NFL News & Analysis

PFF All-Decade Top 101: The best NFL players from the 2010s

PFF brought you our All-Decade Team earlier in the offseason, but what’s the point in grading every player on every play of the decade if we don’t go any deeper? As we do each season, we’re going to extend our evaluation to the PFF Top 101, this time bringing you the 101 best players from the entire decade of NFL play.

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Like all other PFF Top 101s, this list isn’t an evaluation of talent, but rather of production, efficiency and performance over a specific time period — in this case, the entire decade. Because the time period is far larger this time, we should get far closer to evaluating talent by proxy than in a list that focuses just on a single season, but it’s still a distinction worth thinking about.

This list includes the playoffs, so players with legendary postseason runs will see their stock rise compared to those who have faltered or never made it past the regular season.

Playing time was factored into the decisions, too; somebody who played twice as much within the decade was given some level of preference over players who played only a few seasons in the 2010s.

The list is also created with an “all positions created equal” mentality. The best guard or safety has just as much a chance of topping the list as the best quarterback or sack artist. 

Lastly, just like any other All-Decade evaluation, there will be players whose careers get trapped between decades and therefore appear lower on this list than they might if their entire careers had been captured.

1. QB Tom Brady

Arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen is also the best player of the 2010s. Brady owns the highest single-season grade PFF has ever given to a quarterback for his 2016 season, and his four-year stretch of play from 2015-18 was the greatest four-year run of play we have seen at the position. Brady defines clutch — in the fourth quarter and overtime, he still has the highest PFF grade of the decade. Brady’s ability to come up big and make huge plays in key moments has been incredible, but doing it all without making many mistakes is what truly makes him special. For the entire decade, he had just 124 turnover-worthy plays on 6,151 regular-season pass attempts, and his regular-season turnover-worthy play rate of 2.0% comfortably ranks first among the 79 quarterbacks who threw at least 500 passes from 2010-19.

Lowest turnover-worthy play rates since 2010 (min. 500 attempts, regular season only)
Rank  Name ATT TWP TWP %
1 Tom Brady 6,151 124 2.0%
2 Aaron Rodgers 5,296 129 2.4%
3 Alex Smith 3,974 101 2.5%
4 Tyrod Taylor 1,453 40 2.8%
5 Donovan McNabb 658 19 2.9%
5 Matt Ryan 6,288 183 2.9%

2. DI Aaron Donald

No matter how good you think Aaron Donald is, you’re likely underselling it. And only the fact that he entered the league in 2014 is keeping him from being the top spot on the entire list. Donald has been utterly peerless since his second season and redefined what we thought possible — he owns all five of the highest single-season pass-rush grades since PFF has been grading and by far the highest pressure rate and pass-rush win rate of any interior defender over the decade. He is one of only two players ever to amass more than 100 total pressures over a season, and every time you run pass-rushing numbers, he exists on his own anomalous island of data. Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL and the second-best player over the entire decade.

Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates after a touchdown run by running back Alvin Kamara (not pictured) during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings of an NFC Wild Card playoff football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Credit: Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

3. QB Drew Brees

Drew Brees has been the most accurate passer in league history and is closing in on being the most prolific in pretty much every passing category. Brees owns two of the top three seasons in the decade in terms of adjusted completion rate, and for the decade as a whole is more than two percentage points clear of the field. Brees had three seasons in the decade with a PFF grade above 90.0 and two more above 89.0. He has been a model of consistency and production despite rarely having consistent receivers or the depth of some of the other top quarterbacks.

4. CB Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman timed his entry into the league perfectly for an All-Decade Team, and he has been the best cornerback in the game consistently over that time. Only two corners over the past 10 years have allowed a completion rate under 50% — Sherman (49.6%) and Darrelle Revis (49.8%). Sherman also allowed the lowest yardage per snap in coverage (0.80) in the league and the lowest passer rating when targeted (54.0). He was, to put it simply, the hardest cornerback in football to complete passes on over the past decade. We can quibble as to how easy his job was versus that of players like Revis or others, but there is no denying that he has been completely peerless in the role he has been in.

5. TE Rob Gronkowski

There have been few more dominant players in the league, at any position, than Rob Gronkowski has been over his NFL career. Last season, George Kittle topped Gronk for the best single-season PFF grade we have ever given to a tight end, but Gronk owns the next seven highest marks, with every season of his career other than his first and final ranking inside the best eight seasons we have ever graded. Gronk was as good as blocking specialists when it came to blocking, and he was better than receiving specialists in the passing game. He was the decade’s ultimate matchup problem on offense and a big reason behind New England’s Super Bowl successes.

6. QB Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers may be on something of a hot seat now, but there was a time when he was the Patrick Mahomes of the NFL and spoken of as the greatest talent the game and position has ever seen. From the tail end of the 2010 season through the following year, there may not have been another quarterback who could hit such heights, and the best of Rodgers was a phenomenal peak of quarterback play. What holds him back from the very top of this list is that he just couldn’t sustain that level, and over the past few seasons has sunk deeper and deeper into a rut of some bad habits. Rodgers remains a very good NFL quarterback, but he was peerless at his best, and that’s what his position on this list is drawing from.

7. Edge Von Miller

There has been no better pure pass-rusher of the decade than Von Miller, who hit the ground running as a rookie and posted eight consecutive seasons with a PFF grade north of 90.0 to begin his career. He has 40 more total pressures than any other pass-rusher over the decade and the best pass-rush win rate and pressure rate of any edge rusher. When the Broncos won their Super Bowl, Miller was arguably the single-biggest differentiator between the two teams. And in that game, he had a PFF grade of 94.7, pressuring Cam Newton eight times, sacking him three times, forcing two fumbles and recording a pass breakup. Miller has been the standard by which all other edge rushers have been measured since he entered the NFL.

8. WR Julio Jones

Julio Jones is the most productive and efficient receiver that PFF has seen since we have been grading. Over the decade, he leads the league in yards per route run (2.69), a statistical category he led the league in for four straight seasons, and he has ranked inside the top five for six seasons running. Jones also has 47 more explosive receiving plays (plays of 15-plus yards) than any other receiver over the decade and has a mind-blowing 12,125 yards over that time. Jones is one of the most physically dominant receivers in NFL history, being too big, strong, fast and athletic for most defenders to live with.

Jan 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card NFL Playoff game at NRG Stadium. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

9. DI/Edge J.J. Watt

Before Aaron Donald came on the scene, J.J. Watt was the most destructive defensive force PFF had ever graded in the NFL. Injuries derailed his career, but even with those speed bumps, Watt’s peak is unlike anything we have ever seen. Watt still owns the PFF record for total pressures in a season, with an absurd 119 in 2014 — 13 more pressures than any other defender has managed in a single season. Watt had a four-season run with PFF grades of at least 91.4, averaging 93 total pressures per year in that time, a figure which led the league in 2019. J.J. Watt’s best play is as good as anything the league has seen.

