PFF’s Top 101 of 2012: 20 to 11

The PFF 101 enters the Top 20, highlighting some of the most dominant players the league had to offer in 2012.

| 4 years ago

PFF’s Top 101 of 2012: 20 to 11

We’ve now been through 81 of the Pro Football Focus Top 101 rankings, and as we head into the Top 20 it’s worth a look back at the ground we’ve covered to date:

101-91  |  90-81  |  80-71  |  70-61
60-51  |  50-41  |  40-31  |  30-21

As ever, it’s important to remember the criteria used by our team when selecting this list:

– This is based solely on 2012 play. Nothing that happened in years prior 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 as important as a quarterback (though there are some exceptions here with more situational roles not quite as equal).

Now let’s get to the ranking!

(Last year’s ranking in brackets)


20. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Unranked)

Finally, 2012 was the year we got to see McCoy on the field for an entire season and we were not left wanting. Our second-ranked defensive tackle, McCoy played better than his numbers would suggest, delivering plenty of pressure and penetration in the run game. A real every-down talent and it’s no surprise the Bucs’ defense looked a lot better with him on the field.

Best Performance: Week 14 versus Philadelphia, +7.3

Key Stat:  His 53 quarterback disruptions were the third-most for all defensive tackles.

19. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears (Unranked)

You need only look at the key stat to see the kind of unrivaled impact that Tillman had. For a cornerback to make that many plays of that nature almost has to be seen to be believed. Still, without backing it up in coverage it wouldn’t get him a spot on the list, so to feature so highly tells you how well he did there. Tillman added 14 combined interceptions and pass deflections while allowing just 9.4 yards per reception.

Best Performance: Week 9 at Tennessee, +5.5

Key Stat:  Forced 10 fumbles.

18. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills (Unranked)

The only reason Spiller isn’t higher is because he didn’t get enough carries in 2012. When he did, he was something to behold. As explosive a player as there was in the league during the 2012 season, he made his blocking seem better by turning nothing into something, frequently. His 6.0 yards per carry average is amazing, while forcing 53 missed tackles on 207 rushes is astonishing. A real game-changer.

Best Performance: Week 10 at New England, +5.0

Key Stat: The most elusive back in all of football with a 94.6 Elusive Rating (22.6 points better than the next best).

17. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (74th)

While getting his first playoff win was big, the season Ryan put forth was bigger. Excelling from first to last, he inspired the Falcons to the top seed in the NFC as he made full use of all the weapons at his disposal. A new offensive coordinator saw him challenge teams all over the field and the result was his best statistical season to date.

Best Performance: Conference Championship vs San Francisco, +6.4

Key Stat: His 13 play-action touchdown passes in his 18 games were the most of any quarterback.

16. Joe Staley, LT, San Francisco 49ers (Unranked)

Staley is a little bit different compared to all the left tackles that have come before him. He’s not quite the pass protector of some, but his impact in the running game is so much greater that he cruised to our highest overall grade of any tackle in 2012. A real nasty streak in the run game isn’t something that often stands out about left tackles, but Staley has it and then some.

Best Performance: Week 2 versus Detroit, +5.5

Key Stat: Run blocking grade was 10.9 points better than any other tackle.

15. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers (66th)

Weddle just keeps getting better, and while the Chargers can’t be happy with their year, they’ve got to be impressed with the consistency of their star defensive player. Our top-ranked safety graded positively in every area, showing himself capable of manning the deep middle of the field and coming up to support in the run game. The premier player in the league at his position.

Best Performance: Week 14 at Pittsburgh, +4.5

Key Stat:  When he played in the box he led all safeties with a 17.4% Run Stop Percentage.

14. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, New York Jets (Unranked)

It’s easy to get lost in the shadow of players used in a similar fashion, and that was certainly the case for Wilkerson this year. Of course playing for the Jets and the circus that followed didn’t help either, but for those in the know he was something special this year. Finishing second in our 3-4 defensive end rankings, Wilkerson was an impact player in the run game and supported that by adding an extremely healthy 37 quarterback disruptions.

Best Performance: Week 11 at St Louis, +7.4

Key Stat: His 46 defensive stops in the run game were the second-most of any 3-4 defensive end.

13. Duane Brown, LT, Houston Texans (65th)

His sackless streak ended, but his reputation just kept growing as the one-time developmental tackle impressed all who watched him. One of the most agile linemen around, Brown not only gave up just 22 quarterback disruptions all year but showed his worth in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme where his athleticism was much appreciated.

Best Performance: Week 12 at Detroit, +8.7

Key Stat:  Graded positively in 15 out of 18 games he featured in.

12. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (4th)

Despite a record-breaking season, Johnson dips compared to his 2011 ranking and isn’t even the top receiver selected. Still, he deserves credit for overcoming an unparalleled amount of attention as teams simply didn’t respect the Lions’ running game or other receiving threats. That Johnson very nearly produced the first ever 2,000-yard season from a receiver despite all that is quite noteworthy.

