PFF’s Top 101 of 2014: 20 to 11

Things get interesting as we enter the Top 20 of the PFF Top 101 -- seven offensive players, a stud cornerback and a pair of interior defenders get recognized.

| 2 years ago

PFF’s Top 101 of 2014: 20 to 11


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.

 Links to the rest of the series as they are posted:
101–91  |  90–81  |  80-71  |  70–61  |  60–51
50–41  |  40–31  |  30–21  |  20–11  |  10–1

20. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns

A couple of shaky games aside (by his standards), Thomas was at his imperious best. The picture of consistency since entering the league, he graded positively in all but three games. As ever, with Thomas it’s his pass protection that really stands out, but there’s no denying that the introduction of Kyle Shanahan got him in a run blocking scheme that really played to his strengths.

Best Performance: Week 10, CLV @ CIN, +4.9

Key Stat: Graded positively in pass protection in all but one game.

19. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

His season ended on a downer with the catch that never was, but Bryant shouldn’t be disheartened with his career year. During the second half of the season especially he was near unstoppable. just because the playoffs didn’t go as he might hoped shouldn’t take away from that. A threat all over the field he made many a Sunday tough for a defensive back.

Best Performance: Week 10, DAL @ JAX, +4.0

Key Stat: Bryant had 15 catches on balls that went over 20 yards in the air, a total that had him third among all wide receivers.

18. Aaron Donald, ID, St. Louis Rams

What a rookie year! Donald didn’t start until Week 6 but still managed to not only log 724 snaps but also earn the highest grade of any defensive tackle. That was the level of dominance the former Pittsburgh Panther produced. There was a feeling he was too small heading out of college but his ability to penetrate made him more than just a situational player, with him earning marks in run defense comparable to his excellent work pass rushing.

Best Performance: Week 10, SL @ ARZ, +5.7

Key Stat: Finished in the Top 10 in both Run Stop Percentage and Pass Rushing Productivity.

17. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Sherman pushed himself into a Top 20 spot with a fantastic postseason for the second year running. A cornerback who has cultivated a fear in quarterbacks, scared to go near him for fear of the consequences, there were only two games all season where he earned a -1.0 or worse grade in coverage. When you are as verbally active as Sherman you need to back it up on the field, and once again he has.

Best Performance: Week 9, OAK @ SEA, +5.3

Key Stat: Targeted just once for every 17.8 snaps in coverage, the second-highest number of any cornerback with at least 200 coverage snaps.

16. Andrew Whitworth, LT, Cincinnati Bengals

How flawless was Whitworth in pass protection? He didn’t grade negatively once all year in this regard and had an incredible 10 games where he didn’t give up any pressure at all. Thats remarkable even when you consider the help the Bengals scheme provides in getting rid of the ball quickly. Throw in some excellent run blocking and it’s amazing Whitworth isn’t more highly regarded around the league.

Best Performance: Week 13, CIN @ TB, +5.1

Key Stat: Gave up just nine QB disruptions all year which was the lowest of any tackle to start at least 10 games.

15. Sheldon Richardson, ID, New York Jets

Richardson had a fantastic rookie year, but he didn’t do enough rushing the passer to convince of his elite merits. Well, his sophomore season was something different, where he was fantastic rushing the passer. His +24.7 grade was second best of all 3-4 defensive ends and, coupled with his outstanding run defense, propelled him to a comfortable second overall grade of all interior defenders. There are no doubts about Richardson now.

Best Performance: Week 14, NYJ @ MIN, +6.6

Key Stat: Graded positively in all but one contest, and never graded worse than a -1.0 in any facet of the game.

14. Jason Peters, LT, Philadelphia Eagles

This was always on the cards the way Peters finished the 2013 season. A fantastic pass blocker (just one game graded negatively in this regard all year) who allowed one or fewer pressures in eight games, it’s his run blocking that sets him apart from other tackles. He’s more active and more dominant than his peers with a rare capability to get an in-game highlight reel with his excellence.

Best Performance: Week 9, PHI @ HST, +6.0

Key Stat: Had the highest run blocking grade of all left tackles.