10. LB Luke Kuechly

PFF’s work deals a lot in percentiles, ranking players against the rest of their peers according to what percentage of them they are above or better than. For his career, Luke Kuechly effectively became the 100th percentile. He had a run of five seasons with an overall PFF grade above 90.0, and his 2015 season is the highest single-season grade PFF gave to a linebacker over the decade. For his career, Kuechly allowed a passer rating of just 86.0 when targeted in coverage, around 20 points lower than the average pass that targets a linebacker.

11. T Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas is unquestionably one of the best players in NFL history; he was the gold standard for pass protection from the moment he entered the NFL. For the decade, only Andrew Whitworth surrendered pressure at a lower rate than Thomas (3.9%), and Whitworth was often far more protected within his offense in Cincinnati than Thomas was in Cleveland, where he blocked for a succession of quarterbacks who made his life tougher by holding onto the ball longer than they should. Thomas had three straight seasons in the decade with a PFF grade above 90.0 and will be Canton-bound before long.

12. CB Chris Harris Jr.

Chris Harris Jr.’s career has been a remarkable thing to behold. An undrafted player out of Kansas, Harris forced his way onto the team as a nickel corner, played so well he earned snaps outside in base and then so well at that that he became a true No.1 cornerback who didn’t even play in the slot anymore. Harris has been targeted over 600 times in the decade, and yet surrendered just 6.3 yards per reception. Over the course of the 2010s, only Richard Sherman allowed fewer receiving yards per snap in coverage than the 0.89 Chris Harris did, and nobody did it with a more varied role within his defense or a tougher path to success than hitting the league as an undrafted free agent.

13. WR Antonio Brown

The last year or so of drama and controversy has left Brown out in the wilderness, but while he was playing, he was as productive as any receiver in football. Only Julio Jones has a higher yards per route run figure than Brown’s 2.46 over the decade, and he has the fourth-lowest drop rate over that time at just 4.1%. Brown is one of just three players to amass over 10,000 receiving yards over the decade, and he has at least 14 more touchdowns than either of the other players to break that barrier (Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald). Antonio Brown right now is an NFL pariah, but he was one of the best receivers the game had ever seen when he was on the field.

14. G Evan Mathis

Everybody wants to see Quenton Nelson-style crushing blocks on the offensive line, but the majority of plays are much more subtle wins and losses than that. Are you moving your man out of the intended point of attack, or are you allowing him to stand you up, squeeze or block it in some way? Evan Mathis won those little battles at a greater rate than any offensive linemen we’ve seen and just rarely lost.His highlight reel may have been less impressive than others, but the little plays added up to something truly impressive. Mathis had six consecutive seasons with a PFF grade above 90.0 and owns five of the six highest grades we gave to guards over the decade.

15. S Eric Weddle

The best — and most consistent — safety over the past decade, Eric Weddle retired after last season after never earning a season grade as low as even average. At a position where consistency is incredibly hard to maintain, Weddle was phenomenal year after year in every facet of play. Weddle was a modern-day prototype safety who could do everything that was asked of him at an extremely high level, and he showed later in his career that he could do exactly the same thing in a new team with new requirements. Weddle had three seasons this decade that earned an overall PFF grade above 90.0.

16. WR Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson walked away from the game at the height of his powers, and only that held him back from the very top of this list. He left on the back of five straight seasons with a PFF grade of 88.0 or higher, and over the six seasons he played within the decade, he never had a grade lower than 83.0. He scored a touchdown on almost 7% of targets, the third-highest rate of any receiver with 800 or more targets over the decade. Calvin Johnson was one of the most physically imposing receivers ever to play the game and was virtually unstoppable at his best. Even though he played just 60% of the decade, he was one of the best 20 players to feature in it.

Nov 24, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) warms up prior to the game against the New York Giants at Soldier Field. Credit: Kena Krutsinger-USA TODAY Sports

17. Edge Khalil Mack

In his first year in the league, Khalil Mack was already one of the best run-defending edge rushers in football; by Year 2, he had become an elite pass-rusher; and in his third season, he became a game-changing wrecking machine. Four of his six seasons in the NFL have earned an overall PFF grade above 90.0, and he has never had a grade lower than 86.0. Only coming into the league in 2014 worked against Mack, who has been among the very best players at any position since he came into the NFL.

18. QB Peyton Manning

Obviously, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, but he was drafted in 1998, so the past decade captures only the last part of his career. Still, that was good enough to propel him into the top 20 of this list. Manning’s late-career revival in Denver was a remarkable thing to watch. Fresh off a neck injury that threatened to end his career, Manning retaught himself how to play the game within his new physical limitations and then put up back to back seasons with a PFF grade above 90.0, including the greatest statistical season of his career with 55 touchdown passes and almost 5,500 yards. Manning eventually grabbed a second Super Bowl ring, but his play in the years before that was what propelled him up this list.

19. T Jason Peters

Joe Thomas is a Hall of Fame tackle and one of the best players to ever suit up at the position, and it speaks to how good Jason Peters has been in his career that he has been right there with him for pretty much the entirety of the decade. Peters had three straight seasons with an overall PFF grade above 90.0 earlier in the decade and a top-10 pressure rate surrendered over that time (4.7%). Like Whitworth, Peters has also performed well deep into his 30s, though the age appears to have taken a toll on his durability more than it has for Whitworth, with Peters missing time in each of the last few seasons.

20. S Earl Thomas III

Few players have come to represent a prototype at a position quite like Earl Thomas, and he was arguably the single most important player in Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense. Thomas had the range to play the deep middle of the field like few other players, and he had the speed and reactions that allowed him to do it closer to the line of scrimmage than other players at that position, helping him to make far more plays than others. Thomas has three seasons in the last decade with overall PFF grades above 90.0 and one more at 87.3.

21. T Andrew Whitworth

It seems hard to believe now, but Andrew Whitworth was originally drafted as a guard because it seemed like he wasn’t a good enough athlete to hold up at tackle in the NFL. More than a decade later, he wasn’t just able to hold up but was one of the best linemen of his generation. For the decade, Whitworth allowed the lowest rate of pressure of any offensive tackle (3.7%) — just ahead of Joe Thomas (3.9%) — and was a huge part of a complete resurgence in fortunes with the Rams when he arrived as a free agent. Whitworth is now 38 years old and is still playing well, especially as a pass-blocker.

