: 10/10 from 50+ yards, nobody was even close to him in that category. And it wasn’t like he was bad from shorter distances either. Was one of the top kickers in the league from within 50 yards as well.

    • Abouthat

      If you’re gonna post that you disagree with this selection and that it is entirely off base, then please provide some sort of support or proof. Anybody can say who is the better. I could say that Brandon Weeden was the best quarterback last season. Providing proof is what makes for intelligent and worthwhile debate.

    • Dustin

      You’re either an idiot, don’t pay attention, or a blind Ravens fan if you actually believe that.

  • JaTerrance Dwayne Young

    Do you all proofread before you post

  • Rob

    List Is A Complete Joke, Flacco At 100? That Is Just So Far Off… I Understand He Had a Flawed Regular Season, But He Had His Best Games When He Needed To. I Think That At Least Makes Him Worth MOre Than An Aging Cb He Exposed (Champ)

    • Hugo Poirier

      Here we go again…

  • Rob

    Flacco Threw 11 TDs And 0 picks In The Postseason, A Single Post Season Record Matched Only By Joe Montana And In The Superbowl Shredded A Highly Regarded 49ers Offense. He Was The Best Player On The Superbowl ChaMpions, Which One Could Definitely Argue Is The Best Team In The NFL. Think That Makes Him A Little More Valuable Than The BenGals SafetY. Oh, And Im A Vikes Fan Btw.

    • Hugo Poirier

      Even if you wrtie 20 other posts to explain your “point”, your first one still is ignorant and insulting to the author. Saddly for you THIS site grades players on a very specific system and for the whole season. All of this is very well explained on the site, and again by the author at the beginning of the article (“If this list were built solely on those four postseason games that culminated with the Ravens’ quarterback hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, then Joe Flacco would rank right at the very top. But it’s not, and there were 16 other games that can’t be discounted where Flacco struggled […]”)
      The list is not a joke, but you sir certainly are. And you are very annoying to others paying consumers, like myself, because your self-entitled ignorance is exposed everywhere on this site, and you’re constantly insulting the authors.
      Your “knowledge” of football is very similar to Peter King’s. So, go over to where there is a lot of non-sense texts about “Joe Flacco, greatest human being ever because he is a valuable leading leader of a Championnish team”.

      • Rob

        I understand The System. I Read The Note You Just Posted. I Just ThiNk Flacco Is Very Undervalued And Underratdd By Their System, And Yes, I Know He Had AbBad Regular Season. Unfortunately, I Will Have To Let You Know Thatvyo Telling Me Things About This Site I Already Know Will Not Change M OpOkNion, But ThankyYou.

      • Rob

        Also I Love This Site. this Is The First Thing Ive Had A Problem WIth,And I have TE Utmost Respect For The AuthorS. Just Dont Agree WTh This Ranking, Sorry

    • Mark

      It says “assuming all positions are equally valuable

  • Rob

    Also Dont Know Why Everything I Write Is Getting Capitalized Automatically By My Phone.. Even When I Try To Change It It Just Recapitalizes it.

  • Rob

    Also, 49ers Defense Obviously. That Was My goof

  • Rob

    Okay, nice, finally not talking from my phone so I can actually type. To Hugo: Are you ever going to actually present a counter argument, or are you just going to continue to attack me? There’s a name for it: argument ad hominem, or an argument against me, personally rather than my argument. You still haven’t presented any facts as to why Flacco deserves to be at 100. In fact, you’ve only referenced one thing- and that is the author saying that if they only ranked him on their post season games, he’d be a lot higher; something that not only do I already know, but does not actually refute any arguments I’ve made. You’ve made a reference to their system, but you don’t explain it, or take anything from it and use it to support your argument; you just kind of state it’s there, which is ironically a variation on the same thing you accuse me of doing. You haven’t actually really made any assertions that are backed up by any facts you’ve provided; you’ve just kind of made these sweeping assertions about me and about Flacco that, for some reason, you just expect me to take at face value. Here’s some numbers- 117.2 QB rating for Flacco through the 4 games, the before mentioned 11 TD to 0 interception ratio, and also an amazing 9 yards per attempt. It was also not a case of bad competition, as his two strongest games came against the two strongest defenses he played. His first performance was a 331 yd, almost 10 YPA, 3 TD performance against the Broncos- the 3rd ranked passing defense by yards, the 2nd ranked total defense by yards, and the 4th ranked defense in scoring. His second performance was a 287 yard and 3 TD performance agaisnt the 49ers- the 4th ranked passing defense by yards, the 3rd ranked total defense by yards, and the 2nd ranked defense in scoring. It was not just a strong preseason- it was one of the strongest preseasons a QB has ever had, and I believe that should be enough to lift him more, even despite an inconsistent and mediocre regular season. That’s an example of facts being used to back up your argument. Maybe you should consider finding some for the next time you try for a counter argument, or you can just keep making ignorant statements about me. By the way, this is the first thread I’ve commented on, so… no, I’m not quite all over the site.

    • Rob

      *postseason, not preseason, my apologies. Goofed a little typing that.

  • Bryce

    How does both Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David make the list over Luke Kuechly? I understand they are both very good but Kuechly was the defensive rookie of the year and was the first rookie MLB to lead the league in tackles since Patrick Willis and he did it on the freaking Panthers defense, Wagner had the benefit of being on one of the best defenses in the league where offenses couldn’t devote too much attention to him. How does he not even make the list?

  • Jon_Young

    That list is a joke. Rice is the 7th
    highest ranked RB on the list – Behind guys like Peterson, Spiller,
    Morris, Lynch, Gore, & Martin but ahead of guys like Charles,
    Foster, Ridley and Chris Johnson.

    They are the 10 RBs who had more rushing yardage than Rice.

    It’s hard to argue with some of these but some others are ridiculous.
    was #38 – had a great and surprising season for a unheralded rookie RB –
    but even with 1,613 yards rushing – his YPA was only 4.8 (compared to
    Rice’s 4.4) and then Morris had a grand total of 11 receptions compared
    to Rice’s 61!

    And Morris is 38th on the list while Rice is 92nd? Really?

    Gore is 71st with a 4.7YPA and 28 receptions?

    No Jamaal Charles despite having 1,509yds, a 5.3 YPA and 35 receptions for a lousy Chiefs team?
    No Arian Foster with a 4.4ypa and 40 receptions?

    Lynch is 40th with a 5.0 YPA and only 23 receptions? Yeah, he’s a
    beast in the Running game but doesn’t contribute much in the passing

    The list is a joke. Yet another example of somebody
    coming up with their “Unbiased” (and Unsupportable) evaluation system –
    Much like ESPN’s own “QBR” mockery.

  • Ben

    Uhh Luke Kuechly? Guy was dominant as a rookie, led the league in tackles, won Defensive Rookie of the Year, and isn’t a top 101 player in the league? If Bobby Wagner is on the list than Luke has to be as well.

  • Rick Dose

    Eli made it on this list? How??

    • Brian

      This was a down year for him, 2011 was a masterpiece but 2012 was inconsistent and he made some stupid plays, but the reason he is here is because he throws a great deep ball, is good under pressure, has a terrible pass blocking o line, and the defense was often terrible. He really has carried the Giants the last 2 years. You can only do that for so long, and I can cut the guy slack, he was trying to force things too much because he had too.