13. Odell Beckham Jr, WR, New York Giants

Incredible rookie season for a guy who didn’t play in the first four weeks of the year. Beckham quickly made his presence felt causing Atlanta plenty of problems, but it wasn’t until Week 12 where he really hit his stride. Then, spurred on by a catch that will live long in the memory of all who saw it, he was as good as any receiver and well worthy of all the praise that came his way.

Best Performance: Week 15, WAS @ NYG, +4.4

Key Stat: His 2.74 Yards Per Route Run were the fourth-most of any wide receiver.

12. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell showed flashes as a rookie to suggest big things were to come, and he duly ensured that 2014 was the year it happened. Missing the playoffs was a big blow for the Steelers given the ability of Bell to pick up yards on the ground or in the air. A true feature back who can work on every down, Bell can be regarded as one of the top tier backs in the league now.

Best Performance: Week 11, PIT @ TEN, +5.2

Key Stat: In addition to owning the fourth-best rushing grade, had the best receiving grade of all running backs.

11. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Is there a tight end more important to their team? In a word, no. Gronkowski got healthier and the Patriots got better and that’s no coincidence. His blocking wasn’t at the level we know he’s capable of, but his work in the passing game was as good as it gets at his position. A knack for picking up yards and touchdowns, he can break through tackles or simply drag defenders for yards down the field. A fantastic year from the league’s best tight end.

Best Performance: Week 8, CHI @ NE, +6.4

Key Stat: Led all tight ends with a 2.44 Yards Per Route Run number.


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  • Jason Williams

    how many patriots had their best game against the bears? good grief.

    • Chris

      All of them.

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    • Packers86

      Well bears were basically a division 3 high-school team last season lol.

  • Malachi

    nice, means my boys chris harris jr and von miller are top 10, and deservedly so

    • Chris

      Chris Harris = too good

    • anon76returns

      Von did have the 2nd highest PFF grade in the league (playoffs included). Don’t know if they’ll rank him #2 or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
      CHJ was the #1 CB in regular season, but V Davis’ excellent games against Broncos & Cincy and decent game @ NE might put him in the lead for DBs.

      • Malachi

        i feel ya, hoping that CHJ’s slot versatility gives him the nod. doesn’t really make a difference tho, both guys were great.

  • Malachi

    i’ve seen andrew whitworth in oklhoma drills at bengals training camp, the man is a wall, literally blocks everything including the sun

    • Chris

      Nice to see him finish ahead of Thomas. Damn Peters and his run blocking – Whit is the best pass blocking table in the league. And he’s like 96.

  • Jesse Kessler

    This must mean that the Seahawks have three players in the top 10. RW3, Beast Mode and BamBamKam!

    • Malachi

      only beastmode tho

    • 49ers>Sea Chokes

      LOL RW3 overrated trash, but the other two I agree

  • Cover2coach

    Luke Kuechly and Vonte Davis in the top 10?? … I’m cool with that.

  • Dildo Baggins

    My guess at the top 10:
    1. JJ Watt
    2. Marshawn Lynch
    3. Aaron Rodgers
    4. Chris Harris Jr
    5. Justin Houston
    6 Von Miller
    7. Marshall Yanda
    8.Luke Kuechly
    9. Antonio Brown
    10. Vontae Davis

  • Name

    No Trent Williams? For shame, PFF.

  • Meat_Tuperelo

    This list is comical…

  • frank mckenney

    Is strength of schedule considered? Doesn’t look like it. I wonder about a measurement system that doesn’t reflect a teams success. If a team is incredibly successful but isn’t represented in individual stats what does that mean? I suspect that football focus has a long way to go to properly reflect performance to team success. The object of the game is to win…j j watt didn’t mean anything to the Texans playoff performance and should not have been considered…sorry. As a Seahawks fan I could have imagined R Wilson in the top 100, and his total exclusion after two consecutive Superbowl appearances is a reflection on the process…this site needs some serious reflection.

    • 49ers>Sea-chokes

      If Peyton Manning doesn’t make this list, than the bum Wilson who threw the dumbest INT in Super History shouldn’t make it.

  • brian lofland

    i bet Whitworth is left off the players top 100 list of nfl network yet again this year, truly a sad thing how underrated/overlooked he is