Oct 15, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) looks on following the game against Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

22. S Harrison Smith

Coverage is one of the most inconsistent grading elements PFF looks at; it is, by definition, dependent on the opposition more than most areas, and consistently grading well on the back end is incredibly hard to do. Harrison Smith hasn’t had a healthy season result in a grade lower than 75.0 overall, and he has four seasons above 85.0 overall. Smith has been a do-it-all safety for the Minnesota Vikings and has been equally comfortable in deep center field as he is in the box or covering the slot, whether that be against backs, tight ends or even wideouts. At his best, Smith has been the best safety in the league, and the fulcrum that allows Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme to function.

23. CB Darrelle Revis

Darrelle Revis is one of the greatest cornerbacks the league has ever seen. And while his 2009 season is still the greatest coverage season PFF has ever witnessed, that season doesn’t make it into the evaluation for this past decade. This decade features what most people would think of as Revis’ more disappointing play or his “mercenary years” in the league. Wandering from team to team for the best payday he could find, Revis found himself in situations that weren’t nearly as good for him as his first stint with the Jets. Nevertheless, it shows just how good he was that — even with those years rolled up — his play results in a PFF grade that puts him among the best players of the decade. Only Revis and Richard Sherman allowed a completion rate under 50% for the decade.

24. CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Hayward just outperformed expectations from Day 1 in the NFL. His rookie season was one of the greatest statistical performances we have ever seen from a corner covering the slot, and he only got better as his play earned him a greater role within defenses and, ultimately, a job with the Chargers as a No. 1 corner. For the decade, he has the highest forced incompletion rate of any cornerback (18.6%) and has been one of the most underrated coverage players of his generation. Hayward doesn’t get remembered as a shutdown corner along with the biggest names at the position, but he should.

25. G Marshal Yanda

One of the greatest offensive linemen of his generation retired this offseason and brought to a close what should be a Hall of Fame career. Every season of his career saw him earn a PFF grade of at least 80.0, and he broke the 90.0 barrier twice over the decade. Yanda was flagged for just two penalties in the last four years and was beaten for only two sacks in the past five. He is one of the best offensive linemen ever to play the game.

26. S Devin McCourty

After starting the decade as a promising young cornerback, McCourty transitioned to safety in 2012 and ended up becoming one of the league’s best players at the position. He’s played over 1,000 snaps in every season of his career, including the playoffs, and his solid all-around playing style has meshed perfectly in New England’s defensive scheme. He’s become one of the faces of the second part of the Patriots’ dynasty; he has missed only 71 tackles on 896 career attempts and annually ranks among the best safeties when it comes to avoiding negatively graded plays. McCourty ranks in the 90th percentile in coverage grade among safeties this past decade, and he’s in the 94th percentile when lined up at free safety. He plays the Patriots’ ever-changing scheme to perfection.

Sep 8, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley (74) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY

27. T Joe Staley

One of the most consistent tackles in the game over an extended period of time, Joe Staley is set to retire as one of the very best players of the decade. Staley’s 93.1 run-blocking grade since 2010 is the highest of any tackle, and only Joe Thomas and Jason Peters earned higher PFF grades overall. Staley missed out on a Super Bowl ring, but in the two Super Bowls he featured in, he didn’t surrender a single pressure despite going up against some top-level competition.

28. LB Patrick Willis

Patrick Willis is a classic example of a player whose NFL career crossed two decades yet was still more than dominant enough to be ranked among the best in the league, despite the fairly small sample size. Walking away from the game relatively early doesn’t help that sample size problem, but Willis at his best was the best linebacker in football. He began his career with seven consecutive PFF grades above 86.0. For the first four years of the decade, he didn’t earn a grade lower than 88.7, and he broke the 90.0 barrier twice in that span.

29. RB Marshawn Lynch

No running back was harder to take down over the last decade than Marshawn Lynch was. Lynch didn’t just lead the decade in broken tackles (403 on 1,803 regular-season carries), but he also stepped up his game in the playoffs, breaking 75 tackles on just 211 postseason attempts. Adding in receptions gives him an absurd total of 538 broken tackles over 10 years of play, the last two of which saw him play in relatively limited roles. Lynch’s legacy is tied to that of the great Seattle Seahawks teams early in the decade. He was a vital part of their success and a key reason they won games.

30. WR DeAndre Hopkins

The things DeAndre Hopkins has been able to do with wretched quarterback play for the majority of his NFL career is scarcely believable. Despite seeing one of the highest percentage of contested targets over his career, Hopkins has dropped just 26 passes on over 1,000 targets. He's arguably had the second-best hands of the decade after only Larry Fitzgerald, and while he may not have the same speed as some of the other receivers on this list, he has been well able to match them in spite of that.

31. DI Geno Atkins

No interior defender notched more total pressures over the past decade than Geno Atkins, who pressured the quarterback 577 times across 10 seasons. In fact, he finished the decade with 68 more pressures than any other interior pass-rusher, which, as a figure in itself, would have ranked second only to Aaron Donald in 2019. Atkins also owns one of the best single seasons we have ever seen from a defensive tackle, back when he posted a grade of 93.9 in 2012. Atkins graded above 90.0 three times in the decade and has been a consistently dominant force as a pass-rusher.

32. QB Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan represents an interesting study in a player who will likely never be the best passer in the NFL but rarely strays far from the top few. Ryan has yet to grade below 75.0, and his MVP-caliber season of 2016 was one of the best single-season grades we have ever given. Over the decade, he had a top-five turnover-worthy play rate and a very solid 4.6% big-time throw rate. He has also been consistently one of the most accurate quarterbacks in football, posting an adjusted completion percentage of 76.1% over the last 10 years.

33. QB Russell Wilson

Somehow, Russell Wilson has never earned an MVP vote since he has been in the league, and yet few quarterbacks have achieved more with as many things working against them (at least on the offensive side of the ball). Only Patrick Mahomes has a higher big-time throw rate than Wilson over the past decade, and obviously, Mahomes has only had to do it for a little over two seasons. Wilson has an incredible ability to make big plays without having a high rate of errors to offset those, and he brings a threat with his legs that few other quarterbacks have. He has been one of the most valuable players in the game over any span of time and one of the best quarterbacks in football.

34. C Travis Frederick

It’s a shame that illness curtailed a career that was trending towards being one of the greatest in NFL history. Frederick hit the ground running as a pro and graded above 85.0 for the first five seasons of his career before Guillain-Barre syndrome forced him to miss the entirety of the 2018 season. He returned in 2019 and played the whole season, but he wasn’t the same player (though he was still very solid), so he chose to walk away. Even five years of Frederick’s best play is enough to see him rank among the best players of the past decade.