Best Performance: Week 9 at Jacksonville, +4.5

Key Stat: Was targeted 199 times during the regular season.

11. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (1st)

While Rodgers wasn’t quite at the level that saw the Packers strive for perfection last season, he wasn’t far off. Overcoming some protection issues (and creating a few of his own) the Packers continued to ride the arm of Rodgers to success. As accurate as ever and with the same ability to make a big play out of nothing, there’s a reason Rodgers is now the highest-paid player in the game.

Best Performance: Week 6 at Houston, +8.5

Key Stat:  His 80.2% Accuracy Percentage for the regular season was the highest of all quarterbacks who attempted at least 250 passes.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Thatman

    Calvin Johnson wasn’t the best receiver last year? Really?

    • CJ


    • Antonio Moltisanti

      I think his breaking the yardage record was very much aided by his team breaking the record for pass plays. AJ and CJ both had no viable #2, even if Andre did have a (vastly overrated but decent) running game, he has a higher DVOA and his receptions per route run are also higher. So, more receptions per run, more efficiency per reception, higher catch rate. Also note that Calvin had three fumbles, while AJ ended the year with 0.
      I personally agree with you that CJ should be ranked higher, but I also believe ranking Andre higher is very defensible.

  • er

    5. Von Miller
    4. Peyton
    3. Geno Atkins
    2. AP
    1. JJ Watt
    what you think?

    • Joey Gardner

      I’m thinking 1. JJ, 2/3. Von/Geno 4. AP 5. Peyton

      • BlackTar

        I’m thinking this list is fail. I need better justifcation as why Manning is rated higher then AR. Lets see manning has more yards okay okay. Less TD’s More INT’s less rush yards, Less rush TD’s lower Passer rating and also played one of the easiest schedules last year and lost to the only competetion they played that season. Makes sense. I feel like this list is like Players injured last year get bumps this year. Megatron not being over johnson is a joke.

        • Sppash101

          Why is that a joke? Calvin Johnson had no impact towards the Lions winning any games. That is the reason he rated so low. Not to mention all the lions do is throw the ball. Andre Johnson on the other hand was the reason Houston won several of there OT games, and was the second option in the offense. First being the running game. Saying that Calvin Johnson over Andre Johnson just because he has more yards is a joke, is an ignorant football fan. If that’s the case where is Arian Foster on the list? Where is D. Ware? Where is Matthew Stafford? Where is Tony Romo? If you don’t understand the point of PFF don’t dog it. It is not about stats it about the player who changed the game

          • Brian Warren

            So you not responding to the AR and peyton manning part? I mean you basically just listed every reason why AR is over Peyton. Ignorant football fan okay the lions may have lost a bunch of games but it was to no lack of effort on Calvin Johnson part. The lions lost games in spite of Calvin Johnson who is the only weapon on his team . Is always double covered and every one knows he is getting the ball. Seems a little tougher and more of a indication of his value. So Andre Johnson is better because he was able to thrive as the second option attack on the team? Calvin Johnson had no impact for the lions winning there games okay. lets remove Calvin Johnson from Detroit and remove Andre johnson from HOU who is the bigger loss in value to the overall team? You are stating as if since the lions didn’t win many games that Johnson is somehow responsible and at fault and thus loses points. Is that what your saying? Also FTR the lions had a lot of bad losses that were there’s to win. You want to call me ignorant? It goes to show how valuable your opnion is when the first thing you post (- the fact you only responded to half of it) is put downs?

          • Abouthat

            Calvin Johnson was targeted 199 times, says the stat. Last year’s Lions threw the ball more than any other offense (I think more than any offense in history, but don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure), so the passing numbers are inflated for both Stafford and Johnson. Also if you look at the case they make for AR, they even say that he created problems in terms of pressure. If he maneuvered himself into the rush or was otherwise responsible for his own sack, he would lose points. Peyton, however, is an expert in the pocket and hardly, if ever, is at fault for pressure. This may account for part of why Manning is higher, even if the pure numbers support Rodgers.

          • Brian Warren

            Honestly to say Calvin Johnson had no impact in his team winning games is the stupidest thing i ever heard. So because a team game isn’t won by one person (which it wasn’t in A.johnson case) he loses points. Lol okay dude.

            Maybe you missed the part where JJ watt is #1

            I can’t wait to hear your same logic applied to the AR and Payton manning part. DEN had a pretty good def. the year before Manning and won a playoff game without him they did the same with him.

    • Logan

      JJ is good but not no#1 no sir

  • MachoMenos

    Finally, someone who recognizes Weddle for the stud he is. Thanks PFF!

  • CJ

    AR isn’t the highest paid player in the game (or 2nd or 3rd for that matter).

    But it’s a minor quibble.

  • C’mon Man!

    Straight up Joke. Andre Johnson, who barely played at all last season is above Aaron Rodgers? Cool, very cool.

  • rwiggins10

    Where is Arian Foster???? Seems he did pretty well considering the Texan’s “O” line was in constant flux last season, especially on the right side.

  • TJmosley

    I think Tom Brady needs to be a lot higher kidding me?