35. RB Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is one of the most dominant ball carriers the game has ever seen. For him to rank this highly despite being such a limited factor on passing downs just speaks to how devastating he was with the ball in his hands. Peterson’s MVP season of 2012 was the highest single-season grade we ever gave to a running back over the decade. In over 10 years of action, he gained more than 6,000 rushing yards after contact, breaking 364 total tackles over the regular season.

36. C Chris Myers

Chris Myers is likely one of the least-known players on this list, on account of firstly playing center and secondly retiring in 2015, but for a while, he was the gold standard when it came to zone-blocking centers in the NFL. Myers owns two of the top five single-season grades PFF gave to centers over the past decade despite only playing in 50% of it, and three of his five seasons earned an overall grade above 90.0. Myers was one of the best offensive linemen of his generation but never got the recognition as such because he was originally a sixth-round draft pick and not a first-round superstar from the outset.

Sep 15, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

37. QB Ben Roethlisberger

At his best, Ben Roethlisberger was up there with the very best quarterbacks in football, but his ability to consistently be in the “next group” of passers even when he wasn’t at his very best is what’s kept him this high on the list and kept the Steelers contending for so many years. He went six straight seasons with an overall PFF grade above 80.0, and it wasn’t until last year’s cameo performance — before an injury ended his season — that we saw him post a grade lower than 75.0.

38. WR A.J. Green

If you set the threshold high enough, only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown gained more yards per route run than A.J. Green did over the past decade (2.39). That’s about the best way of summing up Green’s decade, as being right there with the very best — and most productive — receivers in football. We were robbed of a whole season-plus of his play due to injury over the past couple of years, but Green has been one of the toughest covers for defenses since he entered the NFL.

39. LB Bobby Wagner

Bobby Wagner’s peak is as good as that of any linebacker in NFL history. In 2017, he earned PFF grades above 90.0 (the elite range) in every facet of play PFF measures, and the following season only a pass-rush grade of 86.7 prevented him from repeating the achievement. For his career, he has excellent grades in every area of the game and has been a plus coverage defender in a time where that has never been more important. Wagner also got better as the defense around was dismantled from its halcyon Legion of Boom days.

40. WR Mike Evans

Somehow Mike Evans seems constantly underrated as a player, even though he has now begun his career with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, six consecutive seasons with at least 65 catches and a tally of 48 touchdowns over those six years. Evans just consistently produces, particularly on deep targets. He has earned an overall PFF grade of at least 79.3 every year of his career and looks like working his way further and further up the list of all-time great receivers the longer his career goes on.

41. EDGE Cameron Wake

Cameron Wake’s NFL beginnings seem hard to believe, given what he became —  one of the top pure pass-rushers of his generation. Only Von Miller has a higher PFF pass-rush grade than Wake among edge rushers over the past decade, and only Miller surpassed the 600 total pressures that Wake amassed to go with his incredibly impressive 16.5% pressure rate. Wake was one of the most devastating speed-rushers the league has ever seen, and because his NFL career took some time to get going, the decade captured pretty much the entirety of his elite-level play.

42. EDGE Brandon Graham

Perennially underrated because he doesn’t generate the same sack totals as some of the other pass-rushers in football, Brandon Graham has nevertheless pressured the quarterback like few other players over the past decade. He owns two of the top three pass-rush win rates of the decade, and only two edge rushers have a higher pressure rate over the past 10 years. Graham has always been the poster child for pressure mattering in and of itself, even if it comes with a lower rate of sacks than other players, and the Philadelphia Eagles have been a far better team for embracing that dynamic.

43. T Tyron Smith

One of the most talented offensive linemen of all time, Tyron Smith has battled through injuries and still ended up as one of the best players of the decade. His peak play was as good as that of any tackle in NFL history. His 2015 regular season grade of 95.0 is the best single-season mark we have ever given to a tackle, and even though he suffered a number of injuries over the second half of the decade, he has never graded below 75.0 overall. Tyron Smith is the player every young offensive lineman wishes he could be — he has been one of the best players of the past decade in the trenches.

44. C Alex Mack

Few players have had a career so consistently good as Alex Mack. A first-round draft pick out of Cal back in 2009, Mack then posted 11 straight seasons of good PFF grades. At his peak, however, he was arguably the best center in the NFL. While some players have had better or even longer peaks, Mack’s consistency and reliability earn significant points here. Including postseason play, he has played 10,153 snaps over the decade, been flagged just 44 times and surrendered only 26 sacks while never earning even an “average” grade in any facet of the game PFF measures.

45. DI Fletcher Cox

It took him a few seasons to discover his best play, but since 2015, he has been the best interior defensive lineman in football not named Aaron Donald. Cox is the best power pass-rusher in football, with strength even dominant offensive linemen just can’t match up with. Since that 2015 season, he is second only to Donald in total pressures as a pass-rusher. His 2018 season is one of the best single-seasons we have ever seen from an interior rusher — it was just barely noticed because Donald had an even better one.

Nov 17, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Justin Houston (99) celebrates after a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

46. EDGE Justin Houston

Injuries somewhat derailed Houston’s career, and that had an impact on the player he could have become. Still, at his peak, he was a legitimate rival for the best pass-rushers in the NFL and was more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Von Miller in the AFC West. Over a three-year span in the middle of the decade, Houston topped 90.0 in overall PFF grade every season, and he came within a sack of breaking the all-time single-season record in 2014. Houston wasn’t the same player after injuries started to take their toll, but last season a reduced role in Indianapolis saw him have his most productive pass-rushing season in years (60 pressures) and his best overall PFF grade (87.2) since 2015.

47. WR Larry Fitzgerald

Few players in NFL history can even argue that they have better hands than Larry Fitzgerald. Over the entire decade, he had just 27 dropped passes from 1,347 targets, and he recorded more than 10,000 receiving yards despite regularly suffering substandard quarterback play. But for a brief respite from Carson Palmer in the middle of the decade, Fitzgerald has had precious little help from his quarterbacks over the past 10 years, yet he still produced with the best receivers in the game and even transitioned to the slot and back without even a hiccup in his game. Even with the decade capturing just the second half of his career, he still ranks as one of the best players of the past 10 years.

48. DI/EDGE Calais Campbell

Calais Campbell has earned an overall PFF grade above 90.0 four times in his career, and they have been the last four seasons. All of those years came after he turned 30 years old, and they have spanned multiple teams, defenses and even positions along the defensive line. For a while, Campbell was the best interior pass-rusher in football not named Aaron Donald, before moving outside and proving he could be an impact edge defender in Jacksonville. He is also one of the best run defenders in the game and has tallied at least 30 defensive stops every season of his career.

49. WR Andre Johnson

Andre Johnson was drafted in 2003 and retired after the 2016 season when he was three-quarters of the way through his tour of the AFC South. The decade doesn’t capture much of his best play, but so dominant was he at his best that the five years we have of that propels him into the top 50 on this list. Johnson caught 94.1% of catchable targets sent his way over the decade and was one of the most dominant and best-graded receivers in football before the likes of Julio Jones and Antonio Brown arrived on the scene. With an ever-more pass-heavy league, the wide receiver pantheon of greatness is getting crowded, but Andre Johnson deserves his spot there when all is said and done.

50. TE Travis Kelce

There is little doubt that Rob Gronkowski was the best tight end of the past decade — and one of the best of all time — but Travis Kelce has been the second-best for much of that time. Kelce earned a second-team nod on our All-Decade team; he has long been one of the best receiving weapons in the league and averages more than six yards after the catch per reception for his career, having broken 91 tackles across his six seasons. Kelce can run routes like a receiver and run away from defenders after the catch like few players the game has ever seen at that position. He has already displayed significantly more staying power than players like Jimmy Graham, whose time at the top is already looking substantially more like a flash in the pan.

51. G Zack Martin

One of the most consistently dominant linemen in the league every year, Zack Martin may have been the third-most-heralded lineman on his own offensive line for the better part of his career, often taking a backseat while Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick were heavily praised. However, the past few seasons have seen him elevate his game and earn far more recognition in his own right. Going up against — and largely shutting down — Fletcher Cox twice a season within the NFC East will help in that regard, and Martin has now earned an overall PFF grade above 85.0 in five of his first six seasons in the NFL.

Oct 6, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) prepares to snap the ball against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

52. C Jason Kelce

Jason Kelce was a sixth-round draft pick back in 2011, and though he played 1,000-plus snaps in his rookie year, he didn’t look likely to develop into the kind of dominant force he has since become. From that point onward, however, he cemented himself as one of the game’s best linemen and the standout run-blocking center in football over the past decade. Kelce’s speed and athleticism for the position have enabled him to make blocks that many centers just don’t have the skill set to execute. And while he can occasionally be overwhelmed by size and strength — particularly as a pass-protector — his down-to-down efficiency has been phenomenal.

53. CB Brent Grimes

He doesn’t get remembered among the game’s greats, but Brent Grimes was one of the best zone-coverage cornerbacks of the past decade and spent a career overcoming size disparities to the best receivers in the league. Grimes had four seasons in the decade with at least 11 pass breakups, and he allowed a passer rating of just 78.5 over the decade until he retired. Despite regularly having to deal with being physically outmatched, Grimes never resorted to penalties and was flagged only 24 times in his 12-year career.

54. CB Patrick Peterson

As a rarely gifted corner, Patrick Peterson was regularly given assignments that were much tougher than the ones most corners were given, which had the knock-on effect of dragging down his PFF grade compared to some players. Granted, there was also some ugly play in there, but for the entire decade, Peterson allowed just 55% of passes thrown his way to be caught, and he would regularly track receivers all over the field, including into the slot. In 2015, he had the best mark in the NFL in terms of yards surrendered per snap in coverage (0.58) and led the league in coverage snaps per reception allowed (19.5).

55. S Kam Chancellor

Kam Chancellor — along with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III — was instrumental in the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defense and the pivot league-wide away from Tampa 2-style coverages and toward those single-high looks that the Seahawks used so effectively. Chancellor was able to act as an auxiliary linebacker in the box and still give his team plus coverage play. His highlight reel of hits is something to behold, but his consistently impressive grades in both coverage and against the run is what made him such an impressive player for so long.

56. DI Damon Harrison Sr.

In a different era of the game, Damon Harrison would go down as one of the greatest players to ever play. In today’s NFL, he will be remembered as the best run defender of his era, at a time where the run game became progressively less important year by year. Harrison earned a PFF run-defense grade above 90.0 for five of his six first seasons as a starter, and he topped 40 run stops four consecutive seasons, a mark only a couple of other players have ever managed from the defensive line. Harrison was an immovable force against the run and changed the way teams attacked on the ground, but never managed more than 22 total pressures over a season, despite rushing the passer at least 300 times for three straight years.

57. LB NaVorro Bowman

The San Francisco 49ers had a remarkable run of drafting special linebackers only to see every one of them walk away from the game before their time. Bowman was a partner to Patrick Willis in the middle of the 49ers’ defense and was then briefly Willis’ successor before injuries forced him into a decline and ultimately to walk away. But he ranks this highly because of just how special his peak was. Over a three-year stretch to begin the decade, Bowman earned an overall PFF grade of at least 84.8, made more than 120 solo tackles (via PFF’s more accurate, retrospective count) and had 13 pass breakups and three picks. He was a dominant NFL inside linebacker and one of the best players in football.

Sep 23, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Duane Brown (76) blocks against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

58. T Duane Brown

A surprise first-round selection when he was drafted back in 2008, Duane Brown developed into one of the best left tackles of the decade and has now had the opportunity to show it in two different venues. The impact he made in 2017, when he was traded to Seattle, was remarkable. The upgrade to just that one spot on the Seahawks’ offensive line made a notable and significant difference to the pass-blocking prowess of the entire unit. Brown allowed only 26 sacks in 10 seasons as a starter throughout the decade.

59. T Trent Williams

Trent Williams took a season or so to get going in the NFL — his rookie year earned a PFF grade of just 63.4 — but once he was cooking, he quickly became one of the best linemen in the league. Since that rookie season, he hasn’t earned a grade lower than 75.0 and was above 80.0 for six straight seasons. His 2016 season was perhaps his best, surrendering just 16 total pressures over the season. Injuries have been the only blight on his career, but his on-field play has been exceptional, grading well consistently as both a run-blocker and pass-protector over the majority of the decade.

60. LB Derrick Johnson

A player who made our All-Decade team as a second-team linebacker, Johnson was one of the most versatile and consistently impressive defenders of the decade. He played in multiple different defensive schemes within the Kansas City Chiefs defense and was equally effective regardless of what he was asked to do. While his run defense began to suffer late in his career, his coverage remained a plus right up until he retired. He excelled at the area of the game most linebackers struggle with, and for his career allowed a passer rating of just 84.5 when targeted, around 20 points lower than the average among linebackers. Johnson was a difference-maker in the most important facet of the game.

61. WR Brandon Marshall

One of the most physically gifted receivers of his generation, Brandon Marshall’s best years came over the past decade. The player dubbed “baby T.O.” — in reference to Terrell Owens — shared many of the same characteristics. Like T.O., drops were always his biggest issue, and he accrued 84 of them over the nine years he played in the last decade. But he also broke 81 tackles and was one of the most physically imposing receivers in the league. Even late in his career, he was able to go toe-to-toe with physically dominant cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and catch almost 100 yards’ worth of passes and score a touchdown.

62. C Nick Mangold

Drafted in 2006, Nick Mangold’s career unfortunately almost exactly split two different decades, so we can only evaluate what came from 2010 onwards. That play was still good enough to see him force his way firmly onto the list and featured four seasons with a PFF grade of 84.6 or better. This decade may have missed the very best of Mangold’s career, and certainly doesn’t do justice to how dominant he was over such an extended period of time, but for him to be as high as he is on the list from effectively half his career says everything you need to know about one of the best offensive linemen of the past 20 years.

63. S Troy Polamalu

Polamalu hasn’t played since 2014, but he was right in the middle of his prime at the start of the decade. He was the epitome of a game-changing safety who could line up all over the field, play the run, rush the passer, drop into coverage and disguise his intentions as late as possible with an incredible feel for where he needed to be. Polamalu ranked ninth in the NFL in PFF grade in 2010 before ranking first in 2011, 10th in 2012 and seventh in 2013 before tapering off in his final season in 2014. Few safeties could impact the game at all levels of the field like Polamalu, making him a unique Hall of Fame-caliber player who was still among the league’s best at the start of the 2010s.

64. QB Philip Rivers

Rounding out the bottom half of the second-tier of quarterbacks, Rivers has had a few ups and downs throughout his career, but he had six top-10 finishes during the decade. Even when it doesn’t look pretty, Rivers has the anticipation and feel to mitigate a decrease in arm strength, and he remains productive at all levels of the field. Even more impressively, Rivers played behind one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines for the better part of the decade, yet he still stood in there and made big-time throws at a high level. The big criticism for Rivers is the lack of postseason success, but he’s one of the most underrated regular-season quarterbacks in NFL history and clearly one of the top eight signal-callers during the 2010s.

65. EDGE Cameron Jordan

One of the most underrated players in the league, Jordan has had an incredible career as an edge defender despite playing in a “tweener” body that many would have liked to see on the interior. Even at 287 pounds, Jordan challenges offensive tackles on the edge as a pass-rusher, grading at 82.0 or better in each of the last four seasons while annually ranking as one of the league’s best run defenders. The other impressive part of Jordan’s game is his durability, as he’s played at least 950 snaps every year since 2011 while playing over 1,000 five times when you include the playoffs.

Jan 19, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after beating the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

66. CB/S Tyrann Mathieu

In a league of versatile offensive players, Mathieu stands out as a hybrid answer to the many problems presented by opposing offenses. He is half safety and half slot cornerback, bringing a skill set that gives great flexibility to his defensive coordinators. Mathieu has been a playmaker since his days at LSU, and that has continued at the NFL level, where he has broken up 34 passes and picked off 17. At his peak, Mathieu is the perfect slot defender for today’s NFL, where he’s not only sound in coverage, but he also has three years with 80.0-plus grades as a run defender, allowing his defense to stop the run while maintaining coverage flexibility on the back end. His best season came in 2015, where his 90.7 PFF grade, seven pass breakups and five interceptions had Mathieu in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

67. LB Lavonte David

At his best, Lavonte David has been right up there with the very best linebackers in football, and he has played for the majority of the decade. However, a couple of average seasons in the middle of his career have pulled him a little bit down the list. Over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he earned PFF grades in the 60s and missed more than 30 tackles, but 2019 saw him return to his best play with a grade knocking on the door of the elite, blue-chip 90.0 barrier (89.2). David has speed, instincts and playmaking ability that puts him up there with the best defenders in the NFL on his day.

68. G Josh Sitton

Josh Sitton was unquestionably the best pass-blocking guard in the NFL throughout his career. He had multiple seasons in which he allowed single-digit total pressures, despite blocking for a quarterback who held the ball longer on average than almost any other. He went on a run of four straight seasons in the decade of posting a PFF pass-blocking grade above 90.0 and peaked in 2014 at an absurd 94.9, which remains the highest single-season pass-blocking grade we have given to any offensive lineman.

69. WR Jordy Nelson

During the peak years from Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback’s favorite target was none other than Jordy Nelson, and he had a run of phenomenal production right alongside Rodgers. From 2011 to 2016, there may not have been a more productive receiver in football. And while he may never have had the dominant physical tools of a Julio Jones, he was able to match him in production because of the connection with his quarterback. For his career, targeting Nelson yielded a passer rating of 116.7, and of his 887 targets in the decade, just 21 were intercepted.

70. G Brandon Brooks

Brandon Brooks has been one of the best and most underrated offensive linemen in the NFL since he entered the league. Last season, he won PFF’s Matthews Award given to the best offensive lineman in the league, and that marked the fifth season in which he has earned a PFF grade that ranked in the top-10 at his position. Brooks has been a powerful run-blocker throughout his career, but his pass protection has been staggeringly consistent. Only once has he surrendered more than one sack in a season, and he has been beaten for a sack just seven times in eight years.

71. DI Ndamukong Suh

One spot ahead of Gerald McCoy in the 2010 draft and one spot ahead of him in the All-Decade Top 101 list, Ndamukong Suh may never have quite become the player his pre-draft hype predicted, but he came pretty close. One of only two interior defenders to post 500-plus total pressures over the decade, Suh was a consistently disruptive force and one who transitioned into more of a run defender as his career progressed and his physical gifts began to decline. Still trucking as a useful member of a defensive rotation, Suh may not have been a truly generational talent, but has been a phenomenal NFL player.

Nov 24, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) gestures in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

72. DI Gerald McCoy

How fitting that Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy — forever compared as draft prospects — end up one after another on the PFF Top 101 of the decade. McCoy is one of just five interior defenders to have notched 400 or more total pressures over the decade and was regularly the lone threat along the Tampa Bay defensive line that seemed impressively unable to surround him with any kind of assistance. McCoy has been one of the most consistently disruptive defensive tackles of the last decade.

73. T Jordan Gross

Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season and now looks a far cry from one of the most dominant offensive linemen of his generation. Still, it speaks to his quality that just a few years from him to begin the decade was enough to see him rank this highly on the list. Gross had an overall PFF grade north of 75.0 every season we graded him, and actually signed off on top, with the second-best grade of his career. He was a stalwart at left tackle for the Panthers and a better player than his career accolades would suggest.

74. EDGE Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett, at his best, was a unique force along the defensive line. Ostensibly an edge rusher, he would spend considerable time inside as a defensive tackle and use his child-sized shoulder pads combined with his speed and quickness to knife through the defensive line and wreak havoc in the backfield. Only Von Miller and Cameron Wake had more total pressures over the decade than Bennett did, and no defensive lineman tackled the runner closer to the line of scrimmage on average than he did. For the decade, his average tackle depth was just half a yard downfield against the run.

75. WR Dez Bryant

Late-career Dez Bryant became solely a possession receiver, but he was a true game-changer at his peak and a worthy heir to Michael Irvin’s No. 88 jersey in Dallas. Only 40 wide receivers caught 400 or more passes over the course of the decade. Meanwhile, Bryant caught 359 passes that moved the chains alone. He also broke 87 tackles and was singularly difficult to bring to the ground one on one at his best. For his career, Bryant produced a 101.9 passer rating for his quarterbacks when targeted.

76. CB Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore always had supreme talent, but his career in Buffalo was one more of promise rather than every-down production. Bill Belichick and the Patriots realized what he could become and invested big money into him as a free agent. Since arriving in New England, Gilmore has been the best cornerback in the game and one of the most impressive shutdown corners in recent times. For his career, Gilmore has allowed 55% of passes thrown his way to be caught, but over the past two seasons that number has been well below 50% each year. In addition, he has 31 pass breakups to go along with his eight interceptions.

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks (12) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

77. WR Doug Baldwin

Doug Baldwin represented a movement in the NFL away from prototypical No. 1 receivers who played only on the outside and relied on size and athleticism to get their production. He became an incredibly prolific receiver, relying instead on route-running and the versatility to line up both outside and in the slot. In his entire career, he didn’t have a season grade below 70.0 and five of his eight seasons were above 80.0, not including a 79.9 mark in 2018. Baldwin was one of the most reliable receivers in the game, providing Russell Wilson a consistent place to go with the football when in doubt.

78. EDGE Tamba Hali

Before J.J. Watt came along, Tamba Hali owned the record for the most total pressures registered in a single season, posting 97 back in 2010. Including the playoffs, Hali got up to 103 pressures that year, which still ranks as one of the most prolific pass-rushing performances we have ever graded at PFF. That season marked the high-point in Hali’s career, a level that he never quite got back to. However, he was a consistently productive pass rusher for years before seeing a decline in the last few seasons of his career. At his best, Hali was one of the most unstoppable pass rushers in the game.

79. T Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson’s pass protection has been impressive throughout his career — there are games where he has shut down Von Miller — but where he really distances himself from his peers is when it comes to run-blocking. In this area, Johnson was by far the best right tackle of the decade, and only recently retired Joe Staley boasts a better grade among all tackles. Johnson has also had to navigate injuries and suspension, missing at least one game in all but two of his NFL seasons. When he is on the field, though, Johnson has been a dominant force for the Eagles.

80. EDGE Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones has been able to sack the quarterback like few other players in NFL history. He trails only Von Miller in official NFL sacks, and only four players took down the quarterback more times (half sacks are the discrepancy) over the course of the decade. He has always had a knack for decisive pass-rushing wins, whether it was in New England or in Arizona, but when you quantify every pass-rushing snap, there are other players who begin to leap over Jones in terms of how often they win. That ability to finish plays consistently is what propels him onto this list, though.

81. TE Greg Olsen

One of the best receiving tight ends of his generation, Greg Olsen is still going despite being drafted all the way back in 2007. Olsen dropped just 27 passes in the decade, or less than 5% of the catchable targets thrown his way. He was also consistently one of the most open receivers in the game, giving his quarterback an attractive place to go with the football more often than not. Olsen’s blocking was never at the level of players like Rob Gronkowski, but it was less a weakness earlier in the decade than it became later in his career.

82. T Terron Armstead

Only injuries keep us from seeing Terron Armstead as the best left tackle in the NFL. He has never lasted a full 16-game NFL season and has fewer than 5,000 snaps in his seven-year career, even including several deep postseason runs. Armstead has never graded below 75.0 over a season and his best years see him in and around the magical 90.0-grade barrier of truly elite players. Only Joe Thomas and Andrew Whitworth have surrendered pressure at a lower rate than Armstead’s 4.1% clip over the course of his career.

83. WR Keenan Allen

One of the slickest route-runners in the game, Keenan Allen doesn’t have the mind-blowing athletic profile of some other receivers, but he can match anyone from a production standpoint. Allen has reeled in more than 90% of the catchable passes thrown his way since he entered the league and generated more than two yards for every pass pattern he has run. There is no real weakness to his game, and he has consistently shown that he will get open at will with some of the best releases off the line of any receiver in football.

Nov 7, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) carries the ball after a catch during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum. Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

84. T David Bakhtiari

After Joe Thomas, David Bakhtiari became the gold standard when it comes to pass protection in the NFL. Only Thomas had a higher PFF pass-blocking grade over the decade, and Bakhtiari has done it while pass-blocking for Aaron Rodgers, who consistently holds the ball longer than almost any other quarterback. Bakhtiari has now had six straight seasons with a PFF pass-blocking grade of 85.0 or better, with three of those seasons going well into the 90.0s. His run-blocking has also improved considerably since he became a starter, transforming from a weakness into a real plus.

85. CB Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib was always a supremely talented cornerback, but it wasn’t until he found himself in a defensive scheme that suited his man-to-man coverage skills that we started to see what he was truly capable of. That transformation started in New England before he became an integral part of the “No Fly Zone” secondary in Denver during the Broncos' great Super Bowl run. In Talib’s best season (2015), he allowed a passer rating under 50.0 when targeted including the postseason.

86. RB Jamaal Charles

One of the fastest running backs to play the game, Jamaal Charles had track speed that would break angles and statistics because of how difficult he was to hit, let alone tackle. Though the decade caught only the last few seasons of his career, the sample size for running backs is lower than it is for most positions. And even in those seasons, Charles averaged 5.3 yards per carry, 2.5 of which came after contact. He forced 157 missed tackles on 1,151 carries and generated a first down or touchdown on 26% of his carries.

87. WR Emmanuel Sanders

Recovering from a torn Achilles and returning as if nothing happened only exemplifies the kind of incredible consistency we have seen from Emmanuel Sanders throughout his NFL career. Even at 32 years old, Sanders made an immediate impact with the San Francisco 49ers, whose passing offense was notably transformed when he arrived through trade midway through the 2019 season. Sanders has hauled in 92.5% of the catchable passes thrown his way in the decade, dropping just 4.9% of them.

88. CB Charles Tillman

If you’re of a certain age, you might not even remember Charles Tillman, who was one of the game’s best corners in an era when Tampa-2 defenses were far more prevalent. Tillman was a physical corner who specialized so much in forcing fumbles that his technique became known as the “Peanut Punch” (his nickname was Peanut). Even just in the six seasons he played in the decade — two of them significantly shortened by injury — he had 21 forced fumbles, recovering eight of them himself. He was a truly unique player, one who the league has yet to see an imitation of since he retired.

89. EDGE Carlos Dunlap

One of the most underrated players of his generation, Carlos Dunlap has been a consistently excellent player in the NFL for the entire decade. Drafted in 2010, Dunlap has never had an overall PFF grade below 70.0. That comes on the back of nine straight seasons with 45 or more total pressures, topping out with 80 back in 2015 when he, along with most of the Bengals, enjoyed career seasons. Dunlap has been an impressive run defender and pass rusher, but he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because his best play falls just short of the top players at the position.

90. WR Steve Smith

Steve Smith was drafted in 2001, so most of his best seasons predate the past decade, but he was so good that even in the second half of his career he was one of the best receivers PFF has seen. Smith was an incredibly physical presence, breaking double-digit tackles after the catch in six of the seven seasons he played this decade. Smith was a dynamic and complete receiver, bringing an attitude to the position that couldn’t have hurt. He had five straight seasons with a PFF grade of 79.0 or better in the decade.

91. WR Odell Beckham Jr.

There are few more-talented receivers in NFL history than OBJ. The start of his career showed the kind of impact he could have, but injuries have begun to derail that impact, whether it was missing time in New York or battling through pain only to look like a shadow of himself in his first season with the Cleveland Browns. He has broken 20 or more tackles in a season twice in his career while notching double-digit totals in every healthy season. OBJ is one of the most dynamic receivers in the league after the catch, and you only have to watch his pregame warm-up routine to see his natural catching ability. The receiving talent pool in the NFL has never been deeper, but even so, OBJ has the potential to be as good as any.

Nov 12, 2018; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) attempts to catch a pass as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) defends in the third quarter at Levi's Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

92. RB Le’Veon Bell

Quickly becoming a cautionary tale as to the dependency of running backs on their situation, Le’Veon Bell was nevertheless a legitimate game-changing back for the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has still yet to earn an overall PFF grade under 70.0 for a season, and his unique style of patient running worked in perfect harmony with the Steelers’ run-blocking to allow him to dominate. His receiving skills are among the best in the league at his position, and at his best, he has been arguably the best back in football. We may never see that player again unless the New York Jets can significantly turn their fortunes around, but this list will remember those seasons.

93. S Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard’s NFL career may only be four seasons in length — a little more than 4,000 snaps old including the playoffs — but his play has been so consistently good that he is already able to force his way onto the All-Decade 101. Byard has 18 interceptions and 17 more pass breakups over four seasons including postseason play and has consistently graded well in every facet of play that PFF measures. He is one of the best young defenders in football, and only a lack of playing time relative to others whose careers spanned more of the decade keeps him this low on the list.

94. CB Johnathan Joseph

Injuries have undermined what could have been one of the best cornerback careers of recent times, but when Johnathan Joseph was healthy and at his best, there were few cover men better than him. Over the decade, he allowed fewer than 55% of passes thrown his way to be caught and had 91 forced incompletions. He was targeted over 800 times, allowed 27 touchdowns. It’s tempting to only remember Joseph as the player he has become late in his career, but he was an All-Pro caliber player at his peak who could cover with the best players in the game.

95. EDGE James Harrison

The decade only caught the second half of James Harrison’s incredible career. Yet, even as an aging veteran presence, he seemed to be bulletproof and capable of continuing on forever as an imposing and productive player. Even a complete position switch to an off-ball linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals couldn’t prevent him grading well. And in his final cameo appearances for the New England Patriots, he still flashed the ability to generate pressure despite his age. Harrison is one of the best defenders the league has seen, maybe ever, and was an outstanding player in the past decade.

96. DI Jurrell Casey

Few players have been more consistently disruptive than Jurrell Casey. A third-round pick in 2011, Casey has yet to grade lower than 70.0 over a season and has notched at least 40 total pressures in every year since a slow first couple of campaigns in the NFL. Casey has been an impressive run defender and pass rusher throughout his career and has often done so with little surrounding help to take the focus off stopping him. Other players have had higher peaks than Casey, but few have been able to sustain his level of play for as long as he has — and he’s still productive.

97. DI Cameron Heyward

A former first-round draft pick, Cameron Heyward had a slow start to his career because of the talent and depth the Pittsburgh Steelers had along the defensive line. When he got a chance to step up and be the guy up front, he took his game to another level and has been one of the best interior players in the game. His best three seasons have come in the past three years. And he is coming off the best year of his career, one in which he broke 90.0 in overall PFF grade for the first time and was arguably the best interior lineman not named Aaron Donald.

Oct 6, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (97) encourages fans against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

98. CB Jalen Ramsey

Ramsey has significantly fewer snaps than many players on this list, but on just over 4,000 career plays including the postseason, he has already shown the kind of play that ranks him among the best at his position over the last 10 years. For his career, he has allowed just 55.5% of passes thrown his way to be caught and has a PFF coverage grade above 90.0. Ramsey’s peak has been phenomenal, and his skills enable teams to give him the hardest coverage assignments, in turn making his life tougher than it is for many corners. The best may still be to come from Ramsey.

99. C Rodney Hudson

Few players have statistics as absurd as Rodney Hudson over his NFL career. It’s helped by blocking for Alex Smith and Derek Carr — quarterbacks who get rid of the ball quickly and favor passing underneath — but Hudson has surrendered just 55 total pressures over the entire decade. The most allowed by a center last season was 47 by Matt Paradis. Hudson didn't surrender any sacks in five of his nine seasons and allowed fewer than 10 total pressures in six campaigns. He has been the best pass-protecting center of the decade.

100. T Mitchell Schwartz

Mitchell Schwartz has been one of the best offensive linemen of the past decade. His run to the Super Bowl last season was one of the greatest postseason performances in NFL history by any player at any position, but it went largely unnoticed because he’s a tackle. Schwartz was a good player in Cleveland to begin his career, but his final season there hinted at how good he could become. In Kansas City, he has kicked on to another level and is able to shut down some of the game’s best pass-rushers in the AFC West. Schwartz has racked up almost 9,000 total snaps over the decade, and it took until last season for him to miss any.

101. S Eric Berry

Much of Eric Berry’s legacy will revolve around beating cancer to return to play at an extremely high level. In addition to that incredible achievement, Berry was one of the best players of the past decade. He showed incredible versatility within the Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense, excelling as a deep-lying free safety as well as an in-the-box joker on defense. It speaks to his skill set that his best seasons in terms of overall PFF grade (both well above 85.0) came in completely different roles and responsibilities within the defense.


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